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Ellie Wake: Under the Music Hall

20 September 14 words: Ashley Carter
We spoke to the Nottingham filmmaker about her latest project, and new Indiegogo campaign, about the city's caves

Tell us about Under the Music Hall.
Under the Music Hall is a historical/fantasy short film based in one of Nottingham’s ancient underground caves under the Malt Cross on St James’ Street. The film is about a girl called Annie who is invited to look around the cave by a documentary film crew. At first she is not sure why she has been invited there, until she is visited by characters from the past that used to frequent it. The film visits three prominent time periods that were important to the cave as well as witnessing the ‘real time’ renovation that is currently being aided by Heritage funding. The film aims to show the life that used to exist in the cave, as well as the current transformation that it is going through, from an empty, dormant space back to a place that's full of life.

What is it about Nottingham’s caves that made you want to create a film around them?
What appealed to me about the cave under the Malt Cross specifically was that I had no idea beforehand that it was there. I liked the idea of this ancient and interesting space that was completely hidden from the public and had been for quite some time – it was hiding stories that needed telling. Nottingham’s caves are generally very interesting as they are a very unique feature for a city to have in such abundance. There seems to be such mystery around them, about where they are, how many there are, and who exactly built them - it seems that each one has its own individual story about its origin and function, and I find that so intriguing. That’s what I wanted to depict with Under the Music Hall. I wanted to show the stories from the Malt Cross cave and how they are both unique to the cave itself, as well as playing a bigger role in the city’s communal history.

Who will the film appeal to?
We are hoping that the film will appeal to a wide audience as the fantasy element to the story is quite universal. But we think it will especially appeal to the people of Nottingham and the East Midlands as it is based in a place of importance to Nottingham’s history and heritage. The cave we are filming in is incredibly interesting and beautiful, so I think that many will enjoy seeing it featured on screen.

When are you looking to shoot?
The film is closely based around the real renovation of the cave and the rooms above it that lie beneath the Malt Cross. Therefore to capture the conditions that the venue has been laying in for many years we had to make sure that we filmed before any renovation work started. This provided a bit of a tight schedule but we managed to meet it, and we spent the day filming on 30 May. The day went really well and we are currently finishing the edit on some preview footage that we hope to release soon. The rest of the main filming will take place after the renovation is finished which is expected to be in October.

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How supportive is the Nottingham filmmaking community?
I’ve actually been overwhelmed by how supportive people have been. When I put it out there that I was to be making the film I had a lot of people contact me to say they would be willing to help out either on set or with the production and marketing side of things. It has been lovely to know that people believe in the project enough to offer up their time, but I also think that the context of the project, as a historical film that will hopefully make a mark in Nottingham, has been a big part of that.

Who are your filmmaking influences?
This is always a difficult question to answer! I would say my biggest influences as directors would be Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock because they are so good at capturing emotionally important moments, purely through the images or composition that they choose to use. I’m also a big fan of Darren Aronofsky and Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Amélie was one of the first films I watched that convinced me I wanted to be a filmmaker. The films that appeal to me most are often those that are written and directed by the same person, as they often have a clearer flowing vision throughout.

Are you nervous about being a first time director?
Yes, but I’m also really excited. I have already directed my own smaller projects but this is the first time I will be working with a full crew and be able to produce something of higher quality. There is a lot of pressure to do well when you have people giving their time for you, but when we filmed the first few scenes at the end of May it seemed to go smoothly. I sort of feel, without sounding too clichéd, that I’m finally doing what I should be doing. Wherever I have worked on set, even if just making teas and coffees for people, I have just felt so happy in knowing that I’m working towards something that I really want to do. So yes, it is all a bit nerve-racking, but I guess that is part of the fun!

Watch the video above and click on the link below to find out more and contribute to the film - you have until Sunday 16 November 2014 to do so.

Indiegogo Campaign Page

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