Skye Commercial Photography and the Scary Film…

Horror movies are scary, they are mostly dark and dramatic. Filled with chills and jump scares.  So, obviously, they need dark and dramatic locations. Places with moody shadows where who-knows-what can leap out. Looming landscapes that have you looking over your shoulder, just in case… Cold winds that can feel like the first touch of someone, or something, on the back of your neck…

Locations are as much part of the story as the cast.

Of course they end up on the Isle of Skye.

Skye has become quite the destination for film makers. It has that certain something that other islands don’t have – drama, atmosphere, mountains, cliffs, beaches and probably the top of the list is a bridge that makes it a lot more accessible compared to it’s Inner and Outer Hebridean rivals. This may have been what attracted the producers of the  horror/thriller Consecration. Though it could well have been the island’s wild, mysterious and highly photogenic vistas.



I was tasked with providing on-set photography at Duntulm Castle which is situated at the very top of the island. It is certainly mysterious and photogenic. The wildness was usually limited to the weather as the numerous sheep who lived around the castle have flattened , smoothed and manicured the grass around the castle into a vast, sloping and mildly undulating lawn. The castle itself is a loose and spooky conglomeration of fallen walls and towering cliffs. Normally it is fenced off for public safety reasons. This day it was open to the film crew, with the proviso that anyone plunging off an edge did it at their own risk.

As with everything at the time – it was October 2021 – the day started with a covid test. There was a handy large rock by the road that everyone balanced their tests while they waited for them to complete. Once the single line appeared (phew) you were allowed to head down the path to the set.

The set, as it seems all sets are, was a hive of very earnest activity and at the same time utter sloth as cast members hung around with nothing to do while techy folk did their stuff with very visible diligence. The behind the camera side seems very hierarchical. Everybody is determined to be on an upward trajectory and is very keen to impress those further up the ziggurat with their skill and commitment. There was a lot of seriousness going on among the crew.


The cast, on the other hand, are very laid back, they’ve had their make up done (which, of course, entails more sitting around moving as little as possible), had their costume done and now they are doing absolutely nothing except for sitting drinking their hot libation of choice, gorging on the free snacks while enjoying the lovely view. The big difference seems to be that the cast are more relaxed about rank. The stars seem to enjoy chatting with the extras and vice versa. Today’s stars were Jena Malone and Danny Huston. She is on the rise so a little more focused, he has been around, seen lots, done more and had nothing to prove which meant he wandered around making pleasant conversation with everyone and anyone – even me. He is scion of Hollywood royalty, his father was the director John Huston, and a very nice guy. Jena Malone maintained her character’s English accent so well that I didn’t know that she was in fact American.


The film is about a woman who’s brother dies in mysterious circumstances. Things end up in a convent so there are plenty of nuns. This is information I gleaned as I arrived on set. While there I was clueless. I had no idea what was going on. Just that it involved nuns, many nuns.

The set was peppered with bored nuns eating crisps, on their phones (if they had the right network, welcome to edge of the world phone reception), drinking coffee/tea/hot chocolate/red bull/water or smoking a cigarette. This made them very photogenic. Being front of camera types they enjoyed being photographed and interacted with me cheerfully. Probably because there wasn’t much else to do…


The crew made for great “at work and taking it very seriously” shots. None of them paused to look at the camera or even smiled. No-one. Too busy, totally focused. the only time they spoke to me was to warn me not to get in any actors eye line, make a noise or disturb set dressing. As this wasn’t my first set I smiled and nodded then went about doing whatever I wanted until someone yelled,

“Quiet on set!, Rolling! Action!

The director had the idea that he would create a gloomy vibe using Skye’s normal slightly dreich default weather. This being Skye you would have thought that would be easily achieved. This being Skye the weather gave us tons of delicate light filtered through a beautiful, gentle mackerel clouded sky (Wikipedia says “A mackerel sky is a common term for clouds made up of rows of cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds displaying an undulating, rippling pattern similar in appearance to fish scales; this is caused by high altitude atmospheric waves.”). I used graduated filters to recreate the preferred conditions.

On set catering can be varied. Some sets are lavish with provisions, some are mean (One crew hid all the goodies from the extras only giving them a bottle of warm water each while keeping all the fizzy stuff, kitkats, crisps, tunnocks tea cakes and jaffa cakes for themselves. Bastards. That was a while ago but I was one of those extras (they needed people to play photographers, “could you bring your camera?”) so it will be quite a while before I forgive or forget. This time the snacks were plentiful and the lunch generous. I prefer to abstain until everybody else has partaken. I am a fleeting visitor and not treading on toes by snaffling the sound recordist’s caramel wafer or the last prawn cocktail crisps, upsetting the DP as they are her favourite is paramount ( I wait until I am leaving then load up with treats for the journey home).  As I am often employed for a half day I miss out on the free lunch everybody else is talking about or looking forward to.

After a few hours of hanging around/fevered activity the camera operator mounted up his steadicam, nuns were rounded up , the director got comfy in his directors chair and surrounded himself with screens and fawning acolites and “Quiet on set!, Rolling! Action!” was hollered.

Very little happened then people flurried into action, the director confabbed with the acolytes and it happened again, and again.

Then it stopped and the hanging around/fevered activity started up again.


That is pretty much what happens on most sets. All day. It’s crushingly boring/endlessly interesting/chronically stressful/inspiringly creative depending on who you are and what your role is (and how much you are being paid I suppose – a big star can be getting some serious money for doing almost nothing for days or even weeks while enjoying the delights of wherever they are shooting while being dressed as a nun or a priest or a spaceman…).

Consecration came out in February 2023 to on the whole fairly positive reviews.

For more of our adventures in screenland –   Skye Commercial Photography is Embargoed

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