To The Border Bred

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Shadowcat Films’ feature length documentary ’To the Border Bred’ (buy) explores the bond Shepherds have with their working dogs. The film is set in the beautiful scenery of the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, where the Border Collie originated. It explores the story of these dogs through the words of the people who work with them every day and know them best.

Featuring many local voices from the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, it showcases the many aspects of the lives of a Border Collie including a newborn litter of puppies, the first time that a puppy is taken to sheep and the ongoing training of a working Border Collie. The film tells the story of the heroic ‘Sheila the Sheepdog’ and her involvement in the rescue of American Airmen from the Cheviot in 1944. It also includes the Border Collie Rescue UK, as well as SARDA the Search and rescue dog association.

'To the Border Bred' is a diverse and colourful exploration of the breed through the words of those who know them best.

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Valley in the North (2009) looked at the story of people living up the College Valley and in the surrounding rural areas in the first half of the last century, and featured many memories of shepherding. It was one of Shadowcat films’ first feature length documentaries and during production of this film, and a further film ‘Yetholm the Finest Place’ (2012) which explored similar themes, it became apparent that there was a further story to be told.

I decided to start work on a feature length film which would tell the the specific story of the Border Collie, not just in history but also in relation to current working shepherds.

I was lucky enough to be in contact with Simon Falla, who was dedicated to bringing the story of Adam Telfer and Old Hemp to a wider audience as the origin of what we know as the current working Border Collie. Once this link was forged, it became the starting point of my film with tells the story of the Border Collie from history, through to birth, training and ongoing work. I linked up with a charity Border Collie Rescue UK, and SARDA, the Search and Rescue Dog Association.

Crew wise I worked with a talented cameramen Jim Gibson, based near in the Borders who brings his own creativity into the mix. Jim also took some fantastic photographs throughout the filming period, which you can see on this page. His extensive military knowledge was key in the film, as one of the important stories is that of the B-17 plane crash on Cheviot which killed two American Airmen, with the surviving airmen being rescued by Sheila the Sheepdog, along with the Shepherds John Dagg and Frank Moscrop. The film features the son of Sgt. Frank Turner, one of the airmen who sadly lost his life on Cheviot. Rod flew across from Florida and took part in the film, and became a lifelong friend!

Other key crew included Michael McKenzie, a professional actor, who brought the voice over to life with his wonderful warm tones, and Tim Young, who took care of recording it, and working on the post production sound. The film also features stunning music by Is Shepherd, with kind permssion of Benjamin Trenerry. The film was directed, produced and edited by me.

Setting up an active Facebook page and having a strong social media strategy was very important from the beginning as I saw this as a key way to reach a wider audience worldwide. I also released press releases to build up publicity for the film regionally, which led to a sold out premiere and a successful tour after the film was released.

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Alysoun Sharpe


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