DURING the 1950s and 1960s, a Scots family, comprising 17 siblings, were scattered across the country, as the children were taken into care, by welfare agencies.
This hour-long documentary, produced by Steadipix, follows a number of the brothers and sisters as they bid to put together various parts of their family jigsaw together and try to find long-lost siblings.
It is being broadcast on BBC Two Scotland, this evening at 2100.
Here, producer/director, Bianca Barker, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the documentary?
Ewan Angus was the commissioning editor for BBC Scotland, with David Harron executive producing for the channel.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’
This was extraordinary access to one family, their eyewitness account and experiences of the welfare state in its infancy in the 1950s. With that as a starting point, we wanted it to feel as intimate and as personal a story as possible.
We used iDirect to let the family speak directly down the lens and, therefore, directly to the audience.
We also made the decision early on to not use voice-over, and therefore keep the entire film in the voice of the family.
That had its difficulties, as we often rely so heavily on voice-over to lead the audience from one thought to another, but – with some effort – we made that work and we think it makes for a much stronger film.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
This was a very small team working closely with the family and, given the sensitive subject matter, we needed that continuity for them.
Both myself – as producer/director – and Martin Newstead, the lighting cameraperson, are in-house at Steadipix Productions.
I had originally made contact with one of the brothers who, sadly, passed away before we started filming, but my contact with him had established the trust needed for us to work closely with the family to tell their story.
While I am a self-shooting director – and often these intimate portrayals are best done with a self-shooter – in this case we wanted it to have the feel of a well-crafted piece that only a cameraperson can ‘bring to the table’.
Martin did just that with the iDirect interviews, as well as some really creative drama-style sequences to help bring to the screen a story with very little archive or imagery to help tell it.
As he is also a CAA-approved drone operator, we were able to film aerial drone footage while shooting up in the Highlands, giving us a sense of release and hope in contrast to the dark story we were often telling.
Also key was our editor, Gary Scott, at Serious Facilities. I had previously worked with him on a Channel 4 documentary and knew he would help craft the story we wanted to tell.
What kit and software?
We filmed on a mix of C300 with the iDirect and PMW500 for the scenes with unfolding actuality where we needed to be able to move a bit quicker without numerous lens changes.
The documentary was offlined and onlined at Serious Facilities and dubbed at Savalas in Glasgow.
What were the main production challenges?
We nearly did not pitch this idea at all because we had started developing it with George Clark, the brother who sadly died in March 2015.
He had spent more than 20 years researching his family’s history and tracking down many of his missing siblings, so this felt very much like his story.
With his loss, we were not sure how to move forward.
We spent a long time working with the remaining five family members about whether we should tell the story and, if we did, how best to do that.
In the end, it was too strong a story to let go and it became a family story told by the family, not a family story told by one man.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
Sometimes, you really are given a gift on a production and the Clark family themselves were that gift on this documentary.
They were open to every suggestion of how best to tell their story and, from the outset, fully engaged with the process; not something that happens on every project.
Despite the difficult content matter, working with the family was incredibly enjoyable.
What we learnt was: if a story is worth telling, you will find a way.
Losing our main contributor before filming had even begun could have been the end. Instead, thankfully, we persisted, and – as a rather grand life lesson in making the documentary – we were given a reminder about the importance of family.