Alberth moves on from London to the bright lights of…Hollybush?
// 24 February 2014 //
THERE'S something not quite right about film-maker Alberth MG's story. It's the wrong way round, surely. Aren't you supposed to leave the small town and head to the bright lights of London to make your mark? Not if you have the drive and determination of this Colombian artist.
He arrived in London, aged 20, via Spain, having left his South American home town of Anserma with a degree in System Technology, but found himself having to take a job as a salad chef.
It wasn't an especially happy time, he recalls.
“I was living with a group of other Latins," he said. “I was speaking constantly in my native Spanish – and then I learned Portuguese. Can you believe it? I was living in London and I learned Portuguese before I learned English."
Then he met his future wife, Margaret, who had moved to the capital from Ayr.
“I really wasn't enjoying the culture in London," said Alberth. “Then one day Margaret said; Why don't we move to Scotland?
“I asked her – Any Spanish people there? She said No. I asked her – any Portuguese people there? She said No. So I said 'Great! Let's move to Scotland!'"
That was in 2003. They arrived in Ayr and married shortly afterwards. Still with only a little English, Alberth decided the only way to improve his language skills and meet new friends was to become involved in the local community.
With a long-standing interest in acting and the theatre since childhood, it was natural for Alberth to explore local drama groups and the first one he approached welcomed him with open arms. He joined the acclaimed Borderline Theatre Company. Unfortunately, he joined just as it was entering its final year, but Alberth looks back fondly on the strong friendships he made and the experienced he gained as an actor during that short time.
Meanwhile, baby Daniel had joined the household and was chalking up all the childhood landmarks – first tooth, learning to walk, uttering his first words – and Alberth, one of ten children, wanted to share those moments with his family back home, so he began to make a vlog – an online video diary – which his brothers and sisters could enjoy thousands of miles away. “At first it was just short clips of us around the house, just doing everyday family things. ‰
But a lot of people started watching them and encouraging meto do more, so I started to make short films – sketches I call them – and it has all taken off from there."
He set up Elgato Film Productions, launched a website, created a Facebook page and began uploading what is now a varied body of work from sketches to short films and music videos. Alberth's latest short film, Skeletons in the Closet, was showcased at a launch night in Ayr's Crumbs and Cocktails in January. It's a Hitchcock-esque psycho-logical thriller written by Margaret, with screenplay by Elgato script writer Nicola Smith.
Alberth said: “I gave Margaret three characters and all I said was: 'Write me a story featuring these three people.' She went away and wrote a thriller about a man who has an unnatural obsession with his mother."
In true Elgato style, Alberth went around knocking on doors, seeking sponsors to help support the film. He encountered several rejections, but persuaded enough local businesses to give the team the support they felt they deserved.
Most of the help ELGATO receives is support in kind. Alberth explained: “We do not receive a penny for making our short films. We make short films for the passion of film- making and nothing else. We work very hard in gaining sponsorship from local businesses and that is how our projects are funded."
Actors and crew who have established links with the film-maker, mainly through Facebook and the website, queue up to take part and help out.
“We are not yet at the stage where we can pay everybody who helps," added Alberth, but our sponsors have been fantastic. “We shot the film over four days in September and we were offered the use of a large house by one friend of ELGATO to do some interior shots.
He just said to us: 'I am going away to Glasgow for the day, you can use the house while I am gone.' That was so good. And we were so grateful we tried to make sure we didn't mess the place up," he laughed.
Other sponsors, such as the Basement Coffee House in Ayr helped feed the crew while Popplewells, a longtime supporter of ELGATO, helped out with costumes, as did Ayrshire Cancer Support, who donated clothes from charity shops.
“People are so good at helping us. We help them in turn whatever way we can by giving them publicity. We make showreels and do photography for the actors.
Vennel Cameras gave us frames and Minuteman Press Ayr do our printing. The Gaiety Theatre has also been a tremendous support. The theatre gave us a lot of help with the film-makers' showcase we organised in July.
“It is a great community thing. We want to help the community in whatever way we can by working together with people, making films and letting the wider public see what amazing talent there is around here."
Among Alberth's future projects is the setting up of the ELGATO Film Club as a charity to help young people interested in film-making and theatre. “We want to give something back by helping them to become involved. We will help to train them in drama, music and film-making.
Alberth has become such a part of the community in Ayr, you might wonder whether he ever misses his home in Colombia. Very much so, he says. In fact he is planning a trip back home next year to introduce his new family to their South American relatives.
“I haven't been back in 13 years," he said, “but I am really looking forward to going.
“My home town has a theatre festival in September and it would be a dream come true for me to help to incorporate a film festival. I would really love to be able to organise that."
And not one for thinking small, Alberth is also contemplating the chance to make his first feature film while he is in Colombia. It would be bilingual, in English and Spanish, with subtitles throughout.
It's just a thought at the moment, he concedes, an idea that he is hoping to work on.
And for this systems analyst-turned-salad-chef-turned-actor-turned-director you get the feeling he might well just pull it off.