Q&A with director Lou McLoughlan


6 January 2017

Do people deserve a second chance, an opportunity to redeem themselves, or should they just be written off in the belief that they will never change for the better? This is just one question that writer/director Lou McLoughlan raises in her debut feature, 16 Years Till Summer, which screens on Sun 15 January at 15:30. Lou will be attending the screening and welcoming questions from the audience after the film.

We caught up with Lou to learn more about 16 Years Till Summer and the filmmaking process in Scotland...

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I'm just a filmmaker who enjoys working in whatever that space between TV documentary and fiction is: maybe call it creative non-fiction? I start with a found story then work my way out via a film, guided by an honest reaction to those people / events. 

We're really looking forward to seeing 16 Years Till Summer - can you tell us a bit about the film?

"What gets revealed - the 'inner' story - is how people handle unpalatable truths..."

It's very much a story about hope and new starts. After causing a tragic loss of life Uisdean Mackay spends five years trying to redeem himself, trying to fit back into the Highlands and take others on that journey with him - that's the 'outer' story. What gets revealed - the 'inner' story - is how people handle unpalatable truths, in themselves and the people they love. Bring those two elements together and what you have is a film about what gets sacrificed when three people are determined to see the best in each other, when they think with their hearts.

How did you come across Uisdean's story? 

 "He wanted me to film them both together while he was on home-leave..."

I met Uisdean Mackay whilst filming a prison art project in Castle Huntly open prison. It was during a tea break that he told me his family had lived in the same part of the Highlands for the last 200 years and that his father, Calum, had recently been very ill. He said he wasn't sure how much longer Calum, who was then 92, would be alive, so he wanted me to film them both together while he was on home-leave, to give him memories of their relationship. That was how the film started, the filming of someone's home leave from an open prison.

Can you share a few highlights of the filmmaking process with us?

 "I really enjoyed filming them in those early days - the way Calum used to boss his son around in the garden was hilarious."

I'll always remember that early time spent with Calum and Uisdean - it was a very hopeful period when it looked like something good could be salvaged from something very tragic. That hope was reflected in the great sense of friendship and humour they shared. I really enjoyed filming them in those early days - the way Calum used to boss his son around in the garden was hilarious. It was sometimes exaggerated for the camera but all part of Calum's 'supervision' plan; it was one of those instances where the camera gives a bit of a chance for play-acting and light relief. Calum had a real twinkle in his eye in those days. I remember him turning to me after they'd been boistrously jibing with each other after watching old super-8 films, and Calum said to me, eyes melting with affection in the firelight, "we have a lot of fun together". It was a healing time for Calum - he was allowing himself to believe in Uisdean again.

Another highlight was meeting Audrey, the extraordinary woman who rode to Uisdean's rescue when he was at his lowest ebb, showing almost superhuman love for him. Whereas Uisdean and Calum had clearly discussed the filming and wanted a film to be made, Audrey had just fallen in love with someone I'd been filming for three years. So I was very grateful when she let me film her part in his story. She had no self-motivation in that at all - she just had the compassion to want to help me finish the film.  

What's next for you after 16 Years Till Summer? 

Well, after screening it in festivals and to broadcasters around the world, I need to find a broadcaster here so the Scottish / UK taxpayer gets equal access to a project they've part-paid for. And I want to play my part in championing the wealth of non-fiction that Scottish filmmakers are having huge international success with. It'd be great to have these globally successful films seen and celebrated in Scotland.

"It'd be great to have these globally successful films seen and celebrated in Scotland."

Apart from all that, I'm writing a fiction film - possibly an updated Kramer Vs Kramer, as I don't get why we don't make films about children's stories within divorce. I can't wait to work to a set schedule, to a timetable and story, with actors who are comfortable with improvisation. 16 Years Till Summer was one of those stories that kept taking unpredictable turns - as real life often does - so it turned into a much longer project than expected.

Screening Sun 15 January at 15:30, 16 Years Till Summer is the first film in a new strand of programming at DCA, Scottish Encounters, which highlights emerging Scottish screen talent. This programme will give Dundee audiences a chance to see exciting new work, including shorts and features from all genres, and meet the people who have made it. Bring along your own questions for Lou!

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