James DeMarco

The Stagg Do: Our Journey

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Geordie comedy The Stagg Do premieres at Newcastle's 02 Academy next week. Creator James DeMarco documents the film's journey.

Let’s go back to the start. Our idea for The Stagg Do began at The Cluny in Newcastle, where I was meeting my good friend and collaborator, Pob.

Pob is a civil-servant from Walker whom I’d cast in my short films. He was also slated to play the lead in my mockumentary, Pissheads, which had been rejected for funding by our local screen agency.

On that particular day back in April of 2011, Pob and I had planned to collaborate on ideas for YouTube sketches, but when I arrived – late as usual – he came up to me and said: “I’ve got an idea – Pissheads Go Camping.”

Within a few hours we hatched together the basic outline for The Stagg Do – kind of a sequel to Pissheads that, unlike its predecessor, we could make for little or no money.

Within a matter of weeks, I had written the script, with the help of Pob (he helped translate my Americanism for proper Geordie).

The Pissheads universe, of which The Stagg Do is a part, is set in the North East, more specifically, Walker, and tells the trials and tribulations of working class Geordies whose primary goal is to get laid, drunk and have a good time.

The story is scripted and shot in cinema verite style using Geordies speaking in their native accents.

So Martin Paterson plays ‘Pob’, an exaggerated version of himself. Andrew Stagg (as in The Stagg Do) plays ‘Staggy,’ the groom who’s about to marry a posh bird and leave his Walker mates behind.

Staggy had never acted before. The other parts were filled by experienced North East actors, Bill Fellows (Downtoon Abbey), Craig Conway (The Descent) and Therase Nieve.

And don’t forget Lee Ridley a.k.a Lost Voice Guy, who makes his acting debut.

Using her connections, industry and otherwise, in a couple of months, producer Zahra Zomorrodian had sorted out cast, crew and all the locations we would need.

Suddenly we were scheduled to film at the end of July of 2011.

In so many ways this film was experimental, specifically designed to break the oft heard rules of a no-budget indie film: e.g. don’t shoot outside in the woods at night; don’t cast non-actors, especially if they have a disability that prevents them from speaking; don’t hire people sight unseen via Twitter; don’t use first timers in key positions, i.e. Director, DP, Production Designer, 1st AD and more.

As it turned out, things probably would’ve gone more smoothly if we had listened to the advice… Oh, well.

We certainly had our share of problems: bad weather, insufficient equipment, inexperienced crew – but in the end we persevered.

The editor, Walker-born David Garbutt, worked miracles with the raw footage.

We had a rough cut by the end of 2011 and a decent trailer by the spring of 2012, but mainly due to financial constraints, we were forced to park the post production for the next 13 months.

Until we learned of an Irish Film Board production which was due for release in April.

This “low-budget,” £3-million film seemed uncannily similar to ours. And since our trailer had been out since 2012, we could only wonder.

Fortunately their film was nothing like the ours, but it did provide the necessary motivation to finally finish.

This film project was always meant to be a prototype for self-distribution, which, much like in the music industry, is starting to take hold in independent film.

We’re planning to schedule more screening events this summer and eventually will sell DVDs and uploads via Distrify and other online platforms. It’s the future, baby!

The Stagg Do, 02 Academy, Newcastle, Thursday 26 June, 7pm, £10, 02academynewcastle.co.uk