Magpie is the vision of writer/director Carmel Hannant. It is a film in which the devastating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are explored against the backdrop of World War II, a period in which this debilitating disorder wasn’t to be recognised for another 30+ years.
Magpie aims to tell stories of the “Friendly Invasion” (the influx of up to 400,000 Americans to the East of England between 1942 and 1945) that have not been told on screen before. Research into issues such as racial prejudice experienced by African-American U.S servicemen and the more personal accounts of all personnel based here will form just some of the context of the film. Thorough research and study of first-hand accounts of life on an American airbase will give Magpie an authenticity which not only focuses on the wider context of the war but the social environment of the era.
Magpie does have some parallels with Yanks, a 1979 drama directed by John Schlesinger, set during World War II. Starring Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave, William Devane, Lisa Eichhorn and Tony Melody, the film was not funded through Kickstarter, which did not exist at the time, but was also a personal project for which Schlesinger was able to obtain funds, in part due to the success of his 1976 film Marathon Man.
Yanks tells the story of the relationships of American soldiers stationed at the US army bases set up in Great Britain during WWII, and explores the relationships of some of those soldiers with lonely British girls, through three romances. Although its background is a massive conflict, Yanks is a character study which features no combat or fighting scenes.
Magpie, although exploring the relation between Americans and British, is not the typical romanticised version of the events of the war, but instead aims to shed light upon the real life experiences of both the British and American men and women during this time. Due to much of the content being based upon genuine accounts of first-hand experiences, Magpie also promises to be as accurate and faithful to the true stories as possible.
“It is the little snippets of history that are not written in any books or publications which will unfortunately be forgotten. Our vision is to tell these lesser-known stories through the medium of film” said Carmel Hannant when launching the Kickstarter crowdfunding. With that phase over, the team moved on to the actual filming, with UK-based cameraman and filmmaker Paul Cook at the helm.
Paul Cook has a special relation with Vitec Videocom, which made it easy for the team to have some of the best material available. When it comes to tripods, Paul Cook relied on the new Sachtler FSB 10 System for Magpie. On-the-go camera operators from around the world have relied on Sachtler’s long legacy of robust tripods and rapid system set ups. While Sachtler has been a favorite among shooters working in news and documentaries, select filmmakers have also come to admire the brand’s versatility and ability to handle heavier and lighter camera rigs with a single tripod system.
“It was a relief to have a tripod system that never hindered the camera team or limited my intended movement of the camera,” commented Cook. “When you work with tight budgets, you often have to sacrifice certain shots or methods of shooting if your equipment doesn’t allow for them, but Sachtler’s FSB 10 made it very easy to turn up each day on set and attempt any shot no matter the weight and size of the camera package.” During production, Magpie featured dramatic sets and powerful characters that Cook had to capture under an intense shooting schedule.
“I used the FSB 10 for all 12 days of shooting – 10 of which were consecutive – so I became very accustomed to and subsequently dependent on its qualities and ideal uses. During production, it balanced and moved our heavy FS7 cinema setup with smooth, controlled motion, making it a great balance of simplicity and functionality. It’s an incredibly quick, reliable and sturdy support system, so it’s a great match for any fast-moving environment, whether that’s corporate jobs, documentary work, or a low-budget independent film like ours.”
Even though unexpected problems are always lurking on every set, Cook emphasizes a simple yet crucial step in the production process.
“Planning and preparation are what make or break a film project like this. If you can foresee what obstacles you may run into and plan ahead, they will be far less likely to turn into a problem later down the line. On something low budget like our project, it comes down to what you know, who you’re working with, and how you tackle those issues together. For me, it’s not necessarily about getting the absolute best crew you can afford. It’s about getting the right crew for the job, and that means getting a crew who shares your passion and understands your vision.”
Magpie is set to be released next year, but you can follow the progress of the film at www.magpiethefilm.com.