Pictured: Garnet Frost. Photo Credit: Ed Perkins.

Pictured: Garnet Frost. Photo Credit: Ed Perkins.

GALO: How was it to be filmed? How long did it take you to get used to the camera?

GF: There was a low level of stress attached to it, obviously, from the start, but Ed is very discrete and, of course, it was just the single camera. He’s got this way of fading into the background, so after a bit, I became accustomed to it, but never fully.

GALO: Did you find it different when you had to talk directly into the camera?

GF: I don’t mind so much being filmed, but talking into the camera I did find somewhat hard, especially if he’d tape a microphone to my chest. For a long time, I had a pain in my chest at the place where he’d put the microphone. I don’t know if this was some sort of psychosomatic reaction, but I was anxious. It probably affected some of what I said. Very often, I felt like, ‘oh this is inhibiting me; I’m not really putting myself over in a very good way. I’m not fully expressing myself.’ But I learned to live with it. After a while, it became so familiar that I didn’t really notice it that much.

GALO: Was it different to be filmed in the Scottish Highlands — a remote, serene, and at times threatening environment — where you nearly died 20 years earlier?

GF: Ed became absorbed in the adventure himself, and he became part of the team. The business of going up to Scotland is like a journey to another planet, so we became this team of explorers — all in it together. We were all out of our comfort zone, so the camera by that point was neither here nor there. It was just another ingredient in this rather extraordinary adventure that we were all into.

GALO: Did you watch clips over the four years of filming?

GF: Ed made a point of not showing me footage as we went along, because he thought it might inhibit me or make me overly self-conscious. And so, it meant that I didn’t really know what it would look or sound like. I could only imagine. To all intents and purposes, I had nothing to fear. And I trusted Ed. I’d never really been filmed before or seen myself on camera before, so my initial sensation was: ‘Do I really look like that? Do I really sound like that?’ It’s very disconcerting, but I think it is a very good portrait. I’m pleased with the result. In fact, I think Ed’s made a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

GALO: I wouldn’t say that. I think, in fact, you may have missed your calling on stage as a performer.

EP: He is a performer.


GALO: Ed, you had a four-year journey on your own: trying to find funding and resources, and trying to identify the story arc. Simultaneously, Garnet was going through his journey. It seemed to me that from your camera’s eye and the way the story came together that the relationship between the two of you almost became symbiotic. As you were growing and trying to understand what your quest was, Garnet was also doing the same — can you comment on that?

EP: I think, absolutely, any kind of film that is very intimate in nature is wholly dependent upon the relationship between the filmmaker and the subject. You have to create a relationship that is based 100 percent on trust. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time with Garnet, often without a camera. I also spent time with his mum to get to know her; ultimately, to earn their trust. I have so much respect for Garnet, and I know how brave – well, I can only imagine, I don’t know – how brave you have to be to bare your soul to someone in the way that he did. And I have, in my own way, come to love Garnet. And I care about him a lot.

GALO: Did that impact the final cut?

EP: When you’re told how to make documentaries, it’s often suggested that you should keep an emotional barrier between you and the subject so that you can be most efficient in the storytelling and remain objective and impersonal. That kind of went out the window straight away. And I hold my hands up to that. But, I think, the fact that I didn’t go down that route — the fact that I did become emotionally involved — makes it a slightly different film, for better or worse. It’s interesting because of it, and certainly our relationship is at the center of that. I fully admit that I had an influence on Garnet’s story. I think it’s disingenuous to claim if I hold a camera in front of someone’s face that I’m not in some way affecting them and what they’re saying and the way they’re acting. Of course I am. I think it’s more interesting and more truthful to acknowledge that and try and tell a story in a slightly different way.

GF: You can see in the film, my objective was to make something out of my life — pull something from the fire. That was my investment. Let’s see what we can do with this; let’s see what we can make out of this. It was important to me in that regard. And it was important to me for Ed — he’s young, got the bit between his teeth. He wants to make a film. And there’s an opportunity here, and what can we make of it? So, it was as important to him really to make something out of it as it was to me. We both had our own quite deep investment in the movie.

GALO: Even though Ed is not on camera — and has no voiceovers — his level of respect for you carries into his portrayal. Can you comment on that, Garnet?

GF: We do have a strong relationship and a good bond between us. Ed’s young enough to be my son, and I’m old enough to be his dad. It’s not quite like that, but in a sense I see him like a son, and I think he sees me a bit like a father figure. So there’s an extra level of respect, and we’re sort of looking out for each other. I think it’s given the film extra energy. And although the film is very much about me — you don’t see Ed at all, when I see the film, Ed is there in every frame. In a sense, the story is superficially about me, but I think it’s a story about Ed and his take on life and his life aspirations.

GALO: As far back as the Greeks, the dramatic conflict of western culture has been defined under three struggles: man vs. man; man vs. nature; and man vs. himself. Garnet seems to struggle with all three. Can you describe how you negotiated all three of these conflicts to bare their purest essence in 76 minutes?

EP: It took a long time to figure out what this story was about — years, actually. It’s so exciting when you know you’ve got this gem of a story, but you’re not sure where it’s going. I did a lot of research into narrative structures and archetypal stories. I found the “Hero’s Journey,” and, as you said, it’s been used throughout history. I created a kind of beat sheet — this is what happens in act one, this is what happens in act two, act three…as if you were going to write it as a drama. I put all those beats up on a wall with sticky notes, and then I looked at Garnet’s story. Every time I’d come back from filming, I’d be amazed at what we’d talked about or what had happened. It was completely spontaneous, and yet weirdly fitted into this story. The more we filmed, the more I thought, ‘how is this happening?’ The things that were happening naturally in his life were also actually happening in this archetypal story. That filled me with confidence that we were on a direction and that something was going to happen when we got to Scotland.