The Tattooist

THE TATTOOIST was written by me and Matthew Grainger, directed by Peter Burger and produced by Robin Scholes. Robin invited Matt and me to work on developing a screenplay from a treatment they already had, based on idea by Vela Manusaute. We suggested throwing everything out, except four words: Samoan tattooing horror movie. We introduced the element of the pe’a to the story, and the idea of shame as a powerful force in the story and we came up with – we thought – a pretty cool and fresh movie monster.

It was an interesting experience writing a film for hire at the same time as I was directing my own original screenplay, Black Sheep. Matt did at least one draft by himself while I was shooting and we re-grouped for another pass together after I’d finished. We weren’t entirely thrilled with the finished film … despite the conscientious work by Pete Burger, the director – with whom we had a great relationship on the film (though our involvement was slight, by the time cameras were rolling) – who played the hand he was dealt. I think there were probably too many voices in the mix, and certainly – the closer they got to production – different ideas about exactly what it should be; other people got to throw their ten cents’ worth into the script. We did notice there was a point where it stopped being called a horror movie and started being called a supernatural thriller. The term ‘love story with supernatural elements’ may have also come into play.

Ah well. But all in all, it was an invaluable experience writing a film and seeing it produced. Certainly the experience we got rewriting gave us well-earned combat miles. We were thrilled to see actors like Mia Blake, Nathaniel Lees, Dave Fane, John Bach and Robbie Magasiva bring to life characters we had invented.

You can buy the film here. And a little bird tells me you can read a not-bad draft of the screenplay here.