Freswick Castle film fundraiser success
FRESWICK Castle played host to an evening of fun, fear and financial wheelings and dealings as part of a film fundraiser.
The special event followed the completion of filming on the first Caithness-based feature for over 70 years, made by brothers Fionn and Toby Watts.
The castle has firm filmic credentials, being not only the home to Murray Watts – the father of the two brothers and an award-winning filmmaker himself – but once being a holiday residence for Hollywood legend John Belushi of Blues Brothers fame.
Fionn said: "We screened a 15-minute visual reel of the film of unedited footage and music which went down a treat.
"Also, we gave people the chance to donate to the post-production for sums varying from £25 to £2000 and gave away signed posters, original artwork, framed photography and credits on the film."
The brothers spent several years working on various ideas for films before creating a finished script for a supernatural thriller entitled Playhouse.
Toby said that the question then arose of how they would fund the venture.
"After hitting many brick walls with accessing public funding for our first feature film, our plan became all about raising the money independently.
"Initially, this can be daunting as you have no idea if it will work but after securing a number of private investors and hosting two fundraising evenings we feel very confident about bringing Playhouse to the big screen."
The latest fundraiser at the castle was "an incredible success", say the brothers, who are producing and directing the feature through their company Far North Films.
"In two evenings alone we can pay for the full sound design and sound mix on Playhouse," Toby said.
Fionn added: "We still have a fair amount of funds to raise but, given the unique selling point of this being Caithness's first feature film in over 70 years, we're very optimistic that we can garner the support we need."
The last feature-length fiction film set in Caithness was The Silver Darlings in 1947, based on a Neil Gunn story.
In Playhouse, the forbidding Freswick Castle forms a perfect backdrop to the story of an irreverent writer who develops a horror theatre show in a remote location only to find a real nightmare is already waiting for him.
"We are absolutely delighted with the enthusiastic response from local people towards the film, including people who wouldn't naturally watch a supernatural thriller," Fionn said.
"Our film plans were received by people as good news amid all the depressing issues lately with depopulation and business closure in Caithness," added Toby.
The brothers feel "very confident" about raising the remaining finance to finish the film and secure global distribution.
Fionn said: "This is the beginning of great things to come for the county in terms of filmmaking.
"It's hopefully only a matter of time before more films get shot locally and the county experiences a boost in tourism and the local economy as a result."
Other highlights of the night were local actress Helen Mackay – who stars as Jenny in the film – talking on video about how proud this project makes her of being from the area.
Lindsay Broomfield from Thurso also spoke in person to the invited audience about her work on the film as costume and production designer.
"Fionn and Toby want to make films here in Caithness and to be included was so exciting and a total game-changer for me," she said.
Toby said that though it "might sound crazy" he feels that Playhouse is a great step forward to one day creating a film studio in Wick.
"Getting local people on board is very important for us as filmmakers aspiring to work more in Caithness.
"These recent fundraising events are a great start for us with now over 70 local people talking about the film and donating towards its completion."
To find out more go to www.playhousefilm.co.uk and join the mailing list to stay updated with the film.