Mosquitoes & Doritos: The Making of Rough Cut

Cornerhouse AV Technician Dave Petty takes you behind the scenes of our latest Cornerhouse Artist Film Rough Cut

I found out in mid-June of this year that my legs don’t fare well with midge bites. I was the aptly-named ‘fly on the wall’ cameraman during the week-long shoot for Hiker Meat, the 70s horror film-within-a-film that forms the central core of Jamie Shovlin’s debut feature Rough Cut and his exhibition Hiker Meat. And for two days of that film shoot, I was more or less eaten alive by what can only be described as plagues of midges on a biblical scale. When people are laughingly assuming you’ve covered your legs in horror make-up, you know you’re not in a good way. But more on my lower appendages later.

The title of this blog was something Jamie came up with on one of our many location-bound coach rides, gently bending the facts to make a rhyme out of our predicament (mosquitoes being quite a different beast to the friendly neighbourhood midge). The very fact it’s a half-truth makes for a good analogy of the film itself. A documentary on the collaborative nature of art? A deconstruction of the horror genre? A making-of featurette, expanded to dizzying proportions? Rough Cut is all these things, and more.

Admittedly having worked on the project, it’s hard to distance myself from what was a tough, arduous shoot that saw a rag-tag assembly of cast and crew find themselves lost (sometimes, quite literally) in the Lake District. Glamping in yurts might seem like a glorious weekend retreat for some, but when you venture deep into Ulverston forests and find yourself filming a crew trying to co-ordinate cameras, lights, actors, food, drink, fog, pyrotechnics, a home-made camera dolly, industrial lube AND the unpredictability of the Great British eco system, it soon becomes clear why Hollywood films cost so much. Oh to have had a Winnebago on set!

To describe what the film is though, that’s a little tougher. Shovlin, Mike Harte (script) and Euan Rodger (soundtrack) have worked on the Hiker Meat project for almost ten years: the film was dreamed up from generic horror/exploitation conventions, a full script completed, props made, posters and lobby cards printed up, and the resulting tangible paraphernalia would form the basis of increasingly elaborate gallery exhibitions for a film that never existed. However the temptation to actually create the film was evidently too much for its creators to resist, and so segments from the film were meticulously crafted from thousands of clips culled from horror films of the 70s and 80s. These segments (the opening scene, closing scene and a trailer) were what the Rough Cut crew were tasked with recreating, the rolling hills of Cumbria standing in for Jamestown, MA.

Filmmaking is far from new, and Rough Cut invariably shows the rookie mistakes and happy accidents that occur when attempting to put a film together on a shoestring. For me, following the cast and crew for five days and nights with nothing more than a Canon XA10 strapped to my hand allowed me to capture a panoramic snapshot of life on a film shoot, midges and all. For the feature itself, this footage is combined with archival content and standalone interviews, split-screens and layered audio, often giving the effect of a scrapbook committed to film – showing how an art project can flourish and become something bigger than the sum of its parts.

What you might get from the film largely depends what you bring to it – whether you’re a fan of extensive making-of’s, collaborative art projects, the horror genre or simply interested in what makes Jamie Shovlin tick, you’re bound to find something in Rough Cut worth your while. But don’t expect to see my legs – they were simply too shocking to make the final cut.

Watch the international premiere of Rough Cut at Cornerhouse on Fri 29 Nov where you’ll be able to put your questions to the cast and crew. Rough Cut goes on general release from Fri 6 December.