A pilgrimage to the Blasket Island in Ireland, a place where I grew up, after 7 years away. A film about homecoming and Irish culture
Update: Please have a good look at the quality reward system, including photographs of the film shoot, mountain shots, memorabilia from the island's history, and our planned Whale watching trip beside the Blasket islands!
In essence this is a cultural film with reference to old heritage, but it will also be capturing all the spirit of an intimate return to a very special home-place by someone who knows it more intimately than a visitor or a fan of the island. This island is famed in Ireland because of the Blasket island writers whose works are set as textbooks in practically every Irish school. The island also appeared on the twenty Punt note. Its greatest fame is for its traditional way of life before the evacuation in 1953, with the Irish language flourishing here in a pure form. Documentaries have been made by those far removed from the island but there has never been one made by someone who has such a history with this special place.
This film will tell the story of my return to a pristine, unspoilt mountainous island in the sea, it will be the story of a homecoming. 'The Isle of My Youth' will be an intimate look into what it is to feel and be at home - in a uniquely beautiful, wild location. It will also be a cultural film - it cannot escape being so for this island has a significant place in Irish culture due to the exceptional lives and literary achievements of its former inhabitants.
I know this island very, very well. Some original islanders are still alive and they of course know the island even better, but I was conceived here as they were, brought up here, and I also lived here at the age of eighteen for a further seven remarkable months. During this time I barely set foot off the island. I walked practically every inch of the island. The experience of living here, free from electricity, roads, money, amid the wild landscape, seeing such things as a shoal of a hundred dolphins, Minkie whales, Basking sharks, and the seals which stay on the island and swim in the waves by the shore really opened my heart to the beauty of the natural world, and, feeling so at peace here on the island I made a real promise to attempt to express the beauty the island had showed me through my art.
Now I have the opportunity to make a film about this captivating place. I have already made some short, mostly B & W films, but this film is to be my first serious film with good quality High Definition cameras. I already have some links with a festival called Feille Na Bealtaine in County Kerry, having performed poetry there, and I received a written endorsement for my future poetry work from the festival Director, Michael Fanning. This film, as you will see as you read on, will incorporate a lot of visual poetry for that is very much the style of my work - this means that like a Photographer balance and composition are the most important elements for me. I will submit my film to this festival and also to the Rohoboth Beach Independent Film Festival in the U.S.A.
My family had a Documentary made about them while they were on the island by BBC Northern Ireland, as it was considered a unique subject to document. It was called 'Countryfile: This island business' and was filmed in 1977. My parents also had articles written about their life on the island in the Irish Times and other Newspapers. In my film I plan to interview my Mother and Brother, who featured so strongly in the original documentary, and talk to them about their memories, I will talk with them about what brought my mother and father to take such an unusual step in life, and what my brother’s memories were of his four years on this unique island which was without roads, shops or, until I came along, any other children!
Island Heritage Revealed
My own return to the island which will take place in April of 2013 will be an unusually emotive experience for me. I have not seen the island for 8 years, due to my location in England, and my hard work studying as a Film student at Art college. I have secured a Cameraman who will document my return, and we have key scenes which we wish to film, such as the description of my first memories captured on Super 8 film, views out to the remarkable an Tiaracht and the colourful Inis Tuaisceart island during the wonderful west of Ireland sunsets, scenes involving the wooden bar which is a relic from the David Lean film ‘Ryan’s daughter’ and which my brother and I had our rustic nappies changed on! and also a view of all the islands from the top of Eagle Mountain, which is the finest view I have ever seen, something which I have always wished to re-create for film ….. if you can imagine all six of the islands erupting from the Atlantic, dark silhouettes in the evening light, like primordial sea beasts yet static in a bright sea …. then you have some idea of the mythic quality that this view evokes.
In order to document the island and my return to the island well I need to pay for travel to Ireland, not only for myself but for my Producer and Cameraman also. I have money to get us there, and for us to stay in tents or in old cottages on the island, but my small funds are not ideal for the creation of a fine film about the island. It is like the difference between bronze and gold! From my own resources I can only fund a limited shoot with very little equipment such as the film stock I need. I currently cannot afford to buy any extra equipment. This is why I am applying on Kickstarter, To do this properly I need to plan a three week shoot. I want to make this incredibly important moment of my life really come alive on film, and to do it the best I can. For this extra funding is needed for things like the absolutely essential SD memory discs and camera-specific batteries we will need for the cameras (there being no electricity on the island!), Super 8 film stock, Mini DV tapes, special insulation materials to protect the equipment from the cold and wet, nights of accommodation to and from the island. Filming on the island for three weeks will make an enormous difference, and in a five day window we might only get on to the island for a couple of days due to the strong ocean swells of the Blasket sound preventing ferry rides. If we are there with everything we need for a three week window it will enable us to be in our location to use our time there to the optimum, and potentially film in stormy weather and in sunshine, it will enable us to film the island both before and after it first opens its doors to tourists in April. Filming on the island for a longer time will potentially allow us to film when the dreaded Irish mist has gone as well! Equipment arranged for a five day, limited shoot will not nearly be enough!
I want to make a truly outstanding film. The story is almost as original as it could possibly be. If you can help me to achieve this your help will be remembered, acknowledged and very much appreciated by me. I honour friendship. I believe I have the qualities of a Film Director, I believe it is what I was born to do. I am full of drive and passion. I spend a good deal of each day devising and planning creative ideas. If my Kickstarter project is successful I would be utterly committed to make my first signature film, and your part in this will be credited in the film.The reward system is designed to give you real involvement with the film.
Although my background is mostly in writing, I also have some real experience in making films as well. I am about to finish a B.A Hons Degree in Film Arts at one of the last Independent art colleges in the U.K: Plymouth College of Art. I have always concentrated on the poetic language in film, and my style of filming is almost photographic, with an emphasis on compositional forms. Key scenes from what is known as a 'Film Treatment' are visible at the bottom of this page. A Film Treatment is very much a 'Pitch' for what is envisaged for the film in the mind of the Director.
Thank you for the time you have spent in reading this. This is to be my first film and it is about the most intimate subject to me. Have a look at the rewards and see if there is something you would like to be involved with! Thank you once again!
In essence your support will allow us to spend three entire weeks on the island, capturing the right footage with the recording equipment all secured ( such as the camera-specific batteries, film stock, SD memory cards and video tapes) rather than a mere five days, and inadequate equipment, thus allowing us the opportunity to make a truly fine documentary/ narrative film.
Flights to Ireland for three crew members, plus two to three nights accommodation in a hostel, some insulation and protective equipment for the three cameras we are using: (Sony Z1, Canon 7D, Super-8 film camera), Some Super-8 film stock (Although Super-8 is an expensive film medium it is also ideal to convey scenes with a sense of memory and heritage) Some basic survival items will incur costs as well.
My thanks to Paul Buttle, Tess Ford, Sharon Hagemann, Bridget Cousins, Scott Everid, Boomshank Productions, and my family, all of whom have supported me in my creative endeavours regarding the island, but especially thanks to my mother, Lesley Hambrook, and father Roger Hambrook, for the wild and perfect childhood.
Key Scenes ( From the Film Treatment )
The seven Blasket islands lie far below the mountain view, and alone in the great Atlantic like a pod of mythical sea beasts. The central island even resembles the shape of a gigantic whale in mid-turn as it looms to dive back into the startled ocean. It is breathtaking to see these cloud shadows pass over its high, wild slopes.
The central island stands in the ocean and a small road-pass is now seen. A man points at it for us and tells us that this is the island where he grew up – An Blascaod Mor, The Great Blasket Island.
The man is eloquent and very peaceful in his ways as he speaks further: ‘That is Inis Tooshkert (he points to the furthest island on his right) and it has a wonderful carpet of colours that face the Blasket island, we’ll show you them later in the film. ….It’s April and soon the whole end of the main island will be covered with a single flower: Sea pink. Let’s hope we can film that!’
Soon we are on a separate hill amid what seems like an abandoned village. Our narrator is describing for us what it is that we see: ‘This is the film set for the David Lean film ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ made in 1970. Still all standing here on this windswept hill side.” A plaque commemorating this event is seen beside a dramatic beach location. White foam appears - caused naturally by the waves crashing on the rocks below the narrator, who faces the island, See our character now close up for the first time, he is actively reminiscing about his vanished life: ‘Actually the café on the island had a lovely relic from the David Lean film – The Wooden bar used in the film ended up as my parents bar to serve the guests from. It’s still there, along with a giant iron bell. No-one is quite sure where that comes from; perhaps it’s another prop from ‘Ryan’s Daughter’. The man conveys real intimacy and some genuine heritage with this intriguing and wildly beautiful place which stands as the only thing un-moving in the almost stormy conditions here.
Our character arrives on the island for the first time in a long time. He is barefooted, carrying his shoes tied together in one hand. He kneels down. Although not a native speaker his first words are in Irish.
In-between the island and Inish Tooshkert, and facing the Blasket, a boat sits in the now still sea. It is a fine, fair day and a lone figure walks along the high, tapering ridge of the main hill of the island. – Some 852 feet in the air. The earth beneath him, as he treads it, is soft and comfortable, formed by rich turf. Inish Tearacht, a great, perfectly triangular rise coming out of the ocean in the distance is there below our character. A group of large, wild looking sheep grazing peacefully on a ridiculously high and dangerous precipice on the islands northern side portrays the Wilderness we are in.
Our character is one the island now amid the ruined village where he looks at the homes now in disrepair. He does so with a curious affection rather than sadness, for this is how he has always known the island. At the mainland Pier our character stands and he tells us of his first memory of life, but it is narrated now for him in a voice as if the narrator is now reading from a book, and the character himself is seen, still and silent: ‘My fist memory is of myself standing on a quay, and a girl slightly older than me giving me some chocolate. My mother is behind her. I taste it and am looking across the sea. It is not the island I see in my memory, nor a shape, nor land. In my child’s mind it is something else. It is home, the place where I am from.’ There is a long look at the island and it is felt as if the island somehow calls him home now, now, after many, many years.
Our character walks past the giant iron bell and house where he grew up, pointing at the wall he says:: ‘Caifé Saoirse’ The wooden bar from Ryan’s daughter is inside, seen through the window, amid strange, obscure objects of clutter and jetsam.
As promised in the introduction we now finally see the lone figure apparently all by himself on the island, coming down from a steep slope, stopping, and smiling a private, intimate smile that seems to be born of something compelling before him – The whole of the end of the island is indeed covered with a single flower for the Sea Pink are indeed in bloom
Voice Recordings about the Blasket island by Simon Francis Hambrook:https://soundcloud.com/simon-and-the-blasket
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Risks and Challenges
The prime challenge is getting onto the island. This is because in the months of October to April there are no ferries to the island at all, and the island itself is always deserted. Even in April it is possible there will be long periods of up to a week when the swells of the ocean prevent any crossings. In stormy weather the Blasket Sound is a very treacherous stretch of water (which incidentally, once sunk a ship from the Spanish Armada – the Marie Rose - a story my film may recount – for there are stories from the Islanders involving such a shipwreck) If we can only afford to stay in Ireland for the minimum of 5 – 7 days then we run the risk of only spending a couple of days and nights on the island, which is obviously not enough for a 30 minute film of film festival quality. If I am confident with my funding I can arrange to stay on location in Ireland for a whole three week period – which will be, logistically speaking, ideal, and essentially, what we require to make this film properly.
A prime risk will be in connection to the lack of electricity on the island. We will take lots of camera-specific batteries but if we had sufficient funding I could get a solar charger, extra batteries, as well as further equipment such as SD memory cards, tapes and trips to the mainland by members of the crew to off load the footage obtained. One of us charging a couple of batteries on the mainland may seem like a good idea but it is not! – with a small crew planned of three, the awkwardness of someone leaving the island, and their risk of not being able to return to the island because of the swells on the ocean, would be very dramatic for the production. We either need a special crew member who is responsible for supplies, or we need a very large amount of batteries and memory cards. Each day we will likely use two to three memory cards. The more finance we have the more this very logistical problem is solvable by either of the two methods mentioned, preferably the method of having enough SD memory cards, batteries and tapes in advance.
Another challenge is regarding availability of time on the island for practice shoots of the more ambitious kind. Lots of practice shoots will be done on the similar location of Dartmoor in Devon, but while on location on the island we will need time enough to conceive of the exact procedures of how to move forward with each specific film location. If we are forced to hurry this step in any way then my film will potentially drop in quality, or certainly drop in its ambitiousness. The film is not too ambitious but neither is it in any way timid in what it hopes to capture. Planning to capture footage which we then make into a documentary film and submit to festivals, means that we need to work in a considered way, making the best of our opportunity on the island, without ever taking short-cuts on quality.
No, just for the scenes which tell of memory, particularly my first memory. 7 reels of film stock will bought. At £18 each this is very expensive. Each reel only lasts 3 minutes. We would dearly like to buy much more.
One scene, the opening shot from Mount Eagle looking down on all the silhouettes islands in twilight I am going to record with three cameras on three separate tripods. One in colour, one in Black and White, and one in Super 8. - There is something about the ocean waves captured on Super 8 film which is magical.
Super 8 film highlights colours like yellows, blues and greens, and lends everything a strange but beautiful vibrance.
Most of the film will be shot on a Canon 7D which affords really high quality footage capturing, but The Sony Z1 will be used for basic shots.
I lived on the island in 1979, 1980, and in 1999. My Mother has spent five years there, My father and brother four years there. I was a very young child when I was brought there, in fact I was only ten days old!
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