5th Jun, 2020

South Bromsgrove High School students film Death at Christmas murder mystery at Blackwell Manor House

TALENTED students from South Bromsgrove High School have been busy filming a short festive murder mystery which will be released in time for next Christmas.

Death at Christmas is the brainchild of director George Watkins and producer Daniel Ellis who wrote the script back in the spring. The pair produced the award-winning SBH Racing – The Inside Story, a documentary which followed a team from South Bromsgrove High School on its quest to create an electric car.

Back in September they approached The Standard to appeal for people to come forward and take up the nine character roles for the festive screenplay.

And, after that piece appeared in the paper and on our website, more than 40 people got in touch, wanting to take part,

Using CVs, photographs and video auditions, the pair whittled it down to the nine lucky actors to appear in the movie.

Daniel told The Standard: “The appeal went a lot better than expected – we were hoping just to fill the nine roles and we ended up getting over 40 and we managed to get a good mix of people in the cast – some were trying their hand at acting for the first time while others had done loads.”

Those in the piece, which has been filmed over the last four weeks at the Manor House at Blackwell Adventure centre, are from Bromsgrove, Redditch, Droitwich and Worcester.

Daniel said: “When you put nine people together who have not met each other before you never know how it will pan out.

“They have all been great. They’ve all worked really hard and the filming has gone very well.”

Since making the SBH Racing film, the team has worked on other projects, including a promotional video for South Bromsgrove High School about the teacher training it offers.

But, Daniel said, they wanted to do this project as it was something different they had not done before.

The story centres around a couple who move into a manor house when the one’s dad passes away. They invite their friends around to spend their first Christmas with them but things do not go as smoothly as they hope and then the murders start and those left are frantically try to work out who the murderer is.

“We wanted it to be a modern day Agatha Christie,” said Daniel. “Although it is primarily a murder mystery, there are also elements of other genres, such as dramas, thrillers and action.

“With regard to the action, it’s not that gory – it’s more about the suspense and the tension generated by the characters and the situation they are in.”

Daniel added it was fantastic for them to be given the Manor House to film in as it was a great location.

He added they had received a lot of support from South Bromsgrove High School, Bromsgrove District Council and other companies, including Longbridge-based USN, Aspire and RSM Partnership.

Some had helped financially while others had donated furniture and props.

“In the end we had a budget of £4,000 which is pretty good for a project like this and we had a lot of things discounted or donated.”

The team also had a free photo-shoot from Sian Conway Photography to capture some of the magical moments during filming.

“Another reason why we wanted to make this film was because we’re all in the upper-sixth now and many of us will be going off to university next year to all four corners of the country.

“This was a great chance for us to work together on one last project before that happens – although hopefully it will not be the last ever.”

They chose to film it at this time of year so the weather conditions and atmosphere were perfect for the production.

And because the filming has taken place a year in advance it will give the team plenty of time to edit the film which they will probably need as they will have to focus on their A-levels in 2017. They have also contacted Artrix about a possible premiere at the School Drive venue.

As well as enabling them to unveil the film in their home town, it will also be used to say a big thank you to all the sponsors.

“As well as the actual film and credits, everyone will have something they can take away – from the memories and experience to new skills they have learnt.

“It has been a real community project and it shows what can be achieved when a group of people pull together.”

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