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A Life in Still Game at GFF19


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On Tuesday 26 February, Glasgow Film Festival 2019 hosted a very special evening with the stars and creators of one of the most celebrated Scottish television shows in history: Still Game. To start, the audience at Glasgow Film Theatre were treated to an exclusive advanced screening of episode two from the latest (and final) series, before it screened on telly!

Once audience members had recovered from a side-splitting session, Still Game stars and writers Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill sat down for a Q&A with host Paul Greenwood, co-stars Paul Riley (Winston), Gavin Mitchell (Boabby), Sanjeev Kohli (Navid) and the show’s director, Michael Hines. Breaking the ice, Ford hit it off with, “That’s a washed up looking crowd… I mean, clean.” “We’re washed up!” Greg corrected, barely being heard over the roaring laughter that filled the room. 

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Having charmed audiences with their iconic screen duo, Jack and Victor, for 18 years, Ford and Greg kicked off the evening's conversation by taking us back to the roots of the show. The OAP characters debuted in a play at the Edinburgh festival to a crowd of just eight people back in 1997: “Half of them were my family,” laughed Greg.

So, how did the characters carve out a successful show of their own?

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Chewing The Fat was first. Our first calling card was Jack and Victor. [They] slotted really nicely into Chewing the Fat, we thought. We did about seventy or eighty episodes on BBC Radio Scotland in the middle of the summer, after the shinty.”

Sanjeev talked about his early days of working with Ford and Greg, when he produced the Chewing The Fat radio show: “I say I produced… I was just there in the booth with them while they produced themselves. I would just be there with a stopwatch [to let them know] 'shinty’s coming!’” 

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Sanjeev then reminisced about the first time he left the safety of the Chewing the Fat writing room to join the boys on camera, appearing as a waiter in one episode of the show. Eventually he would make the move in front of the lens permanent, joining the cast as beloved shopkeeper Navid. On creating his character he recalls, “Greg had said early doors ‘We could impersonate your dad, that’s quite fun,’ so physically he’s very much like my dad, but he’s not originally Weegie,” which left Sanjeev to add his own bit of magic to the part. 

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Director Michael Hines first met Ford and Greg on Chewing The Fat’s Hogmanay special and has directed 61-and-a-half episodes of Still Game (having only filmed half of the pilot episode). He gave the audience an insight into what it was like directing actors that are also writers: “The thing is when you’re directing comedy, you want the actors to be happy. In Britain, the writers are almost always in the show as the stars, so they know how they want it… Sometimes you have to get on and shout at them, but other times it’s great fun and the easiest job in the world"

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GFF19 volunteers were at hand with microphones so that audience members could ask their own burning questions. They enquired about the characters that did or didn’t live up to the writer’s expectations, to which Greg teased, “We’ve got a character starting on the show next week called Charlie Jar-Jar, a fully CGI rendered Jamaican patois character….  I think he’s going to be big!” 

Ford went on to reveal that they’ve had their fair share of misses, particularly at the beginning of Chewing The Fat, ranging from Ned cowboys to a pair of hillbillies who lived in a swamp. Greg weighed in too, saying: “it was always fun with Chewing The Fat… you’d try stuff and be quite brave because you knew that if you tried something that didn’t work, it would just fall to the cutting room floor”.

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Hines then shared an early moment in character development, where they learned that what they did with the characters started to matter more: “You guys used to think that everything bad happened to Winston. [A character] was being really nasty to Winston… so [Winston] turns round and punches him and the audience gave a massive cheer. We suddenly realised, at that point, that they were really starting to care about the characters.”

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Addressing questions about the show's inconsistencies, Hines shared that after seasons of the cast forgetting basic details, he had the script supervisor create character bibles for everyone, containing everything from their full name and address to their family tree. Greg quickly confessed that they didn't read them very thoroughly: the cast's combined knowledge of the show was only good enough to earn them 16th  place (out of 23 teams) at a recent Still Game themed pub quiz! 

Ford shared his own amusement at the lengths that some fans go to in order to poke holes in the show’s continuity, with one even obtaining blueprints to Jack and Victor’s flat block to prove that the characters couldn’t have built a hatch between each other’s apartments. 

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The cast wrapped up the Q&A session by discussing their recent ‘Lorne-gate’ scandal. For those that missed it, the writers received some flak on Twitter for calling a square sausage a ‘flat sausage’, with one user writing: “It’s a square sausage and they’re calling it a flat sausage?! This show needs to end NOW!”

Ford was quick to set the record straight, exclaiming that they know it’s called a Lorne sausage, but that they were using the word “flat” as descriptive. According to him, the challenge of making the ‘supreme, ultimate athlete’s Scottish roll’ comes from trying to balance a sausage, potato scone and egg together, without the egg running off the side. Therefore, the sausage needs to be flat and not rounded. Glad we cleared that up!

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And thus, the evening drew to a close. Having filled Glasgow Film Theatre’s rafters with laughter that night, everyone went home with fond memories of their chat with the real life Jack and Victor, and the knowledge of how to successfully re-create the ‘supreme, ultimate athlete’s Scottish roll’... with a flat sausage, of course.  

The final season of Still Game is currently airing on BBC One.  The cast will be saying their final farewell Sep-Oct 2019 with Still Game Live at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow. 

Photography by eoin carey

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At Glasgow Film Festival, we pride ourselves on being a festival that loves the movies and loves our audience. Were you at A Life in Still Game? What were your highlights? Tag us in your photos, posts and tweets - we want to hear from you! #GFF19

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