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An Interview with Ross McKenzie, Producer of Too Rough

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2022

Films produced by Ross McKenzie on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new film Too Rough - in a few words, what is it about?


For me it's a film about self acceptance. Nick is a young man who feels he doesn't belong. His sexuality makes him feel like an outsider in his family, and his upbringing makes him feel he's "too rough" for love.


How did you become involved with the project in the first place, and what convinced you to produce the film?


My co-producing partner Alfredo Covelli [Alfredo Covelli interview - click here] approached me as he was looking for a UK co-producer for Sean Lžonadh's [Sean Lžonadh interview - click here] debut feature Nostophobia. We knew Sean would need to make another short film before he could be financed to make a feature, so we applied to Scotland's talent development programme Short Circuit with Too Rough, and thankfully we were commissioned.


What were the challenges of bringing Too Rough to the screen from a producer's point of view?


On a practical level it was filming during a full lockdown in the middle of winter. I was the boots-on-the-ground producer since Alfredo Covelli was unable to enter the UK for the shoot, and there was a lot of anxiety around Covid. We were filming in a very small apartment, so trying to observe restrictions and make sure the crew followed them was a huge challenge. However they were all brilliant and such an amazing team - they endured and collectively we made a beautiful film we're all so proud of.


How hands-on of hands-off a producer were you when making Too Rough?


Because of lockdown, I had to be pretty hands on, but Alfredo Covelli was with me every step of the way and was always on the other end of the phone, or on Zoom, to support me through the shoot. He's definitely the voice of reason when the going gets tough. We have a great partnership and I'm super lucky to be on this journey with him.


What can you tell us about Too Rough's director Sean Lžonadh [Sean Lžonadh interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?


Sean Lžonadh is a fearless filmmaker. He has a strong artistic vision and he doesn't shy away from putting his own experiences up on screen. I think that's why this film connects so well with audiences. Because there's truth and conviction in the story, and it's also well executed. He's very level-headed, which is always a powerful trait in a director.


Do talk about Too Rough's cast, and to what extent were you involved in the casting process?


We were super happy to work with casting director Simone Pereira-Hind and her associate Anna Dawson who are just brilliant. Sean, Alfredo and I were all heavily involved in the casting process, and we all watched every casting tape that came through. The minute I saw Ruaridh Mollica's tape I had no doubt in my mind he was Nick, so when I spoke with Sean and Alfredo I remember being both excited and nervous as I desperately hoped they felt the same. Thankfully we did - it was unanimous.


Finding Joshua Griffin (who plays Charlie) was a much wider search, but again, when his tape came it felt like an instant fit. And because we already had Ruaridh it was just about making sure the chemistry was there. We let Sean go off and work with them alone, and thankfully they clicked. They became really close on set and they're both professionals.


Neshla Caplan, Kevin O'Loughlin, Jane McCarry, and Oliver Wright were all so brilliant we really couldn't have hoped for a better cast.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The atmosphere was charged. It was intense but there was great energy and everyone was just happy to be working again. For many of us it was the first time we'd been on set in almost a year, and I think we all just loved being amongst other people again, and that positivity helped us overcome the cold! I was pretty nervous about there being a Covid outbreak, but we pulled out all the stops to avoid that and thankfully we were all fine.


The $64-question, where can Too Rough be seen?


It's still on the festival and awards circuit, but we recently sold French distribution rights to Canal+ through our sales agent Manifest who are based in France.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


We have Sean's first feature Nostophobia in funded development, and I produced the short animation Burry Man from writer/director Simon P Biggs, which is currently also screening at festivals around the world.


I have the feature horror Don't Let It In in late stage development with director Suzi Ewing attached to direct. Suzi made the intense thriller 10x10 starring Kelly Reilly and Luke Evans. The script is from an exciting new writer Corrigan Foley. And there are a few other projects I'm in discussion to co-produce, so watch this space!


What got you into the filmworld in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I've loved films since I was very young. For me it was pure escapism where I could venture into new stories and worlds. I would spend days watching movies, in any genre, and rewatching movies I'd seen a hundred times. I was also a horror film aficionado by the time I was 10. But it was when I went to study film in my early 20s that I was introduced to a much broader spectrum of film (not just American cinema), and for me it was like falling in love all over again.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Too Rough?


I've worked in the industry for 17 years and have had many ups and downs. It's a tough business but it's constantly evolving, and hopefully for the better. In 2010 I produced Michael Pearce's short film Rite which went on to be BIFA and BAFTA nominated. I then went to work for Screen Scotland and I left producing behind for a time so I could earn some actual money. I stayed longer than I had originally intended because it was a great team and I got to work with some extraordinary Scottish talent. In 2019, I decided to make the leap back into producing. It's still a tough gig, but I'm definitely more resilient now.


How would you describe yourself as a producer?


Personable. A film can live or die by the atmosphere on set, and I like to make sure I'm pulling together a good team who respect each other so everyone enjoys coming to work every day. After all, it's hard work and the days are long. Nothing beats a positive atmosphere on set, and that should come from the top. I'm going back a few years, but I've worked on productions where the atmosphere has been toxic and it just filters through the production from top to bottom and everyone becomes miserable. For me, a good atmosphere is one of the most important things.


Producers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?


The next generation of filmmakers. I come from a talent development background and I know there are many incredible writers and directors out there, many of whom don't get the support they need to move forwards. They inspire me. Sometimes you read a pitch or see a short film and you know in your gut you have to pursue that relationship.


I also have some brilliant friends and colleagues in this industry and we look after each other and help each other move forward. When I see those behaviours and kindnesses, it helps affirm there's really no need for competition. We're all in the same boat trying to get films made and in front of audiences, and we need to help each other do that. There's a great network of indie producers here in the UK and they subscribe to that mindset. It's really refreshing.


Your favourite movies?


The Exorcist, Atonement, Carnival of Souls, Pan's Labyrinth, Trainspotting, The Lost Boys, Wild at Heart, Elizabeth, If..., Rosemary's Baby, A Cider House Rules, Casino, Inherent Vice - the list goes on!


Feeling lucky ?
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Find Ross McKenzie
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Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

Germany (East AND West)

Looking for imports ?
Find Ross McKenzie here ...

Your shop for all things Thai

... and of course, films you really deplore?


Anything with gratuitous violence I struggle to deal with.


Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?


Instagram: @jrossmckenzie @devilmaycareent

Twitter: @rossmckenzie13



Burry Man website:


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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directed by
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written by
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