Finally, after a couple of false starts and wrong turns, Peter Mackie Burns has managed to make a feature film at the grand old age (cinematically speaking) of 49.
“Fifty yesterday,” the softly-spoken Glaswegian filmmaker corrects me, smiling. Ah. OK. At the grand old age of 50 then.
June in Edinburgh and as well as celebrating the beginning of his sixth decade on the planet Mackie Burns is in the capital to cheer on the UK premiere of his own film Daphne (shot last year when he was still, strictly speaking, in his 40s) at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
And it is a film well worth cheering. Daphne may be a small-scale, micro-budgeted character study, but it has been made with a keen eye and ear and it features a star-making performance from its lead Emily Beecham in the title role as a testy, possibly traumatised young woman. “She’s brilliant,” Mackie Burns says of his star. “She’s got the chops, hasn’t she?”
Not everyone will like the title character, it should be said. Mackie Burns recognises that. Daphne is a walking, talking provocation for much of its running time. But he doesn’t think that is necessarily a bad thing. “Is it better to be high risk?” he asks. “I think so. It’s not beige.”
It’s certainly not that. And, he points out, many women the same age as Daphne have told him they get the film. “And that’s who we made it for.”
If Mackie Burns had made this film when he was Daphne’s age we would be marking him down as Scottish cinema’s bright new thing. As it is, it’s proof that you don’t have to be young to offer a fresh eye on the world.
Of course it wasn’t meant to take this long. More than 10 years ago Mackie Burns made a short film entitled Milk, starring Oscar winner Brenda Fricker and Kathleen McDermott. It won a Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2005 and seemed set to take him to the next level. Burns did spend the next three years trying to get a feature film off the ground. He got very close, he says, “and then the recession bit and it just collapsed”.
“I tried another one and got another three years down the road,” he explains.
But that one got away from him too in the end. In the interim, he did a little bit of telly and a little bit of theatre. He did a little bit of time on the dole as well. By 2016 he had a partner and kids and was seriously thinking of going back to do a PhD at art school when funding came through for Daphne.
What kept him going through all those lean years, you have to wonder? “I’d probably have had to get a real job and I wasn’t prepared for that. I was too poor and too long in the tooth to re-train as anything. I felt like: ‘I’m in it now.’
“I’m glad I kept going,” he adds. “Having kids and an understanding partner with a job is an enormous help, I have to say.”
His partner Julie is a photography lecturer. They live in Glasgow. (“There’s no way she’d move,” he says. “Plus, we’d have to live in a shoebox.”) Burns does have a flat in London where he spends a couple of days a week and where he also shot scenes for Daphne to save on budget.
When we meet he is already on to the first draft of his next movie, which he is hoping to shoot next year with his producers The Bureau. Now at the age of 50 and finally a fully fledged director it’s as if, Mackie Burns says, he’s Indiana Jones and he’s just grabbed his hat back before it’s crushed.
It is an appropriately cinematic comparison. Fact is, Mackie Burns eats, drinks and breathes cinema. Give him an excuse and he’ll rave about the late, great American actress Gena Rowlands, Mike Leigh, the late, great American film director Jonathan Demme, or the legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather, Manhattan).
And once he’s done that, he’ll tell you geeky film facts about the American new wave cinema of the 1970s. Did you know, for example, that Chinatown was all shot on one lens? A 40mm lens to be precise. Mackie Burns and his director of photography used the same lens on Daphne. (“It’s the most forgiving, “he says. “It’s the quickest one to work with. You can move the camera closer without distortion.”)
Born and raised in Dennistoun until he was six, Mackie Burns fell in love with cinema watching James Bond, disaster movies and The Jungle Book in small-town England in the early 1970s. “You could go in any time, pay money and stay as long as you liked and that’s what I did. I just got the bug.”
 By the end of the decade he’d caught up with the American and Australian new wave on TV and at some point in his teens he started to imagine a creative life for himself.
“I always thought I’d be a writer. I don’t know where the idea came from. I have no literary ability whatsoever.”
There were a number of other creative options considered. There was the time he wanted to form a synthpop band for one.
“I was pretty obsessed in my early teens with Kraftwerk and electronic music in general. I saved up my cash from my Evening Times paper round and bought a synthesiser. Basically in the hope that forming a band would be a great way to get out of the house and get a girlfriend.
“Eyeliner was popular among certain pop stars at that point – Terry Hall, Lou Reed and Soft Cell’s Marc Almond. I remember watching Top of the Pops and Soft Cell were on and my mother pointed at Marc Almond and said: ‘Do you want to be that?’”
Hmm. I ask him what he thinks his mum meant by that  “that”. A pop star? Or maybe even a gay pop star?


Emily Beecham in Daphne

Loading article content

“I think my mother would have been delighted if I was gay. I wasn’t. I was just seeing what I could get away with. Not very much was the answer. My mother didn’t quite get the guy liner thing in the east end of Glasgow which I sported for a week before I got a kicking.”
Then there was art school. Or, rather, there wasn’t. “I applied to go to Glasgow School of Art when I was 17. I thought I wanted to be a painter. They told me I was rubbish and I should go and work on my portfolio.”
Instead, he headed over to what was then the Glasgow College of Building and Printing and learned a bit about photography. That in turn led to filmmaking.
“I went to a drama group to try to get actors for free and I thought: ‘There’s a lot of girls here. Not many boys.’ So I ended up working in the theatre.”
He worked at the Traverse and the Tron, did a spell of rep theatre, even wrote a couple of “rubbish plays” himself. “I think I always wanted to be a film director. But I thought with my age and my background…”
He pauses, starts again. “I didn’t know you could go to film school. I thought you had to work in telly and graduate through that process.”
About that background. Mackie Burns talks of growing up with “east end credentials”. His mum was a shopkeeper who had a shop in the east end of Glasgow. His stepfather, he says, was a compulsive gambler. I don’t think Mackie Burns had a lot of time for him. “My former stepfather was a bawbag,” he tells me concisely.
Perhaps, not surprisingly then, it’s the women in his family whom he cites as influences.
“I had very strong female figures in my life. My grandmother, my mother and now my daughter, who’s coming up for 10.
“My mother was very liberal and said: ‘Whatever you want to do, just do it.’ My grandmother was very practical. ‘If you can’t be good, be quick.’ I’ve applied that to most areas. If you need verification you can ask my partner,” he laughs.
In the case of Daphne, you couldn’t claim Mackie Burns has been quick. But he has been good. He’s hoping that he can speed up from here on in. Now that he’s finally arrived at his long-intended destination, he doesn’t want to stop.
“I just want to keep on making films. It has been a lifelong interest and I feel that at 50 it is just beginning. Famous last words.”
Let’s hope not.

Daphne (15) opens in selected cinemas on Friday.