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By Ben Eagle on

Filming a BIFF trailer with the stars

Festival Producer Ben Eagle recounts his experiences of filming with Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter and John Hurt.

It occurred to me, rather belatedly, that Bradford International Film Festival has never had a trailer.

Having discussed the extremely limited budget and what we wanted to achieve, we settled on the idea of asking previous BIFF guests to remember a moment in their personal cinema history.

I approached several high-profile guests from previous festivals and was delighted to have positive responses from Imelda Staunton and Jim Carter. It seemed rather handy that, as they are married, they could film their ‘editions’ on the same day. We wanted to film the guests in familiar and comfortable surroundings, and where better than their own front room?

Along with Emma Shaw, the Museum’s Media Developer and expert camerawoman, I set off to the Staunton/Carter household early one December morning. Jim had called me on the way to inform us that the council had decided to prune the trees outside their house—today of all days, when what we really needed was silence! Imelda and Jim greeted us with the warmness and kindness which they both exude in abundance. We enjoyed a very welcome cup of tea with Hobnobs while Emma and our soundman, Jason, set up the lighting and camera in the front room.

Imelda sat stroking their lovely dog—whose name I now forget—and asked how long her ‘speech’ should last. We were aiming for each trailer to be approximately 40 seconds long, so Jim was ready, just off-camera, with his wristwatch, ensuring the 40 seconds was adhered to. She quickly spoke it through and we went for our first take. As was to be expected, Imelda did it perfectly and after a few differing close-up shots we had it in the can. During the various takes, Imelda frequently glanced at Jim to ensure she wasn’t going over the allotted time, to which he frequently told her that the takes were ‘two hours long, love’.

As we quickly rearranged the furniture, and some of the ornaments—including the photograph behind Jim, which features their daughter in a TV programme—Jim took the position and began to talk about his experience of ‘Lords acting’ in Harrogate. Imelda frequently repaid the favour of reminding Jim his takes were way too long—and after a few takes, I hope you’ll agree, his enthusiasm and passion for film really comes across.

Our next subject was the ever-popular John Hurt. John received the BIFF2010 Lifetime Achievement Award and both John and Anwen, his wife, have become friends of the festival. A similar trip ensued with Emma and Sven, the museum’s Gallery Developer, who acted as soundman on this occasion. John and Anwen live in Norfolk, which is a lovely journey, and we arrived at their desirable country abode in time for lunch. Without doubt the friendliest and most welcoming showbiz couple I know, John and Anwen had prepared a lovely lunch and so after the five-hour journey, we sat around their kitchen table and discussed all things film. It was a treat.

Afterwards, we made our way into John’s purpose-built artist’s studio, filled with his oil paintings featuring his sons, self-portraits, and various sketches. He was working on an amazing self-portrait which I loved—a really great use of colour and clearly the work of an experienced artist. I urged John to have them displayed in an exhibition—they were certainly of a high enough standard.

As we set up the camera and sound equipment, John quickly talked through his plans for the trailer, comprising three separate cinema experiences: his first trip to the cinema to see Robinson Crusoe; a truly mesmerising viewing of Alec Guinness as Fagin in David Lean’s Oliver Twist; and finally Jules et Jim—the one we chose to feature in the finished trailer, and the one John felt most captures his passion for film. We left after a great day with a true gent and a genuinely lovely bona fide movie star.

It has, thus far, been a privilege to work with the guests mentioned above, and I sincerely thank them for their time and generosity. We still have more to come, hopefully, so watch this space!

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