The Scottish Tale
Production Notes on "The Scottish Tale"
by Mack Polhemus (writer/director)
While I was still in film school, I had three long meetings with an executive at Hollywood Pictures. They optioned my script and after numerous rewrites, the executive said that the script wasn't going to be made. I was crushed. He assured me that I learned a lot about the development process. I learned that the next script I'd write, I'd make myself. It would be something that could be shot relatively cheaply and it would be on a subject matter that I cared passionately enough about to take through to completion.
The story entitled "The Scottish Tale" is about two brothers in love with the same woman and is more or less autobiographical. My roots are Scottish and I identify with the fierce temper, the love of life and the self-imposed torment of the Scottish soul. But perhaps more to the point, my brother and I literally were in love with the same woman. The woman (Ann Boehlke who plays the lead "Beth") dated my brother (Josiah Polhemus who plays the other lead "Mac" based on me) I knew by casting my brother as the lead, I could capture the internal drama that both he and I felt while we were "competing" for the same woman. It was a classic conflict between familial loyalty and romantic love.
I knew my brother and Ann would play their roles solemnly and that's exactly what I needed to execute the dead-pan humor of the script. Considering their past history, I also knew it might be tough on them. It was tough for me too, but that's probably what compelled me to write the story in the first place. Maybe at some level, I still felt guilty about marrying Ann, or maybe I wanted to boast over it, or maybe I just wanted my brother to see the story from my side. In any case, it was a reason that was serious enough for me to make fun of. I figure by putting these solemn characters in ridiculous situations, the film would be entertaining but also deep.
During one romantic scene, the crew ribbed me about my brother kissing my wife. The kiss really was the least of my worries. My biggest worry was the result of our production manager. Apparently to save money, he tried to buy "hot" film. He gave a guy $4000 in cash and never saw him again. On the day before the shoot, the production manager told us we had no film. We ended up having to pay over $8 thousand for our film stock. The production manager never really got over his mistake and Ann had to take full reign of the production coupled of course by her acting duty.
Because the town of Bolinas can only be accessed by a windy, precarious road, the 6-ton truck full of lights and grip equipment broke down and went off the road. We had no lights the first two days so we had to accommodate by shooting all our exteriors (including the big wedding scene) without any fill light. Then we rented a U-Haul to take trips from the broken-down truck. This was capped off by the U-Haul breaking down. I spent my glorious debut as a director trying to push this U-Haul out of a ditch.
Other than that and a small mutiny when the coffee wasn't ready one morning, everything went smoothly. We shot it in an amazing 14 days in Bolinas, my magical hometown in Northern California with my mom catering.
I feel extremely fortunate that the film came out as
well as it did. Every step of the way, great, talented people
became involved who worked for little or no money. "The
Scottish Tale" has a couple of clunky edits, hand-drawn
titles and even a stuffed skunk. It is home-made, unpackaged
and imperfect. But when the lead character speaks piercingly
from his soul and when the motivating factor behind his
numerous quirky actions reveals itself as love, then the
essence of the film emerges. It is its heart. That's the
reason I wanted to make it in the first place and that's what
makes it substantial, genuine, worthwhile and complete.