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Director and producer Rosita Clarke and her award-winning Dorset film

PUBLISHED: 11:41 08 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:41 08 February 2018

Tristan Ward played troubled teen Tom

Tristan Ward played troubled teen Tom

Archant

Retired drama teacher turned film director and producer, Rosita Clarke tells us about the ghostly Dorset love story that has just won her an award at an international film festival

Taking my passion for drama into the world of film making was something I had always dreamed of. My directorial debut in film was Far From the Madding Crowd based on Thomas Hardy’s novel. It was unusual because it was made by a comprehensive school in Sherborne and featured students as cast members, including Ben Jones in the role of Francis Troy. Now known as Ben Hardy, he played Peter Beale in EastEnders and Archangel in The X-Men Movies and has a part in the currently in-production film Mary Shelley. Far From the Madding Crowd was successfully launched on the media circuit in 2009 receiving acclaimed coverage from CNN and the BBC.

In 2015 I set out to make a second feature film, The Other Side of the Lake a psychological ghost story set in the county I call home. The main character is an adolescent boy Tom Kearns who is visiting Dorset’s coast for the first time and gets inextricably involved with characters from the county’s 18th century smuggling past.

So how do you get a film made? When I set up my production company I Will Film my aim was to focus on making short films, writing screenplays and producing film trailers. Then an Irish writer called Jim Burke contacted me with an idea. He had seen my Far From the Madding Crowd film and wondered if a ghostly love story with a smuggling theme that he had written could be made into a film. After reading the story, which I loved, I realised that it would work extremely well if the setting transferred from Ireland to the Dorset coast. So I wrote the screenplay The Other Side of the Lake and the visual cinematic concept of the original story as a full length feature film was born.

Self-funded, with some help from Jim Burke, we had a budget of just £10,000 to work with; locations had to be found, sets built, costumes and props sourced, licences obtained and most importantly my actors and crew needed to be assembled.

I drew on the support of many ex-students from my teaching days at The Gryphon School as well as friends and family members who all shared my enthusiasm for this exciting project and were happy to volunteer their services.

My family played important roles both in front of and behind the camera. My daughter Carina stepped back into the 18th century as the love torn Eliza Little; other roles went to my son Daniel and granddaughter Megan. Tristan Ward from Woking, recently graduated from London School of Musical Theatre, played troubled teen Tom and local musician Justin Daish was Jack Dantam, the notorious smuggler.

My granddaughter Molly, who was studying Film Production at Southampton Solent University at the time, was lead camera operator and my husband Sparkie took over sound, built sets and had a key acting role as the mysterious Daniel Hand.

Amelia Mumford, my youngest son’s partner made Eliza’s gowns and the smugglers costumes. With 18th century props and costumes surrounding us, the family home soon started to resemble a museum.

Shooting began in April 2015 with actors and crew often working from early morning until late at night in all weathers. Our backdrop was the glorious Jurassic Coast.

Most of the 18th century smuggling scenes were filmed, rather aptly, on the cliffs and beach behind The Smugglers Inn, Osmington Mills. Other coastal scenes were shot at Burton Bradstock and White Nothe. The peaceful setting of St Mary’s Church at Hermitage was also used, as was ‘Calverhayes’ an old property at Holnest, dating back to 1160 and with additions added in 1610.

At the time I Will Film was working from Spring Grove Studios near Buckland Newton where the sets were built (we’re now based at Toller Porcorum). This location significantly provided the infamous ‘Lake’ in the film. Other locations included the Little Court Guest House, Charminster and Abbey Street in Cerne Abbas which served as the village for the smuggling community.

After six month of filming I started the solitary task of editing the hours and hours of footage into a 120 minute film. I also compiled the sound track obtaining licences for background music and specific songs performed by Nick Cave, David Gray, Anthony and The Johnsons and Gabbi Young and other animals. And so The Other Side of The Lake transformed from a short ghostly love story written by Jim Burke into a bona fide feature film created for the big screen. This was thanks to much enthusiasm, encouragement from friends and family who truly believed in the project and my enduring love of Dorset and its landscape.

The film premiered in June 2016 and won me the Best Director Award at the Lady’s First International Film Festival in Cork. Costumes and cinematography were also highly praised.

If there are any local venues in Dorset that would like to screen The Other Side of The Lake please do contact me rositaclarke61@gmail.com or visit iwillfilm.com where you can read more about the development of the film. The DVD can also be purchased from the website. 


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