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Rag Tale film attack on tabloids showed at Edinburgh

Rag Tale screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival held August 17 to 28th.
The film is a scathing look at the cutthroat world of tabloid journalism. Over the course of a week at the lowbrow paper The Rag, we watch Eddy (Rupert Graves), the paper's increasingly harassed editor and Richard Morton (Malcolm McDowell), the seemly impervious chairman, do battle for editorial control of the paper-- with ultimately shocking results.

The impetus for the film came when director Mary McGuckian found herself reading an excessive amount of tabloids, and over time came to admire the skill it takes to “write and impart important information with words that have no more than two syllables.”

“These are,” McGuckian notes, “influential papers with the ability to make or break celebrities,” and as Rag Tale unfolds, we watch as some characters are not so much broken, as destroyed.

To capture the scandal and caffeine fuelled environment of tabloid journalism, McGuckian scripted only the very basic elements, the “who, what and where” of each scene. The dialogue, which fairly oozes cynicism, is entirely improvised.

“We’d just start talking, and see how it goes. The most important thing was to follow the natural rhythms that developed as they were filming, “ says Rupert Graves, who stars alongside Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lucy Davis, Simon Callow, Sara Stockbridge and John Sessions.

While the rapidfire journalism jargon keeps the films’ dialogue intelligent and entertaining, Director of Photography Mark Wolf’s unusual cinematography works to visually evoke the frantic pace of journalism. From the very opening scenes, we are thrust into the world of The Rag, with little chance for reflection as the camera moves incessantly from character to character, cutting from scene to scene—rather like the omniscient, roving eye of the press. Having previously done mostly wildlife and underwater camera work— this is his first feature film— Wolf was prepared for the difficulty of capturing the savage world of tabloid journalism.

“Mark wasn’t constrained by conventions, and he didn’t feel that working with digital photography was in any way inferior,” says McGuckian. “He has an instinctive relationship with the audience, he makes them feel like they’re in the action. [Rag Tale] is shot from the inside out, with [visual] lines that are continually broken.”

Rag Tale is a wickedly funny look at the world of British journalism, which at times, cuts close to the bone. So how will those who call journalism a profession feel about the film?

“I think they’ll like it,” says Graves. “People who work in the journalism industry say it’s quite accurate. I just hope they have a sense of humour.”

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