Day 493 - Time Teens: Perth's First Feature Film

Today we revisit the trailer and a scene from Time Teens (2014), the only feature film to be made in Perthshire to date. Written and produced by Ian Grieve, who also played the lead role, he tells us about the herculean community effort that brought the film to the screen. Directed by Ryan Alexander Dewar, Time Teens features a great Scottish cast packed with familiar faces, including a wonderful turn by the late Andy Gray.

"It all began during a get out for Scottish Opera at Perth Theatre. I was the Creative Director of Theatre and Ryan Dewar was a member of the crew. It was my habit to do get-ins and get-outs (loading and fitting up stage sets and then removing them and packing them away) because I wanted to get to know the crew. I figured if they saw me doing some of the horrible jobs involved then they would accept me asking them to do the same jobs when I was directing them in a technical rehearsal for one of my shows. During this particular get-in during the Perth Festival of Arts I got to know Ryan quite well. He was a young film-maker with exceptional talent and had ambitions to work with actors using some original scripts. Fast forward a few years later and we found ourselves committed to one another and to the idea of making a film in our respective home areas.

Why did we do it?

Sometimes it takes a while to work out the balance of an experience. My own philosophy is that we wear our experiences (good and bad) like a coat and we choose to either wear the coat with pride or shame. I’m proud of the fact that we got it done and I am proud of the people who stepped up to play their part in making it happen. Ryan will have a much different story to tell of his experience. He was at a very different time in his life and career and I dearly hope he got a lot out of it.

Overall, the making of Time Teens was a mixed experience for me. Although it was an exciting endeavour, it was a very hard time financially and health-wise. I was in the middle of a two-year on-and-off stint being Gordon Brown in London, The Edinburgh Fringe and other places across the country and had a lovely time doing a couple of plays at Dundee Rep.

The big problem was my ongoing battle with angina had resumed and my patience wore very thin with poor Ryan on occasions as we embarked on filming over a two-year period – during which the continuity of my weight became ever more inexplicable. I took the lead role myself not for egotistical reasons but because I couldn’t possibly ask another actor to take on the work schedule, not to mention hanging off the gallery of Perth Theatre, diving into a loch in Ann Kidd’s back garden etc for no payment.

The film was written backwards. It was bonkers.

Originally it was to be a short film to promote the idea for a series I had written. This would be an origin story. We knew that usually an origin story would be made perhaps retrospectively to get the best possible reaction from an audience as it saw numerous easter eggs all over the place, something Marvel has excelled at in the last few years. Nevertheless, we wanted to create a world and showcase the beauty of Perthshire (where I am from) and Angus (where Ryan is from). In that sense alone, Time Teens was a huge success. The breath-taking beauty of Perthshire and Angus is profoundly cinematic. Ryan’s photography in the film perfectly captures the romance and drama of each wonderful location.

In 2013 we embarked on filming the short version. Many businesses, talented friends and very supportive professional actors and technicians came together to help us get it done. Soon after the filming I was off to London being the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. A couple of weeks later Ryan called me to say the film was too long to enter as a Short in Film Festivals and too short to enter as a Feature:

How short does a Feature need to be?, I asked.

‘Bout 80 minutes says Ryan.

Ok then, say I, give me a couple of days and I’ll try to write a story around what we’ve already written that won’t kill us all and make us bankrupt.

So that happened and after a lot of tinkering with Ryan the plot grew arms and legs and we had a finished script. Now all we needed was a much larger cast, more friends and more local businesses to help us out.

Among the best memories I have from that time was the occasion in 2013 when we filmed the Victorian sequence. For this we needed a dark Victorian street that had no 21st century giveaways in sight. After some searching, we thought of Rose Terrace. I had worked there when the Perth Library HQ was in Rose Terrace and remembered the sub street level section.

In order to gain permission to film there we went from door to door asking every resident for permission. Thankfully, everyone agreed. So, on a balmy summer night we asked about one hundred men, women, children and some dogs to dress in Victorian clothes - provided by Perth Theatre and by Euan Campbell at Utopia Costumes - to come to Rose Terrace and play the poor inhabitants of Perth in 1849. I remember we even had a van with coffees and teas on the street opposite. I’ve put a clip of the sequence after the trailer. There were a few nights like that. Wonderful people who waited throughout filming to help, sometimes nipping off to buy everyone chips to keep morale going.

The roll call to thank is huge (far too many people to mention individually and to name one would be unfair to those I don’t name). Despite this, I can’t not mention the great contribution of our dear friend, Andy Gray as the wonderful villain, Black Ruthven. His professionalism, presence, enthusiasm and sense of fun gave great weight and momentum to the project in its second phase and helped us past the finish line.

I was and remain grateful to everyone who took part. It took another few months and eventually the film was premiered at Perth Playhouse in February 2014.

It played in the cinema for many weeks and the money earned at the box office was used to fund entering the film into as many international film festivals as we could afford. We did quite well – even in Alaska. The most pleasing part of that was that people all over the world were able to enjoy the endeavour of a community, rightly proud of their home."

Ian Grieve July 2021

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