Alastair Mackenzie talks Perfect Sense

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When Kim Fupz Aakeson’s loosely translated screenplay arrived at Sigma’s offices in Glasgow, David Mackenzie asked for a second opinion…

“It was sparse but that was a virtue. All the elements that are in the film were in the script. It’s been embellished a little – there’s more coverage of the global nature of the pandemic – but the actual script we first read was so powerful and so affecting, when they asked my opinion, my input was: “let’s do it.”’

Sidestepping the conventions of the sci-fi genre – hefty budget, heavy on the effects – Perfect Sense elicited a subtler approach: “A studio probably would have done it in the opposite way. It would have been the story of an epidemic in which there was a love story. We have gone the other way. The love story is the important thing. You engage a lot more with the emotions and because you’re engaging more, you’re heavily invested with the characters. The backdrop is relevant but it’s not all the story.”

The setting was essential in developing the film’s balance of global and personal themes, with the added implication of Glagow’s status as a dynamic, cosmopolitan centre: “The script was non-specific and we decided to set it in Glasgow because we wanted it to be a contained story. That this story happens in Glasgow is indicative of Glasgow as a happening place.”

It was at the Glasgow Film Festival that they premiered upcoming release, You Instead, a production that was much more “free-form,” influencing future filmmaking: “Our pipeline is full of ideas that we wouldn’t have had if we hadn’t done You Instead. It was an experiment that worked.”

“We shifted the business model a little. And I think for David in particular, the way he has to direct – he was very enlivened by the process. I was also very enlivened because filmmaking for an actor, if you’re not careful, can be stultifying. It was liberating in terms of the films we can make.”

In a changing economic environment being able to do ‘interesting things for less money’ is a laudable objective. Recognising and incorporating change in the delivery of narrative presents also itself as a concern: “I was watching a movie on the train, a great movie but it’s thirty years old. In that space of time the way stories are told is so different. I’ve got kids and they can’t watch old films, an ‘old’ film is ten years old. They have a lot less cuts, it’s told in a slightly less naturalistic way.”

Catering to a new generation of filmgoers entails an approach that’s “not conventional in terms of storylines – some storylines that peter out, some that continue, weird asides. You need your audience to be on the ride with you. People are more exposed to these improvisational types of films, this opens things up. But the most important thing is that it’s a good story.”

Another ‘good story’ is that of the relationship between the Mackenzies and EIFF: “For years my brother Dave and I came to the film festival as aspirant filmmakers. This is where we started in the industry, our friends, who we made hanging out at the film festival, are people we work with now. That’s authentic, people who are authentically interested in film, and years later we’re lucky enough to be able to exist within that world. It’s nurtured me. If I could define my cultural identity, a very large chunk of it comes from Edinburgh and the festival.”

Watch our EIFFtv interview with David Mackenzie.

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