Edwina Guckian with husband Michael Ó Ruairc and son Páidí. Her Dreoilín Productions has made “Come to Leitrim, It could change your life!”
By Peter McDermott
Edwina Guckian’s short film about County Leitrim released last Thursday has been long in the making — as a concept, at least.
“It had been in my head for a quite a long time,” she said. “But every time the pressure got to me. ‘How do you portray Leitrim? I don’t think I’m able to do it.’”
Then Joe Dolan of the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon approached her with a very similar idea. Guckian, however, wanted it to be done from the perspectives of the artists who live in the county. Three of them are natives: the dancer and culture producer Guckian herself, a Drumsna resident; writer and actor Seamus O’Rourke; singer Eleanor Shanley, The outsiders are: Michael Harding, another writer and actor as well as Irish Times columnist, originally from Cavan, lives on the mountain at Lough Allen; and singer Charlie McGettigan, a Drumshambo resident, who started life in Donegal.
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“This isn’t a tourism video; it’s what our county means to us,” she said.
Leitrim has the highest number of artists per head in the country. “That says a lot,” Dreoilín Productions’ Guckian added.
“You have time to think, to create, to move at your own pace. That’s what Leitrim has going for it.”
But the artists don’t hang out together in their own cliques. “Everybody who comes to the county becomes totally immersed in the area,” she said.
Her one regret is that Dolan hadn’t suggested the film to her a little earlier. “We’d had 12 weeks of amazing weather,” she recalled. That was followed by a period when it was more mixed. So anytime the clouds disappeared, she rushed out to her car with the camera, “to capture Leitrim in the sun the best I could.”
Her husband assisted, particularly with the drone that they used. He also offered the perspective as an outsider
“He is from Kerry and had never really been in the north of the county. When I brought him up there filming, he said, ‘If I didn’t know where it was, if you just landed me here, I’d think it was in Dingle.’
“That a good compliment coming from a Kerryman,” Guckian added, with a laugh.
The landscape varies greatly. “North Leitrim is completely different from the south of the county,” she said. The south has “rolling hills, and is “soft and rushy,” with the north being “stony, mountainy, with huge cliffs.”
The pandemic also allowed the filmmaker to see it through new eyes.
“One thing that struck me, and having time just to sit still, was the color. I tried to capture the color that was hitting me every day. I was surprised also at the amount of wildlife that is right in front of us,” she said, “and I tried to capture some of that as well.”
But it’s the warmth of the people that Guckian hopes even a short compressed film of just 3 minutes would help attract others, and not just as visitors. “We would like people to move here,” she said. In fact, the official title of the film is “Come to Leitrim, It could change your life!”
And they are warm: none other than the late great novelist John McGahern, who grew up in his mother’s area, where Roscommon meets Leitrim, near Carrick-on-Shannon, and returned to farm there, said so. Whereas, he said, just 10 miles further east you could see that the people started to get harsher in temperament. McGahern’s father, with whom he some issues, was from Cavan and that might explain that attitude.
However, the filmmaker believes there’s something to it. She couldn’t wait as a young college student to get back from Dublin each weekend. “You walk down the street and you know everybody,” Guckian said.