Interview: The Angels’ Share producer Rebecca O’Brien

Winning the Jury Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and receiving rave reviews from the critics, including The Telegraph who called it “British comedy at its warmest and most pleasurable,” Ken Loach’s The Angels’ Share is fast becoming one of the year’s most talked about films.

A bittersweet comedy about a Glasgow boy locked in a family feud looking for a way out,  the film soon finds Robbie (Paul Brannigan) and his friends embroiled in a caper involving the world’s finest malt whiskies. Their adventure takes them to the Highlands of Scotland and Balblair Distillery, 40 miles north of Inverness.

Jonathan Melville spoke to the film’s producer, Rebecca O’Brien, about the decision to shoot at Balblair and traditional Highland hospitality.

Jonathan Melville: How did you come to settle on Balblair as a location?

Rebecca O’Brien: In the first place, our location manager, Michael Higson, only shows us places he can get permission for. He looked all over Scotland for the right distilleries and that research took quite a long time. We had a shortlist and Ken Loach, myself and the designer went on a recce to check out the different places.

How long were you at Balblair?

We filmed for a week in mid-June 2011 but the whole thing takes longer than a week to plan. We had to find the right location and the filming bit is the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of planning and organisation that goes on when you manoeuvring a large operation, we had 50 crew and around 70 cast.

Were local residents and businesses involved in the shoot?

A lot of local people were involved, not only on screen but helping to feed us and to find us rooms. We had our base in the village hall in Edderton and from a producer’s point of view it was an absolute dream to work up in the Highlands. Sheer pleasure.

There were a lot of locals involved as extras and they were really keen to be in it. We had to cast the net slightly wider for some extras as the script calls for people to come from all over the world to put bids on the whisky, so we had to bring some of them into the area.

What was your experience of filming in the Highlands?

We couldn’t have had a warmer welcome. It was such an amazing experience for everybody involved in the film because the local people were so helpful and happy to have us and be involved in the film.

We had a great time in the Highlands and if only we could come up with a few more films to do up there we would like a shot!

The Angels’ Share opened in UK cinemas in 2012.