A low-budget independent film series which pitches werewolves, vampires and zombies against a specialist police team is always likely to be a winner in my book. And so Cops and Monsters has turned out to be.
Yet the nature of filming on a shoestring means things can change quickly off-screen as well as on, so my previous post about this series already looks out of date – the lead actress moved on to other things and that meant a new main character and a rewritten storyline.
I asked creator Fraser Coull to explain how the series came about?
“I was at Collectormania Glasgow a few years ago, and walking around I couldn’t see anything home-grown, or anything really up to date when it came to stalls and guests. I bumped into a lovely woman who had supported my previous film project, Night is Day and she asked why I wasn’t there to promote something.
“So I had a think about it and went through some ideas. I had been watching Being Human and I loved that there was an agency in the government tidying up the supernatural activities in Wales, and I thought we could have that in Glasgow. I spoke a lot to our editor, and friend Anne Nicholson and we worked out some ideas before I went to the other writers who I wanted to work on the show and we fleshed it out from there. It’s been through a few changes but the core idea of ‘a team of police dealing with supernatural entities in Scotland’ is still very much there.”
The star of episode 1 was Kirsty Strain as Eve Mitchell, the Texas-born head of PITS, who brought the kind of glamour and presence that John Barrowman gave to Torchwood (surely another inspiration?). But Cops and Monsters lost her to other projects.
“Thanks to the nature of our series, we can’t just say ‘From every weekend in June to the end of July we’re shooting Cops and Monsters‘,” explained Fraser. “We just don’t have the money in the bank for the actors, the crew, costumes, makeup, props, visual effects, music, locations etc – to make that happen in one block. So we have to do it an episode at a time in order to afford it (which, trust me, annoys the living hell out of me).
“When Kirsty realised this was the case, she was offered a run in a theatre show tour, 52 Shades of Maggie, which would take her away not just from Cops and Monsters but also the return of sketch-show, Burnistoun, which she was a part of.
“It was pretty heartbreaking as I love working with Kirsty. She puts everything into her performance, and is just a great person to work with. But we do just adapt as we go.”
Fraser isn’t one to take a setback: “What was really exciting was that I had to then think of a whole, brand new character, someone who wasn’t just going to fill in Eve’s lines. The story has benefited greatly from Maya Hedges’ inclusion and Ellen Patterson, who plays her, is just fantastic.”
Already we’ve seen familiar faces from Doctor Who and other stage and screen productions, so how does he get such talented actors involved?
“Luck! Haha. No, I just see who I think is good for the part and we either start an exchange on Twitter, or I go straight to their agents. Some of them say ‘No’ outright (Damn you David Tennant for being so busy!) or we get through the negotiation process and it falls apart.
“With other actors I’ve either known them for a while or we’ve worked together in the past and it just works. Then we audition everyone else.
“It’s not easy doing it on a tight budget. As long as the actors and crew get paid I’m happy. We just budget it. I send the script off to people and say ‘How much to do this?’ and they get back to me and so we budget for that. Everybody knows we’re doing it on a low-low-low budget and they accommodate to that, which is brilliant. And for the record – I’m never on the budget.”