about shona main

shetland-shonaI am a  writer and filmmaker who was grew up in Shetland. My working life started at D.C.Thomson & Co where I worked on Jackie magazine. I left to study law at Dundee University and after a short career in politics I returned to writing and began making films. I live in Dundee.

In 2013 I made Clavel, a film about James Robert Sinclair, a Shetland crofter I remembered from childhood and had always been fascinated by. You can see the trailer here. It has been screened in around 28 different festivals, halls, events and cinema clubs and is still being shown.

In October 2017 I became an SGSAH funded PhD candidate at Stirling University and Glasgow School of Art. The area of study is the nature, dynamics and ethics of the relationship between the documentary filmmaker and the person (or persons) they are filming. I will specifically be looking at this relationship through the work of the pioneer filmmaker Jenny Gilbertson and, in turn, will reflect on my own ethical practice.

Whilst making Clavel, I became very interested in the films Jenny Gilbertson. Born in Glasgow and trained as a teacher, she moved to Shetland in the 1930s and made a number of films largely about the crofting communities of Heylor and Hillswick, some of which were bought by John Grierson’s GPO Film Unit. When war came, she began a long pause in her filmmaking while she worked as a teacher but after retirement started again. In the 1970s – when she was in her seventies – she lived with and filmed the Inuit of Coral Harbour, Igloolik and Grise Fiord. Some of these films were bought by the BBC and CBS. She died in Exnaboe, Shetland in 1990.

My Phd is practice-led which means I make a feature-length film and write a short thesis. My research will take me back to the places she filmed in Shetland and Arctic Canada to revisit the Inuit she worked with and explore the experience of an outsider filming their way of life. My Arctic research and filming is scheduled for the second half of 2018.

All the photos in this blog are mine except this one of me, with my head in the clouds. I have Nick Bruno to thank for that.


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