FOG ISLAND: How to survive it, as told by someone who didn't
When I applied to an advert on a popular casting website for an actor to play the role of a “motormouth DJ” in a local film, I thought it would be the usual bit role in a ten minute student dissertation project. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I turned up for the first day of shooting at the sprawling old YMCA building in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, bursting for the bog, as per usual. I shuffled around the vicinity of the YMCA looking for a convenience in vain, but whilst on my clenched-buttocked odyssey I bumped into Craig Rutherford, the film’s producer. Expecting to see an early-twenty-something film student I was surprised to see someone in their early thirties.
After the usual greetings, and in my case followed by the usual “I need the toilet” we headed off to the YMCA, where I met Gary Rutherford, Craig’s brother and the director. They let me know more about the background of the film – a feature film – and I realised I was getting myself involved in something special.
Gary and Craig had been writing and making films for over a decade. One of their early films, Coven Bay, had been made before their father sadly died of a brain tumour. For the upcoming tenth anniversary of his passing they had decided to remake Coven Bay in his memory, with proceeds from screenings and initial DVD sales going to charity Brain Tumour UK.
They had a bold idea for Fog Island. It would be made on as small a budget as possible, with volunteer local actors and crew, filmed in local locations, without a script. Only a loose outline, based on the original, existed and it was up to the actors and the brothers to improvise and embellish as they went along. As someone who relishes improvisation I couldn’t have been happier, as well as proud to be part of something so well meaning. That makes it sound a lot more serious than it was, in fact I’ve never had so much fun on a film shoot.
In particular I had a ball creating my character disgraced DJ Billy Randall, who started out as a basic old fashioned motormouth DJ (including his own cheesy sound effects) but then, through improvisation and bouncing off the other actors, grew to be a pervy has-been gone to seed and wanting more than anything to sow it again. And this was before the revelations about Savile and the many other arrests, so we were very prescient there. If Randall was real he’d definitely be getting a visit from the bobbies from Operation Yewtree.
I’d made a habit of writing down little snippets of script ideas for my character, but then always threw in as much improvisation as I could, if only to trip up the other actors and make them corpse. These little bits of scripts led to a couple of whole scenes, one an ensemble dinner party scene, hence my co-writing credit on the film. We all needed a writing credit though as everyone contributed, a lot of the time by the seat of their pants and off the top of their heads, pardon the top and tails metaphors.
We had a ball basically, a lot of scenes we had a great deal of fun making didn’t make it into the final film which is testament to the efficiency of the final edit. All the cast will always have those memories though, like the even stranger radio phone-in calls that went on so long they could’ve made up their own film, Jilly O’Donnell the lead actress reacting to the death of a character in such an out of breath way that it sounded like an audio excerpt from a porn film and the entire afternoon we spent in the function room of a pub on the beach in South Shields – with a buffet spread and lots of drinks – that all ended up having to be scrapped due to overly noisy flooring. You’ll also sadly not witness the zenith of my improvisation during the party scene where I decided to crash through someone else’s scene saying “I’m off for a piss”.
Fog Island is a great homage to the old school slasher films of the 70s and 80s but there is also a lot of comedy in there, I’m loathe to say some of the best of it not from me! Some great unintentional comedy too like Craig’s character’s question after being told by the main character that a scary figure with a huge blade was knocking on her door, “was it a knocking or more like a tapping?”, as if the answer was the latter that would make it all fine! But that is all part of the fun of the film and makes it a refreshing change from the clinicially focus-grouped committee lead blockbuster fodder that fills the cinema these days. You also get to see me in some pretty sensational Snow Leopard print Y Fronts, what more could you ask for? Oh there is a great pair of tits in there too… no not mine!
Craig and Gary wanted the film to be a calling card for other burgeoning filmmakers, to show what can be done with very little money but with a lot of homegrown talent and tenacity. Or in Craig’s words, it might make you realise filmmaking isn’t for you! Either way Fog Island is a lot of fun and with the release of the DVD you will not only get an informative but funny commentary recorded on a booze-filled sunny Sunday afternoon in South Shields but if you’re one of the first 25 to order your copy you will have the satisfaction of knowing the money from that sale will go to Brain Tumour UK.
So thank you to Craig and Gary for giving me the chance to be a part of Fog Island, it is something I’m most proud of doing and will be for a long time to come. Also a big thank you to Craig, Gary, Jilly O’Donnell, the amazing Thelma Miller, Sharnie Williams, Natasha Gray, Wayne Thompson, Joe Duffy, Robert Bell, Gavin Randall, Glenn Upsall, Kelly Baird, David and Sarah Lloyd and Dean Allen for making Fog Island such a blast for me and I’m sure it will be a blast for you too.
The Film is available now from www.fogisland-the-movie.co.uk
We’ll leave you with the trailer and exclusive 10 minutes behind-the-scenes-footage.