What’s it like to make a short film and how do you snag top-flight actors? Janet Harrison is founder of COFILMIC, a Northern-based comedy network which aims to discover and nurture new comedy talent across film, TV and the web. Producer of the award-winning short film, Tea Time in Haworth, Janet writes for Northern Soul (and we show the film at the end of this article).
I loved Tea Time in Haworth the minute I read it. I was one of the judges when Chris Smith, the writer of this delightful, subtly funny and character-driven piece, won the COFILMIC Sketch to Screen award. He richly deserved it.
Smith always had Anne Reid in mind for the main female character, Jean, a woman with an acerbic wit who is blissfully unaware how dreadful the things she says actually are. It was gob-smacking to learn that he actually used to live next door to Reid many years before (when she lived in the North) and went to school with her son.
Smith was reticent about asking her to read the script, let alone perform in it. With a micro-budget for the shoot and Reid winning awards for her stunning performance in Last Tango in Halifax, it was a bit of a long shot to say the least. However, read it she did.
Reid was thrilled Smith had written the piece for her. Not only did she jump at the chance of the role, she suggested Paul Copley as her on-screen husband, Graham. At the time Copley was starring in King Lear in New York but he is known to many people for Last Tango. The challenge was to find one day when they could both come to Manchester.
Fortune smiled upon us in terms of timing. A extremely talented local director, Mark Davenport, came on board and with him a raft of amazing crew (most of whom had been working on TV’s Shameless and found themselves with time on their hands when the show ended).
On a bright but very cold March morning, the Alpine Tea Rooms in Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury became Haworth for the day. I admit to being nervous from the start, but when the car I’d booked and sent for Reid got lost and she was 30 minutes late, it was an ominous start to an already jam-packed schedule.
Copley, by contrast, strolled from the nearby Didsbury hotel we had organised for him and spent most of the day laughing and doing the crossword when not on set, occasionally ringing his wife to see how she was doing with it too (they compete…).
The day pretty much ended as it had begun with Chris Smith’s car breaking down (he was meant to be giving Reid a lift to her dinner date). I had to step in and make sure she got there. Thinking it was maybe a posh meal with a BBC executive, the dinner was in fact at The Aladdin, a Syrian (bring your own booze) takeaway and restaurant in Withington and she was meeting Ian Lavender (yes, Pike from Dads Army). I remember thinking, now that is something I would pay to see.
Tea Time in Haworth has been selected for screenings at many festivals around the UK, including Leeds International Film Festival, Aesthetica in York and the London Comedy Film Festival (LOCO), to name but a few. Despite the lack of cash and challenging circumstances, the production values for the film are fantastic and the performances sublime.
What of the fruity polos, I hear you say? Well you’ll have to watch the film to find out more – we wouldn’t want to spoil it.
By Janet Harrison
Janet Harrison is the producer of Tea Time in Haworth and also runs COFILMIC, a talent network for comedy across TV and film, based in Manchester
Festival showings: CINAGE, Leeds University, Didsbury Arts Festival, London Comedy Film Festival, Screen Stockport (highly commended), Aesthetica Film Festival in York, Leeds International Film Festival
COFILMIC is re-launching Sketch in the City, a writer-based live night at the Three Minute Theatre in Manchester, with the first show on October 8, 2015: www.cofilmic.co.uk/sitc