A schizophrenia love story road movie
Discharged from a psychiatric hospital, Jacob attempts to resume his life in Edinburgh, control his schizophrenia and be a worthy member of society. He works collecting litter from the streets. He boxes. He takes his medication. He writes everything down. His Dad barely wants to know him.
Frustrated by this banal existence and encouraged by his psychiatrist to seek fulfilling opportunities, Jacob sets off to the Highlands. By the sea he finds the charismatic Eva, who claims to be the daughter of Ingmar Bergman. And she’s on a mission.
Jacob and Eva join forces and embark upon adventures.
We wanted to tell an authentic, hopeful story about schizophrenia. I’m fascinated by the disorder and its treatment in art, and have utmost respect for people with schizophrenia. They hear voices, believe people are conspiring to do them harm, see patterns where others do not, experience auditory and visual hallucinations. Like all of us, they aim to have relationships, careers, families, and lead fulfilling lives.
Through the Royal College of Psychiatrists I met Professor Stephen Lawrie, Head of Psychiatry at Edinburgh University. In ignorance, I asked if two people with schizophrenia can fall in love. He said: “Yes, Bill and Maureen.” Bill and Maureen (not their true names) became Jacob and Eva, and initiated my new film.
With actor Elspeth Turner I began schizophrenia research, speaking with medical workers, patients, support groups, attending clinics, reading literature – and script-writing. We keenly felt the responsibility of working with sensitivity and integrity. I sent cinematographer Robbie Jones an initial script. With his enthusiasm and boundless filmic imagination, Robbie persuaded us to make the film. The script was brainstormed. New drafts were written. Finally we had a script ready to shoot.
Riptide needed initial finance. Edinburgh’s Lyceum theatre staged my play “Union” and I put my profit-share into this film. Robbie and I began shooting landscapes, B-roll, and simple scenes with our character Jacob (played by myself). A skeletal crew was added and we filmed further in Edinburgh – bars, boxing gyms, city flats. An Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign was initiated and we raised £4,000. We added more kit, crew & actors to shoot complex scenes and ambitious set-ups – at lochs, beaches, forests, remote farmhouses, the Highlands, and the hospital.
The film was easily cast. David Tudor is a magnetic young actor with great qualities to play the caring but conflicted Community Psychiatric Nurse. David Whitney is a dynamic, charismatic performer and stand-up comic who I love working with. Harry Donnelly I’ve admired ever since I was a kid watching him on stage. The psychiatric patients are played by talented, emerging Scottish actors whose work I admire.
Editor Callum Warrender came aboard. Although much in-demand with Glasgow post-production houses, he dedicated his skills piecing our film together. He’d edit footage, we’d shoot some more, he’d work accordingly, we’d shoot a bit more. This approach gave us time and space to hone the story and bring the film together in the edit.
Once picture-locked, we worked with Tony Moore on the colour-grade. The picture required vibrancy, and creative expression to represent and explore schizophrenia, whilst depicting a naturalistic world audiences can recognise. The colour red became significant, marking distress and danger. Eva became synonymous with blue – water, the sea, huge Highland skies.
Brilliant, diverse music was needed. I reached out to Scottish composers – the wonderful Fiona Rutherford who worked on our previous feature films, the brilliant Philip Pinksy who I work with in theatre, and magnificent Scottish singer Mairi Campbell whose work with Dave Gray on the album Pulse became the expression of Eva’s mother in our film.
The exceptional Dan Johnson from Molinare had sound mixed our previous films and he took on the sound editing and design, assisted by Billy Poole. I wanted the film to be filled with creative sound and music, representing the experience of people with schizophrenia. Auditory hallucinations are a key symptom. This gave great scope for creating vivid, expressive soundscapes.
Over 6 years the film came together. Without a huge budget – Riptide was made for roughly £12,000 – we had to rely on our initiative and instinct and experience. We coalesced our skills, gathered all the rare accidents, strange coincidences, beauty and inspiration from the shoot, and followed our instincts. Time did not matter – we focused on making the film we wanted to make.
Writer / Director