The making of Seachd - Part 1: In the beginning
Before Seachd was the short film, Foighidinn, and before that there was just a simple story.
Simon Miller and Jo Cockwell's very first idea was to write a story told directly to camera by a story-telling Grandfather - a short film idea aimed at giving the audience the feeling of being told a story in the first person.
That film idea would never be made, but as the story of the Crimson Snowdrop took shape what became clear was that any film of the story would have to be in Scottish Gaelic. Whilst the story of the Crimson Snowdrop was a folk or fairy tale, the writers had been careful to ensure that the people, places, history and even the medicine of the story were real and since it became set in 12th Century Scotland on the Isle of Skye, then the film also had to be in Gaelic.
As luck would have it, Simon's first short film (Dead Man Falls) featured Gerda Stevenson whose husband, Aonghas Macneacail, is one of Scotland's finest Gaelic poets. At the wrap party, Simon plucked up courage to ask Aonghas whether he would read the tale of the Crimson Snowdrop and help turn it into a truly Scottish Gaelic folk tale. He agreed and within a couple of weeks they had created the first true draft of the story which was then called The Eldest Son of Leving of Levingstoun!
Simon sent The Eldest Son of Leving of Levingstoun to Christopher Young, not only one of Scotland's leading film producers, but a producer who speaks Scottish Gaelic and lives on the Isle of Skye where the story is set.
Chris quickly agreed to produce (it turned out he had been looking for a Gaelic film project for some time) and within a few weeks the BBC Alba and the new Gaelic Media Service were on board followed by Scottish Screen just a couple of months later.
The film was shot in 2004 on the Isle of Skye with Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul, another leading Scottish Gaelic writer and poet, as the story-telling grandfather who would catch his three grandchildren trying to steal their Christmas presents early and tell them the story of the Crimson Snowdrop as a lesson in patience. The film's title became Foighidinn: The Crimson Snowdrop ("foighidinn" is Gaelic for "patience") and it premiered on BBC TV in 2005 before screening at film festivals around the world including the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Hawaii International Film Festival, the Rhode Island International Film Festival, the Celtic Film and Television Festival and the European Minority Film Festival and winning the Bermuda International Film Festival in 2005.
Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul went on to play the grandfather in Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle but the short film plays an even more important role in the creation of the feature film that developed from it because the footage of the telling of the Crimson Snowdrop story was edited into Seachd and it is the first story we hear the grandfather tell to his grandchildren, who were recast for the feature film.
Here are a couple of stills from Foighidinn: The Crimson Snowdrop, beautifully shot in anamorphic 35mm by Simon Dennis and featuring three different child actors as the grandchildren: Uilleam Hannah, Fiann MacLeòid and Raonaid NicLeòid (Fiann and Raonaid are the brother and sister of Annie NicLeòid who plays Akira Gunn in the feature film).
Aonghas Pàdraig Caimbeul as a rather younger looking grandfather
Raonaid NicLeòid, Fiann MacLeòidand Uilleam Hannah as the grandchildren
Aonghas MacDhòmhnaill as the Eldest Son