Filming Shakespeare’s Holy Grail

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Just over a year ago, local film-maker, Simon Cox, asked us if he could make a film about Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon. It was also my pleasure to take part in some of the filming, so I thought you’d like to hear more about Simon’s work on the project….

‘I have been making films for nearly 30 years now. Starting with sci-fi movies made in the local woods with school friends. Since then I have had a good career, mainly as an editor in TV and films. But it was in 2007 that I was asked to co-produce a documentary about Charles Dickens. I have to confess, I knew little about him and apart from reading some of his books at school my knowledge was flawed. However, I embraced the challenge and got to work with the great Sir Derek Jacobi, as we traveled the country discovering the life of Dickens. It was an amazing experience and from then on I was hooked.

As the recession took hold, the film and TV industries were in a state of flux, in order to survive as a film maker, I needed to make something I could sell directly to the public. So I decided to make a film about the county I live in, Warwickshire. This idea was inspired by my experience on Charles Dickens’s England.

I set about filming each of the 18 towns, interviewing local historians and learning about each area. It was during this time that I became fascinated by Stratford upon Avon.

Even though I was relatively local, I had never been inside Shakespeare’s birthplace, or any of the five properties related to his life. I felt this was a great opportunity to explore his legacy further. In the meantime, I finished Discover Warwickshire and was amazed at the incredible response I received. The public lapped it up; delighted that someone had gone to the trouble to highlight their fabulous county.

Discover Warwickshire won several accolades, including a Godiva award for Best Business Innovation. And everywhere I went, I was always asked, what are you doing next?

I decided that I would make Discover Shakespeare’s Stratford- upon-Avon. But one thing haunted me; Shakespeare is the Holy Grail. What if I were to get it wrong? So I set about researching his home town and life thoroughly.

As shooting began, I managed to get interviews with two local historians, Helen and John Hogg. They gave me some back story about the formation of the town and really opened my eyes to what life must have been like in Tudor times.

Then I asked the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust if they would allow me to film inside the Shakespeare Houses. This normally isn’t allowed, but luckily for me they liked Discover Warwickshire and agreed to let me in.

I wanted the views of Stratford to look beautiful and idyllic. But, the English weather, being what it is, ensured this would take months to achieve. It seemed every time I started shooting, clouds and rain would soon appear.

The film then took four months to edit, but there was one major part missing. The restoration of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre was far from finished and I had to wait six months before I could get inside and film the completed theatre. It was a good job I waited though, as the R.S.C. gave me an incredible interview about the restoration.

The final 82 minute film was completed in 2011 and the feedback has been phenomenal. The big lesson I learnt was to ensure I do my homework. This has really paid off though, as The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was so happy with the film that they now sell the DVD in their shops.’

The film can be rented online or purchased at:

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson
  • Paul Edmondson

    Thank you; it’s now been corrected.

  • Belletrist

    …though, come to think of it, I guess spellcheck might not catch “lesion”, unless it has become remarkably sentient.

  • Belletrist

    “The big lesion I learnt was to do my homework” – and use spellcheck before posting it on my blog! 😉

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