JUST as all eyes in the Capital are currently focussed on the high octane chases and death-defying stunts being filmed around the city as Fast And Furious 9 makes Edinburgh its home, so too they were on the Old Town in 2017 when the Avengers came calling.
Down in Leith, meanwhile, director Magnus Wake was quietly filming his debut feature, Dark Sense, with little or no public attention… even when a stuntman on a motorcycle smashed through the doors of St James’s Episcopal Church on Constitution Street.
Anyone peering inside the long deconsecrated church at that point would have been in for a shock – it’s not every day you find a human sacrifice laid out on an altar.
Based on Peter Flannery’s novel First and Only, Dark Sense was filmed in and around the city at the same time as the Avengers.
There, any comparisons end. With a budget of just £100,000 – £54,000 of which was crowd-funded – Magnus had no Hollywood stars, trusting instead Shane O’Meara, of Waterloo Road fame, and Jim Sturgeon of Casualty in the lead roles.
Dark Sense tells the story of Simon (O’Meara), a young man with unique abilities.
Able to see the future he is connected to a serial killer who he must stop, even if it means becoming his final victim.
“We wanted to make a film set in Scotland that was about telling a great story, that would entertain,” explains the 46-year-old.
“Scotland has a well-deserved reputation in creating films around social justice, but we also need to show we can punch above our weight in creating thrilling entertainment.”
Now available on Amazon Prime and DVD, the film also features guest stars Siobhan Redmond, Gordon Kennedy and Sanjeev Kohli.
Shot in the city over 30 days in 2017, Dark Sense has already won international acclaim, claiming the Best International Film Award at the SENE film festival in the USA.
Born and raised in the city, Magnus’ discovered his love of film at a young age, thanks to his grandfather.
“My grandfather had a love of filming and photography and I remember, when I was about 12, filming a scene with his camera in which my grandmother found a £1 note on the grass.
“Then someone came along and asked, ‘Have you seen my £1 note?’ She put it in her pocket and said, ‘No’.”
He laughs at the memory of his first ‘film’.
Married to Debbie with three sons, Corin, 13, Tristan, 11, and Theo, 6, Magnus proudly reveals that Corin played the young Simon in Dark Sense, before recalling the films origins.
“I read First And Only in 2012 and loved it. So I tweeted the author asking if anyone had the film rights.
“He tweeted back: ‘Hoho, maybe one day…’ Then as Theo came along I forgot all about it.
“About two years later Debbie picked up my Kindle, read it and said, ‘I’ve just read a great book, it should be a film.’
“I said, ‘Yes, I know…”
By 2014 and with Peter Flannery on board, the project was being crowd-funded. Three years later it was in production with a budget of just £100,000.
Magnus reflects, “Edinburgh is a friendly film city and the guys at the Council work very hard to make it such.
“There isn’t a cost for filming here specifically, though there are costs if you have to block a street off – for Fast and Furious they have been recompensing shops for their loss of business.
“With any filming you try to minimise your impact on the local people around you when you are working.”
With numerous Fast And Furious road closures currently causing chaos in the city, the outcry over the ‘Disneyfication’ of the city has intensified, but Magnus defends the Council’s decision to welcome movie-makers.
“Our beautiful city is a bit like a resource, and we can’t expect to live in that beautiful city without sharing it with the world because it costs money to have it,” he says.
“Whenever a film rolls into town it’s like a massive free advert for Scotland.
“Avengers brought money in but The Da Vinci Code is the classic, it made a huge difference around Rosslyn Chapel in a way that could never have been predicted.
“Fast and Furious being here will be a gargantuan advert for Scotland as, from what we’re seeing when we’re out and about, it looks like they are making the most of the city.”
Something Magnus also does in Dark Sense with dramatic swooping shots that show Edinburgh in all its majesty.
“People spend millions and millions of dollars coming to film here, so making the most of what we have on our doorstep is literally worth millions,” says the director who currently has three more movies in pre-production; a film based on the Iolaire disaster off the Isle of Lewis, an adaptation of the Amanda Brittany novel Her Last Lie, and zombie film which he says, “Should be made because it’s just going to be fun, imagine Scottish zombies.”
So, if over the next couple of years you turn a corner and come face to face with a zombie, look for the camera, Magnus won’t be too far away.