Director's Notes

Like all the best writing, Dressing Granite deals with powerful universal themes within a setting that is very local and particular: in this case the story is firmly rooted in the culture of Cornwall.
There are two strands to Matthew’s story. One, the loss of his father to dementia, is bleak and tragic, though potentially rich in black comedy. As this part of the narrative gathers momentum towards its inevitable and cheerless outcome, the second strand emerges, with Matthew falling for Jenny and trying to separate his feelings for her from the emotional chaos of loss, anger and despair about his father. As he pushes Jenny away and prepares to go down with his business, Matthew’s challenge is to find the strength to hold on to the legacies of the past while embracing something new and positive for the future.
Matthew’s life is hewn out of granite. A strong sense of location is crucial to the film. The two men share a small cluttered cottage, seldom speaking. We tried to capture this claustrophobic world in long unbroken wide shots using a static camera. The intimate nature and psychological concerns of the later scenes, as Ben’s mental condition deteriorates, suggested tight framing and a probing lens.
The music score is by Jim Carey, a master at identifying the emotional pitch of a scene and delivering a perfect counterpoint to it. The music has strong Cornish references, featuring brass instruments, and is highly effective in building the mood of the piece.
Key to the successful realisation of Pauline’s script are the central performances. The actors faced two unusual challenges: firstly, they had to study and understand the nature of dementia and its effects on the individual and family, so as to portray these in a sensitive and truthful way. Secondly and most importantly, they had to create authentic characters that are convincingly of the place. To help achieve this, we cast local actors and scheduled a week of workshop and rehearsal with the actors into the pre-production period.
The film was shot in March 2007, with less than 8 hours of daylight. The crew was small and worked quickly. Lighting was kept to a minimum. Scenes were rehearsed to performance pitch and then shot in their entirety, reducing set-up times and helping the actors maintain focus and concentration, while delivering the reflective, claustrophobic mood that the script demands.
Ever since seeing the original stage production ten years ago, I badgered Pauline to write the screenplay. I have seen the powerful effect of the story on a theatre audience and believe that the film version will enhance that by opening the story out and giving it context - while bringing the audience closer to Matthew’s emotional struggle.
Although not obviously a commercial film, there are millions of people touched by the effects of dementia and many would welcome further exploration of this taboo. Dressing Granite is a genuine, independent regional film.
Bill Scott