Hanging with Frank

Hanging with Frank

David Graham Scott

1998, 16 Mins

Best Doc Award Reel to Real Festival 1998 winner
Most Watched film on Shooting People filmmakers network


Some extra notes that were intended for publication:
I’d love to sit and transcribe the words of Frank McKue which are now sitting on some 1/4 inch magnetic reels at the Scottish Film Archive. He was an extremely likeable chap with a very dark sense of humour. Definitely my type of guy. I used to have a drink with him at his local pub in Edinburgh called The Diggers Arms (called as such because local gravediggers would drink there) . The sound of the trapdoor swinging open that you hear in the film is actually the door to the beer cellar crashing open in the pub which I recorded as a foley. Frank said it was almost the exact sound! Since the trapdoor in the execution chamber at Barlinnie Prison was shored up and unable to open when we visited it seemed a logical idea to use this nice little soundbite!

Incidentally the prison that we were filming was still (and still is) very much in operation. There are some shots where you can see prisoners moving about in the upper galleries. It’s Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow, Scotland and dates from the Victorian era. Frank worked there in the 50s as a prison officer who occasionally did deathwatch details. That involved sitting with the condemned man on his last nights and drinking tea, engaging him in conversation and playing draughts (I think this may be called checkers in the US).

Frank showed how the prison officers escorting the condemned man would walk a few paces across the gallery and through the doors into the execution chamber. They’d stand on planks placed over the trapdoors (clearly seen in the photos posted) and hold onto safety ropes dangling from the ceiling to stop them from falling down with the prisoner.Hanging with Frank (Director, David G Scott, & Frank McKue  on Scaffold) There had been various instances in the past of prison guards and assistant executioners falling through the trapdoors with the condemned man.

The deathwatch officers would sit with the condemned prisoner at all times after sentence was pronounced. Cups of tea, mingled with small-talk and endless games of draughts (checkers in US) and they just chatted away about everything ‘except the obvious’!! Their job on the morning of the execution was to escort the condemned man out of his cell (which was actually two normal sized cells knocked into one) and into the execution chamber just a few paces across the gallery in D-Hall of the prison. They steadied the man as the executioner led the way onto the scaffold and the assistant helped buckle his wrists and feet with leather straps when they reached the correct position on the trapdoors. A signal from the assistant to the executioner sent the man on his downward journey to the basement below, where the mortuary slab awaited. The positioning of the noose was crucial for a clean break between the 2nd and 3rd vertebrae The rope always did a quarter turn to throw back the head and cleanly sever the spinal column at those points and the hangman treated the affair with diligence and extreme reverence. Frank would then often sit with the executioner and assistants as they had their breakfast and left the executed man dangling for a full hour. The prisoner was then pulled back up, the noose removed and then he was lowered back down, with other ropes, to the basement room again where he was stripped and laid on the mortuary slab. The body ‘belonged to the state so it was buried within the prison grounds’ and no relative was allowed to visit the grave site or send flowers.

Hanging With Frank (Detail of Execution Chamber)I storyboarded much of the film due to the restrictions of time, the bulky nature of the equipment we were using and, of course, to get the right mood I was trying to evoke. I also used black and white, grainy, light-sensitive film stock to try and get the feel of the execution facility in its heyday of the 1950s. If I had more money and time I would have made this film about 10 mins longer but alas it was not to be. There was always the odd event that we shot spur-of-the-moment. Like when I noticed a butterfly trying to escape from the window of the execution chamber. In this space it took on quite a metaphorical aspect as it struggled desperately and futilely against the glass. Strangely, there was a large group of them roosting on the ceiling. I’ve never seen such a thing in my life and have no idea why they were acting like this.

The Apology Line

The Apology Line

Made by James Lees

2007, 10 Mins.


About The Filmmaker

With his first few short films James Lees quickly established himself as one of the UK’s brightest new filmmaking talents, picking up a string of prestigious international awards and being nominated for a European Film Academy Award. His films have been selected for the world’s biggest independent film festival, the Sundance Film Festival, at festivals all over Europe and the States and as far afield as Mexico and Australia.

Off the back of these shorts James set up The Hobo Film Company and was signed by Warp Films. His first TV commercial garnered equal acclaim and controversy as it shocked the television viewing public up and down the nation and shook people’s stuffy perceptions of the BBC. He now regularly directs commercials and music videos and is working on various short and feature length projects.


Feeling guilty? The film is based around the creation of a real-life ‘apology line’ where members of the public can anonymously confess to absolutely anything, over the telephone. The apologies of people from all over the UK are blended with beautiful visuals picking out moments that might otherwise pass us by, given new meaning by the apologies, which are sometimes funny, sometimes haunting, but always fascinating.


What do you think this film did in terms of helping your career?

Before The Apology Line I was working on this-and-that, various production and post roles. When Screen WM got behind the film and gave me the chance to make it, it was the start of getting back to what I really wanted to do and just going for it. Making the film is tough enough but you have to hit the festivals hard and really push yourself. Luckily the film went down really well and got a lot of exposure and festival success which in turn got me in front of the necessary people and in the necessary places.

What was the biggest lesson you learnt making the film?

To be confident and strong in your ideas and to trust in your gut feeling as it is your vision. But also to surround yourself with trustworthy and skilled collaborators who are able to understand and share that vision. The whole Apology Line project was something I worked closely with colleague William Bridges on and I was very determined to ensure I got a great cinematographer and editor on board. You absolutely need these people to make it happen and you have to ensure they are the best you can find. Some things you learn to compromise on, others you learn to never compromise on.

Did you use the short as an experimental platform (either in technique or content) – in what ways?

In many ways I did. With The Apology Line it was not about making a film that fitted into a certain form or genre. It was about making the film the project itself dictated. The images and structure gradually grew out of the audio material that was coming in to the Line and it was important to be open to this and create a form of audio and visual art that worked seamlessly together.

What are you doing now?

After my third short I got signed to Warp Films and am now directing music videos and commercials. I really enjoy working in both those areas and to be represented by one of my favourite film companies is a real privilege. I am still very focused on the shorts and features however and have shorts scripts and a feature in development. On the documentary side of things I am now developing a few very different longer form projects.

City of Cranes

City of Cranes

Made by Eva Weber

2007, 14 Mins

About The Filmmaker

Originally from Germany, Eva Weber is a London-based filmmaker working in both documentary and fiction.

Her films have screened at numerous international film festivals, amongst others, at Sundance, Edinburgh, SXSW, Chicago, and Thessaloniki. Her work has also been shown at art galleries and museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Eva is currently developing a number of long-form documentary projects.

Best Short Film, Northern Lights Film Festival 2008winner
Best Short Documentary, Los Angeles Film Festivalwinner
Jury Award for Best Short , Full Frame Documentary Film Festivalwinner
Hellenic Red Cross Audience Award for a Foreign Production under 45’, Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival 2008winner
Northern Lights Film Festival, December 2008
Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival, October 2008
Warsaw International Film Festival, October 2008
Brisbane International Film Festival, July/August 2008
Melbourne International Film Festival, July/August 2008
Silverdocs, June 2008
MoMA, ‘Outstanding Short Films from International Festivals’ screening, June 2008
Los Angeles Film Festival, June 2008
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, April 2008
Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, March 2008
South by Southwest, March 2008
Cinequest, February/March 2008


A companion piece to our other film ‘The Solitary Life of Cranes’, ‘City of Cranes’ is a poetic look at the life and work of crane drivers. Originally made for Channel 4, ‘City of Cranes’ is divided into four chapters: ‘The City Above”, “The Last Topman”, “Ballet of Cranes” and “Solitary”; with each chapter accentuating a different aspect of the drivers’ world.


How did you find your contributors?

To begin with, I literally went to the biggest construction site near my home in East London, to see whether I could talk to the crane drivers there. The drivers turned out incredibly helpful putting me in touch not only with other drivers but also with their companies to help us get access for filming. Over the course of my research, I tried to talk to as many drivers as possible, before narrowing down the number for the audio interviews and subsequent filming.

Where has the film been seen and how did it get there?

The film was originally made for the 3-Minute Wonder strand on Channel 4 television in the UK but has also been aired on POV/PBS in the States.

Building on the success of my previous film ‘The Intimacy of Strangers’ on the festival circuit, we submitted the film to numerous international film festivals and the film has screened at over 50 festivals worldwide so far.

We also attended Docs for Sale at IDFA with the film, talking to a number of international distributors and sales agents, both in Europe and in the States, which were interested in distributing the film on our behalf. We eventually decided to go with Journeyman Pictures for worldwide sales. However, we are also self-distributing DVD copies of the film through our own website.

Did you use the film as a launch pad to a longer film on the same subject?

It was always my intention to make a companion piece to ‘City of Cranes’, entitled ‘The Solitary Life of Cranes’. Whilst ‘City of Cranes’ focuses on four different aspects of a crane drivers’ life, ‘The Solitary Life of Crane’ is more of a classical city symphony, showing 24 hours in the life of London seen through the eyes of crane drivers.

‘City of Cranes’ was in many ways the result of a chance conversation with a Channel 4 commissioning editor, after I had already started researching ‘The Solitary Life of Cranes’. We subsequently worked on both films simultaneously, trying to maximize our resources.

What are you doing now?

I am currently developing a number of feature-length documentary ideas, and have just received development funding for one of these films. Over the next few months, I am planning to travel to a number of different countries, looking for characters and developing the visual style of the film.

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