Sunday 20 October 2019

BEATS is our definite 'Ravespotting' - Interview with co-writer Kieran Hurley

It's Saturday the 27th of September, a day that I've been relentlessly listening to The Prodigy's first album 'EXPERIENCE', on the grounds of its 27th anniversary that same day. A day that I've also spent my free time watching the long awaited, euphoric and raveolutionary brilliant film 'BEATS' by the Scottish director Brian Welsh.

About Brian Welsh, he's a 39 year old director, graduated from National Film and Television School, making his debut 10 years ago with 'KIN', having also directed loads of TV series (e.g. 'GLASGOW GIRLS', 'THE RATPACK') & gaining multiple awards such as an Emmy for his episode for the TV series 'BLACK MIRROR'.

His black-and-white film 'BEATS' premiered on 24th January of this year at IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) and came out officially in UK on 17th May via Altitude Film Entertainment. It's also available on DVD since the...909 day (9th September).

We're dealing with a quality Scottish production that has brightened my soul by the time I've read the news about the making and the whole progress of this film. An ideal example of brotherhood between two teenagers Spanner (Lorn Macdonald) and Johnno (Christian Ortega) taking place in the West Lothian town; summer of 1994, showcasing the best rave scene EVER featured on a film accompanied by thousands of ravers dancing and going bananas by underground warehouse bangers, and all taken in real time as organized when filmed.
Rave to the grave in other words as stated inside, all set around the introduction of the '94 Criminal Justice Bill, covered by a Tony Blair speech, police riots VS youth rebels, Es with psychedelia and thoroughly a massive 'Revolt' raveaggedon rinse out.

Without any doubt 'BEATS' is a movie that combines drama, socio-political and humorous scenes all around, capturing ideally the Rave culture. A proper ode to the scene and the movement with a top quality soundtrack as well!

Last film I saw in regards to the Rave was 'WEEKENDER' in 2011, but this one here is far way different, more attractive and it rolls with interest as a story. Proponents would claim that it has some similarities with Danny Boyle's 'TRAINSPOTTING' or even 'HUMAN TRAFFIC' , 'LA HAINE', 'THIS IS ENGLAND' etc. however 'BEATS' is eventually an essential tribute to the rave revolution, fist is always up and emotion is the only way to contact; take for instance the exquisite visual effects made by Weirdcore (already worked with Aphex Twin and Radiohead) capturing exactly how it feels like. Travelling without moving and tripping with no end.
A totally recommended movie for the oldskool crew to relive the warehouse memories and the juvenile ravers to kinda educate themselves with a good story of back in the day.
The latter crew would be extra guided by JD Twitch (one half of Optimo), who's credited for compiling the official soundtrack of this film with the likes of Leftfield, Orbital, N-Joi, Plastikman etc.

'BEATS' is my personal No.1 film of the year. It led me searching more elaborate info about it, reading interviews with its 'heroes' and treating hyper like...the pirate leader D-Man (Ross Mann).
Many people, included yours truly, have embraced a lot this film, there's loads of great reviews and support. Noteworthy also to mention that one of the main starring actors, Lorn Macdonald (Spanner role) is nominated at this year's Scottish BAFTA Awards (British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Scotland) in the 'Actor Film' category and 'Most Promising Newcomer' at BIFA 2019 (British International Film Awards).

In addition to that, the co-writer of 'BEATS', Kieran Hurley is also nominated in the category 'Debut Screenwriter' at BIFA 2019.
Just for the record, Welsh 'BEATS' was adapted by Kieran Hurley's one-man stage show, a live theatrical play in which he successfuly displayed how the rave culture reacted to the Section 63 of The Criminal Justice and public Order Act; to stop any gatherings of more than 20 people in open air settings when listening to music, 'wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats.'


Following above, my Q&A with Kieran Hurley about the idea of 'BEATS', his meeting with Brian Welsh and how it turned to become a massive rave film, receiving worldwide love.
Kieran's 'BEATS' play was published and that co-incided with the 2013 tour. It's still available to buy from Oberon Books. 


GK: Your monologue 'BEATS' took the 'Best New Play' award at the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) and also the Arches Platform 18 Award in 2012, followed by a massive tour for it.
Can you share with the fans that are unaware of it, the early set up of 'BEATS' as a theatrical play and the whole idea behind that drove you making this story?

KH: The stage show was a monologue that I performed onstage with a DJ (Johnny Whoop, and later Hushpuppy) accompanied by a VJ, Jamie Wardrop, who live mixed projected visuals behind us. It told the same basic story as the film, but much sparser - the whole world of the story had to be grown a lot for the movie, and Brian and I had a lot of fun developing new characters together.

I write a lot of stories about young people and while I was too young to be involved in the rave scene of the 80s and 90s at the time, I had my own interest in the music and the culture as well as in the protest movements that kinda grew out of it.

To me it's really interesting that this hedonistic youth scene was seen as in some way threatening or subversive enough for it to be legislated against with a shit attempt a genre description (the "repetitive beats" wording in the Criminal Justice Bill) and so wanted to look at that.

What happens when young people claim space entirely on their own terms and why is power threatened by it?  I didn't know at the time that what I'd write would be a coming of age story about a young boy going to his first rave at the point that the scene is beginning to die - it just started with me and Whoop in a basement room in the Arches listening to records and grew from there.

GK: Can you name all contributors on this live play and share with us how was it putting it completely live every time in theatre?

KH: I can do my best! There's no such thing as a solo show and theatre is a team sport, so it really was a group effort. Johnny Whoop brought the tunes and was a vital collaborator early on - he helped devise the whole look and feel of the show, a smoky room full of moving lights and speaker stacks that are frankly too big for a studio theatre. Jamie Wardrop live-mixed ravey visuals that helped illustrate the story in a way that was pretty radical at the time I think.

Julia Taudevin was co-director, working on my performance and steering the whole ship towards production as well as offering key contributions to the text. She offered the name Johnno for the lead character.
Adam Thayers was the technician and tour manager but so much more than that, if we ever did it again we'd need Adam to make the lights work. Oliver Emanuel was dramaturg which means he gave me lots of script notes and helped shape it in that way. So did many others who read the script including Ben Harrison who was my official mentor as part of the Arches Platform 18 Award. Jackie and LJ and everyone at the Arches,

Tom Searle at Show And Tell who booked the tour and was immensely supportive in every way.
I've definitely missed people...
As far as it being live every time in the theatre, well, that's just theatre.
We had some pretty memorable audiences, sometimes people that might've looked at the marketing and seen it was about raving so came for those reasons.
Maybe people that might not have normally come to the theatre. Some nights were pretty rowdy and even required a bit of crowd control - it was a pretty unique event!

GK: How you got in touch with the director Brian Welsh and how was it turning the whole project and story into a film?

KH: Brian had already been thinking about making a Scottish rave movie before we met.

A friend tipped him off about 'BEATS' when it was showing for a few limited dates at the Bush Theatre in London so he came and he really dug it and spoke to me afterwards. It was pretty early in my career and I didn't have an agent or anything so I spent a good amount of time sniffing him out to see if I could trust him!
The whole thing has been a big adventure with highs and lows and now we're solid mates. 'BEATS' is his thing now.

GK: Indisputably, the emotional West Lothian rave is one of the biggest highlights of the movie.
What's your best personal scene off the film?

KH: Gotta be the rave scene isn't it. I was on set when they shot that and it was just absolutely off the hook. Brian was determined it was gonna be done right and that meant putting on an actual night, in a warehouse in the centre of Glasgow.
It was an absolutely massive undertaking for everyone involved but the results are absolutely worth it. Quite a number of people have said its the most authentic representation of a rave they've ever scene on film and I totally agree.

I'm allowed to say that because I hadn't nothing to do with making it happen!
I'd also add a mention to the final scene, which is pretty special to me. As a writer it's really satisfying to see something you've written handled so well with such beautiful performances.

Spanner & Johnno - BEATS 2019

GK: Some months ago I interviewed the legendary Mark Archer from Altern-8 and enquired him if he thinks there will ever be a 3rd Summer of Love. And he's optimistic about it.
What's your opinion about it? How do you see the music movement flowing simultaneously with social life?

KH: As someone not directly involved in the scene, in my thirties now with two kids, I'm maybe not the right guy to ask. But I know that young people will always innovate, will always find spaces to come together and experience their shared humanity through music and dancing, will always push against proscribed social norms. What form that continues to take in the future - who knows.

GK: Do you think that this was the right time to launch this film in regards with the whole social issues, BREXIT etc. ?
Your opinion about today's sociopolitical issues and how should we defend or act against anything bad?

KH: Yeah, as a writer or film-maker you're always kind of at the mercy of other people's decisions as to when something sees the light of day - it's not a process you're entirely in control of. But certainly enough people seemed to think the film has something relevant to say about now to get it over the line. I think now we live in a time where fear of difference, fear of others is really getting ramped up.

I hope the film has something to say about the importance of resisting that mindset.

GK: What's the real meaning of 'BEATS' from your perspective? A message of life let's say...

KH:  Haha, I think it's best to let people infer their meaning from watching the film.
I hope it says something about our human need for collective experience, about growing up and about love between friends, about how social engineering can rip communities apart, about not trusting the cops. But I also hope that people have a lot of fun with it and love the characters and the music.

GK: Has 'BEATS' put out an end or shall we expect a sequel?

KH: There are no plans as yet!
When you've lived with a bunch of characters this long you always wonder what they might get up to next...

An Altitude Film Entertainment (in U.K.) release of a Rosetta Prods. production. (International sales: Altitude Film Sales, London; Wild Bunch, Paris.)
  • Producer: Camilla Bray
  • Executive producers: Mary Burke, Norman Merry, Leslie Finlay, Peter Hampden, Ewan Angus, Richard Wolfe, Steven Soderbergh, Rebecca O’Brien, Scott Meek, Will Clarke, Mike Runagall, Andy Mayson, Vincent Maraval
  • Director: Brian Welsh
  • Screenplay: Brian Welsh, Kieran Hurley
  • Camera (B&W): Ben Kracun
  • Editor: Robin Hill
  • Music: JD Twitch, The Golden Filter
Cristian Ortega, Lorn Macdonald, Laura Fraser, Brian Ferguson, Ross Mann, Gemma McElhinney, Amy Manson, Rachel Jackson, Neil Leiper, Kevin Mains



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