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The first approach

Not an instruction for us!

That's our toilet door!

At the beginning of September, I received a phone call, out of the blue, from a film company producer, asking if they could use Fourmerk as a film location. The idea had never crossed my mind and Ronnie and I agreed that it would be quite an experience. The company is Gabriel Films and the film, for big screen, is called "Wild Country". It's a horror film with an animatronics Highland Cow and werewolves!

Before the filming began, we had several visits from Ros Borland, the producer, Craig Strachan, the director and from David Taylor, location manager, and his assistant, Scott. About a week before filming started, thirteen people came to look over our property. We were told that filming would be both inside the house and in the fields and that our Highland Cattle would be needed for the film! They also told us that they might need to alter things such as replacing doors and moving furniture.

Signs were erected to direct people to Fourmerk. At Inch of Leckie a yellow sign indicated "Base" and at Fourmerk "Loc". At the back door the signs read "No Smoking" and "No Food or Drink". (I must say Ronnie and I didn't obey!). Indoors, we had "Artists Only", "Rest Room", "Green Room", "No Entry".

I can't disclose the plot and it would spoil the surprise of the special effects to show photos of them before the film is on release in October 2005, just in time for Halloween, but I have included some pictures of the filming itself. Look out for it in the cinema!

 

The start: 11th October

The crew gets comfy in the yard

 

The yard full of vehicles

Karen feeds the hens with help from the "hen containment unit"!

 

The weekend before the start of the filming, two of my glass paneled doors were removed and replaced with solid matching doors, so that the doors were identical. This made the hall and our sitting room very dull! Ronnie took time off during the filming as he had been told that he might be needed to help. The driver of the second van to arrive didn't see our electric fence wire which runs overhead above the close mouth! Fortunately, it's easily fixed!

At 8.30am on Monday morning, suddenly it was all go as about twelve assorted vans arrived in the yard. The outer and inner yards and the house were full of vehicles and people. I felt a bit bemused at this point as Ronnie and I couldn't get into the house at all!

Filming that day was mainly in the yard and on our farm track. Peter Capaldi, the actor who is Father Steve in the film, has starred in such films as "Local Hero". He and a young actress, Karen, played a scene where they met in the yard.

Ronnie became quad bike adviser to Sami, a young Glasgow actress. Sami had been given instruction previously on how to drive a quad, but it was a different model from ours. Sami did very well the the bike, but needed Ronnie to turn it for her when she had finished each shot.

Then there was a scene with hens, which were supplied by Norma and Willie Brewster of Thornhill. (Ronnie became hen handler). They were being fed in the yard with a team known as the "hen containment unit", on hand to stop their escape. Other scenes were of the "shadow beast" and indoor scenes.

We were surprised at how many times each part of a scene was shot - from different angles and perspectives. The Special Effects department was extremely professional and their animatronics were wonderful and very convincing.

Before a scene is shot, there is a shout of, "Quiet please!" followed by, "Turning!" and then, "Action!" Everyone almost holds their breath until the shout of, "Cut!" Heaven help anyone who got it wrong and spoke or whose mobile phone rang. Gus, the assistant director, could be a real martinet! He named and shamed our neighbour, Sam Kyle from Inch of Leckie, when his mobile rang!!

 

12th October

The kitchen as makeup room

Barty

 

All the filming this day was done indoors and there was no room for us to see what was going on, but we did manage to take a few photos. Ronnie went into work for the morning. At one point, I had to go shopping and asked Scott from the crew if he could let Barty the pup, out from the stable while I was away. I came back to find that Barty had been walked, phone messages had been taken, the LPG gas delivery had been and the postman had delivered the mail. It was like having house-sitters! Barty adored all the attention he got from the crew and his behaviour was perfect!

 

What amazed us was the super catering, which we were invited to use. The base was at Inch of Leckie Farm at our road end where breakfast was available each morning: porridge or fruit juice, everything cooked you can imagine; lunch was home made soup, pakora, spring rolls, samosas as starters; choice of four main courses or cold meat and salads or pies, bridies with chips ; and at least two puddings which were irresistible or biscuits and cheese. Late afternoon there were sandwiches. Coffee, tea, mineral water and biscuits were available on the location all day. I'm sure I put on weight over the week!

 

13th October

A bedroom becomes a film scene

 

On Wednesday, we had an opportunity to chat with Peter Capaldi. He's really charming and it was a pleasure to have him here. We saw him at one point rehearsing his lines and chatting up one of our filly foals at the same time!

There was a scene today where Karen had to batter on the front door to escape the menace which was about to attack her. She had to scream very loudly several times and she said she saw walkers on our single track road staring up at her as the sound echoed off the wood below. We all half expected blue flashing lights to arrive to see if someone had been attacked or murdered!

I had a werewolf in my bed! I told special effects to make sure that they remembered to take it away with them that night!

 

14th October

Vehicles on the hill

 

 

 

Linda with a glass of red wine?

No! It's blood!

A sailing party?

The "sea" is really mist!

 

This was the first day of filming on the hill and Ronnie and I were nervous about succeeding in getting our cattle to run in the right direction. Our idea was to take feed for them and have them follow the quad bike at a run.

I must have been a bit dozey first thing because when we got up the hill on the quad bike, I saw our cattle all round the gazebo things, being curious, and then saw a cow lying prone. I alerted Ronnie to the fact we had a sick cow, only to realise that it was the animatronics cow. The Special Effects Unit was pleased that I had found their cow so realistic!

This was a day of blood and gore! The special effects team used 50 litres of fake blood and totally disgusting, but realistic, spittle!

We did manage to get the cattle to follow the quad bike, but they scattered when one of the crew ran straight in front of them and high tailed it back down the hill. Ronnie managed to get them back to the top of the hill and the shot was done successfully, but at walk rather than run, as we had hoped.

Ronnie was asked to drive the quad bike from the top of the track into the yard and to rev the engine as he stopped at the house wall. This was for sound only. He drove into the yard, revved the engine, but had forgotten to put on the brake and crashed into the wall of the house! Craig Strachan, the director, rushed out full of concern that Ronnie might have been injured. I was more concerned about the quad, but there was no damage!

The morning was wet and miserable, but by the afternoon it had cleared. Then a mist came in and, looking over to Ben Ledi, it seemed as if it was a sea between us and the mountain. The film crew had a screen thing which looked almost like a yacht and Ronnie managed to take photos of this outstanding scene.

Ros Borland, the producer, asked if they could have an extra day to complete the filming as the special effects had taken longer than had been planned for in the schedule.

 

15th October

Dave from special effects

 

The last day of filming and all the action was again on the hill. There were more vehicles on the hill and some which should have had off-road tyres, but didn't, got stuck. This burst one of the old stone drains on the track up the hill, but it has since been repaired.

The weather was dry and bright, which was a problem for the film makers as the day before had been so dull and for continuity, screens were used behind the camera to block out the sunshine.

Most of the day was taken up with filming on the hill again. When each department of the film crew had packed up in the evening, they came to say goodbye to us. It was such a really nice crowd of people and we had shared a lot of experiences over the week. Everything was put back to where it had been in the house and yard, the only difference being the mud!

Reflections

Yes, we'd do it again! It really was great fun and we felt part of the team trying to make a success of the filming. We'll be invited to a "wrap party" where we'll be able to see some of the work done at Fourmerk. It was an amazing experience and I know I'll never look at a film in the same way again, now that I've seen how much work goes into the shooting. Craig told me on Wednesday that his editor, who is not normally given to praise, was very impressed with the views from the farm.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film next October. Watch out for "Wild Country"!