Friday, 21 October 2016


Occasionally my filming work takes me far afield, and other times it can end up literally on my door step.

In 2006 in a community hall in Toronto, Canada, a group of enthusiasts created a "flashmob" dance routine to the music of Michael Jackson's Thriller, mainly as a fundraiser for charity. A flashmob is when a group of people, having choreographed a synchronised dance to music, appear suddenly at a large venue, say a railway station, or city square. Gradually the numbers grow in front of a surprised general public, until a large ensemble are dancing furiously. At the end they quietly disperse, and it was as if it never happened.

Encouraged by the popularity of this particular dance to this particular music, the original group decided to go for a world record attempt, to simultaneously perform the routine in as many different countries around the world as they could. They called the event Thrill The World. They achieved success in 2008, with 13 countries and 1500 people taking part. It is now an annual event with over 120 countries participating and approaching 10,000 people.

My Saturday film students have all been learning the dance routine over the past few weeks, and we are half way through shooting. In the edit all three age groups will be edited together to create one seamless piece, with all the students in homemade zombie costumes. But it has to have an opening and a closing section aside from the dancing, essentially the beginning and end of what the students know as beginning, middle and end of every movie ever made.

I knew I wanted a spooky looking sequence, and at first I was searching for a derelict mansion or the likes. Gradually I came round to searching for a castle, when it dawned on me that just a short distance from my house, is the ruin of Craigmillar Castle, an appropriate spooky-looking structure surrounded by woods, most of which were in their vibrant autumn colours.

The medieval castle is best known for its association with Mary Queen of Scots. She had fallen ill after giving birth to her son, the future James VI, and in late November 1566 she arrived at the castle to convalesce for a month. But it was while she was there that an evil pact was made, with or without her knowledge, to dispose of her husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley.

It was fitting that almost exactly 450 years to the day, I found myself skirting its well preserved ramparts, looking for that evil-looking shot. Here's a still taken from the film:

On 29 October we will screen the finished Thriller video. Who knows, we may well appear somewhere with our own flashmob sometime soon.

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