Interview with Kaleena Kiff and Holly Brydson: ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’ (Part I)

“I gotta say Glasgow was full of characters. It’s a very edgy town and just shooting there was amazing.”


Kaleena Kiff and Holly Brydson sat down with Blogcritics for an interview at the Whistler Film Festival. They are both producers for Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson, which had its North American premiere in Whistler earlier this month. Robert Carlyle was also at the festival to receive the Maverick Award, walk the red carpet, and hold a Q&A with the audience after the premiere screening. Barney Thomson was the runner-up for the 2015 Whistler Film Festival Audience Award.

Paul Gratton, Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, Richard Cowan, and Shauna Hardy Mishaw
Paul Gratton, Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, Richard Cowan, and Shauna Hardy Mishaw at the North American premiere of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo: Pat Cuadros

How many years have you been coming to the Whistler Film Festival?

Kaleena: This is probably – I missed one year – my fourth time here. But this is a first time –

Holly: I’m a Whistler Festival newbie!

Recently, The Legend of Barney Thomson just got several BAFTA Awards in Scotland: Best Feature Film, and Best Actress as well as a Best Actor nomination –

Kaleena/Holly: And Best Director!

Yes! And so what’s it like coming off of that and getting the deal with Gravitas Ventures?

Kaleena: You know what, BAFTA was such a surreal surprise. There were some other really beautiful films that were put out by Scotland this year. To have the support we did in Scotland throughout the project was just astounding. They just treated us like one of their own. It’s a co-production between Canada and Scotland. But I don’t think I could be any happier. We were just squealing. There was squealing.

Holly: I think I called you right when it was announced and we both just went, “Oh, my God! We just won a BAFTA!”

Kaleena: My name is on a statue.

What were some challenges in getting the book adapted into a film?

Kaleena: Well, the book – the adaptation, the original one by Richard Cowan came to us fully formed. It was a really strong script and my business partner, John Lenic, and I took it to Robert Carlyle. He said, “Oh, no, I’ve read an adaptation of this book before. And I really like the book, but this isn’t really for me.” And this was the third time that this novella had been adapted.

So I guess the third time is a charm because I gave him the script and I said, “You know what? Reread it and see what you think.” I – I think I stalked him on four occasions, saying, “Have you read it? Have you read it? Have you read it? Have you read it?”

And he said, “No, no, I’m just not into it.” We had a meeting in person and I said, “What if you directed it?”

And that was sort of his light bulb moment, I believe. He went, “Oh!”

I said, “Because then you can really control where it goes.” And so we worked on the script, once he said yes, with Richard Cowan and developed it for about six months. Then we decided to add a Scottish writer to sort of “Glaswegian” it up to really meet Carlyle’s vision for what he wanted the film to be. That’s when we brought on Colin McLaren, who is pretty much a god among men. He’s so cool.

Holly: He’s fantastic.

Kaleena: In fact, we’re working on his next film. I think it was another year and a bit working on it with Colin and Carlyle. I went to Glasgow and worked on it with them there. We did a bit by Skype and e-mail. When we were finally ready in September of 2013, we sent it to Emma Thompson. She was always our first choice for playing Cemolina. I’m not kidding; three days later she was like, “I’m in. Let’s do it.”

That was a hustle of “Oh, my Gosh, we have to start putting together all the other pieces.” Around that time, Holly came in and she became part of the team. Between us, it was go, go, go from November of 2013 until production. It was just nonstop.

Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle
Ray Winstone and Robert Carlyle on the set of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

Kaleena, you started out as an actress and now you’re a producer. What are some benefits of having people who are more versatile or well-rounded in the field?

Kaleena: I definitely can feel everybody’s perspective a little more intensely, because I’ve probably lived some version of it. I like to joke that as a producer, you’re really a triage nurse. All day long, people are coming to you and saying, “I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding!” You know, you’ve got the costume department about to mutiny. Then you’ve got the electrics and they don’t have enough manpower. All of this, it’s like the end of their world.

And you want them to care for their piece of the puzzle, but you also have to stay calm and say, “All right, I know you’re bleeding, but these six other people are also bleeding, so I’ve got to figure out who needs stitches first. But don’t worry, we’re gonna see you.” I think because I’ve worked in so many different departments, I have a better sense of how you speak the language of whichever department is bleeding the most.

Did both of you go over to Glasgow?

Kaleena: Yes, we were roommates in Glasgow and we still like each other!

Holly: [laughs]

You got to know each other well.

Kaleena: We did!

Was there a food shop you wanted to try or turned out to be your favorite in Glasgow?

Kaleena: The food, that’s an easy one!

Holly: Yeah, Hanoi Bike Shop.

Kaleena: Hanoi Bike Shop, shout out to them.

Holly: Vietnamese place and it’s so amazing. We ate there a few times a week for the three months that we were living there.

Kaleena: And it was sort of fusion –

Holly: It was like modern –

Kaleena: And full of Scottish women with crazy-colored hair and tattoos.

Holly: And the defrocked priest.

Kaleena: Oh, we met a defrocked priest there. So I gotta say Glasgow was full of characters. It’s a very edgy town and just shooting there was amazing. We would have parades of people coming through our set. It’s similar to Catholicism and Protestantism in Ireland. There’s very much a contingent of the different religions in Scotland. So we would have these Orange parades come through our set. That was weird. I gotta say, Glasgow is definitely a character in our script and in the real world. There were a lot of moments when we were like, “Oh, that happened.” [laughs]

This article was originally published on under the same title.


Author: Pat Cuadros

TV & Film Blogger @blogcritics

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