IN a way we’ve got The Inbetweeners – Will, Jay, Neil and Simon – to thank for BBC Alba’s new Gaelic drama, Bannan (The Ties That Bind) set on Skye.
The success of the first two series of the multi awardwinning E4 comedy – and the film that followed – mean Skye-based producer Christopher Young gets to bring his Gaelic drama dream to life.
The three-parter – which it’s hoped may become a long-running drama – is being produced by Christopher who played that role for two series of hugely successful TV comedy The Inbetweeners and the film.
Christopher is originally from Edinburgh. But during a working life in Glasgow and London, he did a course at Skye’s Sabhal Mor Ostaig in the 90s.
He fell in love with the island, started learning the language and moved his family there 15 years ago.
Christopher said: ”I’m not fluent but I’m an enthusiastic learner and I’m always looking for an excuse to practise my Gaelic.”
The Inbetweeners was sandwiched in between two Gaelic projects – I did the Gaelic film I made here in 2006 Seachd first.
“My children have been educated in Gaelic Medium and I’m a big fan of the language and believe passionately in speaking – and living – it.”
Christopher’s earlier career included films Venus Peter and Gregory’s Two Girls, produced by his own company Young Films.
He laughed: “Part of the joy of producing is the immense variety of work you can do.
“Looking at the film and TV I’ve done, you can see I don’t really like staying in the same place!
“For me, doing The Inbetweeners has left me very free to do anything I want next. And the thing I’ve always wanted to do is get some long-running Gaelic drama going up here.”
Bannan is a collaboration between BBC Alba and Creative Scotland and the initial three half-hours will be aired this time next year.
“But there are now 15 half-hour scripts in the works,” confirmed Christopher.
The idea at the heart of the drama – a high-powered lawyer returning to her home island – came from Lewis writer and storyteller Chrisella Ross who also teaches Gaelic and offers Gaelic homework support.
She came up with the idea while studying on Glasgow Caledonian’s MA in TV fiction course.
Chrisella explained: “The work included writing a one-hour drama and I set a family drama in my own village.
“When we were asked to send ideas to Chris, I sent that – with lots of apologies – because it was still very raw!
“But he said he liked where it was coming from.”
And Chrisella’s family drama sees life imitating art – by coincidence her niece Debbie Mackay from Inverness is the actress chosen to play Bannan’s heart, Mairi Macdonald.
For Christopher, living and working in Skye – where the three pilot episodes of Bannan are currently being filmed on location – makes sense.
“I didn’t want to live and work in a landscape where it was all holiday homes and not some real community, but I found that in Sleat. And the road bridge makes it quite a practical decision for me to live on the island.
“When you are making TV and film in Scotland you spend a lot of time raising finance and promoting things away from home, the bridge makes it possible to do that – and get home!”
Once the idea for Bannan was identified, Chrisopher and Young Films ran a workshop on Skye in February attended by over 20 Gaelic writers, performers and directors, as a way to launch the project.
Now there will be nine months in Skye of pre-production, shooting and post-production.
Though it is early days for filming, Christopher has some clear ideas of how he wants Bannan to look and feel.
“Running it from the pilot, we have eight characters and it feels like that is working.
“Bannan isn’t a genre idea, I mean that we have the luxury of not doing a thriller or comedy because TV has become very genre-driven.
“Something like the American series Friday Night Lights is very character-driven and though that’s totally different, I am thinking of things like Breaking Bad and Modern Family – which my kids love – because the characters are so strong and I like that.
“Bannan will have high drama and comedy and it will feel contemporary.
“It’s got strong production values and a film look – we’ll be trying to film on location where we can.”
And Chrisopher has high hopes that Bannan may find itself an international market for continuing drama not in the English language – given the recent success of subtitled Nordic dramas like Borgen and The Killing.
There is no Gaelic language drama being made at the moment – even in the diaspora.
If all goes well, Christopher would like to approach possible international partners further down the line with an interest in buying in to a unique setting and story to tell.
Christopher said: “There will be an audience in the diaspora and I would love Bannan to tap into that.”