An audience of 350 gathered to enjoy a gala preview screening of Song for Marion – Paul Andrew Williams’ new Northern Film & Media and Northstar Ventures-backed feature. Song for Marion, which received its premier at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival, opens in cinemas across the UK on 22 February.
Shot in Durham, Newcastle and locations around the region after production company Steel Mill Pictures received £150k of investment from Northern Film & Media and Northstar Ventures ‘Finance for Business North East Creative Content Fund’, A Song for Marion has been picked up by the prolific US-based Weinstein Co, and is distributed in the UK by heavyweights eOne.
Starring Terence Stamp, Vanessa Redgrave, Gemma Arterton and Christopher Eccleston, Song for Marion is a poignant comic drama about grumpy pensioner Arthur (Stamp) who is reluctantly inspired by his beloved dying wife Marion (Redgrave) to join a highly unconventional local choir. At odds with his son James (Eccleston), it’s left to choir director Elizabeth (Arterton) to try and persuade Arthur that he can learn to embrace life.
The audience on the evening included many members of the local groups and institutions which rallied round the production while it was in the region. Among others, Durham Johnston School and St Francis Church provided locations, and various local choir members helped make up the film’s pivotal on-screen choir, The OAP’Z.
Organised by Northern Film & Media, Durham County Council, Northstar Ventures and Coolmore Productions, the screening was followed by a Q&A with Marshall and Williams - the production team behind the film - and chaired by Wendy Mitchell, Editor of Screen International. After praising the support given from the earliest days of the production by bodies including Durham County Council, NFM and Northstar Ventures, producer Ken Marshall also focused on the warmth and helpfulness of the region’s people: “It was a fantastic experience working up here: the community showed incredible support and enthusiasm.” Writer and director Paul Andrew Williams added: “Films go where the money is – that’s the nature of things. It’s the way you’re supported during a production that decides whether you want to go back. And I’d come back here to film in a heartbeat.”
The £2.4 million public-VC Finance for Business North East Creative Content Fund was the catalyst for a dramatic increase in film and television production in the region from 2010-12. More than matched with private investment, the Fund attracted a further £5.4 million investment pool and realised a string of high-profile projects including ‘Busby Babes’ BBC drama United (David Tennant, Dougray Scott, Jack O’Connell), hitman road movie thriller The Liability (Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell, Talulah Riley, Peter Mullan) and thriller The Man Inside (Peter Mullan, David Harewood, Michelle Ryan).
The Finance for Business North East Creative Content Fund is supported by the ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-13. The ERDF programme is bringing over £300m into the North East to support innovation, enterprise and business support across the region.