Written and directed by music video veteran Ninian Doff, Amazon’sGet Duked! is a chaotic blend of generational divides, teenage identity and hallucinogenic drugs. The film starts ordinarily enough: Dean, Duncan and DJ Beatroot are school friends from Glasgow, who are forced to partake in a camping trip for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in the Scottish Highlands. After breaking away from the group to smoke weed instead, the boys bump into Ian — a camper determined to follow the rules to complete the expedition. But even with his company, a detour takes them off-path to an eerily remote area, where they realise they’re not as alone as it seems. Hunted by a sinister, mysterious force, the stuffy camping trek turns into an anarchic, psychedelic trip as it threatens to deprive them not just of a checkbox on their CV, but their entire futures…
Starring as the tearaway teens, actors Viraj Juneja, Lewis Gribben, Rian Gordon and Samuel Bottomley talk friendship, working with Doff and navigating teenagehood in the age of social media.
Pictured: Rian Gordon
Pictured: Rian Gordon
As the film begins, the boys find themselves partaking in the Duke of Edinburgh Award to prevent them from being excluded. What’s the most mischievous thing you did while at school? VJ: One that comes to mind is taking the batteries out of my teachers’ board monitor remote, so when he thought he froze the board and resumed his internet browser, we got to witness everything! LG: I think the most mischievous thing I did was that I punched a boy in the balls once, because I got into a school fight… But technically I ran away, so I never won that fight. I just kinda punched him in the balls and ran. RG: I guess one of the more light-hearted stories from school was coming home on the school bus, and I sprayed deodorant all over the seats and set them on fire! We managed to pat them out with our school blazers… SB: When I first joined my new high school, me and my friend was emailing each other back and forth on the school email and I accidentally sent a rude message to every staff member in the school, earning me a week’s isolation.
What was it like filming in the Scottish Highlands, and how’d you think you’d personally fair at the DofE? VJ: An absolute dream, I love the outdoors. I’d definitely have to keep focused if I were with the other three though, they’d still be locked in escape rooms [in] Glasgow right now if it wasn’t for me. LG: It was a very interesting environment to be in. The first day was just rain… And then the next day was full-blown summer. After that the shoot was basically rain, wind, midges at night, climbing up mountains and hills whilst [it was] raining, with girls’ wellies on. RG: I did the Duke of Edinburgh at school. We went over to an island in the west coast of Scotland called Arran for a two-day expedition, a very similar situation to what happens in Get Duked! — experimenting with drugs, constantly taking the piss out of each other.
Pictured: Lewis Gribben
Pictured: Lewis Gribben
Music features heavily in the film — if you were to embark on your own trip to the Scottish Highlands, who would feature on your playlists? VJ: Since my Spotify Premium finished a few months ago and I’ve run out of email addresses to use the discount with (sorry mum), I’ve not been listening to as much new music recently. Having said that, I do love listening to Samm Henshaw, J Hus, Burna Boy and Dave. Anything 80s is my era too, and then of course there’s my never-ending Bhangra playlist. LG: You’ve gotta have The Proclaimers in there, right? You’re in the Scottish Highlands and I’m Scottish, and you’re going up the hills! “500 Miles”? Perfect song for climbing! RG: I think Ninan hit the nail on the head with the tracks he picked. I’d maybe add some grime. I’ve been listening to Ocean Wisdom’s album Big Talk, Vol. 1 a lot recently, so I’d maybe throw a track from that in there. SB: My playlist would be definitely some Dr. Dre, Polo G, some Pac and probably some Eminem too.
(LEFT) Pictured: Lewis Gribben
(RIGHT) Pictured: Viraj Juneja
Pictured: Lewis Gribben
Pictured: Viraj Juneja
Ninian Doff has previously directed music videos for bands such as Kasabian and Royal Blood — what was it like working with him? VJ: He was unreal. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few directors and they’re all brilliant in their own way, but Ninian was sublime. He took your suggestion on board, no matter if it was the first shot of the day or in the delirium of the final hour. LG: Ninian is a bit mental, but in a good way. He’s just very creative, he’s very energised, he’s very hands on but very loose! RG: Ninian encouraged friendship on set. He also taught me to let my guard down and be real in the most insane and wacky of moments. I owe so much to him. SB:Get Duked! was always Ninian’s baby; [he] had a very clear view on how and who he wanted his characters to be, SB [while] still leaving lots of space for us boys to experiment and throw our own ideas in there as well.
The chemistry between the four of you comes across as so genuine. Was the connection an immediate one, and are you all as close off-screen? VJ: Absolutely not. I hate them all! Joking… I think it was pretty instant. I remember seeing Sam sitting in the hotel and I just ran up to him and hugged him and his grandma without ever having met him before. Luckily he was the right person, and I hadn’t just hugged a random kid’s nan. LG: We definitely do get on, 100%. The first time we met I told these guys I was an owl in a past life, because I believe in all the reincarnation stuff, right? And I would not have told that story If I was not comfortable with them. They cracked up and ripped the piss out of me… But we just got on. RG: For real, those guys are like brothers to me. When you go through such a journey with people you make an unbreakable bond. I talk to those guys on a daily basis. SB: We were made to do an escape room together, which instantly got us working together like we would in the film and the laughs haven’t stopped since then, really.
The boys find themselves in some weird and challenging situations — can you tell us any funny stories from set? RG: Every day was funny for me, as the boys were constantly messing around and pranking each other. Unfortunately, I reckon I would get a call from one of the producers if I dis- closed the really good ones…
For Duncan and DJ in particular, trying to forge their own new identity as teenagers appears a difficult task. In the age of social media, do you think it’s easier or harder to establish who you want to be? VJ: I think it’s easier to mould an image of who you want to be online, but it’s a dangerous game. You could get too caught up in this ideal digital version of yourself without actually improving who you are physically. I see a lot of people post pictures and it’s clear they want to convince everyone they’re working on something, or they see it as a way of them staying relevant. I think that’s when it becomes toxic. LG: It’s a tricky one if I’m honest… I think teenagers try and show a happier image — whether it be body, accessories or upbringing, they want to show they are cool or popular or trendy. And in a way, that makes it harder to forge who you
are, because everyone is doing the same thing. RG: I try to stay away from social media. I use Instagram as a way of tracking the good times I’ve had with my troops back home in Killie, but I never really think about things like that… I think you should just do you, and fuck what anyone else thinks. SB: In this day and age of social media and stuff, it’s easier to see things that can inspire you or help you establish who you want to be and what you want to do. I know we all complain about how bad it is for us, but it’s also a great tool that generations before us didn’t have the luxury of using.
Finally, what projects do you all have coming up next? VJ: Get ‘Two’ Duked… LG: Before lockdown I was cast in a BBC drama that was meant to film this year, a Scottish crime drama. Sadly due to COVID-19 it won’t be ‘til next year, but looking forward to filming that. RG: I start filming next week I think on a TV drama, but I can’t say anything about it just yet…. SB: My latest films coming out are Driftwood and Everybody’s Talking about Jamie.
Amazon Studios’ Get Duked! will premiere on Prime Video on 28th August.