East Anglian filmmaking – the inside story
In October 2021 HOLD was selected for the East Anglian Film programme and screened at the event at King Street Cinema, (then Ipswich Film Theatre). The short thriller, directed by Jonathan Blagrove, was a favourite of the programming team and the jury, who deliberated for quite some time about the eventual winner of the Award. Jonathan’s previous work has been screened at two Suffolk Shorts events and HOLD has just been released to stream on Omeleto
We asked Jonathan to tell us about his experience of working as a filmmaker in East Anglia, here is his candid reflection on the process. If you didn’t come to the screening we really recommend streaming HOLD, we think you’ll love it as much as we did!
Single location, single character
The idea for HOLD came in late 2018. I’d already directed a self-funded short film the previous year and I was itching to direct again. I started to think of ideas based around the concept of a single location, with a single character, something which was achievable within a very small budget. I also wanted to collaborate with Norfolk based script writer Lynda Williams – one of the things I had learned whilst making my first short film as a director was that I certainly wasn’t a writer! HOLD started out life as a comedy, with a getaway driver being bombarded by unwanted calls from a call centre whilst waiting outside a bank on a job. I’m attracted to stories of ordinary people in extra ordinary situations and after a few conversations with Lynda, we changed the direction and tone of the narrative.
We knew we wanted to make a thriller where the characters and drama were firmly based in reality; a slice of genre film making that would be more relatable to our audience. Our lead character Tommy isn’t necessarily a bad person, he’s human, fallible and in too deep, but ultimately his decisions have put his family in very real danger.
A network of talent
I’m committed to film making in East Anglia and I’ve made all of my films (as a producer and director) either in Norfolk or Suffolk using local crew. One of the great things of being a freelance crew member myself is that I’ve forged some great personal and professional relationships over the years and collaborated on many local productions from short films to features, so know about this great film making resource the region has to offer and have a network of talent to call on for my own productions.
Filming of HOLD took place in March 2019 over two very cold nights at the West Raynham airbase in North Norfolk (Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir Pts 1 & 2 were filmed there) which was a perfect location for us, it had the industrial estate vibe we needed, whilst having the facilities to hand that a working film crew need, giving us much more control over the location than if we went and filmed on an inner city commercial estate in Norwich or Ipswich.
Support young filmmakers
We were supported by the Norfolk Princes’ Trust – in collaboration with Signature Pictures they put together a week-long course on film production for young aspiring film makers in Norfolk. At the end of the course the trainees had some work experience opportunities on HOLD, getting to see how a film set works first hand.
With the global pandemic of 2020 throwing everyone’s lives into turmoil, HOLD was released on to a very uncertain festival circuit, with a lot of festivals choosing to either go 100% online or postpone their events entirely. It was easy to miss the networking of in person events and there is nothing like watching your film on the big screen with an audience of like-minded film makers and enthusiasts, but I realised there were positives that the new online screenings brought – your work could potentially be seen by a much wider audience than if it were a physical screening. Fortunately, as the COVID situation improved, gradually the in-person festival events started to come back and HOLD did manage to get some showings on the big screen to an actual audience – Suffolk Shorts in 2021 being one of them.
I’m working on a number of projects at the moment, I’m planning to direct another short film this summer and have a couple of feature film ideas that are in the early stages of development – all to be filmed within East Anglia utilising the fantastic resources the region has to offer, both behind and in front of the camera.