In August I produced and co-directed a short film to accompany Betty Mouat’s Sang. This film will be released next year to coincide with my album launch, but I’m excited to share some details now ahead of our spring edit.
Preparations began in July when I commissioned talented Scalloway knitter, Barbara Johnson, to design and produce a yoke jumper for the shoot. Her brief was to create a colourful, contemporary garment to contrast with the brooding, historical subject matter of the film. As usual, Barbara’s speedy, immaculate handiwork didn’t disappoint.
Recreating a Victorian Shetland story also required period costume. Morag Mouat of Islesburgh Drama Group kindly obliged, lending dresses and accessories from their impressive costume store.
Here, our wonderful mother and daughter acting team breathed graceful life into their roles. Bertha Moncrieff plays the ninety-two year old Betty reminiscing about her dramatic life, whilst Julie Moncrieff depicts our 60-year-old heroine as fateful events unfold. Suspension of disbelief is needed to imagine these youthful actors as more mature characters!
The camaraderie throughout the shoot was excellent and weather conditions were perfect too. Our picnic lunch in the croft house garden was a highlight of the day. The experience felt timeless and as I gazed out to sea it occurred to me that there was no visible sign of modern life. This really could have been Betty’s view.
After lunch we made the short trip south to Betty Mouat’s Böd in Scatness, with access again courtesy of Shetland Amenity Trust. Bringing the story of Betty’s life back to its origin felt very special indeed.
The final stop on our day’s tour was Dunrossness Parish Church where we paid our respects at Betty’s grave. This felt like a fitting conclusion to a day which had been blessed by good fortune.
Tuesday 9th August 2017 dawned as day two of our film shoot. Conditions were closer to those of 30th January 1886 than they had been the previous day. I’d chartered the Fifie Swan for the morning to recreate Betty’s voyage to Norway aboard the Columbine and was hopeful of a stormy sky, so the weather delivered once again. Film preparations began with a safety briefing and a production meeting in the former herring processing area of this fine vessel. The Swan originally launched just fourteen years after Betty’s fateful passage so is a close historical fit for the story.
The Swan’s crew, Thorben Reinhardt (Skipper), Maggie Adamson (Bosun) and Alfie Page (First Mate) were wonderful and helpful company throughout the morning, accommodating our every request in what was an unusual day at sea for them!
Again, Julie Moncrieff played the part of Betty with commitment and flair. From makkin on deck, to fretting in the ship’s hold, to surfacing in ‘Norway’, Julie brought an impressive range of emotions to her nonspeaking role.
And so our film shoot drew to a close, rounding off a wonderful couple of days spent in creative collaboration. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who played a part in bringing Betty’s story to life, and watch this space for the finished film next year!