John MacKay: Novel turned into film after two decades

STV News presenter John MacKay's 2002 novel The Road Dance will be translated from page to screen.

John MacKay: Novel turned into film after two decades STV News
Film: John MacKay's novel The Road Dance will be turned into a feature film.

Almost 20 years ago, STV News presenter John MacKay swapped news reporting for novels, writing the first in a three-part series set in the Western Isles. 

The Road Dance is set on the Isle of Lewis, where John would spend his childhood summers.

Inspired by a true story, The Road Dance follows a tragedy which befalls a woman and her newborn baby, set amid the outbreak of WWI.

“I’d always wanted to write a novel,” John said.

“When I came across the story that formed the basis of The Road Dance I knew that if I didn’t write it, I would never write anything.”

Published in 2002, The Road Dance became a Scottish bestseller, but it took almost two decades for it to be translated from page to the silver screen. 

John is set to make a cameo in the film.STV News
John is set to make a cameo in the film.

“It’s been a long process to get it made into a film,” John explained.

“I hadn’t even thought of it until the actor David Hayman first suggested it when he came into STV for an interview.

“In news, I’m used to a story appearing on screen by the end of the day.  It’s a completely different timescale with a film. 

“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but it was thrilling when it was finally greenlit. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.”

After a few years of discussions, American company Sheridan Road Productions acquired the rights to John’s book, and filming is due to begin on Lewis next week.

Maryilene Blondell, CEO of Sheridan Road Productions, explained her partner Jim Kreutzer was inspired to turn John’s book into a film after reading it while working on the award-winning film Tommy’s Honour.

“Whilst [Jim] was in Scotland during production, he was looking for another book to read and stumbled across John’s book,” she said.

“After finishing the book, there was no doubt in his mind that a feature film needed to be made about The Road Dance.”

‘There was no doubt in his mind that a feature film needed to be made about The Road Dance.’

Maryilene Blondell, CEO of Sheridan Road Productions

Hermione Corfield, who has appeared in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, is set to star as main character Kirsty. 

Scottish actress Morven Christie has also signed on to play Kirsty’s mother Mairi.

While it is unknown whether the film will appear in cinemas or on a streaming service, Maryilene said that the project has already generated a lot of buzz in the industry.

“Obviously, distribution presents a whole new approach and dynamic with all movie houses throughout the world being closed,” she said.

“So, yes Netflix, Amazon and the main streamers will duke it out to see who gets this incredible film.  

“There already is quite a very strong, positive buzz throughout the industry based on the screenplay alone, which we are enormously pleased about.”

MaryIlene added that John has been excellent to work with throughout the process.

“[John] has been so gracious to us throughout this whole process. He has never wavered in his support and belief in us, nor did he ever make strong or outrageous demands in how we adapted his book to the screen,” she said.

“He trusted us, knowing our deep desire to bring this story to the big screen was going to be as true to his book as we possibly could.”

The Road Dance will feature a cameo by John’s son Ross, who will play the bagpipes during a scene.

As for the anchorman himself, he is also set to make an appearance as an extra.

“The director, Richie, kindly suggested I could appear as an extra. I’m going to be in the road dance scene. Enjoying a ceilidh shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for me,” he said.

“My previous acting experience involved the challenging role of playing a newsreader in a TV drama. And my voice was overdubbed with an English accent. 

“I’ve got higher hopes for this.”