Tendring could be 'the new Hollywood' says Essex actor & filmmaker
- Credit: Longhurst and Putt Productions Ltd
An Essex gangster film shot on location in Tendring is finally getting the screen time it deserves as cinemas reopen - and also hopes to put Essex firmly on the movie-making map
Lucas & Albert, a black comedy thriller about two aging hit men, is one of an increasing number of productions being filmed in the Tendring District of Essex.
Written by Robert Putt and A.G. Longhurst - the first by Longhurst and Putt Productions Ltd - Lucas & Albert was nominated for Best Feature Film at the National Film Awards 2020 and also due for a theatrical release in 2020. But the pandemic put paid to that.
The movie, however, is relaunching this summer with a special screening at Princes Theatre in Clacton on 17 June 2021, and the delayed 2020 National Film Awards will now take place in July 2021.
Actor turned writer/producer A.G. Longhurst, who lives in Thorpe-le-Soken, is passionate about filmmaking in Tendring and hopes the film will show the UK and the rest of the world 'what a beautiful place we live in'.
Longhurst has filmed around these parts before, and while hunting for coastal locations for Lucas & Albert he realised 'what an amazing place the whole of East of England is'.
'This area just lent itself perfectly because you not only have beaches, you have fantastic scenery and historical places like Beacon Hill Fort.
'You had the Inspector Lynley Mysteries being made here,' he continues, 'and Yesterday [the Beatles blockbuster] was shot on Frinton Beach a couple of years ago. Most recently you have the new Gary Oldman series [Slow Horses] being shot in Harwich, and Downton Abbey was using the old cinema in Harwich.
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'Many people have suddenly started discovering Essex because its very quintessentially English, but it can be adapted to anything else you like.'
It helps that Tendring District Council, a Filming in England Partner, is supportive of filming in the area, and Longhurst reckons that, with investment and proper infrastructure, 'Tendring could well be the new Hollywood'.
Even for an eternal optimist like me, I must say that seems a rather bold claim...
'Well,' says Longhurst, 'if you know your film history, Hollywood was this little backwater town just outside LA until somebody said "let's make movies here". And if we get enough people down here making films, you never know...
'We've got everything. If you go up by Point Colne, where we were all walking during the pandemic, I've taken photos on sunny days with a yacht out on the water and told people I'm in the Bahamas - nobody's questioning me!
'Tendring could well be the new Hollywood'
'Someone took a picture the other day and said it could be the Serengeti, but actually it was the Walton Backwaters with the sun coming up.
'Some of those backwaters could be prehistoric England, and some of the architecture around here goes back four or five centuries, opening it up to costume dramas.
'When I'm hunting out new locations I find something different every time.'
He makes many-a good point. And since the pandemic has thrown the film industry into turmoil and investment is harder than ever to come by, why would you fly half way across the world for exotic backdrops, when you just need to wait for the sun to shine over The Naze Nature Reserve?
And so we come full circle, back from La La Land to the impending screening of Tendring's latest classic-in-waiting, Lucas & Albert.
The film, directed by award-winning director Darren S Cook, features A.G. Longhurst and James Osborne, alongside a stellar cast including John Altman (EastEnders), Michael McKell (Doctors), Kim Taylforth (Bad Girls), Sidney Livingstone (About a Boy) and Robert Putt (Vera Drake).
Lucas & Albert usually work alone, but they have been hired by the mysterious Mr Mac to tie up some loose ends as he moves into the big leagues of the criminal underworld. Loyalty to Mr Mac is priority - but at what cost?
The film looks into the relationship of these two men as they proceed with their mission, and some tender moments are coupled with unexpected twists and turns.
Longhurst and Putt Productions Ltd is also planning to film its 'equal' (as in, not a prequel or a sequel) called Babysitter, in 2022, which was actually the original stage production that inspired Lucas & Albert.
After that, there's a spin-off series, about which Longhurst casually throws in: 'I won't say its a Peaky Blinders but...'
The Essex version of Peaky Blinders? Where do we sign up?
This special screening of Lucas & Albert is also fundraising for Alfie's Journey because, as Longhurst says, post-pandemic, 'it's all about being kind to each other now'. Alfie, a seven-year-old boy from Frinton on Sea, has a condition called ADEM (acute disseminated encephalomyelitis), a rare inflammatory condition that affects the brain and spinal cord. Alfie's family are fundraising to provide him with the equipment and physio he needs to improve his strength and mobility. To donate visit justgiving.com/alfiesjourney or gofundme.com/alfies-journey
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