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Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 11:28 UK
New feature film shot in Norfolk
Phil Daley
By Phil Daley
BBC Norfolk

Director Matt Wildash and director of photography, Christopher Sharman, on location for Grip
Matt Wildash (right) and Chris Sharman shooting their film Grip in Norfolk

Local film director Matt Wildash is putting the finishing touches to his first feature length production.

Grip was shot in Norfolk by Matt's production company Wildbeast Films and tells the story of two actors working on a low budget movie in the county.

"Making it was a great experience, especially having the opportunity to film in Norfolk," said Matt.

"It really is one of the most beautiful, naturally-occurring film sets in the world," he added.

Norfolk has starred in a host of big budget extravaganzas including Atonement, Shakespeare in Love and The Duchess, so Grip is certainly in good company.

Matt grew up in Norfolk and has worked as a director at BBC Look East for 10 years. Spending his days surrounded by the trappings of television was one of the things that inspired him to start his own film production company.

"After far too many years of watching movies and messing about with video cameras, Wildbeast Films was finally founded in 2000," said Matt.

"But it took another three years to decide what would be an ideal first project," he added.

Short films

Obviously you can't expect to become Martin Scorsese overnight so Wildbeast started out by making short films.

"I wrote and directed our first short film in 2003 - a Twilight Zone homage called Greg² which told the tale of a man framed for murder by his future self," said Matt.

"We followed that up in 2005 with Anomaly - a sci-fi drama about the crew of a deep space waste disposal ship, who intercept a mysterious signal from a nearby planet believed to be uninhabited.

Cast members from Grip by Wildbeast Films
Christopher Pizzey stars in the feature set in Norfolk

"Next came our gritty revenge tale, What Are The Chances, in 2006 and then Soundproof and Glyph a year later.

"The latter was our first co-production with London-based Alma Road Films headed up by actor Christopher Pizzey (from CBBC's The Basil Brush Show) who has appeared in all but one of our films."

After the success that his short films enjoyed, with screenings at the Cannes Film Festival, the Israeli Fantastic Festival and the Queens International Film Festival in New York, Matt decided to take the step up and start work on a feature film.

However, this decision didn't come without problems and he was forced to scale down his original plans.

Complex operation

"I finished writing a horror script in February 2008 which was to be our first feature-length film," said Matt.

"But the complexity of actually getting it on screen hit home as we began pre-production - the panic set in!

"My production manager and girlfriend Paula Harwood suggested that it might be a better idea to keep things simpler for our first stab at producing a low-budget feature-length film."

Matt went back to the drawing board and managed to solve the problem whilst still keeping a horror theme.

"I rediscovered another script I had written a couple of years ago which told a simple tale of two actors who leave the relative safety of their lives in London and head to Norfolk to work on...a low-budget feature-length horror film!"

The prospect of shooting a full length film and writing dialogue may sound daunting, but Matt managed to draw inspiration for Grip from real life.

Grip, a film by Matt Wildash
Grip used locations all over Norfolk including Cinema City in Norwich

"The film is all pretty much drawn from life. Both the relationship drama that the story hinges around and the actor-related shenanigans are based on stories I'd been told by the various actors who I'd previously worked with," said Matt.

Even Hollywood blockbusters run into problems during production and Grip was no exception. Having to fit the filming around everybody's day-to-day life did cause the odd headache, but Matt relished the challenge.

"Zero-budget filmmaking hasn't been as much of a problem as you might think," he said.

"The main problem, apart from the weather, has been that every single member of the cast and crew has had to fit this project around their real lives which has thrown up more than our fair share of scheduling crises throughout the year," he added.

Great footage

But despite the best efforts of the British climate, the filming was finished and Matt is very happy with the outcome.

"The great thing is that, even though what should have been a simple three-week shoot has been spread out over the course of around seven months, we've managed to shoot 115 pages, get over 30 hours of great footage in the can and still kept our jobs!" he said.

After a few final tweaks, Matt plans to release Grip in the summer of 2009 starting with a special screening for the people involved. Then comes the task of finding a distributor, something which would be the icing on the cake for all involved.

"The whole team has worked hard to give Grip as cinematic a look and feel as possible within the confines of our budget," said Matt.

"While I'd be delighted for the picture to be released theatrically, it's almost more of a priority to just get it out there," he added.

The experience has spurred Matt on and he would love to take the next step up the cinematic ladder.

"I'm a big fan of genre films, particularly sci-fi, but doing it and doing it well are two totally different things; the latter requires a budget substantially greater than what we had to work with on this picture," he said.

"I have a few ideas floating around. It would be great not to have to reign-in the imagination and be able to paint our next picture on a much broader canvas," he added.

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