Clíodhna - the Movie

It's a very special experience to not only watch a Fantasy movie in cinema but to actually get to produce one. Here's our shot at it - Clíodhna - the witch of Gleann an Phéine. It is set in a celtic-inspired world in a valley far in the North where the magic powers of the land are every-present, humans keep the old rituals alive, spirits roam the forest and an unconsidered step may quickly lead into the otherworld. Here, a young witch needs to get to know the villagers and protect them - sometimes from the consequences of their own actions - while learning to deal with the ancient powers of the valley herself.

The Valley

We imagine Gleann an Phéine as a broad, forest covered valley amid mighty mountain ranges, only reachable via a pass from the South, and in winter mostly cut-off from the rest of the world. The valley floor is large - perhaps a day's walk across, and covered by rolling hills and lakes.

Gleann an Phéine looking South

The epic beauty of the landscape is a major 'character' of the movie, and we try to capture it with video-compositing techniques where background imagery is merged with the foreground scene and additional elements might be brought in via bluescreen capture. The right mood of the scene and weather is a result of waiting for just the right moment and sometimes arduous trecks lugging camera equipment through deep snow-cover to the top of a local hill - but the result is worth it.

Gleann an Phéine looking West

The Village

The village of Gleann an Phéine is the only settlement in the valley - the only human settlement that is. The village is neither rich nor really poor - there are mostly farmers and foresters, hunting is done on the side, there's even a local blacksmith and during the summer season, traders occasionally visit the place or villagers treck south across the pass to the city.

The Village of Gleann an Phéine

We create the village for the movie by different techniques - wide-angle shots are done by video compositing, villagers are recorded with the bluescreen technique and merged in, and closeups are done by using various actual old huts in the neighborhood with suitable camera angles.

A villager on the path home

Clíodhna

Clíodhna, the main character of the movie, is a young witch from the south who recently moved to the valley when she sensed the impending death of her predecessor, Fionnula, and took over the hut and guardianship of the valley when Fionnula died, as is the witches way.

She is used to a warmer climate and not overly happy with the cold winters in the valley, but all in all likes the place and takes her responsibilities seriously - the fact that she has a shrewd sense of humor and a deep-rooted optimism certainly helps.

Clíodhna in front of her hut

The villagers, used to the stern crone Fionnula are certainly not finding it easy to accept advice by a young woman and sometimes let her feel this - but appearances can be deceiving, Clíodhna commands potent magic.

Clíodhna casting a banishing spell

Rórdán

As assistant of the local blacksmith, Rórdán is a moderately important person in the village, and since he's usually level-headed and fair, he has become something like the village's bailiff, often called upon by the village elders when there is a problem to solve (though that role has never been formalized). As a result, he is also often tasked to speak to the 'new witch' and is one of the first villagers to get to know Clíodhna better - which is not without problems, as he has a firm idea from Fionnula how a witch should behave...

Rórdán dressed for the hunt

Fionnula

As the old guardian of the valley, Fionnula is used to dealing with the villagers in her own way and knows the magic of the land well. She is not happy to pass all responsibility into the hands of a young witch from the south, but as she feels her end approaching, she has to trust that Clíodhna will solve things in her own way.

Fionnula in her hut

Siofra

Being a young villager and mother of Treasa (who is not exactly a well-behaved child), Siofra finds herself struggling to keep her family warm and fed after making the decision to marry for love rather than property. More than once, she has felt trapped in the valley and overwhelmed by circumstances, and yet she does not see a choice and has to do her chores to the best of her ability. And there's something in her past which connects her with Rórdán...

Siofra taking a break

Cian

Gleann an Phéine is a harsh place to live, but being born into one of the truly poor families, Cian has seen more hardship in his life than most. Yet he does not want to end up like his father and is determined to do whatever he can to improve his position.

Cian on the way to work

Treasa, Rathnait and Úna

In a small place like the valley, one can't always find friends of one's own age, and so the three girls are used to play together despite their age differences. While especially the oldest, Rathnait, is already expected to help out with chores, the trio often ends up mysteriously disappearing on their own advantures.

Treasa, Rathnait and Úna

Magic

Magic depicted in the movie is based on ideas from Wiccan and Runic magic and ritual. We generally try to keep the visuals subtle, so that the viewer might even wonder whether he's really seen anything or not. Magic always has a slow, mysterious mood which we try to emphasize by both suitable background sounds and subtly changing the background scene light and focus.

Clíodhna's banishing spell starts working.

One of the most complex examples of magic we produced thus far is a vision appearing in a bowl of water - the result of multiple render passes with multiple effect suites and a careful compositing of the streams in the end (certainly a fast computer helps).

A vision appearing in a bowl of water.

Ritual

The witch is not only someone doing magic - she is also the spiritual guide of the villagers - or at least those who practice the old ways. As such, she is involved whenever rites of passage are needed, be it for the deceased, or the girls maturing into womanhood. Like magic, the ritual depicted in the movie is inspired by Wicca and Celtic tradition.

Rites for the passed away.

Teasers

The first teaser (on YouTube) gives a glimpse of the first episode:

Our second teaser is a bit more general - it contains some footage which will be part of the second episode (to appear in late summer 2018) and also shows how we picture life in the village to be like:

About the project

We envision the story to develop in several episodes which follow life in the valley throughout the circle of the seasons, and are mostly done with shooting and post-producing the first episode. Producing good quality is hard work - we take about 5-10 hours on the set and in post-production for every minute of the movie. Every scene is taken in multiple camera angles to allow a good cut in the end, so the final scenes contain only a tiny fraction of the material we actually record.

The movie is shot with German dialogs, but since we will produce a DVD edition, there will be (at least) Finnish, French and English subtitles for the final product. We are technically able to produce versions synchronized into other languages if we find speakers who record the dialogs - any volunteers are very welcome to get in touch. We plan to publish a spoken German version with English subtitles in low resolution of the full movie on YouTube, all other language options and full resolution will only be available on DVD.

If you're interested yet more in how a movie is made, you can also take a peek behind the scenes.

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Created by Thorsten Renk 2018 - see the disclaimer and contact information.