The making of Seachd: Part 3 - Seachd's seachd (7) drafts
Development funding for Seachd was to come from BBC Alba and the Gaelic Media Service, but an example of how the short film might be extended was required first, and whilst Simon and Jo set about outlining more stories for grandfather to tell his grandchildren, Chris and Simon had an idea that would change the project fundamentally.
Whilst grandfather had been seen telling a story to his Grandchildren in the short film, the majority of that film concerned the story itself and little was actually known about the lives of the grandfather or grandchildren. In was becoming clear that a longer project would not work with the same balance since whilst the stories themselves would have to be as good as the one told in the short film, their impact could only be felt on grandfather and his grandchildren if they had real lives and real concerns that the stories could address - and, in any event, Chris and Simon really wanted to make a film that represented modern day Gaeldom from which characters could reach into Gaeldom's deep historical roots.
What that meant, they thought, was that at least one of the seven stories would not be a story told be grandfather at all - rather it would show grandfather and his grandchildren in the modern world. And so, the first two additional stories that were written after the short film were the story of the "Half-Child" and a story that wrapped up the meaning of all the stories, but was set in the modern day. Both were written in early 2006 with Simon and Jo working with Iseabail T NicDhòmhnaill to forge Gaelic scripts and (luckily) BBC Alba and the Gaelic Media Service were sold after reading them. As it would happen, interestingly, the "Half-Child" story would not make it into the final draft of the film and the significance of the end of the film would also change considerably over the next few months - but it was a start.
The next task was to find further Gaelic writers as collaborators for the script. Iseabail T NicDhòmhnaill was already a member of the team and BBC Alba would help to find two more collaborators. The most obvious choice was Aonghas Macneacail, one of Scotland's foremost poets, who had worked previously on the short film with Simon. Fortunately, Aonghas was available and joined the team. The final member of the team was found in Iain F. MacLeòid, a dynamic young writer and playwright who is writer in residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college on Skye.
So, Simon and Jo set to work on outlining and writing the remainder of grandfather's stories, each of which would be developed into a Gaelic script with a different Gaelic writer. Iseabaill would work on the story of Akira Gunn, set in the 19th Century, Iain would work on the story of a Gaelic clansman exiled to a remote Scottish island in the 16th Century and Aonghas Macneacail would work on the story of the water-horse set in the 1920s.
Over the course of the next two months, each of the stories began to take shape and all the writers met on Skye and in Glasgow along with Chris Young , Ishbel Maclennan from BBC Alba and Gilleasbuig Fearghasdan (Script editor) to discuss and improve each of the stories. One particularly memorable evening on Skye saw the team watching the rare British 1945 portmanteau "horror" film Dead of Night in which characters each tell stories of supernatural occurences in their lives - an early example of a film collaboration between several directors and several writers. A film that would supply to Iain F. MacLeòid one of the key ideas that would make his story of the Spaniard and the Gael work.
As each of the stories altered and improved with ideas from all sides and Iseabaill, Aonghas and Iain worked their magic (in particular, Iseabaill's spell incantation within Akira Gunn, Aonghas' shape-shifting water-horse, and Iain's black pudding jokes) it was becoming more and more clear that the story of the grandchildren and their grandfather needed to be even more compelling that the stories themselves (which was beginning to look like quite a difficult task). It was also becoming clear that the whilst the original project was designed as a series of 7 short films that would be edited together to form a feature film, but could also be shown by themselves - the necessity of finding a compelling over-arching story for the grandchildren and grandfather meant that the stories were becoming increasingly interlinked and entwined in a way that the project might only make sense in feature length form.
What that meant, of course, was that "Seachd - The Inaccessible Pinnacle" had become a feature film somewhat by accident, but given that it would be the first first ever designed for the cinema, the smiles on everyone's faces indicated that no one was complaining.
In all, the script would go through 7 (Seachd!) drafts before shooting - all in a matter of months - but the film's story wouldn't stop changing there - although that's another tale...
In this series:
The making of Seachd - Part 1: In the beginning
The making of Seachd - Part 2: And then there were seven