What is it?
‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage’ is a documentary about modern day Druids and what they do. The documentary follows the narrative screenplay of a young girl, Gemma, who stays with her aunt and uncle, only to catch her uncle in his robes and performing a prayer to a tree. Her uncle introduces her to the concept of Druidry and takes her into the Derbyshire countryside on a pilgrimage. Asking questions along the way, Gemma learns about the spiritual path, the outdoors and herself. Throughout the film, footage of interviews with real-life, Druids will be shown to answer either one of her questions, or to back up a point the characters discuss.
How and why did I get involved?
In that weird and wonderful way of being contacted by a friend, who has a friend who knows a friend making a film. Seeming that I was one of the few Druids my friend knew who might be up for getting involved, he contacted me, then I was put in contact with the film director Roly Keates.
Roly had made more than a few documentaries previously, all based in Derbyshire: ‘The Wheel’ – a documentary about a spring in Belper. ‘If Walls Could Talk’ – the Romanticism of Drystone Walling. ‘Shred of Rome’ – A documentary on Romans in Derbyshire. ‘Lost History of Belper’ – a historical look at Belper, Derbyshire.
After talking with and meeting Roly, I felt relaxed in that he was sincere and genuine in his interest regarding Druidy. He came across it and felt it important enough to make a doumentary on the subject. I was initially an advisor, telling him my interpretation of Druidry as well as what little we know of them historically. In talking and chatting, and yes I had mentioned I am an actor, he asked if I’d be interested in playing the part. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to that kind of opportunity!
So, why did I do it? Because there is so little media representation that makes Druids and Pagans look good. Let’s be honest, we’re often portrayed as either being middle-aged hippies to be laughed at best, or robed lunatics seeking attention at worst. After talking with Roly about his project and seeing for myself he was taking Druidry seriously and wanted to portray this in a good way, I figured this would be a good thing for modern day Druidry and Paganism too.
What did I learn from it?
I learned to see Druidry through the eyes of another, how they perceive what I practice in a different light. The character I played (Dylan, very apt as that’s also my stage name) saw Druidry as a force for good in the world and seeking harmony in our existence. This made me realise how ‘bookish’ my Druidry tends to be and made me question how much and how little I actually practise it in my everyday life. I also learned that I can never learn my lines enough. One scene includes a huge monologue which, when filming, I just couldn’t stop getting wrong! I was very frustrated with myself but I learned something valuable: it’s not enough to know your lines, you have to know them backwards and upside down too. Kinda goes without saying, really, but hey-ho.
I learned how essential it was to use play to make my co-star feel at ease. By this I mean the girl who played Gemma, whom at 11, was playing in her first proper film. I felt it important for her to be relaxed, so we got to know each other through chatting, making faces at each other and playing games in between takes. Apart from going through our lines too! By the end, we’d developed a good camaraderie and when Roly told us to talk amongst ourselves in the Pilgrimage shots. It might look like we’re in deep conversation, but we were really talking about favourite colours, what our pets are like, pop songs and even a one-word-story game. She was cool, we made each other laugh.
Not really something I learned, but feel I have to say was how beautiful the Derbyshire countryside is. Whether it was standing before the oldest pear tree in the county (In Roly’s Aunt’s huge back garden, no less!), walking up to the stone circle at Arbor Low in both sunny and cloudy weather, walking amongst the buildings of Magpie Mine, sitting on rocks in a stream at Shining Cliff Woods, or standing on tall rock and visiting the “Druid’s Chair” at Harborough Rocks.
Would I do it again/get involved in another project like it?
If we had to reshoot something, absolutely! Would I do another project like it? No. Once I finish a project, I consider it done, so why would I do another of a similar ilk? I enjoyed performing in this one and I’m looking forward to it’s completion. If there was another documentary being made on the subject, I’d have to question the maker before joining in.