I talked to Andrew Peat, Director of soon-to-be-seen film, Scotch – A Golden Dream.
With a family connection to Scotland, it seemed inevitable to explore the subject.
My grandfather emigrated from Scotland to the United States. I spent a year as an Exchange Fellow at the University of St. Andrews (where Prince William met Kate Middleton). It was there I bought my first bottle of Scotch whisky and learned to appreciate it.
How did the project start?
I was at Film School at USC and discovered there was very little in the way of documentaries covering Scotch whisky, so I developed a pitch for this feature film. I spoke with my classmate Arjun Kamath who has a wonderful and unique eye as a cinematographer. Most people who have see the film comment on its’ gorgeous images. Arjun immediately said yes to the idea, so I began serious research and pre-production work around December 2014.
Scottish whisky is quite symbolic of more than being a drink.
For many people, there’s a deep cultural connection. As our film explores, Scotch whisky is far more than the prestige international beverage of choice, it is iconic of Scotland. Even if you are not of Scottish heritage, there are historical and cultural impressions from Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. And not to mention, Hollywood films like Braveheart and Rob Roy and television such as Outlander. And at New Years’, the perennial favourite song of Auld Lang Syne, penned by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, is played all over the world.
What did you discover about whisky distilling that surprised you?
Seeing how the germinating malt is spread out on floors and turned over as the smoke of peat fires wafts up is incredible. Audiences will see this process in the film. A further surprising fact for me is that Taiwan – with its small population of 23 million – is a leading whisky market and the only country in the world where single malt outsells blended whisky !
The film takes place mostly on Islay; what was it like to film there?
Filming in Scotland was a great experience. The people are warm, welcoming, and very helpful. The countryside is gorgeous. The main challenge however, was the weather. The United Kingdom is notorious for poor weather, and film equipment hates rain. We filmed in the summer of 2015, and just my luck, it was one of the worst on record.
What is the key takeaway from this film that you hope will resonate with viewers?
The tagline of our poster is “Passion Is Our Story”. The heart of our film is the characters, the men and women who produce Scotch whisky, from the barley farmers to the bottle makers. You can literally see the passion, joy and pride they have in their work and this world-renowned product. They will share their amazing stories and some very humorous anecdotes with viewers. It’s why audiences have really enjoyed the film. It’s educational – you see the entire whisky making process – but at the same time, it’s a film of the heart. You will laugh and possibly cry by the time the credits roll.
What has been the reaction from audiences?
Audience members have told me they thought documentaries tended to be dry and dull and serious. But after seeing Scotch – A Golden Dream they have changed their mind. One audience member said to me: “I never before laughed so much in a documentary.” Our film is meant to be enjoyed by everyone, not only by Scotch lovers and people who are interested in Scotland.
Can you give a hint to what you’re working on next?
My next project is developing a feature narrative, the script for which I wrote while at film school. It’s rooted in the 2004 tsunami that devastated much of Southeast Asia. The main characters are a Chinese girl and a teen boy from California who are trapped on a small Indonesian island. They don’t trust each other, neither can’t speak the other’s language, but the pair must rely on each other in order to survive. It’s titled Tsunami Child. Just waiting to complete financing – we have about half already !
Scotch – A Golden Dream opens at selected cinema special events this week. The film review and screening times available here.