Outlander Fan Tales – Cynthia

Cynthia has been an Outlander fan for since 2016. A tragic event spurred her to take her fandom to a new level, and she set to work with others on some special Outlander-related projects. For Cynthia, Outlander is much more than books and a tv show, it’s family, community, and a feeling of unconditional love and acceptance. Cynthia finds her fellow Outlander fans to be a source of inspiration and her projects are a labour of love.
Cynthia and friends met with Outlander writer and producer Toni Graphia
Here is Cynthia’s story.
In July 2017, my husband Keith, a fellow Outlander fan, lost his battle with cancer. As his wife and caregiver, this affected me deeply, and so, I set out to find ways in which to honour his memory.
First, I created a life-sized prop doll of James Fraser ‘Our Hero Scot’, a symbol of strength, courage, resilience, loyalty and love. He was handcrafted with kindness and respect for Diana Gabaldon and Sam Heughan. Since its creation, ‘Jamie’ has been used in my documentary project (read on for details) for various creative sequences, and has made appearances at fan events.
When first introduced on social media he drew some lovely comments from Diana Gabaldon. ‘Jamie’ then made his public debut at the 2018 Outlander convention, in Las Vegas, ‘filling in’ for Sam Heughan, whose appearance was cancelled due to other obligations. ‘Jamie’ shared the stage with Caitriona Balfe and Lotte Verbeek, during their Q&A. He was a hit with Sam’s fans and everyone, including the cast, seemed to enjoy interacting with him. Soon after that weekend in Las Vegas, life became a whirlwind of travel, events and meeting new people.
I wanted to be a voice for Outlander fans affected by cancer or other illnesses and, backed by entertainment industry veterans, artists, and students, I started Outlander Fan Documentary. Since embarking on this journey, I’ve found a sense of positive growth, and healing. There are so many stories to tell, from each event, and on all of our documentary filming locations. There is also a charity aspect, which is still being developed.  It has been a personal challenge, as a female artist and filmmaker, but I have been so grateful for our supporters & cheerleaders, which happily includes a few of the Outlander cast & crew.
It has been a life changing experience for everyone involved. The project has been through many incarnations, starting as a coffee table book idea. Eventually it evolved into the current film project, which is run by a core group of Outlander fan volunteers, who wear many creative hats. Participation in our documentary project is open to all Outlander fans & fan groups, as a celebration of this fandom, and our way of  ‘Uniting the Clans’. It is dedicated to all Outlander fans who have been affected in some way, by cancer or other illness.
Announcements are made throughout the year, for volunteers, and the many creative ways fans can participate. As a thank you for the support, we also hold a yearly giveaway during the holidays. At the completion of our project we intend to hold a fundraising silent auction, for one or more of the many charities endorsed by the Outlander cast.
I took my first trip to Scotland in summer 2019, and was fortunate to see a bit of Outlander season 5 filming. 2020 promised to be the busiest yet, starting with a trip to Wizard World, in New Orleans, the Outlander Ball, in San Francisco, St. Andrews Society’s Burns Supper, Scotsman’s Ball, Outlander Season 5 Premiere at the Hollywood Palladium, and so much more. However, after the Outlander Premiere, and Sam Heughan’s Bloodshot Premiere, the world had other plans for us all. (yep, the virus) I am hopeful of returning to some semblance of normal (or, new normal), eventually. Meanwhile we’re keeping positive, staying safe, and educating ourselves, as we continue to move forward. As far as the documentary is concerned, I’m simply taking every day, one step at a time.
Although we will eventually wrap up, currently we have no projected completion date set. I do hope everyone will enjoy the end result of this artistic endeavour, created by the fans, for the fans, cast and crew.
To find out more about the project your can follow Cynthia on Instagram and Twitter 
A quick shout out to our Director of Photography, Allen Pettebone. An Industry veteran of 50 years, with impressive credits under his belt, he is also a heart and kidney transplant recipient, and a Vietnam Veteran. For 16 years, I have been proud to call him friend.
P.S. The holidays are getting closer, and the annual giveaway is coming up. Also, people can sign up to receive this year’s OL Fan Documentary holiday card (limited to the first 40 people who sign up!) Head to Outlander Fan Documentary for all the details.
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Outlander Fan Tales – Rovena

Rovena has lived all over the world and now resides in Thailand. She has only very recently discovered Outlander.  But she has certainly made up for lost time! Read her Outlander story here.

Rovena is very active and gets out there working up a sweat between viewings of Outlander!

I was two when my parents packed up and left Italy for Montenegro. My father was one of a handful of Nuclear Engineers in the 80s and very much in demand. We kept migrating south, moving to Nigeria, then Saudi Arabia and finally my parents settled in Malaysia. By then I was studying in University, juggling a job tapping phones for the Italian Homicide Department in all my acquired 4 languages and meeting the love of my life, at 3 am in a pub. No we were not drinking The Sassenach, but whatever it was, it was strong!

We shortly combined our strengths and followed circumstantial signs of destiny which brought us to Thailand where we set up an Interior Design and Architecture firm which has since grown to be an Award Winning endeavour. It’s always been a rush, my whole life has been in 5th gear, jumping on and off planes, managing studio, construction sites worldwide and high-profile clients.

Then – silence. COVID_19  just ground my whole life to a halt and suddenly I had time! Time to watch a movie, time to do sports, time to be a “Woman of leisure” in Fergus’s words.

During this God gifted time, a friend of mine suggested I watch Outlander. I brushed it off quickly and said: “I will only watch a series if the lead actor is hot to trot and I will fall madly in love with him for the whole duration”. She guaranteed I would and threw in the steamy sex scenes and male testosterone moments of battle.

The first half hour of episode one left me questioning her judgment, right up to that Heaven-sent moment when Claire fixes Jamie’s shoulder. I was caught, hook, line and sinker!

50 hours of binge watching ensued, followed by another 50 re-watching it all over with my husband and another 50 re-watching it all on my own. I spent the last couple of years craving a sabbatical, I finally get the time and I spend it watching a series! Yes, of course I ordered all the books!

Yes, of course I’ve looked up hotels in Scotland to travel to Lallybroch and yes, I have consumed conspicuous amounts of G&T to keep up with all the bloody drinking they do on set. Whiskey is just a bit too hot to drink in the tropics!

Rowena and her husband prepare for a session of Outlander. Gin for her, vodka for him. Party time!

So here I am now, obsessing over the narrative of this perfect man: impulsive yet understanding; powerful yet gentle; funny yet deep; handsome and fragile. Let’s face it, only a woman could have concocted the perfect man and Diana did just that.

There are heartaches! I would never have left that perfect man behind, and would not have waited 20 years to get him back! The scenes with Frank are like a dagger to my heart. I find particularly disturbing the fact that such a sweet, family man of pure values was robbed of the chance to be a father repeatedly.

And then the funny part: this perfect man we all dream about is as immoral as they come! He is an outlaw, he frees prisoners from jail, helps Bonnet escape from his death row, kills, steals, smuggles, is bigamous (ok, he didn’t expect Claire to come back!), offers his body as payment to one and all, he lives in a brothel and plays his wife’s wedding bands at cards – yet he is the most romantic character ever!

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Outlander Photographer Aimee Spinks


Aimee Spinks is the photographer who brings you those marvellous still images from your favourite TV show, Outlander.The image above shows Aimee with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe on the last day of filming Outlander Season 3 in Scotland. You can find her out there in the mud and rain, all hours of the day and night capturing the action as it’s filmed, equally at home in the rugged Scottish landscape or the huge controlled environment of the studio. Aimee’s work has added an extra and important dimension to the world of Outlander.

An award-winning British photographer, Aimee knew early in her career that she wanted to do this work in film and television. She has been working in the industry for nine years and describes the hard slog of getting to her current position where she gets to work on wonderful shows like Outlander, aswell as movies and other TV shows. She says that perseverance, and constantly learning from others, are some of the keys to her success. She began her work on very small projects and gradually became well known, and carved a niche for herself in the industry.

outlander photographer aimee spinks

I talked with Aimee about her work on Outlander, in the middle of the COVID_19 virus crisis. Of course this situation has had a huge impact on her work. Aimee is currently busy with promotional work for her most recent project, The Old Guard starring Charlize Theron and Matthias Schoenaerts and also her other passion in life, competitive pole dancing.

Here is our conversation.
ANDRÉE  I‘ll start with a quote from your website. “Aimee has been put to the test with crowded action scenes, low light environments, and tight spaces. Somehow she always gets the shot. She’s an on-set ninja who nails composition, captures the authenticity of a moment, and looks for how the story can be told in a single frame.”—Leslie Sager, photo director, Outlander
That is a fabulous accolade for your work. Can you explain what he means by an “on-set ninja?”
AIMEE  As a unit photographer you need to be as nimble and as invisible as possible. You can’t be a distraction either to the actors or the shooting crew so I always wear long-sleeved black everything. That, coupled with the fact I’m a dancer and have found myself in all kinds of crazy positions to get the shot or literally dancing, ducking and diving around moving cameras and swinging booms probably contributes to earning the nickname “The Ninja” on almost every set I’ve worked on. It’s a compliment I’m very happy to receive!
jamie and claire fraser, outlander photographer aimee spinks
(From Aimee on Instagram: This was such a sweet moment with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe. If memory serves I was wedged inside the fireplace to get this shot! Mike Carstensen and Tim Critchell were as accommodating as ever to let me squeeze in to get this!)
ANDRÉE Many people will not be familiar with the role of stills photographer. I understand you chose this work early on in your career. What attracted you to this work and what do you like best about your role?
AIMEE I love cinematic images, images that are dynamic and beautiful from a lighting and content perspective, but also from a storytelling perspective. I really love narrative photography, so I think it was just a good natural fit for me to be drawn into world of film and TV.
The thing I like best about my role is probably the fact that as a unit stills photographer you have no control over anything. You have to be able to adapt and get the shot that you need in the midst of so many unpredictable things going on. So it’s really really rewarding when you have a really difficult set of circumstances within which to shoot, and you’re able to come away with an absolutely incredible shot. Like, you get such a rush from that. I really love it 
Hogmany party in Outlander
stephen bonnet with brianna
murtagh and jamie at the battle of culloden
young ian with native americans and rollo
Aimee is right in there with the action, Lallybroch celebrations, beach dramas, the battlefield and the North Carolina backcountry.
As well as the action shots, Aimee gets up close and personal for some powerful and iconic images
outlander photographer aimee spinks
claire in the wood, outlander photographer aimee spinks
jamie fraser
jamie fraser, outlander photographer aimee spinks
(From Aimee on Instagram: Throwback to Season 3. I posted a cropped version of this image a while back but you know what, I really do love the full wider image. It says so much about Jamie’s strength – even in chains – and his hatred of the Red Coats. Excellent acting as always from Sam Heughan who can just drop straight in and own moments like this.)
ANDRÉE When Outlander is filming how are you engaged to work? Are you scheduled for certain days, or particular scenes? Has it already been decided which are the scenes to be used in promotions?
AIMEE  So, my client for Outlander is the American network STARZ and they are a great team over there. They have a full idea already in advance of how they want to promote each episode, and what they think the key shots from each episode will be. They will then have a look at the filming schedule and book me in to cover those days.
Outlander has a huge fan base which always is thirsty for more and more images so I’m very thankful that STARZ has me on for quite a lot of the filming days so that they have plenty of photographs that they can then drip feed out to the fans across news and social media, and also use when heads of departments are up for awards.
Alongside photographing the scenes themselves as they play out, I make sure to get plenty of behind-the-scenes moments of crew working and cast having fun, as well as documenting the incredible sets and the intricate costuming.
(From Aimee on Instagram. This was a huge set from Gary Steele — literally an entire house with an enormous floor plan all built inside one of the 5 stages inside the Outlander studio. I loved how the colours, textures and lighting all reminded me of American photographer Gregory Crewsdon. His work is absolutely incredible … his work inspired many of my own early personal photography projects.)
ANDRÉE When you are on set or on location with Outlander, is someone directing you as to which elements to capture or is it up to your creative instincts? Are any of the stills “staged” or do you take them all as part of the ongoing action?
AIMEE Prior to each block of filming starting (and each block of filming is normally 5 or 6 weeks and covers 2 episodes) I will have a conference call with my contact at STARZ, who will talk me through the key moments that they want to make sure are captured because they are the moments that they want to be promoting for that particular episode. They might also mention, OK this is a really key prop we would love you to get that as well, or, we’re thinking of running this story about this episode so maybe some shots of this would also be nice.
Roger in Outlander and the astrolabe
A key prop — the Astrolabe
But outside of that it’s then left for me to use my own judgments and creativity on set. So I will use that as a guide and try to cover that in the way I think is best and that is usually as cameras are rolling. I like to shoot whilst filming is happening and get the shots at that point rather than asking for time with the cast to set up a posed shot.
claire with gun in outlander season 5
I personally find that shots taken during the filming are always better because the actors are giving 100%, you know they are giving the best performance they are going to give, and everything is in its place. The tricky thing with that is it’s not always possible to be in the best shooting position because maybe the filming camera needs to be there, or the boom operator needs to be there, so it can be quite tricky. If there is a really key shot that I know the client wants but I am unable to get it during take, that’s when I will ask the 1st assistant director if I can arrange a set up once the shooting unit has gotten what they need from that particular scene. I try to use that rarely, however, because it slows things down and often the shot can lose its magic.
From Aimee on Instagram: It’s all systems go for #clanfraser after Jamie gets bitten by a snake! Some great SFX makeup and poor Sam had to endure real maggots for some of it, too!
jamie and roger practice sword fighting, outlander
(From Aimee on Instagram: LOVED shooting stills of this nice little exchange between Sam Heughan and Richard Rankin. Fingers crossed STARZ releases some more images from this bit of swordplay as there were some sweet action shots in there! Jim Elliot, the head of the armoury department, provided both real and dummy swords so the scene could be filmed at pace whilst remaining same for cast and crew.
ANDRÉE How do you decide on the mix between documenting the action, and documenting the process, your great behind-the-scenes shots?
AIMEE I mainly document the action because they are the images that the marketing team are going to use. They will occasionally use some behind-the-scenes images, but these are typically shots of the director working with the cast, and the various heads of departments. The costume designer or the makeup designer if they’re on set, and adjusting things with the key cast. I’ll get those, and also images of the cast having fun and relaxing between takes, but primarily it is photographing the action that is happening during the scene. 
black jack randall, outlander
murtagh in outlander
lord john grey outlander
matt b roberts and caitriona balfe in outlander
black jack randall and jamie fraser fighting
From Aimee on Instagram: One of my favourite BTS shots from Season 3 of Outlander)
ANDRÉE What is it like to work with different directors and actors? Do you work closely with them, or are you mostly lurking unobtrusively in the background, waiting to pounce on the best shots?
AIMEE  So, it all depends on the director and actor and it’s important to adjust your approach accordingly. Some actors love having still photographers there and they will chat to you all day, and they’ll say make sure you get this shot. You know, get nice and close to the main camera, because they  know that’s what’s going to get us the best shots of them, and it’s in their best interest if they look great and there’s plenty of marketing material for their production. 
Some actors, however, do not like having a stills photographer on set. They like to have the only camera on set to be the main filming camera so you have to be a little bit more discreet with those actors and build up rapport and trust and perhaps not photograph as many scenes as you would with other actors, so you pick your moments and make sure that you’re still getting the content that you need whilst also being respectful of the needs and working practices of those around you. 
roger and brianna getting direction outlander
ANDRÉE – Could you describe a day on location with Outlander?
AIMEE Mud (laughs!) it’s nearly always mud and rain, but it’s good fun. Studio work is very comfortable and easy to get through. Locations come with their own challenges and the elements in Scotland are usually the biggest factor in that, but I love it. I think that’s what makes shooting Outlander so enjoyable; it’s the amazing scenery that we get to shoot. It just gives the show a real vibrancy!
brianna at the stones
(From Aimee on Instagram: The amazing Sophie Skelton at the iconic #standing stones. Fun Fact: during this day’s filming we went from starting with the ground covered in snow, seeing it all melt in the sunshine and it looking like a summer’s day, before being hit by a snowstorm again! As a result we had to shoot several sections twice for weather continuity. #scottishweather
filming outlander, outlander photographer aimee spinks
ANDRÉE When you are doing studio portraits of the actors, what is the process?
AIMEE Prior to the shoot I will discuss with the creative team as to what they are looking for. Sometimes they are happy for you to design the lighting yourself; other times if they are using the images for poster work then there will be a design company who is responsible for making the poster and they’ll come up with a few different ideas and they will require me to light the actors in such a way that matches the way they want to design the final image.
So, for instance you might composite photos of actors individually in studio all together on top of a background image of a location somewhere. In order for that to look realistic the lighting for each actor has to match the lighting of the background location shots as well. So we will set up the studio lighting accordingly, do some test shots make sure that the client is happy with the lighting and that they don’t require any last minute tweaks. Then when we get the cast in I will run them through a series of poses that will provide the poster designer with the elements they need to create the composite for the poster.
Sometimes the client will want you to shoot tethered, which is where you take photos and the photos, rather than saving to a card on the camera will be transferred down a cable and saved directly to a computer, and there’s usually a monitor hooked up so that the creative team and the stakeholders can see the shots as they are happening. Then they can make any requests, changes or tweaks as they go. Not all shoots are like that; some shoots you just stay shooting within the camera. It depends on how the client wants to work. Those images will then be sent to the the editors who will do all of the retouching and compositing and create the final poster.
Aimee’s portraits of some of our well-loved cast members – César Domboy, Sam Heughan and John Bell
.ANDRÉE You must have so many shots after a day on set /location. Who decides which ones are used for promotions? And do they pick the ones you think are best or do they have a different eye for the right shot?
AIMEE What I like to do is when I hand over my images, I will also hand over a selection of what I think are the best shots from the day so that the client can very quickly see the shots I personally feel are the best ones to put out. Ultimately however, it’s their decision and often times we will see the images go out that aren’t on our list of favourites. It’s a shame but the client will always have a specific thing in mind as to what they want to release, and just because an image is very good doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily appropriate for a marketing campaign.
For instance, a lot of the time productions opt for the more simplistic images because it gives less away which, as a photographer, can be quite frustrating because obviously we want to share our best work. But ultimately we are hired to provide marketing assets for the production so the client is going to put out the images that are the best strategically for their marketing campaign 
ANDRÉE– Could you select an image from the show and tell the story of how you captured that image?
stephen bonnet robbing jamie and claire
The Frasers come face to face with their nemesis, Stephen Bonnet in the final dramatic scene for episode 1 of Season 4.
AIMEE  In Outlander season 4 episode 1, “America the Beautiful,” there is a big fight scene inside a small boat. It was in a tiny little cabin and we had about five actors, the camera operator, boom operator, the focus puller all squishing into this tiny space that had all of this crazy fast action going on, so there was just no room for me to be in there and get the shot but it was a really key scene so I really wanted to capture it. Luckily, one of our camera operators is an absolutely lovely gentleman called Michael Carstensen and he was filming that scene with a shoulder rig, and Michael very very kindly allowed me to attach a Sony compact camera onto the handlebars of his shoulder rig so that I could be off set and fire my camera remotely and get shots that very closely match what he was seeing. It’s always hit or miss firing remotely; I prefer to hand hold wherever possible because then you have full control of your camera settings and your framings, but for scenes like this where it’s just not possible to be there, and it’s not realistic to ask for a set up because there’s so much going on and it’s so high energy, having the ability to do that, and crew who will enable you to do that, is absolutely fantastic and I’m very grateful for it.
brianna teaching roger to shoot
Aimee from Instagram: This was such a fun day of filming! We had stunt squirrels and stunt turkeys who it turns out, are not the least bit scared of squibs (SFX mini explosive devices). Seriously, imagine it; a squirrel on a log next to a tree stump wired with a squib, Mr. Squirrel a safe distance away. The camera is lined up ready to film Sophie Skelton and Richard Rankin take aim at our wee furry friend in the foreground. Focus snaps forward to Mr. Squirrel as the squib is triggered with a pop and explosion of bark! Nadda. The brave thing didn’t even flinch, never mind run off-camera as anticipated. What have we learned? Don’t f**k with squirrels.
ANDRÉE Outlander fans know that Richard Rankin is a keen photographer. Do you get involved in much techy/arty chat with him on set?
AIMEE All the time, yes! Richard and I chat about photography often and Richard shoots on Sony, the same as me, so we are always talking about the latest camera bodies, the latest lenses. He actually lent me his 85mm f/1.4 G Master Lens and I fell in love with it and just had to go out and buy it. So, prior to that I hadn’t really shot on primes (lenses with a fixed focal length; they don’t zoom in or out) before. I’d always shot on zooms because they give you greater flexibility in where you can be, but we were doing a lot of  night shoots and I had a movie coming up that I was going to jump onto which was going to be a lot of fast action in low light.
So, we got talking about prime lenses and he very kindly lent me his 85mm and he converted me to primes. They are just gorgeous. So, yes we keep in touch and as well we sometimes talk about photography on Instagram. Just chatting about the latest tech that’s coming out on what we’re shooting. So it’s really cool to have an actor who appreciates photography, and as a result he’s always so giving on set if I ever need an image he will give me the time to get it. He will let me get close to his eye line so that I can get the best angle of the scene. He’s really a stills photographer’s dream to shoot and to work with.
roger with native americans in outlander
ANDRÉE Corona virus restrictions aside, how do you juggle your commitments? It looks like you may have to travel a lot from your base in Birmingham. Do you have to stay away for extended periods on shoots?
AIMEE Yes, it’s very common to need to stay away from home. Unfortunately not much gets filmed in Birmingham. And that can be tough, especially with the hours that you’re working during the week it can be difficult to maintain energy for when you go back home and see your friends, your family, your partner at the weekend, which can also be very difficult to them.
I try to do to combat that whilst I’m working away on a big job by maintaining healthy habits. So, for instance, I will always try and get at least eight hours of sleep wherever possible even if that means going to bed really early. I don’t drink midweek and I try and maintain some kind of exercise, depending on filming schedules. Sometimes I’m able to join a local gym or find evening dance classes if it’s an early finish on set. But otherwise I can go for runs or I’’l do calisthenics and training in the hotel. And that just helps me keep fit and healthy and energised during the week so that when I come back home for the weekend I’m not absolutely exhausted.
One of the other things I’ve been trying to do is if I have been working on a particularly large project for a long time I usually try to give myself a few weeks off before committing to the next big project, so that I can have that quality time back home. I can catch back up on my sports outside of work and see friends and family. And also recharge so that when I start the next project I can give the same amount of energy as I did for the last one, rather than working myself into exhaustion being of no use to anybody.
outlander photographer aimee spinks
Aimee is certainly very physically active!

If you’d like to learn more about Aimee and her work, you can follow her on Instagram both professionally and personally. There’s lots of pole dance action and interesting stuff from her two week stint in Morocco filming The Old Guard, which is on Netflix. Aimee has a wee competition to spot her ninja-style amongst the action in the BTS video! Also, check out her website for lots more Outlander action, images and portraits.
First published @outlandercast.com on 17/7/2020
Andrée has been an Outlander fan since December 2015 when she took a friend’s advice to watch this ‘great show’. Well that was great advice and since then she has travelled from Australia to Scotland twice and spent lots of time checking out the Outlander action.

You can follow Andrée on Twitter and Instagram and her website for more Outlander action.


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Outlander Fan Tales – Don

Don’s Outlander fan story is one of emotional upheaval and life changes.

Don has Asperger’s Syndrome and had been on medication to lower his anxiety.  The aim of the medication was to stop him from ‘getting upset’.  He was under a lot of stress running a business with his wife, and for 20 or so years he literally felt ‘numb’. Even when his mother died he did not feel or express strong emotions.

Then Outlander came along.

During ‘A Malcolm’ in Season 3 he experienced a catharsis that ‘broke everything open’. Many of us also felt strong emotions for these long awaited scenes where Jamie and Claire were reunited after 20 years.

But for Don, the experience was life-changing.
Claire going back in time to find her love.  Their reunion scenes in the privacy of Jamie’s room.  The emotional scene when the estranged lovers ask each other ‘Why did you come back?’ and , ‘Do you want me to leave?’ left Don in an intense emotional state. He was so emotional, and this was so unusual, that Don’s wife thought he was having a stroke.

He re-watched  that show for a week straight, each time weeping uncontrollably. He had not experienced any strong feelings for years.

Don then made a big decision about his own health care. He decided he was missing something. He gradually reduced the medications he was taking until he was finally ready to stop them all together. He felt like ‘Data’ in Star Trek when he got his emotion chip.

He felt alive again. And he was even inspired to make some movies of his own.

So, Outlander literally changed his life.

Many say that Outlander, the books and/or the show has been life-changing for them. Do you share this kind of experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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