FROM an early age, artist Lachlan Goudie remembers his father, Alexander, obsessively painting images of ‘Nannie’, the witch in Robert Burns’ poem, Tam o’ Shanter.
To coincide with the Witches & Wicked Bodies exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Goudie presents what the BBC describes as a “highly personal documentary, inspired by his father, in which he investigates why witches have cast such a powerful spell over generations of artists”.
‘Secret Knowledge: The Art of Witchcraft’ is being broadcast on BBC Two Scotland at 2200.
It follows last week’s What Do Artists Do All Day?, another BBC Four strand, given a special screening on BBC Two Scotland with its focus on another Paisley-born artist, John Byrne.
Both strands are made by the arts team at BBC Scotland’s Pacific Quay headquarters in Glasgow, which also makes Imagine, The Review Show and some of The Culture Show, as well as other arts documentaries.
Here, Richard Bright, executive producer of The Art of Witchcraft, answers some questions…
Who commissioned the programme?
The film was commissioned by Ewan Angus at BBC Scotland and will also be broadcast as part of the BBC Four strand, Secret Knowledge.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’
Given the subject matter, I was keen that the film had an atmospheric mood and took us out of the art gallery and into the landscape, where many of the tales of witchcraft originated. So, we filmed some sequences at night and also much of it hand-held to help bring an extra edge to the piece.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
We wanted this to be a strongly authored film and BBC Scotland had already been discussing a number of presenting projects with Lachlan. So, when he told us the story of his father’s obsession with the witch in the Burns’ poem, Tam o’Shanter, it made for a great fit – and a good opportunity for him to make his presenting debut with a subject he could bring a great passion and personal insight to.
What kit and software?
The film is shot on the Canon C300, which we’ve been using increasingly on productions. We edited in-house at BBC Scotland, on Avid.
What have been the main production challenges?
The films in the Secret Knowledge strand take the form of an authored TV essay, with the focus entirely on the presenter, and filmed and edited with a fast turnaround.
The Art of Witchcraft was filmed in two-and-a-half days, and the main challenge was ensuring we could film enough material to tell the story of Lachlan’s father and do justice to the works on display in the Witches & Wicked Bodies exhibition. We hope we pulled it off.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
It’s been very enjoyable working with Lachlan and shaping his personal story and art expertise into a film. It’s Lachlan’s first outing as a presenter and director, Sharon Adam, worked closely with him to develop his on-screen performance, and it was a rewarding experience seeing him grow into the role.
It’s also been pleasing to see that, even on a relatively low budget, with ambition and a presenter with real personal passion for the subject, there are ways of covering topical arts events in an imaginative way, full of opinions and ideas.