WATCH The plight of the Scottish Wildcat
Thursday 8th June 2017 11:16 Entertainment Features News Stalybridge Tameside Posted by Lee Wild

A filmmaker from Stalybridge has spent weeks in the Highlands of Scotland making a film on one of the rarest mammals in the world.

The Scottish Wildcat is the UK’s only big cat and can be up to 50% bigger than the typical domestic felines, reaching up to 8kg – the same as a medium sized dog.

Historically one of the isles most feared predators, their numbers have now dwindled. There is believed to be less than 100 purebred Wildcats left in the wild, after years of hybridisation with the domestic cat population has rendered them close to extinction.

Leanne on location

Leanne Gater, 28, who is part of Wild Films, is Director, Producer and Cinematographer of ‘The Tigers of Scotland’ and says the plight of these wonderful animals is a story that needs telling:

“We have this amazing creature in the U.K that hardly anyone knows about.

“They actually used to roam all across Britain and they were pushed to the edge of extinction around the time of the First World War, but there was a lot of gamekeepers that went off to fight that didn’t come back so pressure got relieved a little bit and they started to come back.

“They’re suffering quite a lot at the moment because they can hybridise with domestic cats. I read recently that the RSPCA think there’s about 7.4 million pet cats in the U.K, there’s only 90, they think, Wildcats which is a huge disproportion and they cant find their own kind to breed with.”

The creatures are closely related to your typical family cat, but Leanne says she was surprised when she saw one for the first time: “It’s a little bit odd, because I have cats myself and one in particular is half Bengal who is quite fat, so I kind of expected them to be his size, but they’re actually quite a bit bigger, and especially when you get home after seeing them you realise how small domestic cats are in comparison.

The beautiful Scottish Wildcat

“They have this kind of really interesting aura, they are truly wild and you can tell that from the first time you meet them.

“The captive ones that we’ve been filming don’t make any noise. You’d expect them to make noise when they’re moving but they just don’t, the only time one of them made a noise was because he’s getting on a bit and was coughing. He’s 12-years-old so I think we can forgive him for that!

“It’s kind of incredible, you spend so much time researching these animals and they kind of take you aback when you see them for real.”

Leanne and her team spent weeks in the Scottish Highlands camping with their equipment to capture the stunning footage of these beautiful animals.

Scottish weather is known for being challenging and it was no different for the team, she said that it wasn’t the easiest conditions in which to film: “It was interesting, a lot of people wouldn’t have gotten along too well with it because we weren’t just camping the entire time, we were camping in the middle of nowhere.

“We weren’t even on campsites which can be quite tough in itself especially with the Scottish weather being known to do it’s own thing. April for example we woke up on a campsite in the Cairngorm’s, it was one of the few times we did use campsites, we woke up to six inches of snow on our tent.

The stunning Scottish Highlands

“It’s also the little things that you wouldn’t necessarily consider like how you charge batteries when you’re in the middle of nowhere, have you got enough food to take with you, have you got space in your tent for you, your equipment and everything to sleep with, it can be tough.”

The film has been funded in an unusual way, with the majority of financing coming from ‘backers’ on crowdfunding website IndieGoGo instead of through traditional means such as studios and grants.

People interested in the project have pledged anything from £10 to £1,000 to finance the production of the film, receiving different perks in the process.

Leanne said: “Until recently I had a full-time job, I decided to leave that job to focus on the film and that job was actually funding all of production, alongside help from my family.

“We’ve bought equipment, rented equipment and been very kindly loaned equipment from local suppliers and big names that people will recognise at the end of the film.”

The team are looking for up to £16,000 to do everything that they’d like to with the film and anyone pledging £25 or more will receive a copy of the film. For those who would like to pledge more a range or rewards are available including tickets to the premier, a printed and bound copy of the script and even an executive producer credit.

Now that the majority of filming has finished it’s time to head to the edit suite to weave the stunning footage into a compelling story. Famed actor and Game of Thrones star Iain Glen will be lending his voice as narrator of the film, giving the production an authentic Scottish voice.

Despite being close to the end of filming, Leanne said there’s still lots to do: “We are now looking at crowdfunding for post-production. That’s where we’re getting other professionals in to help us with the editing, the composing of music and colour grading, which is because how you shoot it looks very different to how it looks at the end.

“We’re actually having an animation in there as well so we need an animator, so crowdfunding is really helping us fund those guys.

“It’s really important to me, it’s my passion project but at the end of the day they’re working professionals and I need to pay them.”

The team at Wild Films originally planned to spend 2 years making the film, but the schedule was dramatically shortened to 8 months when Leanne found that there was an opportunity to enter the film into a world-famous wildlife film festival: “Really I want to get it into Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival.

“Not only are they the biggest Wildlife Film Festival in the world, they’re holding a conservation summit with conservation scientists at the festival and this year it focuses on cat species, so it couldn’t be more perfect to try and get it in for, but it’s resulted in a dramatically reduced schedule.

“We’ve spent about 5 weeks up there so far and my partners just about to go back up there to get shots we missed as well, so he’s still doing that. Post is kind of being rushed to get a cut by the beginning of June.”

It’s hopeful that the film will be completely finished and ready for delivery in September and Leanne is planning on holding two premiers, one in Manchester and one in Scotland, to screen the film and thank everyone that’s helped her along the way.

You can find out more about the film by watching our video on the Tameside Reporter Facebook page and on the films website at www.tigersofscotland.comigg.me/at/tigersofscotland