Scheme Birds is the story of a teenage troublemaker Gemma growing up in her world of violence and pigeons. Life unfolds as innocent games turn into serious crime.
Interview with Director Ellen Fiske
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! We are very happy. We started making Scheme Birds four years ago after we ran into our main character, Gemma, in Motherwell in Scotland. She was bragging about her being the neighborhood’s “top girl” and told us that we should make a film about her. Gemma then introduced us to all people in the neighbourhood and told us her unlikely life story. Many have been in trouble Gemma says, in fact, “here you either end up locked up or knocked up” she explains. While young teams fight each other the older generation has found a purpose in life: breeding pigeons. They train them, race them and every Friday they decide which one is the most beautiful. But this doesn’t interest Gemma at all, she chooses a different path in life. The contrast between the rough area and the beauty and poetic potential of the pigeon racing caught our eyes immediately. So did Gemma, as a young woman and witty storyteller. It was almost too good to be true, we felt we had to make a film about Gemma and this unusual place.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should watch it if you’re into coming of age stories and want to know more about young people’s situation in deprived areas of Scotland. Also if you want to know what happens to Gemma. Will she be able to break the pattern of violence that has been passed on for generations?
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Gemma has a quite unusual life story but she goes through things that we all can relate to. The universal experience of loss, growing up, becoming a mother and hoping for a better future are things Gemma takes on over the period we were filming.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
At first, the film focused on Gemma and her grandfather. But as things started to happen in Gemma’s life the story became more complex and the themes bigger. And once the violence had struck harder than ever in Gemma’s life it was clear to us what direction the film should take. It was no longer focus on her past but on what would happen to her in the near future. The one place where she’d always felt at most at home and would never leave, she started to question and see with different eyes.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We have mostly received feedback from funders so far. Most reactions have been really positive though, people are very moved by Gemma and fascinated by how the story evolves. A few want to know more about Gemma and less about the other participants. We are very happy that the film turned out the way it did though. To us, the other voices add an interesting and wider perspective; the story of the scheme and its inhabitants.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
We haven't shown the film to too many so far. But the film is made to both tell an intimate story but also to respect Gemma and the other characters integrity. According to some opinions, maybe we could have pushed even harder to get even more out of the story. This has made us even more secure about the way we want to tell a story through - with a very gentle hand and the main characters partly in charge of how the story is expressed. Maybe our method surprises people - the film handles a rough theme but is not very rough itself.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
Of course, we want a lot of people to take part in the story and also react. What does people that watch the film think and feel? Do they understand Gemma’s choices in life?
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Of course, we are interested in getting in touch with journalists to tell more about our work and the world we portray. We would also love buyers and distributors to show interest in our film.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We would like people to understand the people living in the scheme. You maybe hear a lot about violent areas, but don’t get the full image of everyone involved. We want to humanize what sometimes seems to be black and white - no one is just a victim or a perpetrator. We also want people to feel that the story is told from Gemma’s point of view. Usually, this story is told from an outer perspective or from a male criminal. We think Gemma’s voice could add a new dimension to a story already told and we hope the audience can relate to her.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is it possible to break a pattern that’s been passed on for generations? How can that be made?
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Ellen is working on a new documentary set on a retreat for former religious fundamentalists in San Francisco and Ellinor is working at the Swedish Television (SVT) documentary section with various projects.
Interview: April 2019
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Scheme Birds is the story of a teenage troublemaker gemma growing up in her world of violence and pigeons. Life unfolds as innocent games turn into serious crime.
Director: Ellen Fiske & Ellinor Hallin
Producer: Mario Adamson & Ruth Reid
Writer: Ellen Fiske & Ellinor Hallin
About the writer, director and producer:
ELLEN FISKE and ELLINOR HALLIN is a Swedish documentary moviemaker duo.
ELLEN FISKE is a director who studied at the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. She has directed the award-winning short films Keep Me Safe (2014) and Lone Dads (2016) which premiered to critical acclaim.
ELLINOR HALLIN is also a cinematographer, current employers include HBO and Zentropa Sweden. Her work on feature film In i Dimman earned her a Guldbagge nomination for Best Cinematography 2019.
MARIO ADAMSON founded Sisyfos Film in 2014 he has produced and co-produced internationally acclaimed films such as Merry Christmas, Yiwu (2019, Mladen Kovacevic) and Liberté (2021, Martin Möller).
RUTH REID is a producer based between the UK and Sweden through her companies GID Films Ltd and HER FILM AB. Reid has been nominated for Scottish BAFTA awards twice; been selected and participated in EURODOC and Jihlava’s Emerging Producers.
Key cast: Ellen Fiske (Director), Ellinor Hallin (Director), Mario Adamson (Producer), Ruth Reid (Producer), Hanna Lejonqvist (Editor), Syndicado (World sales agent)
Looking for: distributors, journalists, buyers, film festival directors
Made in association with: Arte & SVT
Funders: The Swedish Film Institute, BFI, Creative Scotland, Sundance Documentary fond, the Malik Bendjelloul Foundation, STHLM Debut and The Swedish Arts Grant’s Committee.
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Tribeca Film Festival/New York - April 26th, 27th & May 1st and 3rd; Hotdocs film festival/Toronto - April 28th and 29th