Readers in Residence: The Legend of the Coachie Bear

Camera against a green screen
Category: Reading

As Reader in Residence for East Dunbartonshire Libraries I've been out and about promoting reading in the community.

I’ve just finished a green screen film-making project with some young people in Twechar. We made three films and celebrated with a special screening and wrap party at William Patrick Library, Kirkintilloch.

Here’s why I had such a fantastic time.

Green Screen has the wow factor

I will never tire of seeing young people pretend to walk on the moon or stand on a running track in a freeze-frame with Usain Bolt. Put an image in the DVD player and these young people can be transported anywhere: inside the pages of a book, in a picture they’ve drawn or next to a Dr Who tardis. It’s exciting and immediate. And you can do it all on a cold winter’s night with the rain lashing against the windows and the wind howling around the community centre walls.

I will never tire of seeing young people pretend to walk on the moon or stand on a running track in a freeze-frame with Usain Bolt

We adapted a story written by a local author

I was intrigued to learn about The Coachie Bear Tales written by local author, Skip Hopkins. The stories are about a bear who lives by the Coach Road and is believed to protect the villagers. These stories are passed down from generation to generation and many in Twechar believe he still exists. We took one of the stories about a couple of pals who go fishing for minnows and adapted it into a film.

Give a kid an important job and they will do it well

We had thousands of pounds worth of equipment: white-hot lights, camera, microphone, cables, a huge green screen in a small-ish room, and with everyone allocated a specific role, it all went smoothly. We filmed some fairly complicated scenes involving sticks, minnow traps, balaclavas and a bear and the young people were extremely focused and professional both in front of and behind the camera.

We all learned loads

When the project started I had little idea of how to use green screen. By the end of it, after some filming and editing training from the ever-patient Bash Khan, we were flying. There was Abby sitting down and writing three pages of script in ten minutes, there was Daniel teaching me how to use the editing software, and there was Bluebell, operating the camera like a total pro.

I also learned about minnows: who knew a minnow trap could be made from an empty cognac bottle tied with string, with a hole in the bottom? I didn’t, but I do now.

Tell a 17-year-old that a turkey onesie looks like a bear suit and he’ll wear it for the love of the project

I was desperate to find a bear suit but couldn’t get one for love nor money. All I could find was a reduced price turkey onesie. So we cut off the tail feathers and Ross sportingly wore it for us. Thankfully, by the time we came to film Ross’s scenes, Sandra had found us a proper bear suit and the turkey onesie went into storage at the library.

I’m sure some family loyalty contributed to Ross’s willingness as I discovered that Skip Hopkins is in fact his dad (I love the fact that everyone I worked with in Twechar seemed to be related in some way!) but still, he was a total pro and was a great example to the younger members of the group.  

We had the best party

We asked the young people to come along with their friends and families for a screening and wrap party at the library and boy did they come! The place was packed. We had a reading from Skip Hopkins, an appearance from the Coachie Bear itself who presented the young people with their certificates and the premier screening of our three green screen films: ‘The Coachie Bear and Tammy and Baz’, ‘Lost in the Bear Hunt’ and ‘Back in Time’.

It was a fantastic evening, made very special by the attendance of the young people and their supportive families. We can take some credit for running this green screen project but the support from the children’s families and the staff at the Healthy Living Centre was essential to the project’s success.

Librarians are totally cool

Here’s a thing. I couldn’t have done this project without the librarians. From lugging heavy equipment around on dark nights, to joining in with my drama games, to editing the finished films, they were up for anything.

And if you’re in East Dunbartonshire, there are more green screen projects happening throughout the year. Libraries are for borrowing books, yes, and so much more too.

The Coachie Bear is real.

Watch the film. You’ll see.




Main image credit: Green screen by Sam Greenhalgh

Alison Irvine

Alison Irvine is currently the Scottish Book Trust Reader in Residence for East Dunbartonshire Libraries.

Subscribe to our monthly e-updates for book lovers