Romantic comedy From Suffolk With Love looks set to seduce the film world
PUBLISHED: 09:00 07 February 2016
From Suffolk With Love is a new romantic comedy, a movie written, shot on location and starring people from Suffolk. It's designed to be the county's calling card to the film world. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to its producers Julien Mery and Matthew McGuchan
It’s been a real labour of love which has involved a steep learning curve for producing pair Julien Mery and Matthew McGuchan – but Suffolk is about to show off its creative talent on the big screen with the release of our first home-grown feature film From Suffolk With Love.
The film is a self-funded calling card for Suffolk’s creative industry. The entire feature, a romantic comedy conceived in the portmanteau style of Love Actually and New York, I Love You, was written, starred and made by local talent utilising Suffolk locations.
Producer Julien, from Suffolk company Livid Films, said: “It’s a proper home-made film in the best sense of the word. It’s about creating an entertaining film for Valentine’s but also providing a valuable platform for the creative talent of Suffolk. It’s a calling card for what Suffolk film professionals can do but also the opportunities the landscape and the buildings can provide as filming locations.”
From Suffolk With Love combines eight different stories which have been woven together with a linking narrative by script editor Matthew. Each ten-minute segment was penned by a different writer and shot by a different director and crew during last summer and have been edited by Julien and Matthew with help from Suffolk film-maker Nick Woolgar who has provided valuable technical advice.
The film was made with £6,000 from crowd-funding and with donated services, time and talent from the people making the film. “It’s been a tough schedule. I wouldn’t want to do it again in a hurry because there are all sorts of problems you encounter that you would never think about before you started shooting but I am feeling good about it because we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Matthew.
“If we did it again, I think that we would opt for a classic low budget, one location, three actors and a good story option. After the juggling act of From Suffolk With Love, it would seem like a doddle.”
Julien said: “We had nine different units at work at more or less the same time during the summer and we had to liaise with nine different directors at nine different locations. The logistics were insane. We were having to drive all over the county.
“We were hampered by the weather during the summer. We lost a lot of days to rain and we had to shoot quite a lot of pick-ups in September and October as we were putting the film together. But, the problem with pick-ups is that you have to find a day or a weekend when the cast and crew are all available.
“They all have jobs and lives to get on with which is why we hoped to get everything shot during the summer. Unfortunately the weather had other plans. We got further and further behind and we had professional people on the camera crew who, after a while, had to go off and earn a living, so we had to find a time when they were back in Suffolk and we could resume work.
“But we managed to overcome the problems and we did it. We have a few bits and pieces to finish but the film will be ready and we have proved that you can make a professional feature film in Suffolk in about eight months. It was a huge endeavour and at times I thought we had bitten off more than we could chew but we managed it and now, armed with the lessons we’ve learned, we are ready for anything.”
The film is being given its world premiere at the Riverside Cinema in Woodbridge next weekend to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Julien and Matthew are the driving force of Film Suffolk, a co-operative agency which is working with Suffolk County Council to provide a means of attracting film companies to the region and providing employment opportunities for local film professionals.
Under the Film Suffolk banner Julien and Matthew have been assembling a database of actors, writers, make-up, wardrobe, crew, camera crew, all people with services to offer that would make life easier for visiting productions.
“We want to make Suffolk a place which is very film friendly. We have amazing talent in the county and some wonderful landscapes and beautiful skies, so let’s make something of it,” said Julien. “We want to attract film companies to the county and we want to make it easy for them to work here. So we are saying: ‘Not only do we have the locations and the facilities but we have the people too. You don’t need to transport and house loads of crew and technicians or bring vast numbers of extras, we have professionals already living here in Suffolk who will do a brilliant job and they can come from home very day.
“This will make the budget stretch much further and the Suffolk landscape and locations will make any film look very good. You can’t beat the light in Suffolk.”
Julien said they will be treating the premiere as a preview and will be asking audience members to fill in a short questionnaire as they leave, so they can gauge audience reaction before they lock down the print and produce a DVD for those who took part in the shoot.
After six months of non-stop editing the pair are very pleased at the way the film fits together. “You are never entirely sure how eight different stories are going to fit together but the addition of a ninth framing story locks everything into place quite nicely. Now we are adding music and we have got the pacing right, it looks very good and we are very happy with it – even after all this time and living with it every day.”
Matthew added: “We are still discovering things in the edit, great little moments, and that is down to the vision of the individual directors and they have rewarded our faith in them. They have exceeded our expectations.”
He said that the framing story is set around a wedding and a guest at the wedding will appear in each of the mini-stories within the movie. “It’s the wedding guests that provide the link that ties all the stories together. It’s a love letter to Suffolk and a celebration of local talent.”
Both said that the biggest learning curve has come in the post-production with the editing, audio-mixing and the picture grading so all the different shoots by different directors look as if they all belong to the same film. Julien said: “When you are shooting a film there are lots of people around and it’s very buzzy but what has been really gratifying is the number of people who have stuck around for the whole process and helped us get through the long post-production process and that’s what gives you a professional looking movie.”
Each director did a rough cut of their own sequence before the mini-feature was delivered into the hands of Nick Woolgar who supervised the creation of the final edit with Ryan Kent which stitched the whole story together and created a cohesive structure to the narrative.
“Nick has been this huge tower of strength. He’s provided a sense of calm when things have got slightly fractious. When the edit is not going right, when we’re getting behind and the emails are coming in, saying we need to do this or that isn’t working we need to do it again. He’s been a huge stabilising presence.”
Both Matthew and Julien said that the creation of From Suffolk With Love had been a huge labour of love for everyone. “We had so many professionals not only giving their time and expertise but also allowing us to use their equipment.”
From Suffolk With Love is being screened at the Riverside Cinema, Woodbridge, on Monday, February 15. Details and tickets for the screening can be found at www.theriverside.co.uk