The Skinny Close-up: Finlay Pretsell

Feature by Gail Tolley | 09 Jan 2009

Finlay Pretsell & Adrian McDowall recently won Best Short Film at this year’s Scottish BAFTA awards. Their 12 minute film Ma Bar features 73-year-old weight-lifting champion Bill McFadyen and will be shown at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival which takes place between 15-25th January in Utah. The Skinny caught up with Finlay Pretsell.

How did Ma Bar come about?
Myself and the co-director Adrian McDowall had made a film before called Standing Start which is a film about an Olympic cyclist which took a different angle – we were trying to show the beauty of it, and the effort and the focus and the determination of a top athlete. We did it in a completely different way and not in a normal sport documentary way. And the Dumfries and Galloway Council happened to get in touch (as that’s where Adrian’s from) and they wanted us to do three profiles on athletes in the area to promote a new state-of-the-art sports centre that they were opening. There are no major athletes there at all; they’re all new and up-and-coming athletes. So, we got a big list of people and we went down the list and saw this guy, Bill McFadyen and we saw his date of birth and we thought, he’s a weight lifter? How bizarre! We definitely wanted to speak to him!

And it’s going to be shown at Sundance in January, which must be quite exciting?

Yes, it’s great! It’s one of the best if not the best film festival for independent films. Everyone’s heard of it, in the industry too, which is nice.

You are also involved in the Scottish Documentary Institute?

Yeah, we run a scheme called Bridging the Gap [which bridges the gap between amateur and professional filmmaking], so we can feed our own experiences back into the projects there.

And will you be going to Sundance for the screening of Ma Bar?


You can find out more about Bridging the Gap at