Wick man's Monkey Culture film is a tribute to dead pal
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Have a look at our digital subscription packages!
A Wick man took an emotional trip down memory lane to make a documentary about his riotous teenage years in the schemes of Edinburgh.
Thirty-three-year-old Sean Begg previously created a 526-page book of short stories last year called Alone in My Heid despite struggling with dyslexia. BBC producers picked up on the book and Sean was invited to do videos for its social media channel on the subject of dyslexia.
"I didn't really want to do videos on dyslexia all the time and tried other stuff," said Sean. "They promised me the world but suddenly dropped me in the summer."
Sean was born in Wick, attended the North Primary School and though he moved to Falkirk at the age of eight and Edinburgh two years later with his mum Julie, he still enjoyed visiting the town he considered home to visit relatives.
During lockdown he turned his attention to a finishing off a personal project that he had put on the back-burner for a while – a documentary based on old footage he had shot with his teenage pals while living in a housing scheme in Gorgie, Edinburgh, around 20 years ago.
"I said to my friend (Thomas/Tam Stickland) it would be good to film us now and show how much everybody's changed and grown up. The plan was to mix the old footage together with us reminiscing.
"He was really up for it and I thought he'd steal the show because he's such a character."
On the day he was due to meet Tam to plan out the film, Sean got a harrowing phone call in the morning informing him that his friend had suddenly died from a heart attack at the age of 32. "I'd just been talking to him about catching up and was looking forward to meeting him when I got a phone call from one of my other friends who was crying. I thought he was winding me up at first but then realised it wasn't a joke."
Sean said that Tam had turned his life around, had finished his trade and was settling down with his girlfriend and their child. Speaking to another friend, Graham Todd, they decided to dedicate the film to the memory of their late pal.
Monkey Culture documents the turbulent years of the teenage gang through graphic footage shot in the early 2000s on a borrowed video camera. Punctuating the scenes showing the hard-edged lifestyle of an Edinburgh "young team" are moments of introspective reflection as Sean and Graham look back on those years.
"I lost the film three times while editing on the iPad. I'd been working on it solidly for a month and all I had to do was tweak it but it suddenly disappeared." Sean says that his dyslexia has been an issue while editing but he always learned from his mistakes and pushed on ahead to finish the project.
"I came up with the name Monkey Culture as a way of summing up that period. It's all about Alpha males and who's harder and more mental. It's like animal culture and it means nothing when you get older."
Monkey Culture documents the lives of the young team over three years of constant drink and drug abuse and various hijinks around the housing scheme. Sean admits he was quiet and "trying to fit in" when at school but he says he "felt left behind" due to the dyslexia and rebelled in his teenage years when he hooked up with the others.
"Once I finished the film I went around Edinburgh to find out how much it would cost to hire a screen in a cinema but it was too much. Then I found this place called the Banshee Labyrinth on Niddry Street."
The Banshee Labyrinth styles itself as "Scotland’s most haunted pub" and the owners liked the idea of hosting the screening. "We had a full house. It was mostly for friends and family and I really wasn't sure how it would go down but everyone seemed to love it. They laughed at all the stuff we got up to but at the end, in the tribute part, people were crying and it really hit home that [Tam] wasn't here any more."
Sean has the 73-minute film listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and it can be viewed at this link www.imdb.com/videoproembed/vi1707262745. The film, due to its strong content, is only suitable for a more mature audience.