Duncan and Wilma Finnigan
A couple of auteurs
This article is from 2007.
Paul Dale discovers a Scottish filmmaking team to cherish
Meet the Finnegans: Duncan and Wilma Finnigan, the John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands of Coatbridge. Scotland’s best kept filmmaking secret.
The couple’s films inhabit a strange hinterland between community video amateurishness, Forsythian whimsy and Loachian dourness. They take unforeseen turns but are colloquial, familiar, improvisatory, occasionally gimmicky and tricksy (in that cheap video FX box way that now feels slightly retro cool). Most of all, their films are laugh out loud funny.
‘Everything we do is about challenging ourselves but we’ve never gone out there to make a message movie,’ says Duncan. ‘We just want to make a film that people can identify with, the character or situation, and then take a comical view on it.’
Their latest film, My Life as a Bus Stop, receives its world premiere at the EIFF this month. It is a funny and frenzied look at Scotland’s media industry. Set in Edinburgh and taking the form of a semi-mockumentary, it follows the continued failings of a group of wannabe showbusiness types, including embittered working class actor (John Stewart, an old schoolfriend of Wilma), his highly strung frustrated screenwriter flatmate Trudy (Angela Coates) and media rip off artist Vic Young (Duncan Finnigan). A rough-hewn messy joy, it’s a film about the kind of people the Finnigans would be if they were not so prolific and sat about talking about unmade projects all day instead of creating them.
The Finnigans shoot on video and digital, often appearing in their own films and have won awards and commendations at film festivals across the world as well as taking seventh place in The List’s 2003 poll of the best Scottish films of all time for gambler loser comedy Four Eyes. The couple have made six low budget feature films to date, including Two Donuts, Black Coffee, Big Nose & Twinkle Toes and Bits’n’Bites, and all for the love of it.
So why have their films never been released theatrically or on DVD before?
‘No one has had the courage to look at our films in a commercial way,’ says Duncan. ‘But we just think that if we make enough films and we have a commercial hit, then there will be a back catalogue of films that people can revisit. It’s like a pension.’
‘We’re really not business-minded people but we do have expectations for Bus Stop. The trouble is that even for DVD release you need a BBFC certification, which costs a fortune when you are working on the budgets we are. And I just think, “What if we only sell two DVDs?”’ With that Duncan starts laughing.
Wilma, 30 and Duncan, 37 met and fell in love in 1995 after she nursed his granny at the end of her life. They quickly discovered they had a common obsession with moviemaking. Both had been making low budget short films on 8mm and video since their teens. They immediately began collaborating on films together.
Duncan honed his technical skills by doing an HNC in video production and now he has his own equipment and does corporate work to finance their films. Wilma has had no formal training but both are currently doing an MA in screenwriting.
Have they ever wondered what they might have done if they hadn’t been filmmakers? Duncan chortles: ‘No. To be honest if we didn’t make these films we’d probably have seven or eight children.’ Wilma erupts into giggles.
Cineworld, 623 8030, 19 Aug, 8pm & 20 Aug, 7.45pm, both £7.95 (£5.50).