Sadie’s Story

Last year, we set out to make a short film about my Dad’s boyhood, growing up in depression era Glasgow.

I’d had the idea for a while and had the script written, but wondered where I would find a small ‘smart boy’ to play my Dad. Then I met Harry at my mate’s Christmas party. Harry is his nephew and had just squirmed and giggled his way through a party piece. But there was something about the boy – behind the shyness, a bit of charisma, maybe – that made me think he could do it.

The film weaves together two events from my Dad’s life in 1932. His mother had died, his father turned to drink, and he was being brought up by his sister, Sadie (who also had a job in a cafe to make ends meet).

It’s a fairly simple tale – and most families will have similar hard-luck stories. And yet, in the typically tiny unimportant events, I wanted to give a sense of a larger pattern.

Contrary to the typical bourgeois view that ‘working class life’ is grim, I felt that the poor don’t necessarily experience it that way. ‘The sun also shines on the poor’ was one theme JB and I discussed. So, we didn’t want to make the look predictably ‘grim up North’.

So, the feel of the film was intentionally ‘rich’. Even so, the aim was not to be sentimental but to try to hide a harder question in the simple story.

The themes of faith and fate are woven through the piece – If there is a God, he doesn’t move in mysterious ways. Events are not just arbitrary, they’re often perversely cruel. Just at the point you need a little luck, that’s the very moment you won’t get any. Even small hopes are dashed, and harsh endings seem contrarily undeserved.

“Them that’s got shall get, them that’s not shall lose, so the Bible says, and it still is news.”

That’s one reason why we considered re-naming the film ‘God Bless The Child’ (after the Billie Holiday song quoted above) but we’d lived so long with Sadie’s Story it somehow felt right.

When we set out to make this film – a period drama, shot on 35mm, with a child actor who couldn’t really read… for the amount of money we had in our pockets – everyone said it couldn’t be done. It was madness to try.

And it was. But, we did it anyway.

We shot over 3 days in Glasgow and Edinburgh. The crew and cast were magnificent, and the weather wasn’t exactly kind.

So, almost from the off, we were dropping shots and scenes.
But we got to the end of the shoot with enough stuff, more or less, to make a film.

We didn’t quite get everything we wanted, which made editing a bit tricky, but probably achieved as much as we had hoped for, and more than most expected.

So, basically, a big thanks to all those who gave their time, talent and enthusiasm to make it happen.

If you’d like to see a small trailer, there’s a link on the page called Film.