Credit: Sonja Blietshau

In conversation with Glasgow film director Gary Hewitt

By Emilija Morrison

Emilija Morrison sits down and chats to Glasgow’s own Gary Hewitt about his latest film, The Defender

There’s nothing quite as marvellous as seeing Scotland on the big screen. Whether it’s a few seconds in a big budget Hollywood blockbuster or an entire indie film set in Glasgow or Edinburgh, it is a feeling that never gets old. So when I was given the glorious opportunity to attend an industry screening of Gary Hewitt’s Glasgow-based The Defender, I was very much anxious to attend. Popcorn in hand, I marvelled at Hewitt’s pandemic project. Eager to learn more about the film and wanting to share it with others, I soon arranged an interview with the man of the moment himself, Gary Hewitt.

I began the interview by asking Hewitt what inspired him. He explained to me that before starting the project, he looked to see what types of films were doing well at the box office. Superhero films were holding a dominant position. Hewitt told me that whilst they didn’t have the money to make their own superhero flick, they could incorporate elements that were crucial in these types of films; “What I decided to do was look at the structure and plot of these movies and see if it could be implemented into a more grounded story. As a result, we introduced our heroes and villains, but without the extravagant superhuman abilities like super strength or laser beams shooting from their eyes.”

The cast in particular played a key role in making the story what it was. The protagonist, played by actress Sasha MacPherson, certainly stood out. Indeed, after the industry screening, many made a point of mentioning this. I asked Hewitt how he’d gone about finding such talented Scots to portray his characters. Hewitt explained how some of the cast and crew he’d worked with before on previous short films. “Reaching out to both familiar faces from our previous collaborations and some new talents, we began conversations about this project and once the script was completed, we asked them all to read it. Like a lot of creatives, I think a lot of the cast and crew were eager to dive into new, fresh projects because we weren’t able to work on our artistic crafts during lockdown.”

Indeed, lockdown had been the catalyst for Hewitt’s creativity. “When the world closed down for two years during the pandemic, I started pencilling out the story beats and I was getting excited about the project. I spoke to Diane about the idea and, after some pleading and persuasion, she was onboard.”

Another aspect of the film that stood out – even now as I write, months later – were the locations used. Of course, I had to make a point of asking Hewitt how he’d found such locations around Glasgow. There were certainly several I’d be keen to visit myself.

Hewitt explained how this was down to the producers, Diane Brooks, Carol Scougall, and Bev Sweeney. They had travelled throughout the west of Scotland looking for places to film, eventually choosing Ayr, Greenock, Gourock, Dunoon, and of course, Glasgow, to film in. Family and friends also played a role in finding places to film.

Hewitt also spoke of the importance of having a female lead and how had it been a male lead, it perhaps wouldn’t have worked so well. “Choosing a male actor might have resulted in a portrayal reminiscent of familiar themes seen in film and television. Additionally, the character hails from a working-class background, which adds an extra layer of relatability for viewers to connect with on screen.” 

Filming was certainly not without its challenges. Fight scenes in particular were hard to shoot. So too was it difficult relying only on one camera. Tiredness was also prevalent amongst both cast and crew. And, of course, COVID-19 and the need to social distance proved to be another factor to cause some problems on set.

Changing the topic of conversation to a brighter note, I brought up the nice camaraderie I noticed at the screening amongst the cast and crew. The atmosphere was infectious: clearly this was a team that worked very well together. “From pre-production, right through to post production, the whole team really gave their all, which made my job a lot easier. They trusted me and I trusted them even more.” Hewitt went on to describe how they became one “large family”. I concluded the interview by asking the question on everyone’s mind. How exactly to go about watching the film?

“We are in talks with different distribution companies at the moment and are hoping for a few local Scottish screenings soon, we just need to keep our fingers crossed.”

Already, The Defender has garnered various accolades on its festival run, including winning Best Feature and Best Actor at the Sweden Film Awards. For updates on the film, you can follow Hewitt’s Instagram.


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Martin hannah

Awesome work Gary mate great to see how far you are coming with all the hard work you put in