Funnily enough we had known each other at school but hadn’t kept in touch over the years. By pure fluke we’d both returned to Jersey, after living abroad, and met again through the Jersey Documentary Filmmakers Group. After realising we had a common interest in making ethnographic and educational documentaries we decided to do a joint project. We had no sponsorship and only eight months before Maya had to return to New Zealand and Mark to film in Cambodia. Added to these challenges were the choice of an historical subject, who people had vaguely heard about, and a style of documentary that shunned the ‘presenter-led’ approach. We favoured instead archival footage, atmospheric visuals and a range of experts and locations that could bring the past to life.
We both put up £2,000 and settled on a life and times approach to presenting Henry Thomas Bosdet after reading ‘The Glass Rainbow’ by Aiden Smith, an inspiring guidebook to his stain glass windows, that hinted at a full and remarkable life waiting to be uncovered.
Despite leaving a legacy of stunning architectural art from Holland to Barbados, his name is all but forgotten. For us this was also a reflection on the decline in Jersey culture and traditions and as such it was important to us to show the differences between ‘traditional’ Jersey and mainland Britain, through Bosdet’s experiences.
Here was a poignant tale of a man who struggled against prejudice and personal tragedy to become one of the premier artists of his day.
We instantly knew this art form, stained glass, would compliment the medium of film. Bosdet’s pre-Raphaelite style is a joy to behold and we were keen to bring to life the raw passion behind the creation of his windows.
Having both been frustrated artists in Jersey ourselves we were keen to offer other aspiring artists the chance to practice their skills and demonstrate their abilities. We put out an appeal for a composer and actors to work with us on the project and got an amazing response. Charles Mauleverer composed the beautiful film score. Dan Edmunds, an Editor who’d collaborated before with Maya, offered his services for free; as did all members of the cast and crew. Without their contributions we’d never have made it.
Despite being in an Island packed with multi millionaires and finance companies raking in billions every year sponsorship for the film was pretty much none existent. The overseas trips to England and France were a killer but we kept the budget tight. Necessity truly is the mother of invention, and we made some stylistic decisions that avoided extra costs, such as avoiding historical reconstruction.
Fortunately we had people prepared to help us in kind, such as Doug Ford and Louise Downie from Jersey Heritage giving us access to archive material and the museum for filming, and the Societe Jersiaise lending us their Members Room for the two screenings. We also had some generous donations from individuals who saw the worth in what we were trying to achieve and who wanted to support our creativity.
This hard work and support was rewarded by an Island premiere in October 2009 that was a sell out. For a Director/Producer it was the ultimate experience to feel the audience moved by the film. At the end one old Jersey man approached us and said with tears in his eyes, I’m proud to be a Jersey man.
The word was out and by the second screening there was standing room only with people still trying to gate crash the back of the hall. Through this we were able to open negotiations for a possible screening on British Television, and several agencies have approached us in regard to it being used as an educational aid. We managed to secure some sponsorship to cover our expenses and for us to send it to festivals internationally and produce a DVD later in 2010.