11th December 2023
Budding film makers from South Devon College took their places behind the camera to shoot a promotional video highlighting an annual festival for one of Torbay’s most loved authors.
Level 3 UAL Film and Television and FdA Film and Photography students were given the opportunity to channel their inner Spielbergs and Bigelows when they were invited to film the ‘People’s Dance’ short film on location in Torquay, in collaboration with the International Agatha Christie Festival.
Featuring a large cast of performers and behind the scenes participants, from volunteers and dance groups to Agatha Christie experts and historians, it was a complete community effort.
Filmed along the Agatha Christie mile in Torquay over two days in somewhat unpredictable weather, it featured deckchairs, beach huts and Union Jack blazers, with Art Deco-inspired flapper guys and girls and the South West Lindy Hoppers grooving along to Cole Porter’s ‘Anything Goes’. Synchronised swimmers even performed tricks in the Atlantic Ocean – it had it all!
It was an opportunity for students Josh Ellis, Ben Glendinning and Thea Harris-Murphy to offer creative input, as they were given the shot list beforehand, as well as the chance to operate the cameras and direct the set.
Students Josh Ellis, Ben Glendinning and Thea Harris-Murphy directing ‘People’s Dance’
It was the first time the students had worked with other artists using equipment in a professional setting, which assisted them in understanding the process of film making.
The experience helped to build on their existing skills while gaining more technical expertise by using equipment normally reserved for university students.
Ben Glendinning said: “Working on this gave me an insight on how a more professional work environment looks like in the film industry. I also got a chance to work with better equipment – it dramatically improved my own work and gave me a better understanding of how a director works.”
The final edit was performed by director John Tomkins from Emberlense Films.
Alex Small, Programme Coordinator of Digital Media at South Devon College, said: “It was an ambitious project, due to the number of people involved, which supported the students’ in-class education.
“Our students were thrown in at the deep end, and it was a steep learning curve as they didn’t have any previous experience of a location shoot with practicing professionals. It definitely gave them a taste of how their future careers could look.”
The International Agatha Christie Festival is held in September annually in her place of birth on the English Riviera, with the aim of celebrating Christie’s life and legacy.
The film showcased Torbay landmarks with aerial drone work, operated by Director of Photography Jamie Hobbis, who volunteered his time for the project.
Student Thea Harris-Murphy said: “I really enjoyed this day – there was a professional yet welcoming atmosphere, and the shoot gave me an opportunity to learn more about working with talent, as well as helping me to develop professional communication skills. The day has helped build my enthusiasm for a future in the industry!”
Matt Newbury, Creative Director of the International Agatha Christie Festival, was thrilled with the result. He said: “We were really delighted to collaborate with South Devon College Media students on this project and were really impressed with their professionalism, creativity and general support.
“They have helped us create a really stunning film that will be used to promote both the Agatha Christie Festival and Torbay as a whole. We look forward to working on future projects with the support of South Devon College.”
The premiere of the finished production was held at Palace Theatre, Paignton, which was attended by all the students involved. It is also available to watch on the festival’s YouTube and social media channels.