Chiswick In Film Festival 2023

Images above: Blitzer and Shaun; Will Becher, lead animator with Aardman, with Shaun the Sheep at Chiswick Cinema; Andrea Carnevali with Shaun

Everybody wanted their photograph taken with Shaun

I must say it felt like a bit of a marathon because I watched all six films – The Queen, Shaun the Sheep, Mike Bassett England Manager, Rye Lane, Victim and De-Lovely. Who knew all those films had connections to Chiswick?!

I love finding out how films are made – why the story is shot in the way it is, what inspired the creators, where the scenes were shot and what difficulties they had along the way. We heard lots of industry secrets and some hilarious, revealing and moving anecdotes from our guests in the Q&A sessions which accompanied each screening at the Chiswick In Film festival over the weekend.

Images above: Blitzer and Shaun; Will Becher showing Rosie and Roger Lang how they move; Jenny de Montfort photographing Shaun

I have to say, with all due deference to industry bigwigs Andy Harries, Sir Stephen Frears and Christine Langan, despite the star power of Ricky Tomlinson, Stephen K Amos and Kevin McNally, the sheer joy of Rye Lane and its charismatic young writer Nathan Bryon, and the laughs created by the Mike Bassett lot, the characters I most enjoyed meeting were Shaun the Sheep and his sheepdog mate Blitzer. They and their handler, Lead Animator with Aardman animation Will Becher, were captivating.

Amongst other things, he told us he is working on a new Wallace and Gromit film… early days, but something to look forward to. The Chiswick connection is Rob Sprackling, who was one of the writing team on the film and is also one of the organisers of the Chiswick In Film Festival.

The making of The Queen and the importance of meaningless metaphors

Images above: L to R: Sir Stephen Frears; Christine Langan; Andy Harries; Bridget Osborne; photograph Chris Parker

Series Six of The Crown is due out later this autumn. It will cover the period of Princess Diana’s death – ground which has already been covered by the same team, writer Peter Morgan and executive producer, co-founder of Left Bank Pictures Andy Harries, in The Queen (2006), with Helen Mirren as the late Queen Elizabeth II and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair.

Andy Harries was at the Chiswick Film Festival on Friday 29 September, talking with co-producer on The Queen, Christine Langan, and director Sir Stephen Frears, to the editor of The Chiswick Calendar Bridget Osborne. Andy is our Chiswick connection, as he has lived in Chiswick with his family for 30 years.

Images above: Sir Stephen Frears; Christine Langan; Andy Harries

The most memorable quote of the night came from Stephen, talking about the scene in the film when the Queen is driving her Landrover at Balmoral by herself and she gets stuck crossing a river. While she waits for help she sees the magnificent stag (a ’14 pointer’, referring to its very impressive set of antlers) which Prince Philip is stalking, and for the first time since Diana’s death we see her cry.

“If you want to make a successful film, always remember to include a meaningless metaphor” he joked.

(Or at least I think he was joking. You can never be quite sure with the multi-award winning Sir Stephen. He has a very dry sense of humour).

Image above: Suzette Llewellyn (L); Nathan Bryon (Centre)

At last, a writer who just wants to create joy and positivity!

I think the film I enjoyed most, partly because I hadn’t seen it before, was Rye Lane, the romcom which premiered at the Sundance Festival earlier this year. Co-writer Nathan Bryon looks like he is barely out of school and yet he is a successful children’s author and writer of TV series and his first (very successful) feature film.

He was a breath of fresh air, talking about how he just wanted to make films that reflected the lives of people like him and his mates. Unfortunately his connection with Chiswick was not an entirely happy one, as he shared his house here with quite a few mice, he told us, so maybe it’s not surprising he has now moved away!

Rye Lane is a really joyous film, and very colourful, everyone’s wearing bright, interesting clothes, to underline the upbeat message. It has been very well received by audiences and critics alike and trumpeted as the film which has breathed new life into the romcom format.

It is the freshness of it which is so noticeable – a debut director, up and coming actors and a first time feature film pair of writers. It hadn’t really occurred to me before how much Black people are stereotyped in films – always the gangster – “either very rich or vey poor” said Nathan. It is just very refreshing seeing two normal young Londoners falling in love.

Nathan is clearly a huge talent and there is so much good stuff yet to come from him, I really hope he comes back to tell us about his latest projects in the future too.

Image above: Steve Barron and Ricky Tomlinson

Ricky Tomlinson on starting his acting career at the age of 42

The Mike Bassett England Manager panel was a riot – Ricky Tomlinson, the film’s creator Rob Sprackling, director Steve Barron and former Sports News editor of the BBC Mihir Bose sharing their stories from making the film and their memories of how awful English football was in the early 1990s with journalist and former BBC Radio 5 Live presenter Julian Worricker.

The session took a serious turn when someone asked Ricky Tomlinson how he got into acting and why, after working most of his life in the building trade, he had only become an actor in his mid forties. It happened after he came out of prison.

He and his friend and co-worker Des Warren were jailed in 1973. Ricky was sentenced to two years after being convicted of conspiring to intimidate and affray during a strike. He had taken part in the first national building workers’ strike in 1972 to improve wages and safety regimes on sites.

The Court of Appeal declared the conviction ‘unsafe’ two years ago and they were exonerated, but not before Des Warren had died.

Image above: Chris Parker interviewing Stephen K Amos 

The 1961 film Victim ‘still relevant’ for the LGBT community more than sixty years on says Stephen K Amos

The discussion with Stephen K Amos about the 1961 black and white film Victim was also serious. Although he is known best as a stand up comedian, Stephen has made documentaries about homophobia, Prejudice and Pride and Batty Man.

He said he had decided to come out and make a stand when he saw a face flash up one day on the news of someone he knew. It was a friend of his who had been attacked in Clapham, the victim of a homophobic attack. Two men were attacked just this summer outside the LGBT pub the Two Brewers in Clapham, also random victims of a homophobic attack.

He spoke about how things were for young gay men in the 1980s and how relevant the film, about the blackmail of a gay man in the early sixties, before homosexuality was legalised, still is.

Both Dirk Bogarde and Sylvia Syms took huge risks with their careers by making Victim.  It is a good film in its own right as a thriller, but its significance was that coming after the publication of the Wolfson report and the change in the law, it was credited with changing public opinion in Britain about homosexuality.

It was the first film to even mention the word ‘homosexual’ and was banned in the United States even though there was no sex in it and the blackmail picture was merely of Dirk Bogarde putting his arm around a friend (fully clothed).

As for the Chiswick connections – the film was shot in Chiswick, with scenes of St Nicholas Church and Chiswick Mall, and Sylvia Syms lived here before she died.

Image above: Colin Firth talking about the selection of the young film makers award, in a pre-recorded video message

Kevin McNally on fifty years of acting

The grand finale of the weekend was the presentation of the young film makers awards – of which, read more here:

READ MORE: Olive Tennant wins Chiswick In Film Festival Young Film maker award

And Kevin McNally talking about his tremendous career (nearly 60 films, 111 TV series and counting … as well as theatre performances, radio and video games).

Image above: Kevin McNally; photograph Frank Noon

We screened De-Lovely, the bio-pic of Cole Porter, which has a scene in it of the Classic Bridge at Chiswick House (doubling for the bridge in New York’s Central Park). Kevin plays one of Cole Porter’s closest friends.

He talked about filming De-Lovely and about his first role in a television series, iClaudius (currently available to watch on iPlayer). The 1976 adaptation of Robert Graves book about the early history of the Roman Empire was absolutely required viewing when it first aired, in the days when everyone watched the same thing at the same time and talked about it the next day at work.

The baby-faced Kevin was straight out of RADA, in a smash hit with actors such as Sian Phillips, Derek Jacobi and Brian Blessed.

He remembered being in the first Poldark (1977, again a huge hit, but “unwatchable now” he says) and films such as The Spy Who Loved Me, the James Bond film with Roger Moore, also in 1977).

He talked about Pirates of the Caribbean – he is the only actor to have appeared in all five films, and claims to know no more than the rest of us about whether there will be a sixth (supposedly in development) but thinks if there is, Johnny Depp should be in it.

I asked him what was his favourite job. (Was it one of the 60 films or the 111 TV series, or maybe it was appearing on stage opposite Maggie Smith in The Lady in the Van I wondered?)

“The next one” he said.

See if you can spot the films and their Chiswick connections in Andrea Carnevali’s trailer for the festival.

Image above: Chiswick In Film Festival organisers Keiichi Furuya, manager of Chiswick Cinema; Andrea Carnevali; Rob Sprackling; Bridget Osborne; Chris Parker

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar