Festival 2020
Closing date for entries:
31st August 2020

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Festival Award

The Magick of Twickenham



Filmmaker: Toby Alington

A short children’s drama set around historic Twickenham, involving a magical statue in York House Gardens, Langton’s Bookshop and the surrounding area. Amelie and Etienne, brother and sister, gain some magical help from a spell-book found in Langton’s whilst trying to find a long-lost book for their grandpa for Christmas.

Running time: 10:00 mins
Aspect Ratio: 16:9

Behind the Scenes


Running time: 7:39 mins
Aspect Ration: 16:9

Making “The Magick of Twickenham,” by Toby Alington

About twenty years ago, when I first saw the Italian fountains in York House Gardens, I promised myself that one day I would make a film which involved the statues in some way, ideally with them coming to life somehow. That was finally realised this winter, catalysed by noticing that Twickenham Alive Film Festival was asking for entries for their first year.
Seeing the Church Street Christmas decorations going up at the end of November, I was once again reminded how photogenic the street is, and it’s not surprising that it is used annually for Christmas television adverts. Walking up Church Street under the sparkling trees, I passed Langton’s Bookshop, now closed and deserted, and on glancing through the window I remarked that it would make a perfect filming location. In the back of my mind was a somewhat darker plot than what transpired.

Finally, a friend of a friend is a professional statue model, entertaining people at corporate events and the like. So the components had started to come together before the story was woven around them. Late one evening at home, I said to my wife, Sally, “So imagine these two kids are out looking for an elusive Christmas present for their grandpa, and they stumble into the disused bookshop where they discover a spell book which links to the statues…”, and I had written the first draft of the screenplay by five o’clock the following morning.
WC Fields was quoted as saying “Never work with children or animals”. He clearly never had the pleasure of working with Grace and Joseph, my two main protagonists. Over the next fortnight, I helped turn the two young actors into Amelie and Etienne, brother and sister, both playing two years under their real ages. With the news that Lucy, our statue model, was on board, and permissions from Stone Rowe Brewer and the Council Filming Office to use Langton’s, Church Street and York House Gardens, we were set to go with daily revisions of the screenplay catering for ideas and necessities.

The team included Jonathan Potts, a fantastic cameraman and producer in his own right, with whom I have worked for over ten years. Richard Quinn, who used to work for me as a 3D designer, was up for doing the set design, props and special effects. My brother Mark, a theatrical lighting designer, drove down from Manchester with a car full of lamps, pyro and dimmers to light Langton’s. Panos Nikolakakis was set to play himself, the wise Greek waiter from Pincho who helps set the kids in the right direction to find the talking statue. Finally a host of wonderful supporting helpers came on board to help us shoot the whole thing in three days. Our first day’s shooting was on 22 December, virtually the shortest day of the year. Of course it rained, but we simply used this to our advantage to make Grace and Joseph look a little disgruntled after a day’s shopping in the rain.

We had our second day of filming in late January in York House Gardens. Surrounded by squirrels, sunshine and showers, and inquisitive passers-by, Lucy took to her plinth as Beauty the Statue, while Grace and Joseph attempted to solve her riddle in order to unlock the bookshop spell.

And finally, Christmas day was revisited in February with carefully retained wrapping paper, Christmas cards and decorations. The crew put together a beautifully convincing Christmas home scene which we were all a bit sad to strike after only a few hours’ filming.
Technically, we shot on DSLR at 1080p, and I initially edited the film in Lightworks before transferring it to AVID for the final grade and mastering. Audio was recorded separately on location, so we were back to the good old days of the clapperboard to keep everything in sync in post-production. 5.1 audio post-production was done at our studios in Twickenham.
Every step of the way, the cast, crew and hire companies kindly gave their time and services for free, and we also had huge support from the Church Street businesses. I’ll never forget, on the first rainy morning’s shooting in Church Street, the guys from Sweetie Pies coming out with surprise coffees and cupcakes for us all.

We had the Festival deadline of 28 February to finish the editing and sound, and with such a late shoot of the Christmas Day scene we ended up burning the candle at both ends to get the film finished. It is definitely true that making a ten-minute short film is at least a quarter of the work of making a full-length feature.

For a one-off screening for cast, crew and friends we hired the Curzon in Richmond, and made a 2K DCP cinema master, thus having the wonderful experience of allowing everyone to see the film on the Big Screen. Always a great moment! So, onto the Film Festival and let’s see what everyone thinks of our little bit of Magick!