Wednesday, 24 July 2013

In Love with Alma Cogan

2011 - Dir.: Tony Britten

Shown in FeckenOdeon 2 on 19th April, 2013
The British film industry is good at things like this. Understated, gentle, well written, well acted and highly enjoyable. Unfortunately the people who control our major cinema chains and TV stations don’t agree. "In Love with Alma Cogan" had an excellent script and cast, got backing from the UK film Council and was shot and edited on time. The finished film was shown to universal acclaim at several independent film festivals and gained a major award at the Canadian International Film Festival and then..... nothing. The major distributors, cinema owners and TV programmers wouldn’t touch it. It wasn’t that they thought it was a bad film. It just didn’t fit into any of their categories. Despite the breakthrough of "oldie" films like "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" the big chains still take a great deal of persuading to show anything not aimed at the youth market. It’s possible that the fact that this film doesn’t contain posh theatrical Dames may have counted against it.... Matters are made worse by the fact that most commercial cinemas are in hock to American studios who loaned them money to convert to digital - whilst tying them into deals obliging them to show almost exclusively American films.

The producers did what Tony Hawkes ("Round Ireland with a Fridge") did and what many British film makers are increasingly having to do. They e-mailed small independent cinemas and film societies and asked them to give the film a showing. To date it has been seen in over 60 village halls, arts centres and small cinemas the length and breadth of the land. It’s not quite the same as a blanket circuit release but at least the people who worked hard to make this film have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s being enjoyed by an appreciative public.

The writer and director Tony Britton explains why he made this film:

Some time back, my son Oliver had come back to the UK for a winter visit and sitting on the Pier one windy November, eating fish and chips, insisted that I make a film about the Pier and Pavilion Theatre. A certified Los Angeles film nut, he was convinced that Americans would love this quaint setting and all I had to do was come up with a quintessentially British storyline. I had intended writing something for Norfolk resident Roger Lloyd Pack and the tale of Norman, the world weary boss of the Pavilion Theatre began to take shape. The title and main narrative literally came to me in the bath, just before going to see Roger perform Elliot's "The Wasteland" at the delightful Sheringham Little Theatre.

The Pier Theatre is real. The first recorded show on the pier was in 1905 and it continues to provide summer entertainment in the form of its famous "Seaside Special" show. Far from being on its last legs, it’s a great success and in 2005 the auditorium was extended to increase the capacity to 510.

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