Friday, June 14th, 2024

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION… Film stars come to Sevenoaks to make movie co-written by local actress

by My Sevenoaks Community editor Frank Baldwin

A PIECE of movie magic was created in the Sevenoaks area recently when several stars of the big screen descended on two locations to shoot scenes for a new short film called Wings.

The locations had to be kept secret from the public because one of the stars was BAFTA-award winning actresses Miriam Margolyes. Her many roles include Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series and ardent ‘Potter’ fans often turn up on film sets to try and catch a glimpse of their screen ‘idols’.

Another of the award-winning stars was Virginia McKenna of ‘Born Free’ fame. She and Miriam were so impressed when they originally read the Wings script co-written by actress and producer Carla Fraser, who lives locally, that they both agreed to appear in the film which is about two Land Army girls who fall in love during the second world war.

Miriam, Virginia and Carla, who will be appearing with Rosie Day, Lu Corfield, and Bobby Lockwood, were filmed at Lavender Fields Care Home in Seal and at the beautiful St Clere estate in Kemsing.

Virginia and Miriam on the set of Wings.

Karen Cooper, the Home Manager at Lavender Fields Care Home, said: “One of our residents was able to meet his heart throb Virginia and this truly made his day. Both ladies engaged with residents and staff and Miriam even persuaded them to join in with a sing-along.

“We are so glad that our Care Home could be part of this truly poignant story. The whole day was wonderful, and I know that the residents were blown away by being included in this production.”

Eliza Ecclestone, owner of St Clere estate, said: “The cast and crew were fantastic. It was so lovely watching everything come together and I can’t wait to see the finished film.”

Miriam, Lu and Carla.

Carla Fraser, who has taught drama classes at Sevenoaks School, added: “I can’t thank My Sevenoaks Community enough for helping to set-up all the locations. I posted something about the film on My Sevenoaks Community and was contacted by Steph Harrison. She was really moved by the Wings story and as a result found us exceptional locations and introduced us to all the right people including Nicky Tresadern, Manager at COOK who supplied us with the most delicious cakes during the filming and florist Bella Verrechia from Johnny’s Little Sister, who created beautiful bouquets of flowers for Virginia and Miriam.

“All the Sevenoaks people we worked with have been so helpful and lovely – we hope to really do them proud with this film!”

Wings will be screened sometime next year. My Sevenoaks Community caught up with local actress Carla Fraser to find out more about the film and how she managed to persuade such well known star names to take part

Where did the idea for the film come from?

“Jamie Weston – the director and my co-writer – had just filmed a documentary called ‘Essex Girls’. He called me up and said it had given him an idea about two land girls falling in love and he believed one of the parts would be absolutely ideal for me. Jamie sent through some ideas and I set about forming a script. It was so enjoyable to write, and the basic outline fell on to the page within days.

“Jamie and I then started meeting in London cafes, working out how we would make our idea a reality!”

“We did budgets and plans and wrote to people and organisations to try and get funding but as months past we realised that if we waited too long the film may never happen. So, we planned to film on a relatively small budget using some equipment Jamie had access to.

“However, once we started casting, things changed. Rosie Day jumped on board having seen the project online, then Bobby Lockwood joined us. Then when Virginia and Miriam agreed to take part, we quickly realised that the whole thing deserved far better production values and somehow, we had to make that happen.”

How did you get Miriam Margolyes and Virginia McKenna to agree to take part?

“I know Virginia and her son Will because of another short film I made called ‘Grey Future’. The film took me into the world of conservation where I was able to meet them on protests and at various fundraising events. They help run an absolutely incredible organisation called the ‘Born Free Foundation’ named after the film that Virginia starred in. If you haven’t heard of the foundation, check it out. I grew up with the ‘Born Free’ film and have watched it with my nan more times than I can tell you! So, having Virginia in one of my films is beyond special.

“Miriam, I met in a cafe, and she read the script and then made a promise to be in it. It was truly a magical experience and I’m so grateful for her belief in me and this story.

“We’re very lucky and grateful because all the cast ‘get’ the heart of this story and are intensely passionate about what it stands for. They have donated their time and been truly incredible to work with.”

Why is the film called Wings?

“There is a quote featured on the poster and the front of the script which reads ‘It took her a long time to find her wings, but when she did, it was beautiful’.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but there are bird and freedom references throughout the film, linked to being authentic and free.”

Where is the film set and why?

“The first half of the filming took place in Colchester, because that’s where the director Jamie Weston is based. There is a studio there which was willing to help us build the air-raid shelter and a perfect 1940s house location.

“The second half is set in a time period closer to the present day and it was great to be able to film at the wonderful Lavender Fields Care home in Seal and the stunning St Clere estate in Kemsing which are both very close to where I live.

“The lake at St Clere provided a beautiful location for the final scene and the Lavender Fields Care Home staff were absolutely amazing, particularly the home manager Karen Cooper, the family liaison manager Andrew Wilson, director of business development Geraint Williams, and deputy manager Michelle Bryant. They helped us in every way possible and made our cast welcome and comfortable.

“On the day we shot scenes there, residents came on set with us. It was great fun and we still can’t quite believe how special that place is.

“Both locations were incredibly supportive and without them we could not have finished this story – so we’re extremely grateful to them both.”

Where will the film will be shown and what do you hope it will achieve?

Virginia and Carla on set at St Clere in Kemsing.

“We will be entering Wings into all the major film festivals internationally, and it will also be something that the LGBTQ+ community can use to celebrate their history.

“Lavender Fields Care Home also has a wonderful cinema room and has said that they will screen the film to their residents. This is something that we are very excited about, as it is understood that in most retirement and care homes there will be someone who is homosexual but has likely gone back into ‘the closet’ – because other elderly people may not be as understanding.

“This is one of the wonderful things about Lavender Fields. They have embraced the story of Wings and seem very keen on addressing all their residents’ individual needs. They truly are an inspiration when it comes to elderly care!”


Where did you train and what other film/acting work have you done?

“I trained for three years at Guildford school of Acting (GSA) where I got a 1st class BA in Acting. I have been very involved in theatre, but prior to the Wings project, I also wrote a short film called ‘Grey Future’ which was about the elephant and rhino poaching crisis. The film was screened internationally, but most specifically it supported the campaign for a full UK Ivory Ban.

“Jamie Weston, the director of Wings, was the director of photography on that film, and that’s how we met.”

Although the film is already in production you can still play your part by helping to fund the project through a crowdfunding page set up by Carla and director Jamie Weston. Individuals can be mentioned in the credits for as little as £10 and businesses can get a range of benefits for £250. There are also opportunities to get signed scripts, posters, or simply a copy of the film for £5. You can find out how by CLICKING HERE

 Film buffs can also find more about the background to Wings and details about the cast, the crew and the production team on the Crowdfunding page.

The cast and crew of Wings during filming at Lavender Fields Care Home in Seal.

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