The success of Dundee-made film Schemers has sparked plans for a trilogy featuring Nirvana and Oasis.
Director Dave McLean is already working on the sequel, which he describes as “funny with dark undertones… like Schemers on speed”.
Filmed in London and Edinburgh it will boast a hard-hitting soundtrack from Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins.
The third movie will focus on a festival McLean organised in Thailand headlined by Oasis.
It’s little wonder that McLean, a rock promoter for whom Schemers was his directorial debut, wants to make three films – he has a plethora of anecdotes to share.
Chatting via Zoom from his home in Bangkok – he’s lived there 17 years with his wife and two daughters although he spends every summer in his house in Broughty Ferry – McLean says he had to pinch himself at the success of Schemers.
Described as “a madcap caper with something to say”, it tells the true story of McLean’s foray as a fledgling promoter into the music industry and celebrates the 40th anniversary of an epic 1980 Iron Maiden gig he put on in Dundee.
The music biopic smashed expectations and became a huge box office hit when it was released in UK cinemas in September, following wins at the Edinburgh Film Festival and New York Winter Film Awards.
The movie is now available to watch at home after it was released on DVD and digital download on January 25.
“I’m in the music business. I’d never done films before but it seems to have gone down well all over the place,” says McLean, 65.
“I read reviews which mentioned my name in the same sentence as Guy Ritchie, Danny Boyle and Bill Forsyth and I found it ludicrous. It was just a first attempt and there were loads of mistakes.”
McLean’s pal Ewen Bremner, who played Spud in Trainspotting, offered the music promoter advice during filming and was a “good sounding-board”.
“Ewen loved Schemers so it’s awesome to have the film compared to Trainspotting,” says McLean.
“I didn’t set out for it to be like that but maybe people see the chase scene at the start and make the connection.
It’s awesome to have the film compared to Trainspotting.”
“Schemers doesn’t have many drugs; it’s more slapstick. But any reviews are good, even bad ones.
“It’s inspired me to do more because I know I can do loads better.”
Schemers, said to be a “love letter to Dundee”, was filmed in iconic city locations, including Groucho’s record store, Clarks bar, Beat Generator, Magdalen Green bandstand, the Caird Hall – and along Broughty Ferry’s waterfront and in the schemes of Fintry, Whitfield and Lochee.
Edinburgh-based actor Conor Berry takes on the lead role of McLean – a young man looking for something meaningful in the limited opportunities available in 1970s Dundee. His portrayal landed the 26-year-old the Best Actor Award at the New York International Winter Film Festival 2020,
The film features cameos from The View’s Kyle Falconer, former Danny Wilson band member Kit Clark (who plays McLean’s dad Wullie), and former Dundee United player Dave “Psycho” Bowman.
The climactic point is the Iron Maiden gig on June 12 1980 which nearly ended in disaster, with McLean roping in his mum to cater for the band’s entire crew.
Following the Maiden gig, McLean – who also brought Simple Minds and U2 to Dundee – went on to have a hugely successful career in the music business.
And this is where the sequel takes up the story.
The Hamster Wheel
The sequel, titled The Hamster Wheel, will be set in London after McLean moved there from Dundee with his pal Scot.
It sees McLean rising to the top of the music business, ultimately working alongside Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Roxy Music, Pearl Jam and Oasis “mainly due to luck, gift of the gab and having an ear for a good tune”.
“The first thing I tried to do was book a gig at Ibrox Stadium for Bruce Springsteen,” he says.
“I was on the dole and I faxed his manager Jon Landau from a kebab shop.
“Six days later, he phoned the bedsit hotel I was staying in.
“It would have cost me hundreds of thousands of pounds to put on the Springsteen gig, so I never called him back.
“It was me thinking I was Mr Big trying to set up gigs but forgetting there were competitors in the capital.”
McLean ended up working in Walthamstow doing what he refers to as “chicken in a basket gigs”, compering gigs for the likes of Rod Hull and Emu, and Keith Harris and Orville the Duck.
“Luckily I eventually end up with Nirvana!” he laughs.
“It’s very funny but with dark undertones, showing the corruption and violence of the music industry.
“All this will be driven by a soundtrack of artists Riverman (McLean’s company) promoted at the time – a lot of lesser known acts with awesome songs plus the big-name bands. It’s like Schemers on speed.”
McLean hopes the sequel will be ready for early 2022 and is keen to crack on with filming “when Covid allows”.
On the subject of Nirvana, McLean says he met the band “at least 20 times” and had a soft spot for Kurt Cobain.
“One time in Bristol we were all staying in this grubby little guest house during a Nirvana tour.
“I went down for breakfast and the lads – Kurt, Dave and Krist – were sitting about 20 feet away.
“Kurt shouted over: ‘You’re with us. You’re the promoter. Come and sit with us.’
“He’d always arrive early in the morning and see about 100 people in sleeping bags, queuing for the night’s gig.
“He’d say: ‘There’s the guest list – there’s 114 on it; you’ve gotta look after the fans.’”
McLean, who manages alternative rock band Placebo, whose frontman Brian Molko grew up in Dundee, has plans for a third film, titled Knitted Smoke.
“My daughter laughingly calls it a franchise!” he says.
“I actually call it the Oasis diet because I lost 12 kilos while I was promoting them.
“Why is the film called Knitted Smoke? My dad once said: ‘Why you doing that festival, son? It’d be easier knitting smoke!’ I thought that just nailed it!
“It was a hilarious time. All the bands had Beano and Broons character names for dressing rooms. They’d be like: ‘What’s happening in the Oor Wullie tent, man?’.”
Plans for a TV spin-off are also on the cards. It will be filmed in Dundee and nearby towns like Forfar.
“It’s just a case of landing a channel to show it before it goes ahead,” says McLean.
Schemers at home
Following its 217-screen UK cinema release in September, audiences are now able to watch Schemers on DVD and digital download after it was released on January 25.