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Village Film with Tom Draper

Welcome to Waseley

Posted on August 22 2007 at 12:23:37 0 comments

Martin Nigel Davey and Ivania Elena

Sally Oldaker goes behind the scenes of a local movie hit.

Waseley Hills may seem a rather unlikely place in which to make a hit movie, but that’s exactly what local actor and film writer Martin Nigel Davey has done.

His short story Expresso not only attracted a host of well-known actors – including Sir Norman Wisdom – but also went on to turn heads at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Expresso is based around one day at a country cafe and offers a brief insight into the lives of the different visitors – including a vicar under attack from a fly, a couple having a heated argument, a lying businessman, a short-tempered builder and many more.

This disparate group is linked by the waiter and waitress who appear throughout the film.

As with many great ideas, this one originated from real-life experience.

“I had already written a short film about an arguing couple in a cafe, but then one day I was sitting in Covent Garden and the table next to me had three sets of visitors in a very short space of time,” Martin explains.

“A couple having a bad day, two businessmen talking about a deal, and then two worn-out waiters. I wondered how many different people in different situations would sit at that table in one day…it’s a simple idea of human interest and I thought it would make an interesting film.”

With Martin based at Rednal and director Kevin Powis living in Halesowen, Waseley Hills Country Park was a convenient location for both.

“As a family we go up to the Waseley Hills a lot and I knew if we were allowed to film at the cafe it would make a great setting,” adds Martin.

“Worcestershire Council and Tracey, the cafe owner, agreed that we could close the cafe for five days – with the proviso that if any walkers came by wanting a coffee we would give them one!”

The next step was to sign up some actors, and Martin had one particular person in mind from the start.

“I’ve always liked Norman Wisdom, and after reading his book, My Turn, and learning about his harsh childhood and how hard he worked at getting into show business, I wanted to meet him.”

However, Norman had retired and was now living in the Isle of Man. Undeterred, Martin rang his manager and told him he had the perfect script for Norman – who was 92 in February – with no dialogue, just actions which would suit his comic timing perfectly. 

Learning that the scene would only take a couple of hours to shoot, Norman agreed – and thus began four months of planning to ensure the schedule would accommodate its star.
“Everything worked out great – Norman has a good friend in Solihull who he stayed with, and also his manager and other family members all came up for the day,” says Martin.

Norman was far from the only famous face to descend on Waseley that week, as actors had lined up to fill the roles Martin had in mind for them.

“I knew it would be hard to attract big-name actors to what is essentially a low-budget short film,” Martin points out. “But the great thing is that all the actors I imagined for the different characters agreed to do it!”

Geoffrey Hughes, best known for his roles as Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances and Twiggy in The Royle Family, came over from the Isle of Wight, while Don Warrington (Rising Damp and more recently the Kenco adverts) and Finty Williams (Judi Dench’s daughter) also made the journey to Rubery.

The cast also included award-winning RSC actor Guy Henry, and – from further afield – Mexican soap actress Adanely Nunez (appearing in her first UK film), and Hong Kong star Richard Ng.

As well as the international cast, there was plenty of local involvement in the film, including Alvechurch photographer Darren Seymour who took all the official photos.

Most of the customers in the cafe were locally-based actors, while well-known Midland stars Bev Bevan and Don Maclean also joined the cast for a day.

“The first film meeting we had took place at Red Lion in Alvechurch, and during the filming week we used the Marlbrook in Bromsgrove as our base – they were very supportive,” says Martin.

Norman Wisdom

Expresso was also something of a family affair, with Martin’s daughters both involved – 16-year-old Emily wrote the score, and Fiona, 14, appears in a short scene. “I roped in all the help I could get!” comments their proud father.

Martin’s film career began in his own youth, when he attended Birmingham Theatre School and decided to pursue this passion on leaving education.

“My dad’s face was a picture when I said I was going into full-time drama!” he recalls. “He thought I would follow him into the building trade!”

However, Martin had always been a keen sportsman and in his 20s he took a break from acting to forge a successful athletics career, representing Great Britain in the triathlon.

“But I always kept an eye on the film world, and eight years ago I was lucky enough to get back into it,” he says.

It was around this time that Martin began film writing, but his ideas remained in their notepad until he was invited to act out a scene for a certain Kevin Powis. The director asked him if he’d like to make the script into a short film, and a partnership was born.

For one person to find success in careers as diverse as sport and showbusiness is remarkable, but when you learn that Martin has dyslexia, his film-writing prowess seems even more impressive.

“Being dyslexic doesn’t affect my acting work because once I have learned the lines I concentrate on the character – and when I’m writing, my wife and daughters check my scripts,” he explains.

“Last year I was included on a website for dyslexic people in film, and was surprised to see Steven Spielberg and Anthony Hopkins on the list…I’m in good company.”

The invitation to the Cannes Film Festival also placed Martin and his company among the big stars of the film world. The UK Film Council, which had provided funding for the project (along with Screen West Midlands) was responsible for sending Expresso to Cannes, where it proved to be a hit.

The film, with its coffee-ish title, is now being used to support this year’s “World’s Biggest Coffee Morning”, organised by Macmillan Cancer Research.

So what’s next for Martin? “I’ll be working with Kevin on two more short films and then a feature film – we hope to shoot all of them around the South Birmingham and Worcestershire area,” he says.

“So if you see me with a folder in the Red Lion pub, you’ll know we have started on the next project.

“We’re also on the lookout for executive producers, so please contact us if you’re interested.”

More information on the film, the cast and the ‘making of’ can be found at http://www.expressofilm.com


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