Just Do It

By James Merchant

inheritance-charles-henri-belleville.jpgThe Inheritance, 2007

Award-winning debut feature The Inheritance takes to the road

Over the past ten years barriers of access and control of entertainment have been broken down by the likes of YouTube and MySpace. Low-budget works now not only have varied outlets for exhibition but are also becoming increasingly recognised by the cultural establishment. For cinema in particular, the rise of independent film festivals has created a platform where small films with large ambition can be snapped up by visiting distributors, or at least receive proper recognition from the industry. Taking these opportunities one step further, the prestigious British Independent Film Awards include the Raindance Award, offering special recognition to a film that best exemplifies the spirit of the Raindance Film Festival – defiant, made against the odds, ballsy. The 2007 award, which was given away at the Roundhouse Theatre on the 28th November, honoured The Inheritance, a 60 minute Scottish road movie which was shot in eleven days with a budget of just £5000.

For director Charles-Henri Belleville and producer Tim Barrow the event was unsurprisingly surreal. “I’ve just been congratulated by (host) Jimmy Nesbitt,” Barrow exclaimed, “It’s madness” Belleville admits, accepting the award in front of a 900 strong audience, which included Dame Judi Dench, Anton Corbijn, Daniel Craig and Ray Winstone. “We have worked so hard for this award. It really gives the film legitimacy.”

inheritance-charles-henri-belleville-2.jpgThe Inheritance, 2007

Beginning life as a script by Barrow, who also produces and acts, The Inheritance tells the story of two brothers from Edinburgh who have little in common, other than the desire to discover what their recently deceased father has left them. With only a key and a cryptic posthumous letter as guidance, David (played by Barrow) and Fraser (Fraser Sivewright) set off in their beaten up family van across the country to the Isle of Skye in the hope of collecting what is theirs. It is very much a Scottish story, reflecting the writer’s own experiences growing up around Edinburgh and recognising the behavioural tendencies of Scottish men. “There’s always been a cultural stereotype of Scotsmen being unable to express their feelings”, he explains, “it’s something I don’t really think has been expressed in contemporary cinema much and I thought it would be an interesting starting point for a screenplay, where two opposing brothers are placed in a situation where they are forced to communicate.”

Finding director Charles-Henri Belleville through actor Tom Hardy’s theatre group Shotgun, the production of The Inheritance was set in motion late in 2006 before shooting in February 2007. For Belleville, who had previously directed promos for musician / actor Ashley Walters and the ‘making of’ documentary for the forthcoming chiller WAZ, working with any budget at all was something completely new for him. “I’ve been making short films since I was fifteen but never had any money to work with. Even though we only had £5000, at times I felt like a bit of a megalomaniac,” he laughs.

inheritance-charles-henri-belleville-3.jpgThe Inheritance, 2007

Unsurprisingly, working with such a small budget came with its problems. Not only were the crew limited to one camera, meaning that if something went wrong with it the film wouldn’t happen, but the very van that the brothers use throughout their journey broke down before filming ended. The filmmakers worked creatively around this, simply writing the van out of the script at the last minute, resulting in an even more intense final act. Spending six months editing whilst also working in the marketing wing of a film company, Belleville finished the film just in time for submission to Raindance FF itself, where it was accepted and nominated for Best UK Feature.

I ask the filmmakers what’s next for each of them. “I’m really looking forward to screening it more”, Belleville explains. “We’ve had a few screenings since Raindance , and I can’t wait to get it out there.” Belleville is in post-production on his next feature, a basketball documentary centred around the Midnight Madness tournament, one of the biggest streetball tournaments in the world. Barrow is more cryptic when asked this question, though he too has large plans. “Once the chaos of receiving this award has died down, I’m cracking on with the next script. You’ll have to wait to find out more, but essentially it’s a love story set in contemporary Edinburgh, though more of a love letter to the city itself.”

If The Inheritance reveals anything, it is that Barrow and Belleville will be figures in the landscape for some time to come. All power to the filmic imagination, unfettered by (lack of) finance…

It is hoped that The Inheritance will receive more screenings across the UK and internationally in the coming months.

James Merchant is a London-based writer