Jenny Gilbertson arrived in Shetland in 1931 to film seasonal life, which resulted in 46 minute documentary “The Crofter’s Life”. She wrote, directed, shot and edited the film herself. The Crofters Life gives equal credit to women’s work on the croft, which was unusual during this period.
Documentary filmmaker, John Grierson viewed it and advised her on documentary making techniques. She followed his advice and bought a 35mm camera, which enabled her to make high quality films.
She made 5 films on Shetland, which were bought by the GPO Film Library, these in turn, attracted the attention of the Royal Geographical Society.
Rugged Island played in British cinemas for several years, however Jenny never received a penny. This film was originally silent and was narrated through title cards in the film, Zenifilms later replaced these with a voice-over, which changed the focus of the film from the couple set to marry, to the male character Andrew.
The Gilbertsons took Rugged Island on tour to Canada, where she met Evelyn Spice – the first woman filmmaker to join the Grierson film unit. Together they co-directed Prairie Winter (1934), which documents the harsh winter conditions in the Canadian prairies.
Jenny made 3 more films before the outbreak of WWII. During the war she ran a small hosiery business, until she became a teacher in 1947. She continued teaching until 1967 and once retired, she returned to filmmaking.
In 1977 – 1978 Gilbertson spent 13 months in Grisefiord, 900 miles north of the Arctic Circle to make Jenny’s Arctic Diary, where she filmed the life of inuit community. Again this was a one-woman job, where she wrote, directed, shot and edited the film – aged 76.
Gilbertson continued to make films into her eighties.
Da Makkin o’ a Keshie (1932)
A Cattle Sale (1932)
In Sheep’s Clothing (1932)
Scenes from a Shetland Croft Life (1932)
Seabirds in the Shetland Isles (1932)
A Young Gannet (1932)
Scenes from a Shetland Croft Life (original title Peat from Hillside to Home) (1932)
Seabirds in the Shetland Islands (1932)
Rugged Island (1933)
Prairie Winter (1934)
A Crofter’s Life in Shetland (1939)
Northern Outpost (1940)
Stock Shots (1967)
Shetland Pony (1969)
Jenny’s Arctic Diary (1978)
Jenny’s Arctic Part 1 (1972)
Walrus Hunt (no date)
Jenny’s Dog Team Journey (1975)