Gerard Butler filming in Galloway for new movie Keepers

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Image caption,
Star Gerard Butler said it was great to be back in Scotland for the filming

As you wend your way through Galloway it's not hard to see how it could provide a great cinematic backdrop.

And this scenic corner of south west Scotland is in the grip of movie fever right now.

Gerard Butler, best known for his action film roles, is in the area along with Peter Mullan and newcomer Connor Swindells to shoot Keepers.

The psychological thriller sees the region stand in for the remote Flannan Isles in the Outer Hebrides.

The starting point for the film is the true story of the disappearance of three lighthouse keepers more than 100 years ago which has never been properly explained.

Image source, Kathleen M
Image caption,
Gerard Butler has been happy to mingle with fans

The filming has created a buzz around this part of the country with the cast and crew mingling happily with the community.

"It is great to be back in Scotland," Butler told his fans via social media this week. "It is just paradise."

Spending a day on the set, it was clear everyone involved in the film has been equally impressed with what the region has to offer.

Different aspects

Three lighthouses in Dumfries and Galloway - Killantringan, Mull of Galloway and Corsewall - along with Cloch in the Firth of Clyde - have been standing in for the Flannan Isles.

Location manager Michael Panikkou said they all offered different aspects they were looking for, with the Mull of Galloway appearing to be on an island for exterior shots while Cloch proved better for interior scenes.

They have also been filming in Port Logan which he said had many similar features to the Isle of Lewis harbour where the men would have sailed to the Flannan Isles.

Image caption,
Port Logan is one of the locations which has seen the clock turned back more than a century

"We have had a marvellously warm reception from everybody here," he said. "We have been very happy to work with local people."

"We are using a lot of local companies for stuff that might normally get outsourced to film-only companies.

"Having their support has really helped us achieve what we needed to do."

Producer Andy Evans said the area provided an ideal backdrop for the story.

"The setting is off the north west Scotland, there is a rock called Flannan Isle and on that there is a lighthouse," he explained.

"They used to have three keepers that would spend time on the lighthouse, every few weeks they would swap them out.

"In 1900, the relief keepers arrived at the island and there was no-one to meet them.

"They got on the island, they got to the lighthouse, the door was open, the table was set for dinner, one chair was knocked over, the light had stopped, two oilskins were missing, the lifeboat was still there but the keepers were never found."

He said that unsolved mystery had inspired the idea and Keepers would tell a "version of what might have happened".

Image caption,
Everyone involved with the film said they had been given a warm welcome during filming

"From day one we wanted to keep it genuine - we didn't want to go and film this in America or Australia, you know, with a ridiculous cast," he added.

"We always wanted to be in Scotland with Scottish actors on the location.

"We started back in October looking for our lighthouse, our fourth character we called it, our Millennium Falcon."

Ultimately they settled on the Mull of Galloway site as the one which fitted best for external shots.

"Because of that peninsula it really gives you, from a good 270 degrees, you could believe you are on an island, you really can," said the producer.

In addition to a perfect backdrop, he said the 60-strong crew and the cast had all been warmly welcomed.

'Over the moon'

"The towns and the villages have really taken us to heart," he said.

"Gerard Butler, Peter Mullan and Connor - they have all embraced it so we've all been to the pub, we've all been to the restaurants and everyone has been amazing."

Co-writer Joe Bone said he first came across the Flannan Isles mystery six or seven years ago, describing it as a "great departure point for a variety of different story lines".

Along with fellow writer Celyn Jones, they were pleased the movie ended up being filmed in Scotland.

"We were both thrilled when it was green lit to be shot in this area," he said.

"There were some mutterings and whispers that it might need to move to Canada for monetary reasons and this, that and the other.

"But when we heard that it was finally, definitely going to be set here we were both over the moon."

Image caption,
Scenes like this have been commonplace in Galloway over the last few weeks

He said it provided the ideal setting.

"You couldn't find a better backdrop, you are at the mercy of the elements, but it is a gorgeous part of the world," he said.

"Every time you meet someone they are super-friendly and they are excited that the film is going to be here.

"Everyone has been really, really nice. I know I am going to be really sad when it comes to leaving come the end of the shoot."

Director Kristoffer Nyholm, probably best known in the UK for the TV series The Killing, said filming in the region presented its own challenges.

"I think the weather has been pretty difficult to control, it changes all the time, and so does it in our film as well - we are just following the weather flow," he said.

"It can be a challenge but it is a gift I think."

'Tread carefully'

He also said he felt a certain sense of responsibility in order to do the area justice when it appeared on film.

"You meet spots where things haven't changed much - the landscapes and the atmospheres - and if you go into pubs you hear old songs," he said.

"You feel there is a constant factor here, things might change in the big cities quick but here in the more deserted areas of Scotland things are quite constant.

"And that is very nice, it is a good feeling but it also makes you a little humble - I think is the word - because you think: 'I have to respect this and tread carefully in a way'."

Judging by the community response so far, the film is on the right track in that regard.

And when it hits the big screens, it should attract a sizeable audience in this particular part of the country.