Acting Royalty Comes to Sevenoaks
With Sevenoaks and the surrounding Kent area being as beautiful as it is, it is no surprise that many projects are established here; from The Beatles music videos to a long list of period dramas, and now; a short film ‘Wings’ starring BAFTA award-winning actresses Virginia McKenna and Miriam Margolyes. This dynamic duo are not the only well-known names packed into this little film; if you are a teen (or just fairly cool) you may also know actors Bobby Lockwood and Rosie Day, from series such as Wolfblood and Outlander; or Lu Corfield the star of Netflix’s ‘Crazy Head’ and BBC’s cult classic ‘Last Tango in Halifax’.
Wings is written by local actress and filmmaker Carla Fraser, and Jamie Weston, an award-winning director from Colchester. Carla, a drama teacher at Sevenoaks School has grown up in the area and been known for various creative projects here, and in the neighbouring town of Westerham.
Filmed in two parts, and with the first half already in the can, it was time to shoot the second half of ‘Wings’. When searching for a location, Carla initially went around in circles – as locations can be costly, and this project had a whole lot of soul, but not a lot of budget.
The script was ready, the costumes were on standby, the crew were poised, but locations were yet to be secured. That was until Carla contacted ‘My Sevenoaks Community’ explaining this wonderful project, and the locations required. Enthused by the project, co-founder Steph Harrison immediately called Carla and introduced herself.
After chatting with Carla, Steph buzzed with energy and passion, and a formidable duo was formed. Able to do what she does best, Steph brought Carla into a community that she has been working with for years, called upon fellow members to assist and facilitate locations.
The initial port of call was securing a care home to film one of the scenes. Being well acquainted with Andy Wilson at Lavender Fields care home in Seal, Steph was able to do exactly this. Recently refurbished, the vacant top floor soon provided the perfect spot to facilitate the filming required. This idyllic setting would later match the wonderful experience of Lavender Field’s staff’s warm hospitality, combined with the memorable joys of Miriam and Virginia’s time between takes spent singing war songs, and chatting with the care home’s residents.
Once the first location for filming was sourced, it was now time to find the second. In need of a lake, Carla was saved by Steph’s quick thinking in calling upon her friend Eliza Eccelstone; another community minded individual who owns the stunning St Clere Estate. Proving to be the perfect setting for the second filming instalment, Steph continued to work with Carla, Jamie and the crew by becoming ‘Location Manager’ for Wings.
Locations were sorted, but Sevenoaks just kept giving…
Feeding a film-crew (and doing it well) is a difficult task, but one that is of course, vital (people get ‘hangry’ and who can be creative on bad food?) Well, Lavender fields certainly ensured that everyone on this set was suitably satisfied, with delicious food from breakfast through to dinner.
But no shoot is complete without sweet treats, and this is where the Sevenoaks COOK shop stepped in, donating cakes delicious brownies for the crew to keep both sugar levels and spirits high!
Gratitude extended to all those community members who came together to materialise Carla’s vision. The success of the film’s production evidenced just how great the Sevenoak’s community can be, pulling together purely for the love of this project, as without them this shoot would not have been possible.
After days of preparation, exhausted tape measures, and rolls of gaffer tape, the shoot date finally arrived. The exceptional Kent locations looked utterly stunning through the lens, and despite the mist and rain, the Director of Photography Beatriz Delgado Mena and her formidable camera crew seemed happy; and so they should be, after all this hard work it had finally come together, here in Sevenoaks.
As Miriam and Virginia put on their coats as the day drew in, everyone was exhausted but beaming with pride. These incredible actresses had been nothing short of wonderful, and it was abundantly clear why they are treasured screen legends; but not only that, they were both warm, fun and a joy to work with.
Luckily, talented Sevenoaks florist Bella Verrechia from ‘Jonny’s Little Sister’ had a way to thank the magical duo, by providing them with fabulous flowers to take home. Another example of a community member whose contribution to this project was very special indeed. So, with bouquets in hand and smiles on their faces, Virginia and Miriam left after a magical day of storytelling.
After a long shoot, Carla and Jamie were in disbelief that the day had happened, and that Wings was snug on a hard-drive, ready to be stitched together in the editing suite.
Wings was treated to some ‘pampering’ in the post-production stage, by an array of professionals who gifted a stunning musical score, colour enhancement and minor special effects. When it was time to compile the film’s credits, there was certainly a long list and an army of Sennockians to thank! As the credits roll, archive footage from the Imperial War Museum can be seen dancing behind the names.
It was now time for Wings to hit the international film circuit. From submission to hearing anything, can feel like a very long time, especially when a global pandemic hits, but regardless, the festival invites began to trickle in. Soon, Wings was premiering in countries all across the globe.
Wings has now been selected to screen at over 30 global festivals, and most notably it received the ‘CO-OP Audience Award’ at the IRIS Prize Film Festival, ‘Best Short’ by Outshine festival in Florida, ‘Best Drama’ at the ‘Out on Film’ festival in Atlanta and recently, an official selection for BFI Flare (British Film Institute). Consequently, Wings has been accepted as an applicant to the BAFTA short film awards and the Oscars short film category (yes, you read that right!)
A glimpse of Sevenoaks in Hollywood sure would be nice, wouldn’t it? But then there are of course many entrants from fantastic filmmakers globally, and the competition is extremely fierce. Regardless of the outcome, the Wings team are beyond proud to have secured a spot in front of these prestigious judges. So, we shall see…
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the Iris Prize ‘Best British’ shortlist then secured a place on ‘All4’. So yes, this means that you can now watch Wings from the comfort of your home by going to ‘All4’ from your smart television, or by going online. The film will be aired on-demand until November 2021.
Speaking of the pandemic, it must also be said that Lu Corfield and Orietta Subrizi (the actresses who play the role of the carers in the film) remind us how exceptional and vital these people are to our community. The Wings team would like to sincerely thank carers and praise their commitment throughout this global pandemic.
If you would like to find out more about Wings, you can do so by going to the film’s Instagram page: @wings_thefilm. The team greatly appreciates feedback, especially at a time when the pandemic keeps filmmakers from their audiences.
By Carla Fraser
Edited by Ellie Harte-Fisk