Celebrating the Gaelic language and culture is very much at the heart of what Isle of Skye film company, Young Films, aims to do. Owner, Christopher Young, whose previous productions include sitcom The Inbetweeners, says: "The Isle of Skye has so much history and tradition. The Gaelic language is a key to unlock all of that. It's a wonderful way of giving voice and expression to the authentic culture of the place."
It makes sense, then, that Young Films is the company behind Bannan - the first Gaelic drama to be made since the 1990's. Christopher enthuses: "I wanted to create a long-running drama shot in Skye. So far, we have made 18 half-hour long episodes. Episodes 9 - 13 are going to be aired on BBC Alba in January and we are looking to make another 15 episodes in the future.
From an early age, Edinburgh-born Christopher was passionate about films. "I made a few short films as a teenager, but then I went on to do a degree at university in Italian and French Literature," he explains. "I kept the love of film-making going through my university days by doing a lot of acting and drama."
Christopher's film-making career started to ignite properly when he became involved with the Edinburgh Film Festival. "At first, it was jobs like driving vans and making tea," he admits. "But I had the excitement of meeting people like Marshall Brickman, who was Woody Allen's scriptwriter. There was also one day when I had to entertain scriptwriter and director Terrence Davies." For a young man who had been obsessed with the cinema from age 14, meeting and working with celebrated film-makers was significant and inspiring.
Unexpectedly, Christopher's degree in Italian was instrumental in landing him his first film role! "For a year, I worked as a runner on a variety of productions," Christopher reveals. "The first film I worked on was called 'Another Time, Another Place' and it was directed by Michael Radford and shot on the Black Isle. The film was about Italian prisoners of war and they needed an extra Italian actor and, because I speak fluent Italian, I ended up getting the part! This was exceptional, I was really there in a very lowly capacity - to drive the van, make sandwiches and do the menial jobs." It was around this time that Channel 4 was launched.
"They were keen to have a trainee like myself," says Christopher. "After a year of training, I managed to get a bursary to go to New York University for a three-month intensive film-making course. I came back to Britain and worked for two years as an assistant film editor, then briefly as a film editor." Later, Christopher decide to set up his own company as a film producer - leading to the birth of Young Films in 1986.
However, in the 1990's, Christopher made a big decision. His partner, renowned artist, Julie Brook, had previously spent much of her time working on the Scottish islands, including Jura, the Uists and Lewis, and she missed island life. Christopher states: "We both wanted to set up on an island. We chose Skye for quite a prosaic reason - The Skye Bridge! It meant that I could always go to work - I wasn't restricted by ferry timetables or weather forecasts!"
At that point in time, commuting to work was a big part of Christopher's life. The Inbetweeners had been born and Christopher's responsibilities as producer meant he had to spend much of his time at the filming location in London. After five years, three series and one feature film of The Inbetweeners, Christopher admits: "I had had my fill of working in comedy and thought it would be brilliant to spend more time at home on Skye. I shut my London office down and, in 2013, set everything up in the Fàs building of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Young Films now employs 10 people.
"One of the joys of the work that we do means that we always employ local people whenever possible. It's a real privilege to be part of Skye's Gaelic college. Working where you live and integrating into the community is much more satisfying than commuting. It's been a very positive experience and I'm very optimistic about staying here."
What other exciting projects are in store for Young Films? As well as producing more episodes of Bannan, Young Films is developing a number of other film and television projects, including an adaptation of Neil Gunn's novel, The Silver Darlings, as well as a thriller based on the 1988 Lockerbie tragedy. Christopher is also keen to create another long-running television series filmed on Skye - this time in English, to allow a wider reach.
With so much work, when does Christopher unwind? He says: "My partner and I have four children. Being an artist, Julie likes to work in wild places, so we spend a lot of time walking in the hills, camping and also swimming in the sea - even though that can be very cold! Spending time with our children is a welcome contrast to work. I read a lot and I am still as keen on going to the cinema as I was when I was a teenager!" Christopher is so obviously enthusiastic about his work that this comes as no surprise!
(Article written by Roz Skinner)