Scotland

Novelist Denise Mina makes homemade film

Scottish novelist Denise Mina has turned to the story-telling skills of her family for her latest project, a documentary which is "homemade" in every way.

The 48-year-old author of novels such as Field of Blood and the Dead Hour comes from a family that likes to talk.

Her mother, Edith Toner, was one of 12 siblings who grew up in a council house in Toryglen in the south of Glasgow in the 30s and 40s.

"Maybe some families don't tell stories," says Edith. "But we grew up in a story-telling family."

Mina's aunty Betty says: "Some families get together and sing. We just talk."

Denise's mother Edith says the filming was very informal
Denise's mother Edith says the filming was very informal

When her aunt Lena died, Mina says she started to feel a generation slipping away.

She says the stories she had heard from her relatives as she grew up needed to be captured.

So she set about persuading her cousins to help her make an intimate and revealing portrait of the older generation.

The whole 45-minute documentary, which will be premiered at Inverness's Go North festival on Thursday, was filmed on an iphone and was so unobtrusive that her mother, aunts and uncles were sometimes not even aware she was recording them.

Mina's mother says: "It was all very informal. I thought I was just having a coffee.

"If I'd have known, I'd have had my hair done. I thought she was just testing the equipment."

Mina, who has written 12 novels, three plays and a number of graphic novels, says she was not interested in making a "commercial" film.

Denise's aunt Betty and aunt Pat are featured in the film
Denise's aunt Betty and aunt Pat are featured in the film

She says it was lovely to make something "just for the joy of it".

However, it was "nerve-racking" to gather the extended family together at the Glasgow Film Theatre and show them what had been filmed.

It was only after viewing the film that she asked her relatives to sign a release giving permission for the documentary to have a wider showing.

"Everyone signed," she says.

"Though I suspect some of them more reluctantly than others."

Mina says that the documentary, which she has called Multum in Parvo (Latin for 'much in little'), was originally made for the family and she did not know if it would interest other people.

"But I showed it to a private audience of 50 women and they all said I'm going to go and make a film like this," Mina says.

"I think everyone feels that way about their family history."

Many people feel they should film the older generation and capture their stories before it is too late, otherwise their memories and stories do not get passed down, she says.

But most people never get around to it and regret the fact they didn't.

Denise's mother Edith says: "In a big family everybody has their own version of events and it is nice to get somebody else's take on things."

However, Edith's sister Pat says it was good that everyone was interviewed individually or it could have been "mayhem".

The entire family gathered at the Glasgow Film Theatre to watch the documentary
The entire family gathered at the Glasgow Film Theatre to watch the documentary

She says: "Everyone's memories have changed and everyone steals everyone else's stories.

"What had happened to me, a few years down the line someone says it happened to them. We get confused about memories."

The documentary, which will also be shown at the Sheffield Documentary Festival, features music from her cousin, ex-China Crisis member Brian McNeill, and was directed and edited by Denise and another cousin, Rosie Toner.

Mina says she put a lot of pressure on her cousins to get the documentary to be cinema quality, despite using affordable technology.

She says: "Luckily I'm really obsessive and can't be stopped when I embark on a course of action."

Mina's aunt Pat thinks their should be a sequel to the documentary, featuring the children and grand-children.

She says: "We should produce it and see how much they like it."

Multum in Parvo will be shown at the Go North at Inverness on Thursday.

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