Some days just keep on getting better and better.
The day started pretty normally, until an email arrived from Voluntary Arts England. We, that is, the South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company, are shortlisted for the Epic Awards 2017. This is a national award for creative organizations – voluntary, CIC, etc, who do work considered to be especially adventurous in their community. We are delighted and very proud that we are are one of 32 organizations around the UK who have made the shortlist.
Making the shortlist this year was especially down to our film production Mordred, which we have been working on, sometimes alongside other projects, for the past year.
If anyone would like to vote for us, for the Peoples Choice Award – the link is at: http://www.voluntaryarts.org/epic-awards-peoples-choice-voting
This was exciting news. We had just told our members the great news, when another email pinged into the inbox. This one, was from Los Angeles Cinefest, a US based film festival, to tell us that the trailer for our film Mordred, has been selected as a semifinalist in that film festival. Alongside the other recent success of being selected as a finalist in the Thanksgiving IndieBOOST 2016 Competition, in which the trailer was given a rating of 9.5 out of 10, in terms of acting, cinematography, technical and creative aspects.
The team are running a crowdfund to raise funds for the final few scenes needed, which will be filmed in 2017.This will be launched on Friday 10th February. (the link will be on our website www.southdevonplayers.com).
“I am what you made me become!” is the tagline of the film, spoken by Mordred.
Set in a heavily researched backdrop of early 6th Century Devon & Cornwall, and researched from many early Celtic sources, as well as later medieval texts, Mordred tells the tale of King Arthur’s illegitimate son, and how two equally honourable men were brought to war.
Once the majority of principal filming was completed, our main editor, Michael Mirsadeghi, put together the official film trailer with a haunting soundtrack created by German film composer Michael Klubertanz. The team decided to submit the trailer to several international film festivals during the autumn.
This production not only showcases very heavily researched Dark Ages history of Devon and Cornwall (the southwest peninsula of the UK) , linked to some of the very earliest and less known Arthurian legends, but also equally to showcase the amazing skills by local actors, filmmakers, and other production creatives. Since there are very few opportunities, we decided to make our own and that is how The South Devon Players Theatre and Film Company started, back in 2006. Now, years later, we have been able to branch into filmmaking, as well as theatre, reaching a much wider audience for our team.
Contrary to the usual glamourous medieval settings for many Arthurian adaptations, with knights in gleaming plate armour, and ladies in stunning court dresses; this is a very different production. Set in the early 6th Century, this drama is set within a very different landscape.
Following the departure of the Romans from Britain, the Southwest again became the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia – what is now the southwestern peninsula of the UK comprising Devon & Cornwall. At this point in history, the Saxons were raiding along the coast, much as the Vikings did, centuries later. Set against this backdrop, Arthur and his warriors, fight to defend Dumnonia, against invasion.
The timeline for this film came originally from the entry for the year 537AD in the Annales Cambriae; 537 The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland. “Medraut” was the name that in later legend, became Mordred. We went with the later name “Mordred” simply so that it would be more recognisable to modern audiences.
The Southwest is linked to a wide number of legends connected with King Arthur, and as we researched, we found yet more old stories, both of Mordred, and and of other, Mordred-like characters who almost never appear in modern adaptations of the legend. Piecing these together, against this dramatic, ever-changing landscape of the Dark Ages, and using peripheral history of the times – for example; as the Saxons began to expand their kingdom of Wessex, Cynric, who was the first king of Wessex, is also an important character in our drama – we created our own version of the legend, with a lot of the backdrop which would have existed in the time it is set.
After months of research, rehearsing and training, the cast are really excited to begin filming at last!
The group running it, The South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company, from Brixham in South Devon, also founded by Laura Jay, has a proven track record over 10 years of producing historical theatre and film, working from the early days of raising £80 from a carboot sale and using the backroom of a pub for rehearsals.
The large cast ranges from Julie Tetley playing Gitta; Morgan le Fay’s maid and co-conspirator, and thirteen year old newcomer Reece Whitehouse playing King Arthur’s “legitimate” son, Duran, in their first ever major acting roles (in fact the first ever role for Reece), through our more experienced actors Rich Sandford who stars as Mordred, and Guillaume Rivaud, who plays King Arthur, right over to “Iron” Mike Mitchell, who, after holding 5 “Mr World” and 2 “Mr Universe” titles with the World Fitness Federation, went on to the world of acting and has appeared in films such as Gladiator, Braveheart, Skyfall, Apocalypse Z – and the TV soap Emmerdale.
The South Devon Players have an unusual raison d’etre; exemplified, in this project. The group, which started out as an amateur dramatics theatre group, specialising in historical and mythological drama, are a group of local career-orientated actors and creatives, who are unable, for various life reasons, or lack of resources, to move away to large entertainment hubs such as London, to make careers there.
It was considered very important to make sure that we were not making “just another King Arthur film”, and to find a unique adaptation. While novels have been written from Mordred’s point of view, to our knowledge, this has never been transferred to film. That, coupled with spanning Devon and Cornwall, and delving into earlier and less known legends, has created an all new version of the legend.
Not that creating a production of this scale is easy. While grants were applied for, we found ourselves turned down by arts grants seeing this as a heritage project, and heritage grants seeing this as an arts projects, therefore cast and crew members are involved in a wide range of fundraising activities, ranging from small amounts from tombolas and face painting at fetes, and selling on ebay, through to a film/ scifi/ fantasy convention, grant applications, cabaret shows, ebook publications and more.
For costumes and props, It was also a case of keeping one eye on the history book and the other on what reclaimed fabrics and items can be remade, and adapted. We have to thank so many people who keep an eye out for second hand things that we can do this with.
This is an ambitious project, taking not just every ounce of creativity on screen, but also in the planning and logistics behind-the-scenes.Follow