Wendy Mitchell talks to Paul Wright about his debut feature For Those In Peril, which premieres in Critics’ Week.

Scotland-based Wright’s debut feature, For Those In Peril, stars George MacKay as young man struggling with daily life in a small Scottish fishing village after he is the sole survivor of a boat accident. It is produced by Warp X with backing from Creative Scotland, the BFI, Film4 and Screen Yorkshire.

He is an NFTS graduate and was a 2007 Screen International Star of Tomorrow. His acclaimed shorts include Believe and the BAFTA winner Until The River Runs Red. He is in the early stages of writing his next project.

For Those In Peril premieres in Critics’ Week on Saturday and Protagonist handles international sales.

Why was this story the one you wanted to tell for your first feature?

It’s about knowing the length that the story deserves. For this one there was enough things in there that excited me, I knew I could explore some different themes…He goes on quite a journey from the beginning to the end. It felt like it was a lot I could explore, to go deep and get my hands dirty a bit.

Does it feel like the same ethos as your shorts?

It was about getting the way I like to make films into a feature film. A lot of it to do was with mapping out the progression and layers so each of them developed as well. With the fragmented nature of my stuff, it does shift and change as the film progresses.

How did you upbringing influence the story? 

I grew up in a similar village to where the film takes place, so the ocean is always part of everyday life.  I grew up a 30 second walk to the ocean, it’s always there visually and with sound. You hear stories, not specifically what ends up in the film, but the reality and how difficult making a living from the ocean is, and the flip side of that is that as a child you get brought up with the mythology of the sea and the surrounding villages. There was a blurring of the lines of what was real and what was unreal.

Which town did you shoot in?

Gourdon. Mood wise it felt right and also practically it had a lot of the things we wanted. To have that layer of authenticity and use some of the locals in the film. Grounding the story in reality was important reallyearly on because we didn’t want a Disney version of the film. We were wary of avoiding the cutsey version. The locals were amazing, they got right behind us and really helped out. 

Working with the low budget of the Warp X scheme really seemed to fit with what youwere doing creatively. Do you feel like you want to stick with low-budget films?

It’s story dependent. I’ve always been fascinated with images and sound and I think that goes from the polished perfect kind of work to the kind of scuzzy distorted images and sounds. It suited the film we were making, the slightly lo-fi quality felt right. I wouldn’t cut myself off from anything else. I  just want to keep making films the way the story dictates. This film did have an ambition despite its budget restrictions. That was something we went for the whole way. The fragmented nature meant we had a lot of material we wanted to get – I guess time is always the biggest challenge. We were trying to get as much quality material within budget. It would have been nice to have a little more time, but that’s the same way with every film no matter what the budget.

Where did you shoot the water scenes?

A lot of the water stuff was in the ocean, the heavy breathing and looking freezing was pretty authentic!

How did you work with your leading actor George MacKay?

We only had about two days rehearsing.What was important was we went through the script from start to finish, getting everything out there over one or two nights. We set up a shorthand from so that when we were on set and filming out of sequence, we knew the journey Aaron goes on throughout the film

I was very up front with what I was hoping to achieve with the film and the character, with leaving it open to him to bring his own interpretation of the character. He’s a force of nature, our George. He’s even every scene, he might have had a half a day off in six weeks. Physically and emotionally, for someone as young as he is, it was amazing what he gave us.

And did you eat local fish every day on set?

The fish & chip shop especially got quite a got business from us. Aye. It’s one of the best in Scotland. Maybe not every day, but maybe 80% of the time to be honest (laughs).