A feature film project which has been in the planning for over a year, and for which the majority of filming was completed in June, with a spin-off stage show performed in August, is already gaining success abroad.
Set in a heavily researched backdrop of early 6th Century Devon & Cornwall, and researched from many early Celtic sources, as well as later medieval texts, Mordred tells the tale of King Arthur’s illegitimate son, and how two equally honourable men were brought to war.
Once the majority of principal filming was completed, the South Devon Players‘ main editor, Michael Mirsadeghi, put together the official film trailer with a haunting soundtrack created by German film composer Michael Klubertanz. The team decided to submit the trailer to several international film festivals during the autumn.
The first of these festivals, the Thanksgiving IndieBOOST 2016 Competition selected the Mordred film trailer as one of the finalists in the competition. The trailer was given a rating of 9.5 in terms of acting, cinematography, technical and creative aspects.
This production not only showcases very heavily researched Dark Ages history of Devon and Cornwall (the southwest peninsula of the UK), linked to some of the very earliest and less known Arthurian legends, but also equally to showcase the amazing skills by local actors, filmmakers, and other production creatives.
‘Since there are very few opportunities,’ said the South Devon Players, ‘we decided to make our own and that is how The South Devon Players Theatre and Film Company started, back in 2006.
‘Now, years later, we have been able to branch into filmmaking, as well as theatre, reaching a much wider audience for our team.’
The team are running a crowdfund to raise funds for the final few scenes needed, which will be filmed in 2017.
Contrary to the usual glamorous medieval settings for many Arthurian adaptations, with knights in gleaming plate armour, and ladies in stunning court dresses; this is a very different production. Set in the early 6th Century, this drama is set within a very different landscape.
Following the departure of the Romans from Britain, the South West again became the Celtic kingdom of Dumnonia â€“ what is now the southwestern peninsula of the UK comprising Devon and Cornwall. At this point in history, the Saxons were raiding along the coast, much as the Vikings did, centuries later. Set against this backdrop, Arthur and his warriors, fight to defend Dumnonia, against invasion.
The timeline for this film came originally from the entry for the year 537AD in the Annales Cambriae; 537 The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland. ‘Medraut’ was the name that in later legend, became Mordred. We went with the later name ‘Mordred’ simply so that it would be more recognisable to modern audiences.
The South West is linked to a wide number of legends connected with King Arthur, and as we researched, we found yet more old stories, both of Mordred, and and of other, Mordred-like characters who almost never appear in modern adaptations of the legend.
Piecing these together, against this dramatic, ever-changing landscape of the Dark Ages, and using peripheral history of the times -for example; as the Saxons began to expand their kingdom of Wessex, Cynric, who was the first king of Wessex, is also an important character in our drama -we created our own version of the legend, with a lot of the backdrop which would have existed in the time it is set.
After months of research, rehearsing and training, the cast are really excited to begin filming at last!
The group running it, The South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company, from Brixham in South Devon, also founded by Laura Jay, has a proven track record over 10 years of producing historical theatre and film, working from the early days of raising £80 from a carboot sale and using the backroom of a pub for rehearsals.
The large cast ranges from Julie Tetley playing Gitta; Morgan le Fay’s maid and co-conspirator, and 13-year-old newcomer Reece Whitehouse playing King Arthur’s ‘legitimate’ son, Duran, in their first ever major acting roles (in fact the first ever role for Reece). Through their more experienced actors Rich Sandford who stars as Mordred, and Guillaume Rivaud, who plays King Arthur, right over to ‘Iron’ Mike Mitchell, who, after holding 5 ‘Mr World’ and 2 ‘Mr Universe’ titles with the World Fitness Federation, went on to the world of acting and has appeared in films such as Gladiator, Braveheart, Skyfall, Apocalypse Z -and the TV soap Emmerdale.
It was considered very important to make sure that we were not making ‘just another King Arthur film’, and to find a unique adaptation. While novels have been written from Mordred’s point of view, to our knowledge, this has never been transferred to film. That, coupled with spanning Devon and Cornwall, and delving into earlier and less known legends, has created an all new version of the legend.
Not that creating a production of this scale is easy. The cast and crew members have been involved in a wide range of fundraising activities, ranging from small amounts from tombolas and face painting at fetes, and selling on ebay, through to a film/ scifi/ fantasy convention, grant applications, cabaret shows, ebook publications and more.
For costumes and props, It was also a case of keeping one eye on the history book and the other on what reclaimed fabrics and items can be remade, and adapted. We have to thank so many people who keep an eye out for second hand things that we can do this with.
This is an ambitious project, taking not just every ounce of creativity on screen, but also in the planning and logistics behind-the-scenes.
(from a press release)