Aldeburgh: Priest turns movie-maker for Church project

A Suffolk cleric with a love of the big screen has dramatically changed his typical habits by taking the directorial helm on an upcoming film drama.

Commissioned by the Church of England, ‘How to Choose the Perfect Priest’ was filmed over the course of four days at Aldeburgh’s 15th century church of St Peter and St Paul.

The venture came about after the Reverend Canon Nigel Hartley met members of crew from Rendlesham-based production company, Bruizer, while they were filming a memorial at the church.

Rev Nigel was asked by the Archdeacon of Suffolk to provide the video after a group of lay chairs in the Suffolk Archdeaconry suggested a training resource was needed for parish representatives involved in the process of choosing their next priest.

After securing a grant from the Allchurches Trust, Rev Nigel approached first assistant director Jamie Niblock and company director Andy Parsons to help produce the project. He said: “It turned out there was no training resource available to parish representatives when selecting their next vicar. There are lots of dos and don’ts and it covers about 55 learning points. An awful lot of the film is humorous.

All the actors in the film were cast from the local area, and more than 60 people from the community took part as extras - everyone with a connection to the Church.

Rev Nigel, who used to work for BBC radio and was commissioned in 2001 to make a film for the Open Churches Trust, said he would love to continue his foray into the film world, adding: “There is a huge need for proper professional training in the Church and film is a resource it doesn’t use enough. Here we had a chance to use a very experienced cast and crew.

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“It’s an unashamedly Suffolk production and all the locations are in Aldeburgh.”

Rev Nigel, who wrote, directed and appears in the film as narrator, worked for 18 months on pre-production, putting in some 16-hour days in the eight weeks before the film was shot with the Red Scarlet - a camera similar to the one used by Peter Jackson for Lord of the Rings.

Jamie Niblock, first assistant director, said: “This is one of the most welcoming and happiest shoots we’ve ever been on. Nigel and his team were an absolute joy to work with and they even made us a cake on the final day to say thank you!”

At the start of the year the company won a deal to provide film resources for LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) via on-line procurement portal CompeteFor, funded by regional groups including the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

The hour-long film will be shown at the archdeacons’ conference in January but is hoped to be first screened locally. It also feature music by David Briggs, performed by organist Jon Gibbs and young flautist George Cook.

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