Next week, another will join that much-loved roster with the release of Schemers, which sees Edinburgh actor Conor Berry making his screen debut.
Schemers is based on music director David McLeans ‘true story of ambitious’ 80s gigs that brought Simple Minds and even Iron Maiden to Dundee. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2019 Edinburgh Film Festival and the Best Director at the New Yorks International Winter Film Awards, the film tells the story of Davie, a dreamer born out of the council’s projects.
After a soccer injury, Davie falls in love with a trainee nurse and tries to impress her by promoting groups, culminating in an extremely ambitious Iron Maiden gig.
With such great ambition, he goes into deep debt with a local gangster and must use all the tricks to pull off the biggest shot of his life.
For Conor, whose portrayal of Davie won him the Best Actor award at the New York International Winter Film Festival, everything has been a bit of a whirlwind. The 26-year-old looks a bit puzzled at the reaction the film has already elicited, but when he first saw a casting for the film on Facebook in 2016, he thought it was for a student film. .
The price really came as a surprise, says the skinny, six-foot-tall actor who had only appeared in a few shorts at the age of 16 before landing the lead role. At the time, he had no idea how important these roles were.
He explains: In one of them I was a little guy who got beaten up and in the other I was a drug addict buying drugs, literally on screen for a split second. At the time, although I loved doing theater in school, theater didn’t seem like something realistic to me, even though when I was paid 70 for the day I thought, imagine getting paid 70 a day. . That would be great.
Four years later, Conor recognized the name on this actor-seeking Facebook post.
He continues, These shorts had been screened in the Banshees Labyrinth for local filmmakers. One of the guys there that night was the guy who posted on Facebook so I texted him saying: Hey man, do you remember me …
He did and a week later Conor found himself auditioning in London. He got the part. If landing the role of Davie was the start of a new journey for him, it was also the end of another.
Raised in Wester Broom, where he attended Gylemuir Primary, Conor moved to Drum Brae at the age of 12, when his parents separated.
It was the start of a few difficult years as the teenager tried to come to terms with what was going on.
I loved elementary school. I had a beautiful childhood; I grew up playing soccer and when mum and dad separated I moved to Drum Brae with my mum and went to Craigmount – five minute walk along the road which was great but j was always late, he smiled. “But when my parents broke up all the love came out of my life a little bit, I guess. I was in difficulty but the drama allowed me to escape.
“Looking back, I realize that the theater has allowed me to express myself. Some days I would go to school but still go to my drama class, just for this hour. The theater helped me deal with my own situation with my mom and dad because it really affected me – without drama I don’t know what I would have done, I was lucky.
He thinks about drama lessons at school. I was smart enough and got good grades, but I wasn’t really a good student and acting was one of the only subjects I got involved in. I wasn’t a bad kid, just a little cheeky, always wanting to laugh, some teachers would be up for it, others thought I was way over the mark.
Miss Maloney, my fourth grade drama teacher, a tiny little teacher, was great. One day, she made us invent our own plays based on subjects. My group and I have gangs, so we did these pythonic sketches of gangs through the ages, starting with Jesus and his disciples. It went really well and the feeling I got after that was something I had never had before. It was brilliant.
Upon leaving school, Conor earned a place in the drama course at Telford, now Edinburgh College – it only lasted two weeks.
Although I was 18, I was not ready for this. Everyone was very open and willing to share their stories and I was always hiding inside myself. So the idea of opening up to all these random people … the occasions when I had to, I bailed out, so I figured it wasn’t for me. It took time and a few more experiences to get me out of my shell.
With jobs in retail (at Topman) and hospitality (as a kitchen concierge), it would be another two years before Conor returned to his profession.
Eventually I got the urge to get out of Edinburgh and head to Camp America which was absolutely crazy. I landed in Maine and everyone was so excited about this energetic American way that, being myself, I tried to bail out again … on day one.
I settled in a few days later and had the best summer of my life. Being Scottish took hold of me and it gave me confidence. It was exactly what I needed.
During those four months, Conor decided to continue his love of theater, even auditioning for acting school in New York City.
My father came to meet me for a few days. The audition took place in a small studio, high up one block on 38th Street, directly across from an Irish pub, and I was offered a seat. When I told him, my dad said we were trying to make it work, but he didn’t have a lot of money and my mom didn’t have a lot of money – so that would never happen.
Another year passed, and then, now 21, Conor won a spot at the London Giles Forman Center For Acting. Even then, coming from a working-class background, it was not easy.
He remembers that the first step convinced my mom and dad because I couldn’t have done it without their support. It was the hardest thing for me, convincing them that I could make a living from it. My mom and I went to talk to my dad because I needed their help. We sat down and he got the idea that maybe I should work, make a living and then do it for myself. But it would have taken too long
I remember talking to him directly and begging him, I have to do it now. He said, it’s the only time in your life you’ve ever talked to me like that. He saw my passion in this conversation and that was it.
Working two jobs – moves on weekends and to a bar on weeknights – to get by, Conor finished his course and quickly found himself being offered for roles in Poldark and the Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One. . I had two auditions for this and I was really excited but they called me back by mistake, he laughs.
Then, six months after graduating from drama school, he saw this post on Facebook. The cameras were first launched on Schemers in 2017 and they ended last year.
I got the part in September 2016 but it was an organic experience and the movie evolved over the next three years to be what it is now, ”he says.
I couldn’t believe it when I received the award but what matters most to me was having my mom and dad there at the Edinburgh Film Festival world premiere last year . Without them, I couldn’t have done it.
Schemers releases in general version from September 25
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