Writer / director Steve Baldwin’s journey into the film The Ballad of Lucy Sands is a fascinating trip beyond the grave. It’s grown into a massive feature film project that has solved the murder in the process. We caught up with Steve ahead of the next stint of filmming in Cornwall, to find out about the true story that came to him in a dream
D&CFilm: The Ballad of Lucy Sands is based on a true story. Can you tell us more about it and how you discovered it?
Steve Baldwin: The story actually came to me in a dream! Yeah I know, sounds like a crazy idea of a pitch, but the fact it is true hit me quite hard when I finally visited the place Lucy had been killed, turned round and looked at the landscape, which was exactly as I’d seen in the dream!
It was back in 2011 when I was living in New Zealand when the dream came to me. I was witnessing a snapshot in time, a scene of a clear cold moonlit evening, a river to my right, a bridge spanning over it, a hill with a large mansion on it lit up by candlelight, to my left, a road! In front of me was a shadowy figure, something slumped at its feet.
A female’s voice, ‘help me’
I heard a female’s voice, ‘help me’. The voice repeated this twice more, then I heard an ear piercing scream, and woke up with a start!
That was the start of this journey. Intrigued by the dream I made light of it and read into it that it was the ghost of a mansion I used to play in, now long since demolished, asking for my help to be remembered. So I set up a Facebook page for the mansion, it was an instant hit! And had hundreds of people joining it weekly!
D&CFilm: How much research did you have to do?
Steve Baldwin: I started to research the family who lived there – a Norman born noble set. Their trail eventually lead me to Carlisle, where one of the nobles sat in on a trial, which was held in Workington. The trial seemed quite intense so I started to read up on it. I soon exhausted the internet, and I was hooked!
I finally cracked the case… 137 years too late
My search intensified and I found myself traveling around the UK. Picking up pieces of information from libraries, archives and museums, until in 2016, I finally cracked the case and named the murderer and his accomplice – albeit 137 years too late!
7 years on / off research – which started as an idea for a couple of folk songs – the research of which is still ongoing – has lead to the dream becoming a filmed adaption of my findings.
Give peace to a soul
My aim of this is to give peace to a soul which I believed asked for my help, and to give closure to a case that has been left open for almost 140 years.
After one weekend’s research in Cumbria, I drove home and ended up hitting my vehicle into a wall. I called my insurers, who told me to drive to Bodmin for the repairs. Driving, I stumbled upon the stream railway. I’d only just been reading up on a local one they used for holding the dead girl’s body in, so I decided to go take a look. A trip up and down the line and I was hooked and asked to hire the location for a proposed film.
D&CFilm: The film is a collaboration between Devon-based DeMalebysse productions and Cornwall-based Darklight films. How did that come about?
Steve Baldwin: A date was set and I put out a call for crew and cast,
Darklight films came out of the woodwork and we exchanged a few emails. Then we met, and within 5 minutes knew that the project was destined to become a partnership. We shook on it and 3 weeks later, a project that had been planned for no more than a dozen people (crew and cast) had grown to more than a couple of dozen.
A crew, cast, steam train and railway junction
By the time we filmed – 3 weeks later – we had a crew / cast of 39 people on board, a steam train and the use of a railway junction for the entire weekend!
D&CFilm: The Ballad of Lucy Sands has grown from a small idea to a major production, with big crowd scenes. How has that developed and how have you managed the growth?
Steve Baldwin: The growth was sudden. We needed a crowd so it was a case of ‘come one, come all’ and they did!
On my behalf, managing this influx of people was done on autopilot. We had a very willing team, they needed pulling together, I did what I could, directing, scripting, running, food, the lot!
Day one was chaotic. Day two came together nicely. Days 3 and 4 will run like clockwork.
Diversifying our crew (by adding an equal ratio of F – M – each with their own specific roles), and bringing in some incredible young talent in the form of 1st AD Olivia Maiden (a 16-year-old powerhouse, whose organisation skills and knowledge of the industry are impeccable), has been a great move for us.
Diversity and equality
Diversity and equality are very important to us as a team.
The future growth of cast and crew is definitely something we are very capable of managing, and encouraging, as we need a cast of at least 120 people for our magistrates courts scene filming early 2019.
D&CFilm: The lead actress will be in five hours of make to look like a three-month old corpse, which highlights the scale of the film. Did you have any difficulty finding the cast and crew?
Steve Baldwin: We have been incredibly lucky with finding both cast and crew for this. They just seem to drift into the script and are hooked!
I’ve only held one actual audition and that was with Leah Smith, a 15-year-old Bristol-based actress for the part of Lucy. Everyone else has been cast upon their past experience, and not one of them have been privately auditioned!
I’ve gone with gut feeling every time and just cast people for their parts without any need of casting days.
The forces know what they want
We have had a few people drop out – they tend to do that very quickly, one minute they are in, the next day, gone! It’s like the cast is being chosen by forces outside my control, and if I try to go against that and try to cast otherwise, they are soon expelled from the film. It is like the forces know what they want and won’t allow for any deviation. I have now accepted this and try not to go against the grain.
We have actors from Bristol to Cornwall, and locations all over the country are planned for future filming.
D&CFilm: How does The Ballad of Lucy Sands fit with your other filmmaking?
Steve Baldwin: This is actually my second stint at directing and scripting, my last one being last year and a 5 minute music video for one of my own folk song compositions. This full length film is one massive leap into the unknown for me. But I’m a firm believer of learning on the job and putting your money where your mouth is!
And with a team like the ones who are 100% behind the film and myself, I am more than reassured that what we’re doing here is completely right!
The tale itself belongs to Lucy!
And if it’s not? Someone is going to tell me and put me straight we all work on this without ego, after all, we’re just telling the story, the tale itself belongs to Lucy!
D&CFilm: What’s your timescale and planned release for the film?
Steve Baldwin: Timescale for this is realistically paced out.
There are 3 more sets of filming dates scheduled for this first block, after which we’ll produce a trailer and possibly a short. And get this out to the world on the March 1. If all goes to plan, we’d be looking at a release date of the full length feature film 95 – 110 minutes long, on the December 1 2021.
Both dates are very special to this film and story, you’ll see why when the trailer is released.
D&CFilm: Thanks Steve! Looking forward to finding out the significance of those dates!
- Celebrating Cornwall Film Festival’s 20th Anniversary Year - October 22, 2021
- Adding truth to a story | Lewis Carter and Kate Beasley - October 21, 2021
- Remembering Ghostbusters: How to make an indie doc feature - October 16, 2021