Brought to you by


Good Boy: the short film shortlisted for an Oscar award

Ben Whishaw and Marian Bailey on location at Worthy Farm with 'Casper; the camper van. (c) James Loxley and  130 Elektra Films Ltd
Ben Whishaw and Marian Bailey on location at Worthy Farm with 'Casper; the camper van. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films Ltd

After London-based writer, actor and director Tom Stuart visited Somerset to help him come to terms with the loss of his mum, he found himself returning to our county to shoot a film born from that experience. The result is a remarkable piece of work that has been shortlisted for an Oscar.

Despite being brought up in the East End and a fully-fledged Londoner, Somerset has always been a special place for Tom Stuart. Thanks to a friend’s farm near Glastonbury, he’s been a frequent visitor to the county for much of his adult life, particularly when there are weighty things on his mind. 'I’ve always had a really strong connection to Somerset,' says Tom. 'It’s a place I’ve always gone to figure things out and I’ve always come away with some kind of understanding I didn’t have before.'

It was no surprise then that when Tom lost his mum to cancer in the early weeks of the pandemic, he made the familiar journey west.

Great British Life: The crew of Good Boy prepare for filming in the Shepton Mallet Market Square. Photo: Mark Ford, Screen SomersetThe crew of Good Boy prepare for filming in the Shepton Mallet Market Square. Photo: Mark Ford, Screen Somerset

'After my mum’s funeral, heading to Somerset just felt like the natural thing to do. I took myself off there for three weeks. That was the beginning of coming to terms with my grief and it was when the idea for the film started to form.'

That film is Good Boy. A short film shot entirely in Somerset over four days, it marks the screen directing debut for Tom who has a lengthy stage CV as well as on-screen roles (Out of Her Mind, People Just Do Nothing, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

Although made on a shoestring budget, it carries the star power of award-winning Ben Whishaw (Paddington, no less) in the lead role of Danny, and Marion Bailey (The Queen Mother in The Crown) as Danny’s mum.

Great British Life: The crew of Good Boy prepare for filming in the Shepton Mallet Market Square. Photo: Mark Ford, Screen SomersetThe crew of Good Boy prepare for filming in the Shepton Mallet Market Square. Photo: Mark Ford, Screen Somerset

Good Boy follows the duo on a surreal rural caper in a vintage VW campervan which starts with a botched bank robbery filmed in the centre of Shepton Mallet on a rainy day at the end of April with the Art Bank Café doubling up as the bank. In its 15-minute running time, it crams in a series of bizarre set-pieces – from a pigeon funeral to supermarket romance – and the introduction of a cast of characters from Danny’s past who materialise at will.

Made with the support of the Bristol-based charity ‘Let’s Talk about loss’, it’s a film about grief, but one that avoids the usual screen treatments of the subject. Rather than tears and anguish, it focusses on the way grief wheedles it way itself into everyday life and painful memories appear when you’re least expecting them. It’s about loss, desperation and someone trying to make sense of it all – it is poignant, funny and looks magnificent on screen.

'When it came to filming, Somerset was the natural fit,' explains Tom. 'There has always been something a bit mystical and characterful in the landscape which was a natural setting for a film where characters pop up randomly.

Great British Life: Ben Whishaw getting into character on the set of Good Boy at Worthy Farm. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films LtdBen Whishaw getting into character on the set of Good Boy at Worthy Farm. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films Ltd

The whole experience of filming in Somerset was such pleasure, everyone was incredibly helpful and welcoming.'

As well as Shepton Mallet, the keen-eyed may spot other familiar locations - 'Danny’s old family home' is filmed in the village of Alhampton near Castle Cary and Kimbers Farm Shop near Wincanton. Several scenes were also shot on Worthy Farm, just as the vast Glastonbury Festival machine was gearing up for the June event.

Despite the distraction of pulling together the world’s premier music festival, Tom says the Glastonbury team couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Great British Life: Local college students Yvie De Ronne, Connor Raithby, Ethan Gaylard and Max Chorley take a break from helping film key scenes in the centre of Shepton Mallet.Local college students Yvie De Ronne, Connor Raithby, Ethan Gaylard and Max Chorley take a break from helping film key scenes in the centre of Shepton Mallet.

'It was a dream to shoot on Worthy Farm and I was bowled over by Emily Eavis and the whole team. They welcomed us with open arms, everyone was so open and generous with us. They just made it so easy. I don’t think the film would exist without them.'

Completing the circle, Good Boy first saw the light of day in the cinema tent at last year’s Glastonbury festival. The audience included British actress, Tilda Swinton who described it as 'a beautiful film'.

The production company 130 Elektra Films worked closely with Screen Somerset, the new film office within Somerset Council, to scout locations and close off roads (and even source ‘Casper’ the VW camper, kindly loaned to the production by a member of council staff). Supported by the government’s Shared Prosperity Funding, Screen Somerset is encouraging and supporting film production in the in the county - with all the economic, tourism and local skills benefits that go with a thriving film sector. Other major productions it has helped shoot in the county recently include The Salt Path (starring Gillian Anderson and Jason Isaacs) and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (Emma Myers and Mathew Baynton).

With the help of Screen Somerset, four students - from Yeovil, Strode College and Bridgwater and Taunton colleges - were able to gain priceless on-set experience with Good Boy, experience that could fire ambitions and launch careers.

Good Boy has been working its way around the international film circuit, calling in at lcoations from Leeds to Turkey, Norwich to Estonia. The response has been hugely positive and the film is now under consideration for the BAFTAs and Oscars.

Great British Life: Student Yvie De Ronne on set in Shepton Mallet. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films LtdStudent Yvie De Ronne on set in Shepton Mallet. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films Ltd Great British Life: Student Ethan Gaylard learning camera technique on set in Alhampton. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films LtdStudent Ethan Gaylard learning camera technique on set in Alhampton. (c) James Loxley and 130 Elektra Films Ltd

'Everyone has been very supportive, everyone seems to get it,' says Tom. 'This is obviously something very personal. When you write something you never know how other people are going to feel about it and react to it. Are they going to understand it? Will they be able to relate to it? - They really have and that’s an amazing feeling. After every screening I’ve had people come and find me and talk about their own experience of grief and loss. In a way that’s the best validation the film could have. If it’s encouraging people to reflect on their own lives and share their experiences, then it’s already successful. You don’t get over grief. You learn to manage it better, it gets easier as it goes on and this process has definitely been helpful for me.'

And on top of that, Good Boy is a touching tribute to a much-loved and much-missed mum. 'Although Danny isn’t me and Marion isn’t playing my mum, our DNA is certainly in there,' says Tom. 'My mum’s personality is definitely reflected in the film’s tone: anarchic, fun, surprising and warm. I think she’d have liked it.'

You can find Good Boy on X @GoodBoy_short and Instagram @goodboy_film

• For more information about Screen Somerset visit somerset.gov.uk/filming

• To find out more about the Let’s Talk About Loss charity letstalkaboutloss.org

• For information about bereavement support available in Somerset visit somerset.gov.uk

Great British Life: Good Boy cover art courtesy Robyn Ivy DesignGood Boy cover art courtesy Robyn Ivy Design



BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

Somerset Life Read more

Latest articles

More from Somerset Life

BROUGHT TO YOU BY…

Somerset Life Read more