In the summer of 2014 I graduated from the University of the West of Scotland with an honours degree in Filmmaking and Screen Writing. My friend and collaborator, David C. Murphy, graduated that same year with a degree in Broadcast Production. Together we soon formed a production company, InPerspective Films, and began to plan our first independent production. That production was a short film titled Dames!, a comedy set in 1930’s Los Angeles about a madcap film studio. We crowdfunded a modest budget of a few thousand pounds and set to work on the difficult task of creating 1930’s Hollywood in present day Glasgow. The production of the film was long and challenging but ultimately rewarding.
As we finished post production on Dames! and premiered the film in February 2016, David and I began to have discussions about what we should do next. Together we decided to focus on developing a story more intimate and personal than our previous project. As we discussed story ideas, Alzheimer’s and dementia became subjects we were both interested in exploring as we each have loved ones living with disease. We thought it would be interesting to show how challenging life can be for someone learning to live with Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, we also wanted to show how difficult it is for the family and friends of the person with Alzheimer’s to cope. This was influenced by our own personal experiences as we each watched our parents learn to care for family members living with the disease.
Over the course of a few weeks and numerous treatments we developed the story for the film which we titled J. Costello. The film follows the eponymous Jay Costello, a middle-aged singer with Alzheimer’s, as he prepares for his regular Saturday night performance at his local pub. John struggles to comprehend new circumstances that threaten to disrupt his regular routine of performing. John’s wife Frances and best friend Kenny, his two primary carers, suffer emotional turmoil as they try to explain the change in circumstances, fearing how it may affect John’s health. I wrote the script with John McQuiston, one of our Dames! cast members, in mind for the main role. We auditioned numerous actors and rounded off the main cast with Glynis Wozniak and George Carson, both wonderful actors who brought so much to their roles.
David and I raised a small budget and quickly secured several locations in our hometown of Bishopbriggs and in Glasgow. The most challenging day of shooting took place at MacConnells Pub in Glasgow, where we filmed John’s big performance which acts as the centre piece of the film. During the writing process, I listened to a lot of Frank Sinatra, knowing we wanted the character of John to be a singer in that tradition. Choosing the song for John’s performance was one of the hardest decisions we had to make on the film. Our small budget meant we couldn’t pay royalties for popular songs, so we had to search for lesser known alternatives. David searched dutifully for many weeks until he found a song titled “So Much to Live for Today” by David Tobin and Jeff Meegan. The fast paced, big band song was exactly what we were looking for.
Gotta grab hold of life
With all of my might
Like each moment just might be my last
Leave my worries behind while I still got the time
Leave it all in the past
You get one chance at life
So I'm livin' it right and I'll risk it all, come what may
Make it here, make it now
I've got so much to live for today
The whole song, but particularly the lyrics of the first verse, perfectly encapsulate John’s attitude in the film. He doesn’t want his illness to stand in the way of what he loves to do. When John takes to the stage he leaves his worries behind, forgets all his troubles and simply entertains as Jay Costello.
The trailer for J. Costello is available to watch here: https://youtu.be/uFA2p3UcJ0Q
J. Costello is currently being submitted to film festivals around the UK. For updates on the film, including the eventual online release, you can follow @JCostelloFilm on Twitter and check out the Facebook page www.facebook.com/JCostelloFilm. You can also follow director @DavidC_Murphy on Twitter and writer @LiamHollywood.