It's not uncommon to see film crews in Greenwich but usually they are here mainly to capture the historic buildings of the Old Royal Naval College and create a perfect period setting. Seeing Greenwich on the big screen as it really is today is something rather less common, but soon to change thanks to a new movie by local film-maker, Carl Medland.
'The Cost of Love' is Medland's first feature length movie having previously worked on corporate films and a number of award winning shorts. It's been a very personal project for the Greenwich-based filmmaker - he wrote, directed and part financed the project himself. He is now working on the final edit and looking forward to seeing his film at the Greenwich Picturehouse in the Spring.
Primarily, but by no means exclusively, aimed a gay audience, the film was shot in just sixteen days last August. Greenwich is at the very heart of the film, both with its scenery and its cast. Look carefully and you will see many recognisable places and faces, including Michael Joyce who frequently appeared in local pubs as the drag act, Estee Applauder, and who tragically died in a car crash just months after filming ended, and the ubiquitous Robert Gray.
I met Carl last week at the Picturehouse, naturally, to find out a bit more about him and his new film, and began by asking him about his background.
I moved from Devon to London for university and obtained a 2/1 degree, and after that I set up a theatre company. The thing I most liked doing was the writing of plays and the directing of them. My childhood passion was making films, I used to hire cameras and make short films with family and friends. I set up a film company , and half of my business is making corporate films. Last year was quite a quiet year so I had the time to commit to the project. I've done about twenty short films over the past five years, I really needed to make the leap and make my first feature. It's good to learn your craft on the short films and I've won some awards like best music video last year, and best performance in a short film. Everyone kept saying to me "have you done your first feature film?", so I thought why not get all of Greenwich behind me and make a Greenwich film.
Greenwich.co.uk: What's the film actually about?
The film speaks quite loudly to a gay audience, although there's as many straight characters as there are gay. Dale [the central character], played so brilliantly by Christopher Kelham, is like a whirlwind with everyone he comes into contact with, and everyone in the film is affected by love, either good or bad, and they have this real cost to giving themselves to love. It all takes place in Greenwich over four days, and you flashback into the characters' past as the story unfolds. There's shades of light and dark, high drama and high comedy.
I wanted to capture the truth of what's happening today, especially in the gay community. In the last year we've had gay beatings, a gay killing, there's been a lot of homophobic attacks and I didn't want the film to shy away from those themes. A lot of gay films in the UK come from America, there's not many British films. I wanted to make a British film, directed at a British audience with British people in real locations.
Greenwich.co.uk: You part financed the film yourself , which is a brave thing to do. Do you think it can be successful?
I think it will. It's such a professional look to the film. We've got really good cameras, really good lighting. Everyone was at the top of their game. The actors were amazing. It's the best script I've written, and I think it all came together.
Greenwich.co.uk: There's been some quite well known gay British films - I'm thinking 'My Beautiful Laundrette', 'Beautiful Thing' and 'Get Real' - and they have quite a cult following. Do you have the same expectation for this, that it might attract that kind of following?
Yeah, completely, yeah. I really think this would be good for the UK. I think we need another film like 'Beautiful Thing' or 'Get Real'. And actually, 'My Beautiful Laundrette', funny you should say that because the whole premise of this film is a white attractive, young guy in love with an Asian guy [played by Valmike Rampersad], so it has that 'My Beautiful Laundrette' feel, and there's a bit of a reference to that and 'Beautiful Thing' in the film.
Greenwich.co.uk: A lot of filmmakers choose Greenwich for its period settings. Do you think it works well as a contemporary backdrop for filmmaking?
Yeah, I do. We used the gay bars in Greenwich - we shot scenes in the George and Dragon, and the Rose and Crown, and we used the Metro [sexual health] centre in Norman Road. We also had the Greenwich Drag Race, which we filmed as an actual live event. As we were filming it, there was a scene just before the drag race where Michael [Joyce]'s character gave the character Dale, a handheld camera and says "can you film me?". So it gives the scene a documentary feel, a bit like 'Cloverfield'.
What we're trying to do with this film is capture the truth. A lot of it based people on people I know; qualities they have. I think some of my friends will know exactly who they are when they watch the film.
The Cost of Love will be shown here at the Greenwich Picturehouse in March with dates and times to be confirmed. Carl believes that the film will then get onto the festival circuit, and he is currently in talks with distributors in the hope of securing a wider release.