Maximus – a story of heartache, imagination and magic

Richard Prendergast is one of our judges and will be appraising the East Anglian Award for us. He is also one half of the husband and wife team that make up Submotion; he directs and Rachel produces. Their Oscar qualifying 2018 short film Sylvia won world wide critical acclaim and was part of the Suffolk Shorts screenings in 2019. Richard has a natural ability for story telling through film and video. His vision and passion, backed by his in depth technical ability and experience, make for exceptional thought provoking watching.

Richard and Rachel were approached by Ben Pryke about making Maximus, a short film he was producing based on a true story of a boy’s fight with cancer.  Ben is the film’s Executive Producer and head of the film and media course at West Suffolk College.  

Ben wanted to incorporate the making of a film into his students’ curriculum giving them real, on set and first hand experience in the world of filmmaking.  Richard jumped at the change to be involved and says the initial draw was the idea of creative collaboration with the students at West Suffolk College. The idea that they could somehow make a difference to the students’ future careers was key to Submotion’s decision to get on on board with the project.

‘When Ben Pryke first called me about the program it seemed like a no brainer.’


Maximus is a story of heartache, imagination and magic. The film follows a young girl as she tells the story of her brave brother, Maximus, to a seemingly uninterested listener. India tells a tale of magic and wizards, and slowly but surely engages the seemingly curmudgeonly Mike. But all is not as it seems.

Maximus is a collaborative effort between writer/director Richard Prendergast and producers Rachel Prendergast and Max Mason. The film ended up with a 50/50 split of professionals and students and was shot across Norfolk and Suffolk during the summer of 2020. With a week’s worth of night shoots, they hit the ground running with a 110 strong crew and cast in Thetford forest. With Covid-19 safety measures in force, the crew worked tirelessly through long and extremely wet nights.

‘With horses, sword fights, magic and explosions, we were the first large scale production back up and running in the UK.’

The results are stunning. There are battle scenes, horse riding, sword fights, all being narrated by Rachel and Richard’s daughter Maisie who plays the role of India. Maisie also had a starring role in Sylvia. Maisie wasn’t initially cast in the film but the original actor was unable to join, leaving Maximus as another short film family affair for the Prendergasts.  Rachel explains:

‘Suddenly Maisie was cast and expected to learn a script very quickly! To say she did the role proud is an understatement.’

The film has been getting rave reviews already and UK Film Review gave it a 5 star rating saying:

‘Maximus’ is a fine showcase of just how different short filmmaking can be and, that if you put in the effort, blood, sweat and tears, you can be left with something simply special.’

Working with the students from West Suffolk College on this project and on a short film really cemented Richard’s views on the medium.

‘Short films have a multitude of purposes. They are great as a proving ground for young film makers, proof of concept for bigger projects or to be experimental without such large financial risk. ‘

Maximus pushes the boundaries of storytelling and packing a feature film concept into just 15 minutes. Richard feels that enticing the audience into feeling something, and connecting to characters in such a short space of time is a real challenge for any writer and director. It’s something he’ll be looking for in his role on the jury for Suffolk Shorts.

You can watch Maximus when it premieres on Birdbox Film on Wednesday the 28th of April. All the proceeds from the online premiere are going to the Team Max Fundraising Page. You can register your interest by clicking here.

More news

Screenshot of FilmFreeway's home page

Diary of a Suffolk Shorts reviewer

Dog eating popcorn watching a film

Are you an armchair critic?

Stephen Graham

From Short to Feature