THREE girls leave the cosy comfort of home to train as ghillies on a Highland Estate.
And their experiences are captured in a four-part series for BBC ALBA, beginning this evening at 2200.
Says the pre-publicity for Caileagan na h-Oighreachd (Ghillie Girls): “[The girls have] swapped mascara and hair-straighteners for tick-removers and guns. These girls have never met a deer, let alone shot one! They will have to pull the trigger on Bambi, gralloch (or gut) a deer and cut off its head and legs, work long hours in all weathers and charm wealthy hunters – while avoiding being shot themselves. There are challenges – physical, mental and social. Have they got what it takes?”
Here, producer, Julie McCrone, at the programme makers, Caledonia TV, answers the questions…
Who commissioned the series?
It was commissioned in the January 2013 MG ALBA commissioning round. Our executive producer on the series was Margaret Mary Murray.
Explain the thinking behind the production’s ‘look and feel’.
The idea behind the series – and the two previous series Caledonia TV made for BBC ALBA, Caileagan an Airm (Army Girls) and Caileagan an Iasgaich (Trawler Girls) – is to follow young women as they venture out of their comfort zone and experience a new occupation.
Caileagan na h-Oigreachd (Ghillie Girls) is an observational series following three girls as they train to be Ghillies on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. We intercut fly-on-the-wall footage of the girls as they do their training, go out on stalks with clients, shoot an animal for the first time, gralloch (or disembowel) the deer and butcher it, with interviews about each task.
By following the girls in these challenging situations, we want viewers to really get to know them, and empathise with them. It’s a personality-led series, so the characters of the girls and the two estate stalkers they work with are revealed as the series goes on.
The stunning landscape of Ardnamurchan is both dramatic and beautiful and dominates throughout the series.
Who are the key personnel?
The series was made by a small team from Caledonia TV – Les Wilson (director/camera), Julie McCrone (producer/camera), Faye Maclean (producer/camera) and Ramsay Macmahon (researcher/sound). The series was edited by freelance editor, Marion Macdonald.
The three contributors were recruited through Facebook and a newspaper advert. We received a much greater response than first expected to the advert, spoke to each applicant over the phone and then met with those who we felt would be most suitable for the series.
What kit and software?
It was shot on a Sony PMW200 and Canon XF300. Such lightweight cameras are invaluable when doing observational filming, allowing us to film discreetly when the girls were out on stalks. It was edited on our in-house Avid (Version 6).
What have been the main production challenges?
When filming the stalks, we had to be extremely careful not to make a sound or let ourselves be spotted by the deer. This was particularly difficult on rainy days – getting a rain cover on and off without making any noise is no easy feat!
Recording sound on stalks was also tricky as any dialogue between the girls and stalkers was whispered. We subtitled any dialogue in English we felt was difficult to make out.
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
Going out on a deer stalk is not something many people get to experience, so it was fascinating to follow the process from hillside to plate, and also learn about deer management techniques. It was great to see the three young women rise to the challenge and watch them progress over the course of the four weeks. And, of course, it was fantastic to spend three weeks in Ardnamurchan!