CALL it Belle and Sebastian: the musical. A transatlantic appreciation society between the Scottish Indie rocker band and a Hollywood producer has led to a film featuring the group’s songs.
Stuart Murdoch, the lead singer of the Glasgow-based group, has now teamed up with twice Oscar-nominated Barry Mendel, producer of movies such as Bridesmaids, The Sixth Sense and The Royal Tenenbaums, to produce the film, which is described as “a musical love letter” to the city. The pair hope to start filming in June.
Mendel told Scotland on Sunday: “Like many other people, music is so much a part of my life. I always dreamed of doing a musical and I’ve really enjoyed working on movies in part because of how music and imagery and storytelling go together so well.
“I really enjoyed the musical work in the three movies I did with [Hollywood director] Wes Anderson.”
A huge Belle and Sebastian fan, Mendel first became involved in the project when he read online that Murdoch was interested in making a film. Not knowing how to contact him directly, he sent Murdoch a fan letter through the band’s website offering his expertise.
“Stuart got in touch back and said that he actually watched a lot of the movies I did, as much as I listened to their music,” said Mendel. They exchanged some ideas and decided to work together “on a trial basis”.
“I came to Glasgow, Stuart came to LA, we spent time talking and working, and it seemed to go okay.
“Four-and-a-half years later, here we are,” Mendel added.
The music for the film – working title God Help The Girl – was originally penned by Murdoch and released in 2009 as an album, also called God Help The Girl, using female singers, including vocalist Catherine Ireton.
The film, which Murdoch will direct, is expected to use many songs from the album. It will chart the story of a young woman in hospital in Glasgow who starts writing songs to aid her recovery.
The team is aiming to secure backing for the film through the website Kickstarter – an online pledge system for funding creative projects.
Using “crowd-sourcing” – generating money from fans and interested financial backers through the website, and offering incentives such as signed albums and T-shirts to those who contribute – they are hoping to raise $100,000 (£63,000) by 12 February. So far they have raised almost $87,000, but must raise the full $100,000 by the deadline or the whole amount must be returned.
“If we succeed, we will become one of only four narrative features in Kickstarter history to raise this amount,” said Mendel.
“We’ve worked hard to give people prizes that are fun and they feel are worthwhile, so they’re both supporting our movie and also getting something tangible from it. It’s been a big job, and kind of frightening. It’s daunting.”
Funding has also come from Channel 4’s Alpha Fund. Ian MacKenzie, media project manager at Channel 4, said: “It’s a relatively unusual combination of talent, and the fact that it’s a hybrid project was something that chimed with us. The best producers out there are good at spotting projects that really excite them and feel different, which is what Barry did. For Stuart, although this is his directorial debut, he has always had a fantastic creative talent, which is what he brings to the table in terms of this project.”
Ultimately, Murdoch and Mendel hope to release the film worldwide.
“The response from the UK film community has been wonderful, especially considering both Stuart and I are new to it,” said Mendel. “It will definitely be an indie movie, but if indie movies are right, they cross over to the mainstream.”
He added: “The biggest market will probably be the US, who seem to have taken to Belle and Sebastian in a special way.”
Belle and Sebastian were formed in Glasgow in 1996 and received cult status after the release of their first full-length album, Tigermilk. Lauded by publications from Rolling Stone to the Village Voice, they became hugely popular in the US, where they toured several times. In 2005, they were voted Scotland’s greatest band.
Mendel said: “I’m a fan of quite a few bands that have come out of Glasgow over the years.
“It’s exciting to try to put that music scene on film. Most times those attempts fall flat. The people portrayed see the film and say ‘what a load of crap’. So Stuart’s got some pressure on him there. We all do.”