January 31st, 2020
Run Across Scotland Film
In 2018, a close friend of mine got in touch with an idea for a project unlike any other I had embarked on before. The Matthews are family friends from my home town and to mark Alan’s retirement they planned a charity challenge that would celebrate their shared passion for running. They asked if I’d be interested in joining them as they ran across Scotland from Inverness to the Isle of Skye, to create a film documenting the experience. As a charitable endeavour, there was of course no budget but I was happy with the opportunity to travel across Scotland with a family I had grown up with.
Ahead of the shoot I tried to plan structurally what would work best for the narrative of the film; although running marathon-length distances across consecutive days is highly challenging, the cake breaks and B&B stays didn’t really situate the film within a compelling adventure context so instead I decided to focus on the significance of the run for the family – marking a close bond between a father and his two sons, who have grown to share his skill and enjoyment of running. The film also functions as a love letter to the inimitable Scottish landscape, which I would have the pleasure of capturing throughout the five days. Weaving a variety of shots that showcased the scenery, into the footage of interviews, signified the boys’ heritage – both of them live elsewhere for work so returning to Scotland, to where they grew up, for this celebration of their father’s career proved particularly emotive.
I wanted to shoot the journey with a camera that was reasonably lightweight and had some high frame rate potential to shoot slow-motion active shots. To achieve this, I hired a Sony FS5 from Media Dog Scotland, who generously discounted the rate acknowledging our charitable venture. I also brought my Sony a7sii, attached to a gimbal for tracking shots and my Mavic pro for some aerial drone shots. I assembled all three systems so they were ready to shoot in my truck with spare batteries all on charge via the two-car charging ports.
The route started at Inverness and cut through the mountains mostly on paths and tracks until arriving at the Skye bridge and crossing to finish on the Island istelf, totalling at 87 miles. The biggest challenge for production was to shoot the boys at all of the most visually spectacular spots and then make it to the next spot without missing them or stalling their progress. We meticulously planned where the best scenic spots would be using google maps and OS map software to calculate times between points. I would shoot them there and then race in my truck to the next spot and repeat. Some times the track was very far from the road in these instances I would fly the drone over and search for them. The third day was particularly challenging as this day’s route was entirely in the mountains. I captured them setting off in Glen Affric, using the drone to track them as far as I could into the glen, before I had to pack up and race 77 Miles through Kintail and up a very rough track to Glen Licht house. We had no communication with boys on this day as there was very limited phone reception, so we functioned with estimated timings. Once we arrived at Glen Licht house you could see the path wind its way up into the mountains from our vantage point.
I flew the drone up into the hills to search for them and with only minutes of battery life left I did and got some incredible shots of the boys running into the glen where we were waiting for them. From there, we drove down the path with them, stopping intermittently to shoot them running past until we arrived at the finish point for the day.
Remarkably, we were very lucky with the weather and managed to avoid the anticipated Scottish summer downpours, intermittent sunshine framed Scotland beautifully, facilitating a fantastic range of shots. I conducted the interviews at the end of the run, at the point where they were all sharing a sense of achievement and reflection, and could organically provide emotional testimonies about the challenge itself and how running has enhanced their relationships. It is clear from their words how much the boys admire their Dad, and how running has such a positive impact in all of their lives – illuminating the significance of the charities they ran in aid of (Scottish Association for Mental Health and Cancer Research). The total figures raised exceeded ten thousand pounds and the film has just premiered at Peebles Outdoor Film Festival and is also scheduled to be screened at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival in March.