Actress Kirsty Symonds’ soulful performance lies at the heart of John Tomkins’ Like An Angel, a time-travelling drama which starts in the Tudor era with a man named Coldare (Adam Barfield) on the run from the agents of Squire Revin Hallows (David Gent).
It transpires Coldare has stolen a mysterious stone from Hallows. Seeking refuge at the home of his friend, Sam J Stevens (Sam Jones), it soon becomes apparent that the stone is possessed of magical qualities, and has the ability to transport its owner through time. Alanda Olanda (Symonds) soon discovers this when she is transported to modern-day Brixham. But things aren’t quite what they seem…
For all its rough edges, Like an Angel is nevertheless worthy of admiration when one considers the conditions under which it was made. It was Torbay-based, singer-songwriter Tomkins’ first plunge into the world of feature filmmaking, a baptism of fire that was to consume its maker’s life between 2008 and 2009. In spite of the difficult production, he emerged from the experience a better filmmaker and a wiser man.
Given Tomkins wrote the script, shot the entire project on one camera (along with co-director Symonds), edited it and composed most of the soundtrack, all on a budget of approximately £500, it’s undeniably crude on a technical level. Off-camera, there were problems too. A fire destroyed John’s flat midway through the shoot but like a true maverick, his passion wasn’t dampened; it was re-ignited.
At times, Like An Angel resembles a grungy student film but Tomkins’ commitment to the project can’t be denied. Indeed, he coaxes solid performances out of the actors, all of whom have fun with the archaic dialogue, especially TOADS Theatre actor David Gent, who feasts on the scenery and devours every last vowel as the mysterious Revin Hallows. Laura Jury also delivers an amusing, partially improvised performance as Rachel Olanda, the modern woman who can’t quite come to terms with her genetic connection to Symonds’ mysterious time-travelling figure.
Tomkins’ enthusiasm was such that he even went so far as to create some of the practical effects himself – the void for example which takes Alanda from the past into the future was created with lemonade and a lava lamp. The score is an intriguing mixture of past and present, all created on a keyboard, and the combination of those mysterious leafy Torbay locations along with Lionel Digby’s costumes means the Tudor period is evoked brilliantly. The subsequent jump into modern-day Brixham makes for classic fish out of water humour, with Symonds’ costumes drawing authentically baffled looks from extras playing bemused passers-by.
But perhaps Tomkins’ greatest strength was his ability to draw out key skills in his cast and crew, resulting in a truly collaborative effort which helped transcend the difficulties of the production itself. There’s no doubt the project fulfilled Tomkins’ original aim: to promote local talent from across Torbay. Adam Barfield for example not only took the role of Coldare fresh out of Exeter’s Cygnet Theatre; he also helped co-ordinate the film’s climactic sword fight, one of its most distinctive and memorable moments.
Kirsty Symonds meanwhile took the lead role and also helped direct behind the camera. Other talented personnel behind the scenes included Darren Jones (whose input can be keenly felt on the opening title sequence) and local composer Steve Sowden (who contributed an original song to the soundtrack).
John’s belief in his project was such that he was able to see beyond the technical limitations in an attempt to realise his vision. The results aren’t wholeheartedly successful but then Stanley Kubrick once said that filmmakers only need to pick up a camera and shoot. John certainly did that – and much more besides.
Like an Angel is now available to watch online at http://www.emberlenseproductions.com/#Homepage