Kick the Door: inside Renfrewshire’s new theatre and film production house
With plaudits and projects racking up, we spoke to Fraser Scott, co-founder of Paisley-based film and theatre company Kick The Door, about their rapid rise to prominence and their goals for the future.
In the creative arts, there’s little to be yielded from waiting for your cue. When plying your trade in an industry where it’s easier to get lost in the shuffle than it is to be “discovered”, the best thing that you can do is to forge ahead with your own vision.
As when you have the requisite talent and ingenuity to dispel a viewer’s preconceived notions of what a “local” arts organisation should resemble, then it won’t be long until the rest of the world begins to take notice and look to tap into what you’re doing.
For Paisley’s Kick The Door, this is precisely what they’ve experienced. Little more than two years on from staging their debut production of Whitey, in conjunction with PACE Youth Theatre, the company that local creatives Fraser Scott and Iona Ramsay launched is making their impact felt both locally and further afield.
With the words of their poem, Rally etched upon the walls of Paisley Gilmour Street and a prestigious Cannes Film Festival screening earmarked for A Walk In The Park, KTD are finding success by making work that’s weighted in the ever-changing world that they inhabit, as well as giving viewers a chance to secede from their own lives for a little while. And despite being in their relative infancy, the team have certainly found their footing from what were humble beginnings.
“I’d made a short film with my partner, Iona, back in 2018. It was about Scotland and national identity, it ended up doing quite well. After that, we were looking for a platform that we could keep making work on and put a name brand behind it that wasn’t just our own,” co-founder Fraser Scott revealed.
“So, we made Kick The Door as a collective to make our work under, focusing on new, Scottish work across both film and theatre. We worked as a duo for about a year, but in 2019, we realised that we wanted to make a musical as that medium is a big passion of ours.
“We were looking for someone who was quite in touch with folk music, of the Scottish variety specifically, and I met Bethany [Tennick], who was two years above me at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. We worked on a small dance piece at the beginning of February and then began to put together Thread.
“Now, Bethany has become the third member of the team as she just slotted in so well. We’ve found a great way of working together in that we all take on different roles in different projects, but we’ve been working consistently as a trio for a while now.
“It’s great. A lot of people ask if it’s hard to work with your partner, but we’ve never had that issue. Sometimes, you just click with people on that level and we’re really lucky that we found the same thing when Bethany came onboard. It’s just a natural working relationship, which is great as it makes every aspect of it so much easier.”
Allowing chemistry to take shape naturally as opposed to contriving it, KTD’s work brims with an unmistakable enthusiasm and respect for their craft, while never falling victim to reverence for its codes and conventions.
All steeped in their local community and national heritage, the Scottish slant to their work doesn’t manifest in flag-waving patriotism. Instead, it naturally seeps into the fabric of each piece.
“It presents itself in a lot of ways, but I think the beginnings of our work is stuff that looks at identity and belonging,” he detailed. “We’re all really passionate about using Scottish language and dialect, so that’s why we write it into a lot of our stuff.
“It’s important to us to embrace that and for it to be celebrated. Especially right now, as Scotland is in a really precarious place in terms of where it is in their world. It’s such a unique culture, so it only makes sense for us to celebrate that and there’s a lot of different elements that come across.
“For me, as a director and artist, it really underpins the stories I want to tell. That Paisley, West of Scotland culture. In Paisley specifically, it feels like there’s been this real uptick in art and creativity, it’s really great to be a part of.
“That’s why I always emphasise that we are here and want to be Paisley-based as it has such a rich history and it feels like it’s starting to have this renaissance of life back into it which is really cool.”
Given their colloquially-centred approach, the title of their forthcoming musical, Thread, and their lineage in Renfrewshire, it seemed plausible that some of our town’s storied history with the textiles industry may have bled into its conception. To Fraser, this is an avenue that he believes could warrant further exploration down the line as the piece gets out into the world.
“It does… It’s actually something we want to delve into a little more with the piece, in terms of looking at the history. Thematically, it’s really about telling our stories, as well as celebrating our past and taking it with us into our future.
“I think after spending two weeks on it and working with a cast, that’s something that we want to pursue, maybe by introducing more characters that would’ve had experience with the mills and stuff like that.
“There’s a song in the show about Sma’ Shot Day and it’s there in little bits, but we want to pull it out some more. I think we forgot that a lot of people don’t know the history of Paisley and we almost took it for granted, but one of our priorities is definitely to make.”
Although they are in perpetual motion and are always working towards bringing the next project down the pipeline, the acclaim attached to their 48 Hour Film Project endeavour A Walk In The Park has just kept flooding in.
Whimsical, funny and unashamedly optimistic, this seven minute musical – which stars Mill alumni Martin Quinn as well as local actor Dani Heron – was the product of a whirlwind of creativity that saw them rise to a unique and daunting challenge.
“You sign up as a team and you get two genres, a required character, a prompt and a line. You receive it on Friday night and you need to submit a film on Sunday. I’d heard about the 48 Hour Film Project and I just thought it’d be so fun, as one thing that I’ve learnt over the past year is that you just need to make stuff.
“Even if it turns out to be sh**e, it’s good to have done it. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to just make something and not really worry about what comes out of it.
“We, purely by chance, got musical as a genre and we thought ‘this’ll be great’. We’ve got a musical theatre director attached and we’re both into it. But, we had to write songs and then teach them to the cast in that timeframe, so it was a bit of a mad one. That Friday night, we were up until 2am, just writing and composing music. Then on Saturday, we had to film it.
“It was a great experience, Dani (Heron), Martin (Quinn) and Ryan (Hunter) were brilliant. They’re all Paisley people too, so it was good to have that connection. It was a great wee film, we couldn’t believe that we won as we didn’t expect that to be the case. We were just f**king about (laughs). We realised that there was no need to overthink it, we had to keep it simple and really lean into that as the core. Once that clicked, it all started coming together.”
Since the completion of this Cannes-endorsed project, Kick The Door have refused to let their momentum subside, throwing themselves headlong into a boom period in which they’re exploring all avenues that present themselves. Among them, an independent foray into the publishing world that’ll allow them to give that all-important exposure to like minded creatives.
“After last year, I wanted to do more outreach stuff. I didn’t want it to be us three, I wanted to engage with the community,” Fraser revealed. “That’s why we did our Burns night, it was for charity and a lot of people came along to watch it, so that was great. We also wanted to spotlight new writing, as it’s something we’re really passionate about and is a pillar of a lot of our work.
“Selfishly, we’d only been focusing on our new writing for a year and a half, so I wanted to find a way to show other artists’ work. Zines are quite in just now, so we thought it’d be a great format to distribute work.
“The zine was themed around new beginnings and the transition from 2020-2021. It’s something I’m proud of, as it’s great to amplify these voices and bring them to a wider community. Hopefully, we’ll do more as it’s an exciting new road to go down.
“Just this morning, I finished an audio piece for the Scottish Youth Theatre’s Making Space project,” he continued. “That was a new way of working for us, so that was cool. It’s about a girl’s experience of going to a fancy university while being from a working class family, so it’s about language and class distinction. It allowed us to flex a new muscle which was fun for us to do.
“We’ve also developed a new musical theatre piece with Paisley Arts Centre. It’s a really small-scale piece about a relationship between two people. I’m really excited for it as it’s going to be a film-theatre hybrid. It’s very different from Thread in a thematic sense, so it’s cool to do something that’s very different in style and tone. Thread is very ensemble heavy and folky in style, whereas this is more traditional.
“We’re also producing a short film that I got a little bit of grant money for. It’s based on a feature that I wrote while at uni, it’s almost going to serve as a spec or proof of concept. Hopefully, that’ll give us a way to get some money for development. The short film will stand on its own merits, but for me, it’s almost a trailer for the feature if I were to approach larger, more established companies.”
In today’s industry, there is always a pressure to be as multi-faceted and adaptable as you can. So, for Fraser, this means that while the medium that he knows best is still his priority, he’s nothing if not enthusiastic about the potential of bringing the sights and sounds of Kick The Door to the silver screen.
“It’s like there’s two sides of my brain, the film me and the theatre me. I like that, as it means that it keeps things fresh and it all feels different. I think I’m still more interested in theatre work, but I definitely wouldn’t shy away from features and I’d love to get into it.
“Especially film work that is very Scottish and grounded in our identity. My dissertation in uni was about how Scottish people are portrayed on film, so I’m keen to put my stamp on that at some point. But, it’s a big hill to climb to get there. Theatre is much more manageable at the moment, but I still want to do it.”
With so much of his own personal outlook on his work fixated on the idea of who we are as people and defining ourselves, it is no surprise that Fraser is keen to platform experiences that are unfairly relegated to the fringes of both artistic mediums and society as a whole. And while projects such as A Walk In The Park may have been unabashed levity, he has every intention of burrowing deeper.
“I think, subconsciously, it might be a driving force behind the work in the same way as the language thing, but there is a drive to tell these underrepresented stories that’s almost accidental. It’s a pillar of what we choose to make work out about and when we start on a new project, we begin with having a chat about what we feel passionate about.
“If you’re making work that you don’t really care about, then it won’t be very good. For me, it always starts with the character and the story. Then, you work out what will suit it best, whether it should be a play, a musical, a dance piece or whatever. But yeah, telling those stories is really important to us.
“I think art, as a broader umbrella term, cannot ever exist in a vacuum,” Fraser expanded. “It will always reflect the time that we’re living in. We do have a duty to present the world as we see it to audiences. That’s why people go to see work, as they want to see themselves reflected back or see how a certain person approaches things.
“Don’t get me wrong, art that’s purely for entertainment is so valid and we need that escapism. But when you have a voice that reaches an audience, you have to use that to talk about things that are going on.
“I think it’s silly when people say that things shouldn’t be political or shouldn’t be socially engaged because then what’s the point? It’s not about making things that change the world, but I’ve seen so many things that by the time I’ve got home, it’s totally changed my worldview.
“So, I think it’s just about planting those little seeds in an audience’s mind about new ideas or stories that they hadn’t considered. At the end of the day, it’s the audience that we’re serving so it’s all about getting that balance of making work that is trying to say something, while making it engaging and ensuring that people don’t feel preached at.”
Never one to shy away from the prospect of a sizable workload, the team at Kick The Door is in the midst of the most hectic period of their professional lives to date. However, what’s all the more encouraging about it is that rather than sticking to the frameworks and opting for the path of least resistance, they’re taking that aforementioned desire to take new ideas out into the world and plan on breaking down barriers of entry to the world of theatre while they’re at it.
“From January to May is the busiest I’ve ever been and I feel very lucky that we’ve got so many projects lined up. It’s also great that we’ve been able to pay people and artists for their time. After coming out of uni, being in that position felt like a real milestone for me.
“I’m hoping in June or July, there’ll be a space for Thread. We really want to take it on tour and as opposed to taking it to theatre spaces, we want to take it to town halls, bowling clubs, places like that. Thread is very much about community.
“The cast of actors play all the instruments and different parts too. It’s all about that community spirit and we very much want the people that we’re portraying to come and see it. I think the show will feel more alive and immersive in these spaces.
“We want to have a ceilidh section where people can really get involved and halls of that nature are perfect for that, almost as though you are just going down the bowling club for a pint and there just so happens to be these people there, playing music and telling a story.
“I really want it to feel like that and that’s why we’ve resisted showing any of it off [barring this short clip that was unveiled in celebration of World Theatre Day]. We want to save it all for the live experience. It’s definitely the key to everything we want the show to be.”
To keep up with Fraser and the entire Kick The Door team, follow them on Instagram @ktdscotland. Their most recent production, Ornamental, is available to view now via Renfrewshire Leisure’s YouTube channel.