"People have always said I can tell a good story."
A heartfelt and energetic tribute to Dundee’s early music scene, set in 1979, Schemers follows young Davie as he works as a fledgling gig promoter to earn some money, make his parent’s proud and impress the ladies… Only the city’s local mobsters stand in their way. Teaming up with his best pals John and Scot, the trio book everyone from Ultravox to Simple Minds, before landing the gig that will go on to become the stuff of local legend: Iron Maiden at the Caird Hall.
The young Davie in question is writer-director Dave Mclean, who has gone on to work with Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and The View, and is currently a music promoter and manager of Placebo alongside his new foray into filmmaking. Lifting his own, very real memories into the script, Schemers packs unparalleled Scottish spirit onto the big screen with admirable gusto. Filmed in and around Dundee, the film also stars local talent, including Edinburgh’s Conor Berry, and a few local famous faces.
We were delighted to host the World Premiere of Schemers back in 2019, which screened to a standing ovation and rapturous applause, and scooped the Audience Award voted for by EIFF audiences. Following the movie’s delayed cinema release last year, Schemers is finally set for a digital release. A charming celebration of youthful ambition, this film is made for nostalgic Scottish audiences. We spoke to Mclean about his move into filmmaking, festival memories, the film’s upbeat soundtrack and who he’d invite along to his ideal Burns Night feast…
Schemers is your screenwriting and directorial debut. What first inspired you to make a film and where did you look for filmmaking influences on the project?
To be honest, I only made the film because it seemed like it would be a lot easier than writing a book. People have always said I can tell a good story and I should do something with them, especially my long-term and long-suffering business partner Alex! I wanted the movie to have the pace of Trainspotting, the gentle humour of Gregory’s Girl and an original soundtrack that would carry things along.
Watching your younger self on screen must have been a strange experience! What was the writing experience like, revisiting memories at the very beginning of your career in the music promotion industry?
Actually, watching Conor portray me on screen was a very good experience! We had got to know each other really well and had a great rapport with each other. In many ways he is a lot like me. The writing experience was easy. Not much in the way of creative writing, as everything is pretty much true, so no chance of writer’s block! It was more a case of having way too much material. It was great to revisit old haunts and see familiar faces from years ago. It brought back a lot of great memories – and, of course, some best forgotten...
With a mostly local crew and local Scottish talent on screen, the film’s Scottish identity is vibrant throughout. Tell us about your experiences of filming on location in Dundee.
Filming in Dundee was brilliant. It was so important to get the Dundee vibe. Dundee people are very funny, very resilient - the city gets a bad rep. Everyone was great! We filmed in many local bars, cafes and music venues, all for no fee.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the British music scene over the last few decades. When it came to curating the film’s energetic soundtrack, what were you looking for?
I wanted the artist’s featured to be mainly artists I had promoted or managed or had a connection with, [but] I wanted the bulk of the tracks to be unknown little gems that people would discover and go ‘wow, that’s a great track who is it?’.
We were so pleased to welcome Schemers to the 2019 festival and many congratulations on winning the Audience Award! What did it mean to win an award chosen by EIFF's audience in Scotland?
It meant everything. In all honesty, it was one of the best days of my life, up there with Dundee United winning the Scottish Premiership title! It was the catalyst for everything that followed. It made me feel really proud actually - that I was ok at this movie lark, people actually liked what we had all put together. When you make a film, or write a book, or record an album, you are always going to get judged. Critics will have their say, there will be good and bad, but that’s the nature of the business. It was just a superb feeling to win that award at one of the world’s most prestigious and long running film festivals.
The film’s digital release coincides with Burns Night, creating a perfect pinnacle of entertainment for Scottish film fans. Who would you invite along to your Burns Night feast, dead or alive, and why?
Kyle Falconer, who is very much alive, as he is hilarious and a natural story teller plus he could sing a few songs. Chic Murray, who died a few years ago, as he was brilliant. He would just need to tell ‘the nose’ joke to earn his haggis and neeps. Ewen Bremner, who is a good friend, because he is a really interesting guy and is funny and would bring a good balance to the table - plus he is good on guitar and sings well, so could join Kyle in a song.
Lulu, as she is awesome and looks like she would be a great laugh. I was sitting opposite her on a flight to New York many years ago. I wanted to go and chat to her, but the drummer in Placebo would not shut up the entire flight so I missed my chance! Brian Cox, as he is from Dundee and is a total legend. I think he would be brilliant ‘toasting the haggis’, plus we might all get a game of ‘Boar on the Floor’ from the TV series Succession… Janey Godley, because she totally cracks me up with her Nicola Sturgeon voiceovers! Eddie Murphy, the American actor and comedian, as he has had some life and again looks like the type of guy who would be entertaining to say the least.
Finally, Jeff Bezos, so we could get him totally pissed and get him to give us billions of dollars to make the movies we want to (which would not cost much) and spread the rest around to people that are suffering all over the planet ... A wee bit idealist I know, but it’s Burns Night and we will all have had a few drams!
Schemers will be available on DVD & Digital Download 25th January. Pre-order your digital copy here & DVD here.
Did you enjoy watching Schemers?
Dave Mclean recommends us another Scottish classic just in time for Burns Night...