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Gwenevere: It’s A Wrap

Well, almost. We spent last Friday and Saturday shooting a few last scenes for our Arthurian mini-epic: long days, but luckily the weather stayed dry again, and I think we got good stuff. Even if it something goes horribly wrong in the edit and we never get it finished, the shoot has been huge fun. It’s certainly more enjoyable and better exercise for mind and body than writing books - if only there were some way it could be monetised.

Laura Frances Martin came back to be Gwenevere, and Rosanna Lambert joined us to play a mystical maiden who pops up with advice for her at a low point in her story - she’s exactly the sort of character you’re not supposed to put in the last act of films as she’s a bit of a Deus Ex Machina etc, but she’s exactly the sort of character medieval poets and storytellers did put in their Arthurian Romances, which is very much the mood we’re going for. Rosanna is studying theatre at Chichester Conservatoire and we were very glad she was able to fit us in during her reading week. Isabel Keen crewed for us again - we would be lost without her - and so did my son Sam, who did sterling work lighting the smoke pellets on Saturday and sprinting to and fro to get the smoke in the right place. (You can’t have an Arthurian film without a bit of mist, it was always misty in those days.)

One of the nice things about this whole business is how helpful people have been: when I e-mail homeowners and local businesses asking if we can use their properties as locations I always assume they may not want the bother of an amateur film crew on their premises. When I was doing similar things in Brighton in the ‘90s, people were very suspicious - fair enough, I suppose. But here on Dartmoor no one has turned us down at all.

Photos by Cat Frampton, from the Great Houndtor Farm website

Our main location in Big Week (and for pick-ups last weekend) was at Great Houndtor farm in Manaton. Cat Frampton, who farms there, does so in a very low-intensity, nature-friendly way which is good for cows, wildlife, and makers of no-budget pseudo-historical movies. There’s also an old medieval barn which was easy to dress up as an old medieval farmhouse. The rest of the time it’s a camping barn, and if you ever fancy a Dartmoor holiday with few mod cons but great atmosphere, fabulous location, and lovely hosts, I’d recommend it. 

Rosanna, Sarah, Laura, and Isabel at Two Bridges

Two Bridges Hotel is on the opposite side of the moor, near Princetown. We didn’t film there, but we met Laura there on Friday morning and they were happy to let Laura and Rosanna change, and provided us with cups of coffee before we set off to our location beside a nearby river, leaving a car in their car park. The path to the sadly over-loved Wistman’s Wood starts just across the road, and is a good place to begin walks to Higher White Tor or the Beardowns. Since the tiny car park there is always full, the Two Bridges Hotel car park offers a handy overflow - it costs £5 per day for non-residents, and you can get a good cup of coffee before you set forth. The hotel is lovely too, and they do excellent food, although we were too busy to take advantage of that and had to make do with sarnies in the woods…

Not far from Two Bridges, Beardown Farm has a beautiful wild campsite, in a lovely spot where an old clapper bridge crosses the charmingly named River Cowsic. They very kindly let us park on their property, meaning we had to walk about 5 minutes to reach the location instead of 30 - in mid-November, with the mud ankle deep and daylight in short supply, every little helps.

There’s not a lot left to get now: a few exterior views of period houses, some random landscapes, and a very brief flashback of Laura which can probably wait for springtime. Meanwhile, as soon as I have Utterly Dark 3 finished, the real work of editing begins. It may be a long haul. Here are a few final images from the shoot to keep you going.

Tunnocks Caramel Bars, the fuel of film makers

Experiments with green screen in the studio

Sarah Reeve, the brains behind the whole operation.


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