Writer and director David Kane discusses his motivation and inspiration for revisiting the Glasgow of his younger days in the upcoming BBC One drama The Field Of Blood, a dark and uncompromising tale adapted from the best-selling novel by Denise Mina.
Why did you want to get involved?
I read Denise Mina’s novel and really liked it. I loved the character of Paddy Meehan and the way it was written. Having spent time in Glasgow at the time the book was set, I identified with it and felt very comfortable with the material. I could also see how my style of writing and Denise’s style of writing had similarities so I felt it would meld together very well.
What was the attraction of this particular book?
I enjoy writing about Scotland and the Scottish vernacular and was also attracted to the character and the journalistic background. I had done some photojournalism when I was in my early twenties and had experience of the way the industry worked and the cynicism of it, along with the compromises journalists sometimes find themselves having to make.
There was also the issue of Paddy Meehan the young female character who has to fight against misogyny and chauvinism. It was a really smart way to write an investigative thriller that had other issues going on within it.
Did it occur to you to try to give the story a contemporary setting or were you excited by the challenge of setting it in the Eighties?
I didn’t want to update the story because the newsroom of that period was mostly male with attitudes that were still stuck in the Fifties and so she was up against much more in-your-face sexism than she would have been in a modern newsroom.
In a modern newspaper it wouldn’t have been quite as obvious and I quite like the fact that it was right there and she had to confront it face on.
Recreating that period is quite difficult because the city of Glasgow has changed dramatically. Every street was different, every signpost was different and all the tenements were clean; they were all black but now they are all lovely clean sandstone but we managed to find some that were still black; there are only one or two left. It’s a completely different city so that was a challenge.
It’s impossible to recreate everything so it was just a question of having to use your ingenuity.
Was the newsroom recreated from your own experience or through research?
The documentary about a day in the life of the Glasgow Herald in 1982 was invaluable source material with details on what the Daily News office would have looked like and what we would have been able to use in that year. We amalgamated that with the idea of making the office quite modern for 1982 as well.
Our aim was for Paddy Meehan’s character to leave her home which was quite dark and claustrophobic and go into a very modern environment.
We used certain details from the Herald documentary but we based some of the design of the office on the Washington Post and the way they had designed the office in the film All The President’s Men, which had a lot of top lighting. It was very bright, you didn’t see outside and you couldn’t have known what time of day it was unless you saw a clock.
What can you tell us about Paddy?
The main problem with casting was finding Paddy Meehan, finding a young 19/20-year-old actress who had something special but was also ordinary.
When we saw Jayd I realised she was definitely the one. It’s about the quality she has on film and also the fact that she was totally believable in that role of this young girl who is slightly overweight and thinks she’s much fatter and unattractive than she really is – a lot of that was supposed to be in her head.
Jayd was studying at drama school in New York, so we had to persuade her to come back because she was in the middle of her course and didn’t want to leave. Thankfully she read the script and loved it. She is so right for the role.
The cast is also full of other great names such as Peter Capaldi, David Morrissey and Ford Kiernan. What was the thinking behind their casting?
I have known David Morrissey, Peter Capaldi and Ford Kiernan for about 20 years so it was a case of contacting them and asking them if they would be interested. Not so much blackmailing, but it helps if you have a relationship with somebody and I had worked with all of them before.
Peter was in my film Dreambaby, and the series Midnight Man so we go back a long way. David and I worked together on a series called Finney, and then I directed a film called Born Romantic which he starred in. Ford’s first acting job was in Ruffian Hearts which was my first directing job. They were all spot on for the characters.
How difficult was it to adapt the book?
In terms of adapting the book we made certain changes to the story simply because I wanted the crime to be closer to Paddy. We also needed to economise and amalgamate characters, but in general it’s reasonably faithful to the spirit of the book.
Denise was wonderful and very supportive as she understood that television is such a different medium to writing a thriller novel. She understood that to make the transition from page to screen we had to rewrite some of the dialogue and create several new scenes.
In general it’s a good amalgamation of both Denise’s writing and my writing but it’s something that really did work for me and I found it quite easy to adapt her work.
Has it been an enjoyable experience?
It has been fantastic working with Slate Films and BBC Scotland again. I had worked with Andrea Calderwood before on the first thing I ever wrote and directed, Ruffian Hearts – it was such a great experience.
This production has been an equally enjoyable. Every department was so committed – from the production to casting, design to editing and the great actors – I couldn’t have asked for better.
What do you hope audiences will take away from The Field Of Blood?
I hope audiences will enjoy Paddy’s feisty character and the fact that she is embarking on a journey that a lot of women made during that period and one that wasn’t easy to make in a tough male-dominated business.
She will represent a lot of women who will now be in their forties and I hope they will identify with her in some way. It’s a new take on the crime thriller, on the investigative thriller. Paddy is not a cop, she’s not an alcoholic, she’s not burdened with divorce and children, she’s a fresh young investigator.
The Field Of Blood airs later this month on BBC One and BBC One HD