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Interview Paul Cook

Magpie is a Kickstarter film project which has the makings of something very special. With the ongoing support of everything from the film and television industry giant Vitec Videoco to the many local re-enactment groups who have very kindly given their time and resources for free, we have a film project ready to go. However, our shoot will span at least 20 full days of filming and to be able to secure their services again, and for a prolonged period, we need to be able to pay them for their time. To make a donation please follow the link below

 

 
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Tell us a bit about your background?

I graduated in 2010 from UEA in Norwich with a degree in Film and TV and from there went straight into the industry working at a local TV company. My third year final project was a film which focused on the letters sent home from soldiers during WWII. During this process I met loads of people from the historical re-enactment communities in East Anglia. I then made a second film about them and their passion for living history which went on to make the final of the Reed Short Film Competition in 2011. On that project I first met Magpie’s writer-director Carmel Hannant.

My day-to-day career is running my own business as a freelance cameraman and editor. I shoot predominantly for corporate productions and for television but my true passion is filmmaking. I’ve worked on more than a dozen short films since I left university in 2010, some of which I’ve written and directed, and some purely in the camera department.

Carmel’s background is similar in that she went to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge where she studied a BA in Drama. Since graduating, Carmel has been involved with the writing, directing and researching of a number of film and stage projects. Her passion and interest in WWII history stems from an enthusiasm for re-enacting and volunteering at the 95th Bomb Group Museum in Horham, Suffolk. Some of the context and characters in Magpie are inspired directly by Carmel’s family connections with the U.S forces in East Anglia during WWII. Her partnership with the museum has been invaluable in terms of researching the experiences of the USAAF personnel based in East Anglia.

What is Magpie about?

Magpie is a drama told through the eyes of Lily, a nurse based in Suffolk during World War II whose husband, George, returns from the frontlines suffering from severe PTSD. Lily is soon trapped in a cruel and abusive relationship and feels overwhelmed by the breakdown of their marriage. She seeks comfort in the friendship of Charlie, a serviceman who arrives in the area with the Eighth US Air Force.

The amazing pitch film team

We feel that Magpie explores some of the war’s most fascinating untold stories. The history of the Eighth Air Force in our region is rich but large parts of it remain unrecorded or unspoken of. Our film will focus particularly on the cultural and social shift that took place in East Anglia between 1942 and 1945. In this timeframe some 350,000-400,000 Americans arrived here in the East of England. This dramatically changed what it was like to live her during that time, and the ways in which British and American culture fused together here is something we want to depict as faithfully as possible.

 

The stories of anguish, heartbreak and emotional turmoil for both men and women during World War II have perhaps been told before. However, subjects such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (a mental illness which failed to be recognised for another 30 years) and the lives and experiences of both British and US people are seldom found in film or television.

Where did your interest in these topics originate?

Our interest in WWII and particularly the part East Anglia played in it originated from a mutual respect for the huge sacrifices that our predecessors made for us. Our involvement with the museum at Horham has always come down to one simple fact, that we want to honour the memory of everyone who fought in WWII, and to preserve their stories however we can. In our case, we want to do this through film.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a topic which fascinates us both. The misunderstanding of it, and its wider reaching social implications are something that we would like to change. We feel that by particularly focusing on it’s effects post-WWII (as a period in which it wasn’t even recognised as a mental illness), we can raise awareness of it and explore the complexities of the problem. It was something that many soldiers would have experienced but perhaps rarely spoke of, and for that reason it should be depicted.

Who are some of the people you’re working with on the project?

Aside from myself and Carmel, we have quite a big crew on board already. Many of them are collaborators from previous projects. Whilst London and other larger cities are associated with being the main production hubs in the UK, we want to show that there is a wealth of talent, excellent filming locations and engaging stories right here in East Anglia. We have built a good network of creatives here and plan to make Magpie entirely in this region, with a large majority of those behind and in-front of camera originating from here too.

Joining Carmel on the writing team is Stephan Drury from Norfolk who recently finished his MA in Screenwriting at UEA in Norwich, and joining me behind the camera is Ross Turner, another fellow UEA graduate. We have had interest from some of the region’s best known industry professionals also and it has been truly encouraging to receive such an overwhelming vote of confidence from across East Anglia.

Our lead actor Matt Downton is an award winning actor from our home town of Bury St. Edmunds, and somebody who we have collaborated with on a few other projects previously. One of the most interesting things about Magpie I think is that we are still looking for our lead protagonist, Lily. We want the Kickstarter campaign to raise the profile of the project and attract yet more fantastic talent.

Our supporting cast are made up of some incredibly passionate and talented living history groups which will enable us to make a film which accurately portrays the men and women of the era. Not only that but some of those involved have historical knowledge that far surpasses our own, and by collaborating with them we are confident we can tell these unique stories as faithfully as possible.

And last but not least we have the support of some key organisations that bring fantastic benefits to the project. Vitec Videocom originated right here in Bury St. Edmunds and they have been keen advocates of the project. I’ve worked with them for a couple of years now as a product tester and when the Magpie pitch film was being planned, they kindly came on board with some revolutionary equipment and expertise to take it to another level. We also feel very lucky to have both the Eighth in the East and the 95th Bomb Group Heritage Association supporting the film. They both have a vested interested in preserving and promoting the legacy of the US Air Force that was based in our region, and as our film compliments their own goals, we have partnered in order to be able to research and develop the film’s script.

How can people help you out?

In the short term the simplest way to help us out is to either pledge to our campaign or share it with everyone you know. Or both! Whilst a lot of our support will mean we can save a lot of money making the film (everything from filming equipment to props, costume and military vehicles can be sourced for free), it is still an expensive and ambitious project. Our minimum budget requirement is £12,000 and we need to raise that by October 9th. Because Kickstarter is an all or nothing system, if we don’t hit £12,000, we don’t get anything, so it really is important we reach that minimum amount.

By helping us out, we’re pleased to be able to offer a number of excellent, and often unique, rewards in return. Everything from the film itself on DVD/Blu ray to one-of-a-kind experiences like a 1940s film screening and dance are on offer. For enthusiasts who aren’t in the UK we are also producing something particularly special; a virtual tour of several of East Anglia’s airfields and museums. We are surrounded by some amazing airbases which have been preserved and restored and we’d love to be able to share the experience of visiting them with everybody!

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