UPDATE! Small Update on the Additional Filming on Skellig Michael
Back in July we reported on potential additional filming occurring at Skellig Michael, the island off the coast of Ireland that was reportedly used to film the final scene of The Force Awakens. On Saturday, The Irish Times dug a little deeper into the rumored shoot scheduled for September as well as the surrounding controversy.
The article has Star Wars filming slated for 4 days, starting September 13th, with the possibility of additional contingency days which are presumably reserved in case filming can’t be completed in the allotted time for whatever reason.
From The Irish Times:
Plans for further filming of Star Wars on Skellig Michael, 12km off the coast of southwest Kerry, are at an advanced stage.
Boatmen who were contracted for a three-day shoot for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens last summer have been asked to provide transport for another four days, from September 13th to 16th, with a possibility of further “contingency days”.
As we speculated when the initial report broke, it would seem likely that this is to be used either for pick-ups on The Force Awakens or for early shooting on Star Wars Episode VIII. The Episode VIII filming still seems the most likely scenario considering the close proximity to release for The Force Awakens and the timeline and logistics for Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII. It will be interesting to keep a look out for spy reports in early September to see if a director is spotted near or on the Skellig Micahel. A Rian Johnson Sighting would likely put to be any speculation on secret last minute additions for The Force Awakens.
All of this is assuming that filming is actually allowed to take place. As the Irish Times article discusses, there are complicated issues surrounding the filming at Skellig Michael. Firstly, Skellig Michael is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The island contains a preserved early Christian monastery. As the UNESCO site describes it:
This monastic complex, perched since about the 7th century on the steep sides of the rocky island of Skellig Michael, some 12 km off the coast of south-west Ireland, illustrates the very spartan existence of the first Irish Christians. Since the extreme remoteness of Skellig Michael has until recently discouraged visitors, the site is exceptionally well preserved.
As the UNESCO description states, the site has been preserved as well as it has because of its remoteness and lack of widespread access. Opponents of the filming there are worried that the destructive presence of a major film production will put the site at risk. Until recently, large film crews were not allowed to film on Skellig Michael, restricting any filming to crews of 8 or less and with only battery powered equipment. Star Wars shooting is obviously far more invasive than that.
Another potential hurdle, Skellig Michael is home to a number of species of seabirds. The filming for The Force Awakens was heavily criticized by Birdwatch Ireland, a conservation group, because of its potential impacts on the animal life on the island. In order to offset fears of conservation groups on the initial shoot the production sponsored a survey of breeding birds on the island. As the additional filming will take place outside of nesting season, whether there are significant issues around the seabirds this time is still an unknown.
Whether protests have any impact remains to be seen. Outside of those protesting for cultural and conservation issues, many hope the filming will proceed as planned. The additional tourism dollars, promotion for the preserved site, and the additional income for ferry captains and local merchants may outweigh the concerns of those who are against the filming in the eyes of local officials.
From a Star Wars standpoint, it would seem unlikely that Disney and Lucasfilm would back out of filming at the location now as they are already tied to it by the continuity of the previously shot scenes. If The Force Awakens ends with some main characters on Skellig Michael as is rumored and Episode VIII is intended to pick up the action from the same location, I’m sure they will have no choice but to find a compromise that will allow them to finish what is needed on the site; hopefully with a minimum of damage to the location or its feathered inhabitants.
Jedi News had a great piece this week about their own tour of Skellig Michael. It contains a some great descriptions and video of the island and their experiences touring it.
Of note from a news standpoint, they heard from locals two important bits.
First, that weather hampered some shooting on TFA in their first go round and that they expect the upcoming filming next month to be pick ups for TFA after all.
From Jedi News:
We also learnt during our trip that the crew of The Force Awakens would be returning to Skellig Michael in mid September for pickup shots, apparantly owing to the fact that the weather was not perfect for them during the original shoot. Four days of filming are planned, from the 14th September, but they have until the end of the season on the 30th to get the required shots. The island will be closed to everyone from October due to the nesting season of the birds.
And they seem to have pinned down some of the exact shooting locations that were used on the island including a possible landing spot for a certain Iconic ship as well as a cave that could serve as home to an old Jedi warrior.
Naturally, the conversation turned to Star Wars, and more specifically The Force Awakens. That’s when he revealed that the area where we sat was actually the main focus of the shoot on the island, and presumed to be the landing area of the Falcon. They have set up on the island for a month prior to a two-day shoot, shooting around the island by helicopter, flying over and between the two peaks that overshadowed this valley.
In terms of shooting on the island, it focused around the final climb on the steps towards the flat area known as Christ’s Saddle and in a small cave at the base of the South Peak often used by the monks. It was not clear if the South Peak was used in the shoot. At its peak is a hermitage built by the monks on the steep slopes and narrow ledges. It is not open to the public, nor is the north steps that are closed off by a wooden fence. We had found our shooting location, the wide-open space of the valley, in the shadow of the South Peak and a small cave at the base of the mountain overlooking the steps below and the steep slopes of the cliff face. I was told that “art work” was taken to the island. I have to assume this was in fact a matte painting, most probably used to obscure “human elements” such as the above mentioned fences. They could of course have been used to create more striking environment. The cave we encountered was very discreet and did not stand out, maybe this is the intention of the film – but perhaps grander plans are afoot, and required a little aid to visualize it.
It was a stunning location, haunting, and visually unique. You could understand why they would want to shoot here. By this point I had began to shoot and photo the area, and was soon re-joined by Matt who had garnered the same information that this area was the shooting location. There was no doubt that we were in a world from The Force Awakens, as we began to explore the area.
Check out the full story HERE and their complete video walk through here: