FREAKWORKS – making the AV for Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

As part of the National Museum of Scotland’s new exhibition Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, FREAKWORKS have created three films to tell the story of the the royal exile in France, the Jacobite court of Charles Edward Stuart in Edinburgh and the ill-fated Battle of Culloden

The Project

The National Museums Scotland wanted to engage a multimedia production company for the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites exhibition that would launch to the public on June 23. The selected contractor was expected to project manage and produce a series of audio visual films, with experience in film production and editing to provide three films each running for five to seven minutes. This all had to be achieved within a four-month timescale.

It was important for FREAKWORKS to competitively tender for this project as not only is the National Museums Scotland one of the UK’s leading museum services with a world class venue, but FREAKWORKS is also extensively experienced in this form of creative execution with a third of its business generated from the development of content for museums and visitor attractions across the country.

The Brief 

The Jacobite story is incredibly complex and as such the content of the exhibition had to be divided into nine different sections to cover the many aspects of the era from the 1660s to 1807. Many aspects of the Jacobite story are often overshadowed by the personality of Bonnie Prince Charlie, so the exhibition considers the more extensive story of the Jacobite kings and their supporters. The brief was to create three distinctive films that would become an integrated feature within the exhibition.

The Films

AV1 A court in exile: King James VII & II Château-Vieux, St Germain, west of Paris 1688 – 1701. The content had to give an insight into what it was like to live in the exiled court at St Germain.

AV2 The Jacobite court of Charles Edward Stuart Edinburgh 1745. The proposition was to walk the same corridors as Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Palace of Holyrood.

AV3 (BELOW) Culloden: the last battle on British soil 12 April 1746. The aim was for viewers to experience the bleakness of Drummossie Moor where the final battle on British soil took place in Culloden.

Specific targets

The exhibition was expected to attract a broad range of visitors who both go regularly to the National Museum of Scotland and visit its charging temporary exhibitions, as well as a broader range of educational establishments and visitors to the city.

The story of the Jacobites appeals to those with a particular interest in history and the exhibition provides an opportunity to learn more about the popular subject matter.

The films are dealing with some of the most momentous and the darkest events in Jacobite history but all the content had to be delivered in an original way. In stark contrast to the two court films, the Battle of Culloden had to communicate the misery and horror of the event and the repercussions for those living in the Highlands. The battle lasted less than an hour but the retribution lasted for years and the memory of those events is significant even to this day.

Budget and challenges

A maximum budget of £25,000 was allocated to the project and the costing element formed a large part of the tendering process. The initial challenges faced during the creation of the content stemmed from there being so much content to consider from the outset. The subject matter is so vast and there was a huge amount of imagery made available to FREAKWORKS to refine.

With AV1 ‘A court in exile: King James VII & II’ we decided that the most effective and impactful way to feature this 13-year time period in St Germain was for it to be spoken through the words of one of King James’ servants, David Nairne with all the content taken from his personal diaries. This provided a clear narrative to the story all the way through the film, where viewers can literally see the pages of the diary turning as the stories come to life on screen.

The story of King James VII & II in exhile in Château-Vieux, St Germain is told through the words of one of King James’ servants David Nairne

The brief for AV2 – The Jacobite court of Charles Edward Stuart – changed dramatically once FREAKWORKS was appointed. The objective of the brief was to film a variety of significant artefacts and objects from the exhibition in the setting of Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh.

Access to Palace of Holyrood was only available late into the project timeline and the vast amount of objects already in the Palace that dated after 1745 made the filming too restrictive. It had to be authentic for the time period and audiences viewing it.

An alternative and simple solution had to be created in a short timescale so FREAKWORKS sourced impressive watercolours showing Edinburgh during the period of the arrival of Charles Stuart and the narrative discusses the impact he had on the city during that time.

AV3 was to address the Battle of Culloden on 12 April 1746, the most well-known story of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites. It has been told so many times in different formats so FREAKWORKS needed a captivating alternative for viewers to experience the bleakness of Drummossie Moor. It was decided to tell the story of the battle from a woman’s perspective.

The Battlefield at Culloden where Bonnie Prince Charlie's men were routed on the moors is depicted in one of the three films

The film shot at the battleground depicts the story of a widow Christine Ferguson who lost her husband William Chisholm in the battle and shows ghost figures of the soldiers lost in the battle. The actress playing Christine solemnly tells the story of the battle then sings her own emotional Gaelic lament – Mo Rùn Geal Òg. This is a haunting song sung without accompaniment. It is raw and emotional and helps, along with the narration, to emphasis futility and loss. The dark stormy footage gradually turns to colour signifying that the legacy of the battle is still relevant today

Unique elements 

There are specific creative risks associated with any historical AV, in terms of wanting to communicate a large amount of information in a fun and informative way, while remaining entirely accurate and accessible.

A huge amount of academic and historical reading around the subject was undertaken by FREAKWORKS. Although this project was for the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh, the exhibition itself has the potential to travel on an international scale. The subject matter had to be captivating and historically accurate to cater for the different range of ages and cultures that would be viewing the material.

This was not your usual AV project. There was a lot of material to incorporate and the content had to be emotional and thought provoking. The narrative had to be clear while giving a sense of the importance of the time.

The three films were to be projected into very specific white spaces already allocated within the exhibition. These use NEC projectors and Brightsign HD 1020 media players and speakers and the films are running constantly. Each location has a seated area in front of it for visitors to enjoy the full-length feature in comfort.


FREAKWORKS facilities offer a range of state-of-the-art post-production suites featuring an end-to-end 4k ultra-high-definition system, going above and beyond the partial 4K resolution offered by some of our rival facilities.

FREAKWORKS also have an in-house design department that works on 2D and 3D animations, alongside dubbing facilities and the ability to provide broadcast quality control – offering a range of services that go far beyond merely supplying editing services.

As Scotland’s premier film and television production and post-production facilities house, FREAKWORKS produce AVs for venues such as the Scotch Whisky Experience, Vindolanda Roman Army Museum and Triumph Motorcyles. FREAKWORKS also provide support for productions such as the BBC television series The Secret Agent, and work with clients that make advertisements for commercial brands and corporate businesses.