BLIADHNA Kerry/Kerry’s Year follows mountain biker, Kerry MacPhee, as she seeks to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
The documentary is being broadcast on BBC ALBA, from 2100, this evening.
Kerry competes tomorrow in the Games and an updated hour-long version of the programme, detailing how she got on, will be shown a week tomorrow, at 2130.
Here, producer/director, Faye Maclean – from makers, Caledonia TV – answers the questions…
Who commissioned the documentary?
The programme was commissioned by BBC ALBA and funded by the BBC as part of its Commonwealth programming. Our documentary follows mountain biker, Kerry MacPhee, as she battles to gain a place at the Commonwealth Games.
BBC ALBA took a bit of a risk with this production because – when we started filming in August last year – there was only a slim chance that Kerry would get a place in Team Scotland for the Commonwealth Games.
But in the months leading up to the programme being commissioned, Kerry had medal success at the World Island Games in Bermuda and was looking very much like someone who would succeed in anything she set her sights on!
I don’t think any of us really anticipated just how well she would do, though. Not only has she gained a place at the Games, but she’s currently leading the British XC MTB Series and, just last weekend, Kerry won a silver medal at the British Championships.
Explain the thinking behind the programme’s ‘look and feel’
‘Bliadhna Kerry’ (Kerry’s Year) is an hour-long observational documentary. We followed Kerry over 12 months as she gained her elite mountain biking licence and embarked on a year of hard training and competing.
Kerry’s goal was to win a place in Team Scotland and take part in the Commonwealth Games and, in order to meet the qualifying criteria, she had to deliver a series of strong performances at international and national races. Her ambition and drive saw her juggle a relentless training schedule and three part-time jobs, scraping together enough money to take her to the big European races.
A big turning point for Kerry came in October last year when she was accepted onto Scottish Cycling’s development programme. From this point, Scottish Cycling arranged for Kerry to attend training camps with the country’s best cyclists and paid for her to attend European competitions.
There followed a hectic few months in which Kerry battled to make the qualifying times required for selection and her place at the Commonwealth Games was finally announced at a media day in Stirling Castle last month.
We were obviously keen to capture on camera all the key moments in Kerry’s progression, from amateur cyclist to Commonwealth Games athlete, and this is something that we worked hard to achieve. The documentary was largely self-shot by me as producer/director. This made it much easier to organise filming at short notice and just generally made the filming less obtrusive.
Who are the key personnel? How were they recruited?
I initially contacted Kerry about two years ago after someone suggested we make a programme about Kerry MacPhee, an up-and-coming triathlete from South Uist. After numerous successes at amateur level, Kerry was about to try to make it as a professional triathlete.
I did a test tape with Kerry and during this first interview she mentioned her ambition to compete at the Commonwealth Games.
The first time we submitted the idea to BBC ALBA’s commissioning round, it was to make a documentary about Kerry’s first year as a professional athlete. This idea was rejected but we were told that it might be worth submitting it again. We resubmitted the idea a year later as a documentary in which we followed Kerry’s battle to make it to the Games. This was then commissioned and filming commenced immediately.
The documentary was largely filmed by Caledonia’s in-house staff. I did the bulk of the filming myself with help from colleagues. To enable us to squeeze as many European trips as possible out of the budget, it was crucial that the filming be done by one person. Because of this, we were able to film Kerry in the Czech Republic, Tenerife, Girona and Switzerland (on two separate occasions) as well as numerous locations across the UK.
What kit and software?
The series was largely shot on two different cameras – a Sony PMW200 and Canon XF300. The series was edited on our in-house AVID (version 6) and onlined and dubbed at Edit 123.
What have been the main production challenges?
There have been quite a few challenges along the way, most of which were just the result of filming as an one-person crew.
The actual races were challenging for obvious reasons. The whole point of cross-country mountain biking is that the cyclists have to make their way over some very difficult terrain – which in turn made it difficult for me while carrying a camera and tripod!
They also cover a lot of ground, with each race lasting approximately an hour-and-a-half. Fortunately for me, elite women tend to do five or six laps round the course in each race. It meant that, if I got a chance to recce the course in advance, I could find one or two good locations for filming on each lap. For the majority of the British races I was joined by one of my colleagues which meant that we could film the race on two cameras which made the whole process much easier.
Other than that, the greatest challenge was to stop yourself from cheering Kerry on as she passed you on each lap!
What did you most learn and enjoy from the experience?
Despite the challenges, the whole experience was hugely enjoyable.
I generally like working on observational documentaries, anyway, and particularly on productions that allow you to dedicate real time to someone’s story and to follow it through.
It means that you can get quite caught up in the story and I found Kerry’s drive and determination really quite inspiring.
While I was often incredulous at all that she was willing to put herself through in order to achieve her dream, I couldn’t help but respect her for it.
I wanted to see Kerry achieve all that she set out to because I could see just how much work and effort you have to put in in order to reach a certain standard in sport.
For so many athletes, particularly female athletes, there are few financial rewards for all their hard labour. Kerry got herself to the Commonwealth Games through hard work, courage, and an incredibly strong and focused mindset that kept her cycling even when things were going against her.
I feel lucky to have been able to follow her so closely on that journey and to be able to share Kerry’s Year with audiences across Scotland and the UK.