Category Archives: Cool Projects

Short Film: All Bite and no Bark

The inaugural Bendigo International Short Film Festival was held on 23 November 2019 – and I was part of it!

I knew about the festival because I know John Richards, who was running it. At a different event (in October, in Castlemaine), he commented that not many people had sent in films for the competition element – a short film under 15 minutes in which the word Bendigo had to either be spoken or appear during the film.

“It’s so easy, though!” said John. “You can make a film on a phone these days!”

Well, who can resist a challenge like that? Not me, obviously. On the train back to Melbourne that afternoon I came up with a Twilight-zone-ish plot, and by late that evening, after five attempts, I’d ad libbed my way through a Found Footage story. (Ad libbed because I wanted to give it a fresh, just-telling-a-yarn quality, for ‘Kate’ to tell a story in exactly the way I would.)

The production values aren’t great so I wasn’t convinced I should enter it. I shared it with John anyway, for a laugh, and he convinced me it was good enough to be submitted.

So, All Bite and No Bark was entered into the 2019 Bendigo International Short Film Competition, and was screened on Saturday 23 November with a gratifying amount of laughter at the right moments, and gratifying hush at the end.

I’ve shared the film on some other social media, but here it is in all its ad libbed, iPhone quality glory!

The festival was fantastic, by the way – some truly inventive and wonderful films in both the International Shorts and the Competition Shorts (and if you ever get an opportunity to see The Starey Bampire, don’t miss it!)

This isn’t all about me showing off my first short film. Oh no! This, dear readers, is an opportunity for you to see how easy it can be, and to encourage you to prepare your own entry to next year’s Bendigo International Short Film Festival Competition!

You have a year to prepare! (I’ve already got a new idea, with a script this time!)

Visit Bendigo Short Film Fest or their Facebook page to keep an eye on what’s happening during the year and when entries open for next year’s film event!

I hope to be competing with you in it!

The Making of Annabel Lee: An Interview with Melanie Roylance

Nathaniel Parker, Angel Parker and Melanie Roylance

The original Edgar Allen Poe poem was written in 1849 but the Annabel Lee film project began in 2018 as a Kickstarter. Fifty-three backers funded the production of this Gothic short film, written by Angel Parker, who appears as Annabel in the film.

In my previous posts, I interviewed actor Nathaniel Parker about his dual role as producer and performer in the short film and then writer/actor Angel Parker. This time I interview an old friend who found herself co-producing the film with Nat.

Melanie Roylance

1.       What inspired you to become involved in making Annabel Lee?

As you know, we had some eccentric yet brilliant English teachers at high school who introduced me to Poe’s works. I was fascinated by his stories, especially his early forms of my favourite genre, detective fiction, which he is largely responsible for popularising.

When Nat announced he was filming Angel’s adaptation of it, my curiosity was piqued. Some friends were contributing to the film in different ways, and I initially intended to make a small contribution. So, to be honest, it was more an accident than a conscious intention to become so heavily involved.

People may call it fate, or serendipity, but sometimes in life things come along that you simply have to do, and this was one. I have respected the Parker family for many years. I first saw Nathaniel Parker as an actor in Piece of Cake back in the late 80s, and in the 90s I wrote an essay for uni about his father, Sir Peter Parker, former chairman of British Rail. What struck me about both was that in industries not renowned for honesty or compassion, they valued social justice and family above all else, and over the years managed to stay true to their principles.

So when Nat announced he wanted to do a project with his daughter, I admired that. My father died when I was in my mid teens, so I knew it would be important for Angel in later years to have the memories of making it with her dad. I also understood why it was important to him, so wanted to help make that happen. I thought of a way to help them raise money, so wrote to Amy and it went from there.

After Nat recovered from the shock that someone half way around the world wanted to help, he treated me like an integral part of the team, and I soon became involved in a lot of the non-creative aspects of bringing it together and marketing it.

2.       The poem is 170 years old – why do you think it endures?

Interesting question. Poe’s obsession with the macabre and the link between love, loss and death that are exemplified in Annabel Lee is compelling. As social creatures, I think people from any era are motivated by a need to be accepted and loved. To quote from the poem, people harbour a desire to love “with a love that was more than love”.

The poem touches on so many common emotions – happiness, passion, hope, anger, despair and that horrid nagging fear that love and happiness are illusory and will be snatched away. Everyone can identify with the poem and empathise with Annabel and E.

3.       What were the most challenging parts of producing and filming the Annabel Lee short film?

For me, being based half way around the world was difficult. The time difference meant most communication was asynchronous, which was frustrating at times. More annoyingly, I would have loved to be a part of it on the ground, and to have been able to go to Devon to see it being filmed. I am a very hands-on, practical person, so would have happily been the general dogsbody around the set doing whatever was needed.

But raising funds, creating the website and providing moral support and encouragement can be done remotely, so it worked out okay. And I was fortunate that the initial screening was in London at a time I was there, so it was wonderful to see it for the first time with everyone else.

4.       What did you love the most about making it?

That’s an easy one. I loved being involved in something creative and completely different to other work I have done. To be able to work with engaged and interesting people like Nat, Angel and Amy was a bonus. It was exciting to see all the elements come together. The night of the cast and crew screening, everyone was nervous and worried that their bit would be what let the whole thing down. It was great to see the pride on their faces watching the film and seeing it all fall into place.

Art, whether it be painting, music, literature or film, is about creating a moment where people are transported into another realm and return somehow enriched. I think Annabel Lee accomplishes that in spades.

5.       Did you learn anything about your art (or life) while making it?

Everything we do teaches us something, and often things we never expect to discover. As a newbie to filmmaking, I learnt an enormous amount about the technical side of it, particularly all the post-production work.

With a background managing industrial supply chains, I tended to see the film as a project with tasks and resources that needed juggling to meet deadlines. Working with creative people I soon found that they view things in a much more holistic manner where the art is paramount to the task. So I learned the value of patience, which has never been my strongest trait, and one I need to keep working on – a lot. But I also hope I helped others see the value of planning and thinking about contingencies. Art, and life for that matter, need flexibility and are enriched by the input of a diverse range of people.

And perhaps the biggest lesson was that if you want to do something different, go for it. YOLO might be a cliché, but I don’t want to be on my deathbed regretting not seeking out new experiences. Besides, you never know where opportunities lead.

6.       What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

Two things. Firstly, that Angel (Parker) and Alex (Bhat) are impressive young actors, and in Angel’s case also a very promising screenwriter, and I hope the film promotes their careers.

Secondly, I hope audiences look beyond what is presented on the screen and think about the complex issues the film raises about love, sacrifice and trust. In an increasingly manic world, we need to hold true to certain values, perhaps the most important one being the enduring power of love.

Find out more about Annabel Lee:

Host a Screening
Love Annabel Lee and want to show our film at your short film festival?  Contact: info@annabellee.film

The Making of Annabel Lee: An Interview with Angel Parker

Angel Parker as Annabel Lee

The original Edgar Allen Poe poem was written in 1849 but the Annabel Lee film project began in 2018 as a Kickstarter. Fifty-three backers funded the production of this Gothic short film, written by Angel Parker, who appears as Annabel in the film.

After speaking with actor/co-producer Nathaniel Parker, today I interview the film’s writer and lead actress:

Angel Parker

1.       What about Poe’s Annabel Lee poem inspired you to write a script?

Well, I first had the poem handed to me when I was in my teens and a friend suggested we develop it, so that was my first intro to this! For the longest time after that, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s such a beautiful portrait of love and grief – it felt so visual. 

I really liked the idea of making a film that was not a direct transcription of the source material but could be one of many interpretations of it.  Edgar Allan Poe is obviously such a master of mystery and that it leaves endless space for interpretation. And I’ve always been so interested by the lines between fantasy and reality, which is probably why I’m drawn to Poe’s stories and poetry, so I found the idea of getting to explore that in this project really exciting!

2.       The poem is 170 years old – why do you think it endures?

I think that humans are always trying to find ways of expressing both love and grief, because every person experiences them differently. And what’s beautiful about this poem is it doesn’t try to be universal, it focuses on the narrator’s specific, unique experience and I think people are really drawn to that. 

3.       What were the most challenging parts of writing and filming the Annabel Lee short film?

In the process of writing, that would have to be the constant job of balancing the fantasy with the reality.  One of the major themes that interested me was how grief, fear and obsession distorts people’s perception. So it was a constant game of paralleling what E. was seeing versus what Annabel was seeing versus what I had decided was actually happening. After that we could get to the fun bit of deciding what to tease out and show to the audience. So it was a massive learning experience for me as a storyteller! 

Then when it actually came to filming, the hardest part for me was honestly the cold! Because by that point my job of writer was essentially over and I just had to turn up as an actress. The crew looked after us so well, but at the end of the day we were shooting in Devon in December and most of the time I was running around barefoot in a white nighty and getting into the sea.

I’m clumsy as anything as well so when I couldn’t feel my feet things got a bit problematic. One day I managed to do a spectacular trip headfirst into the camera, dragging Alex along with me. But it meant I learned there are many many ways to store hand warmers in your costumes. At one point when I had to lie down in the sea, the team actually built me a little bed of hot water bottles to lie on and would just pile coats right on top of me in between takes which didn’t stop our lovely medic having to take me off set because I went blue! 

4.       What parts of the process did you love the most?

I really love the process of redrafting. It was so cool to get to sit down with people who cared as much about this story as I did and get to hash out the themes and the characters and all the backstory for hours. I found that process really good fun.

And then the adventure of shooting down in Devon in such mad conditions and to be amongst people who were just throwing themselves into it was really special. Oh, and I got to fall off a cliff backwards in the dark which made me feel pretty badass.

5.       Did you learn anything about your art (or life) while making it?

I definitely learned about the importance of hot water bottles! But I think, if anything, doing this project really gave me the confidence to make films without the use of conventional storytelling. Being passionate about the story you want to tell and finding other people who are passionate about it too is really liberating. And that kind of supportive environment can create really exciting ideas.

It was also one of my first forays behind the camera, so I got to experience first hand the work and dedication that it takes just to get a project to filming, never mind through post and to being a finished product. Lots of actors don’t get the chance to see that because they’re there for so little of the process, so I feel really lucky to have had that experience.

6.       What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

One thing I really hope they come away with is questions! So much of the story is there for interpretation, and even though I wrote it with my own idea of what’s going on, I like that we’re giving the viewer space for their own perception.

But I mostly hope that people remember the characters and their love story because the idea behind the ambiguity and strangeness of the world we’ve put them is to symbolise that we live in an unknowable world, so what really matters are the connections that we make with other people. The only solid thing throughout the whole film is Annabel and E’s relationship, so all we have to follow is their reactions to things we don’t understand and the way that changes them as individuals and people who love each other.

In the end it doesn’t really matter what is chasing them or even if they are being chased at all in the eyes of the viewer, what matters is that they’ve found something really sacred and that will still have its own life even when one or both of them are gone.

Find out more about Annabel Lee:

Host a Screening
Love Annabel Lee and want to show our film at your short film festival?  Contact: info@annabellee.film

The Making of Annabel Lee: An Interview with Nathaniel Parker

The original Edgar Allen Poe poem was written in 1849 but the Annabel Lee film project began in 2018 as a Kickstarter. Fifty-three backers funded the production of this Gothic short film, written by Angel Parker, who appears as Annabel in the film.

Nathaniel Parker, perhaps best known for his lead role in the Inspector Lynley series and playing Agravaine de Bois in Merlin, plays the priest in this film and also came on board as a producer.

As Annabel Lee does the rounds of the short film festivals, I was fortunate to be able to interview some of the people behind it: and today I interview:

Nathaniel Parker

1.       What inspired you to take part in a story about Poe’s Annabel Lee?

Actually, I didn’t know it very well before Angel introduced me to it. That’s one of the benefits of having such an imaginative daughter! I had heard of it and I read it wondering how Angel could possibly tackle it. Well, she did, didn’t she!

2.       The poem is 170 years old – why do you think it endures?

Nearly as old as me. Well, all good literature survives the test of time. Not all of Shakespeare does, but the stuff that does is a joy. So too with poets. Look at Blake or Rumi. Like them, Poe hits at your heart. Those heart-driven emotions never seem to change, do they?

3.       What were the most challenging parts of producing and filming the Annabel Lee short film?

Oh, blimey, where do I start? Raising the money was so daunting. Then Robson (Green) appeared, then my family, then Melanie (Roylance). I feel blessed, I really do.  

But that was just the beginning.  Finding the right director, the right actors, the crew.  These are all things I had never done before. I mean I have been around for quite a while, but not in this capacity. So exciting. Luckily, I had Angel as an anchor.  She knows even less about the technical side, but her inspiration drove me. I couldn’t believe I was getting a chance to work with my daughter on such a wonderful project. I know it sounds soppy, at least that is what my mother would have said, but it’s true.  Again, how blessed am I?  

Then, of course there was the first night. After so much preparation, getting cottages, and buying food, and transporting and all the other logistics, the first night we lost 5-6 hours thanks to the camera truck going off the single-track road. I was up that night until 4 a.m. cleaning pans for the food for the next day’s lunch. Then up at 6 a.m. That was an experience. Oh, and you know what else was challenging, coming off the same single-track road 2 days later in my car, and escaping, if not death, a really nasty accident. But all this was completely forgotten when I was on set and saw Angel and Alex acting their socks off. That was when I cried!

4.       What did you love the most about making it?

I think I just answered that question. The pride swelled up in me and I don’t think there was one time when they were on set that I didn’t have at least a wee tear.

5.       Did you learn anything about your art (or life) while making it?

I learnt I that have more than one life.  I may even be a cat, although I am allergic. I watched with admiration Angel’s imagination play out. Life is a compromise. The world wouldn’t turn otherwise, but art is pretty true. Joy.

6.       What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

I hope they don’t take only the angst I have highlighted. I hope they take away that life is complicated, and that love is demanding.  And that, if this was my little Angel’s first foray into screen writing: a) anyone can do it!  (honestly, she was a dyslexic little thing to start with), and b) follow those dreams!

Find out more about Annabel Lee:

Host a Screening
Love Annabel Lee and want to show our film at your short film festival?  Contact: info@annabellee.film