Claire Sawers

Freelance Writer

Category: Film

Interview: Drew Wright, on the soundtrack he and Hamish Brown wrote for Lost Treasure

The Times
15 March 2016

Hamish Brown and Drew Wright in front of Lost Treasure archive footage

Hamish Brown and Drew Wright

This Glasgow Short Film Festival opens tomorrow with the premiere of a recently rediscovered documentary about the Highlands and its people. Taking raw footage of Sutherland and Glasgow from the 1950s, an updated version of the film subtly weaves in modern influences, ranging from the poetry of Norman McCaig, the ideologies of George Monbiot, the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky and the folk music archive of Alan Lomax.


The accidentally perfectly-named film Lost Treasure was recorded in 1956 by Dawn Cine Group, a socialist film-making collective from Glasgow, who disbanded during the making of the documentary, and as a result, never managed to complete or release it. Fast forward six decades, and the unfinished black and white film will finally be unearthed, with a new live score, performed by Edinburgh musicians Drew Wright and Hamish Brown.

“The original film deals with issues of rural depopulation and land ownership, a subject still very relevant today – in fact, it’s become a real hot potato in Scotland, especially over the last two or three years,” explains Wright, a Leith-based singer and experimental musician who performs under the alias, Wounded Knee. The Lost Treasure project sees Wright reunited with Matt Lloyd, director of the Glasgow Short Film Festival, who had previously commissioned him to create a live soundtrack to John Grierson’s Drifters, a silent film from 1929 about herring fishing, filmed in Shetland and the North Sea.

It was during last year’s Glasgow Short Film Festival that Lloyd stumbled on the progressive cinema of Dawn Cine Group, whose work focused on social and political issues of the time, including slum housing in Glasgow, as covered in their most successful film, Let Glasgow Flourish, also made in 1956. Lloyd commissioned Wright to team up with musician and producer, Hamish Brown (a member of experimental pop trio, Swimmer One) to write and perform a new soundtrack for the unfinished film, Lost Treasure, which has been pieced together by Finnish cinematographer Minttu Mäntynen. After premiering in Glasgow, Lost Treasure will tour Scotland in April, with Wright and Brown performing their live soundtrack.

“We were interested in taking the original raw footage from the 50s, and folding in some other texts, poetry, Gaelic song and new music to create a sort of collage of our own,” says Wright.

“Both Hamish and I had been reading stuff by Norman McCaig – a poet who adored the West Highlands, and often wrote about Achmelvich, a part of the world where he spent a lot of time, where most of this was filmed. It was a bit of a luxury to have an excuse to re-read his poem ‘A Man in Assynt’, as well as Andy Wightman and Tom Devine’s writing on land ownership in Scotland and George Monbiot’s book, Feral, raising questions about who really owns a landscape.”

Wright describes Lost Treasure’s original script as “didactic at times” and decided to approach their new soundtrack “more poetically”.

“Hamish has created a lot of electronic, instrumental stuff which works really well as a sort of sonic bed, and we’ve put some spoken word bits over the top, including some of the original directions for the film, and me performing a Gaelic song called Cailin Mo Rùin-sa (The Maid I Adore) as well as some of my own music. The result is a mixture of textural, droney sounds and more processed synth-based music.

“Hopefully this is neither a piece of agit-pop, nor an exercise in nostalgia, but a modern response to the footage. It’s a remix I suppose, where we’ve allowed the music to come to the fore in places, slowing down some of the key scenes, drawing attention to some of the imperfections and flaws in the actual film, or focussing on the magnificent landscapes or natural light in other places.”

Lost Treasure is premiered at Glasgow Short Film Festival, GFT, Glasgow, Wednesday 16 March, then will tour to Hippodrome, Bo’ness, Sat 16 Apr; Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee, Sun 17 Apr; Merlin Cinema, Thurso, Thu 21 Apr; Timespan, Helmsdale; Fri 22 Apr; Eden Court, Inverness, Sat 23 Apr; Filmhouse, Edinburgh; Thu 28 Apr
www.glasgowfilm.org/gsff

The Times Lost Treasure feature March 2016

Review: Sufjan Steven’s Round-Up

The Herald
31 August 2015


Round Up
Sat 29 Aug
The Hub, Edinburgh
4 stars

In Sufjan Steven’s Round-Up, we’re taken to the rodeo, where cheerleaders strut in John Deere bodywarmers, Marlboro Men swagger in Stetsons and audiences roar in a sea of denim and check shirts. His soundtracked documentary premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music earlier this year, and is given an Edinburgh outing, performed by the excellent New York piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire in front of a huge video screen.

The footage of calves being lassooed, men and women being bucked off their broncos, hula hoopers twirling in sparkly wigs, and Native American children parading proudly in glitter and beads takes on a chilling beauty when slowed down, making the 80-minute film a glacial-paced orgy of strange pageantry.

Stevens’ score is mesmerising, but the visuals (filmed in Pendleton, Oregon by brothers Aaron and Alex Craig) can’t help but draw audible winces from the crowd; at the second the neck of a young cow snaps back against a rope, or watching the panicked back legs of a horse struggling to throw off their rider. The music seems somehow sympathetic, pianists Laura Barger and Ning Yu come close to a straight-backed trot as they slow from the frenzied fairground gallop of the opening section, then sit silently as the film takes a couple of minutes to watch clumsy and carefree cow muscles running through a field.

Composer Stevens has proved his versatility, not to mention curiosity, in the past – with twee folk-pop, Christmas boxsets, electronic song cycles about the Chinese zodiac and his “Fifty States Project” about the American states. By turning his wonder now to the rituals of the all-American rodeo, he’s created something reverent, nightmarish and glorious, all at once.

 

Read the original review in the Herald here.

Glasgow Film Festival: Audrey Hepburn Retrospective

The List
5 February 2009

The Glasgow Film Festival salutes the breathtaking work of Audrey Hepburn, but she was more than just a pretty face. Claire Sawers speaks to fans and family to find out what Hepburn means as an actor, style icon and activist

 

The Film Star

Allison Gardner
co-director of Glasgow Film Festival
‘Although she’s remembered best as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Audrey wasn’t just a ‘fluff’ actress. She has great depth, and always wanted to stretch herself as an actress. Born in 1929, she remembered vividly living through the Nazi occupation of Holland and suffered terribly from depression and malnutrition. As someone who knew her own feelings inside out, she brought that emotion into her acting.
Anyone who thinks they know Audrey after seeing Tiffany’s should watch The Unforgiven or The Children’s Hour, both showing in the festival. The first is a western where Burt Lancaster plays her husband; the second is a creepy, gothic thriller where she and Shirley McLaine are accused of being lesbians. Both were quite unusual roles, and very interesting to watch.Whatever she did, she had a certain noblesse oblige about her . She was an incredibly rounded person with real passion.’

 

Dr Rachel Moseley
lecturer in Film and TV Studies at the University of Warwick and author of Growing Up with Audrey Hepburn
‘When Audrey played Princess Ann in Roman Holiday (1953), Sabrina Fairchild in Sabrina (1954), or Holly Golightly in Tiffany’s (1961), she seemed merely to be playing herself. There was a transparency about her screen persona that made her accessible, even though she had a poise that set her apart. All her most well-loved roles were ‘Cinderella’ stories, echoing her origins in war-torn Europe. Her 1950s stardom was boyish and liberated, and yet absolutely feminine. She wore trousers, tiaras or Givenchy with equal flair. Her kooky elegance makes her an enduring retro icon for our contemporary Holly Golightlys.’

 

The style icon

 
Anna Nicholson
owner of Herman Brown vintage boutique

‘Audrey exuded style, grace and poise in an utterly inimitable way. Her early training as a dancer, an acute awareness of her physical attributes and flaws, and her minimalist approach to fashion all lent a hand in sculpting ‘the look’. She absolutely loved ballet pumps for example, which gave her a gamine air. She wore them because she was so tall, but that was very unusual for a starlet at the time. Others have tried to copy – God bless her, Victoria Beckham is one – but what Audrey had, you can’t buy, copy or fake.’

 

Holly Mitchell
owner of Totty Rocks fashion label

‘My favourite Audrey Hepburn film is Funny Face. There’s a brilliant moment when she is dancing with the Beatniks in a smoky underground jazz bar in Paris. She is wearing a black polo neck, skinnyrib jumper and tight capri pants, with white socks and little pumps. She looks fabulously chic, just like a little black pussycat!’

‘Audrey is always an inspiration – I regularly watch 50s and 60s films when I’m designing. In an era of buxom blondes, Audrey didn’t exactly fit in. She wasn’t conventionally ‘beautiful’. And yet she’s the definition of style. She had that rare ability to bring playful vivacity to exquisite clothing.
My favourite outfit is from Roman Holiday – a white blouse, full skirt and flat shoes. Her waist is the tiniest ever, but with the broad belt she looks stunning. From Roman Holiday’s tomboy chic to the cheeky sophistication of Tiffany’s, Audrey is an inspiration to all of us who run up the occasional frock.’

Wendy Richardson
runs Flossy and Dossy, making vintage-style dresses

 

Adele Bethel
singer in Sons and Daughters

‘Audrey Hepburn was probably my first ever serious style icon when I was a teenager. I saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s on TV when I was 19 and became obsessed, buying the video and watching it, pretty much daily! I thought she carried herself with so much grace and dignity, it almost didn’t matter what she wore, although the clothes are incredible. My boyfriend bought me an Audrey doll on eBay a few years ago for Christmas. She is wearing the pink dress and tiara from the movie, and it is a much treasured possession. She really ignited my first interest in fashion.’

 

Clare Muldaur
singer in Clare and the Reasons

‘Audrey Hepburn makes me smile. She makes me wish I was alive in the day when being fabulous was fabulous; not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘over the top’. I live in New York, the place that Audrey, in Tiffany’s, made look like a safe haven from normal or average; a refuge for people who wanted to stay young, savvy and beautiful forever. I think that idea remains here in people’s minds, but not so much with how they dress – are they too hip to care? Audrey, you could say, was a hipster of the times in Tiffany’s, wrapped up perfectly in her safety bubble of ‘scene’ and ‘cool’. When I go hear the New York Phil I get blue seeing people, who have the perfect opportunity to look fabulous, opt for jeans instead. Have they no desire to decorate themselves? I do – any chance to tap into my inner fabulous is a little gift, I say.’

 

The Activist

 

Sean Hepburn Ferrer
Hepburn’s son and chairman of the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund
‘People ask how I remember her best, and all I can say is, as my mother. We didn’t have DVDs when I was little, so it was only later that I began to watch her films and realise she had left an indelible imprint on society. She made a lot of unforgettable gems, which touched many people. My favourite is probably Funny Face. Having wanted to be a dancer in her youth, and missing out because of the war – she was also too tall to be a ballerina – it means a lot to watch her get to dance with Fred Astaire. Other films remind us she was more than a ‘cute face’, but also a serious actress. On a personal note, her last role as an angel in Always by Steven Spielberg is very special too. I miss her a lot, but I’ll walk into a hotel room in Japan, and she’ll be on the screen. That makes it easier.
‘Although her humanitarian work wasn’t the centrepiece of her career, it was a very important part. She spent her last five years working with children for UNICEF. It let people see that the twig they had fallen in love with 40 years earlier had grown into this beautiful, strong oak tree. The Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund carries on in her footsteps with children’s charity projects. Of all the work she did, her humanitarian work makes me most proud.’
For more details, visit www.audreyhepburn.com

 
 

Ann Veneman
Executive Director of UNICEF
‘Audrey Hepburn worked tirelessly to improve the lives of girls and boys around the world. As a young girl, Hepburn herself received food and medical relief from UNICEF following WWII. Later, as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Hepburn travelled the world, touching the lives of millions of children through her work. In her own words, she said: “I speak for those children who cannot speak for themselves, children who have absolutely nothing but their courage and their smiles, their wits and their dreams”.’

 The Audrey Hepburn season runs Thu 12 Feb-Sun 22 Feb, showing My Fair Lady, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, The Children’s Hour, Funny Face, Robin and Marian, Sabrina, The Unforgiven and My Fair Lady.

More than just another funny face

The Sunday Times
1 February 2009

 

A retrospective shows Audrey Hepburn had more range than is often credited to her

“Big feet. Too skinny. A bump on the nose. Not interesting, and not a great actress.” It’s a description few would associate with one of the silver screen’s most iconic beauties – but it’s the way Audrey Hepburn saw herself, according to her son. Continue reading

Build Your Own Bond Movie

 The List
30 October 2008

Exotic locations
Cuban beaches, Jamaican waterfalls, floating Indian palaces – the jet setting super-spy notches up an average of three countries per film, Continue reading

Student storyteller with a poisonous tale

The Sunday Times
1 January 2006

angelmakers-3

When a young film-maker learnt about a village of women who murdered their husbands, she knew their story would make astonishing viewing. Now her poignant documentary is winning international acclaim, writes Claire Sawers. Continue reading

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