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by Willy Van der Linden & Peter Rouillard won a 3-star Award at BIAFF
A young London folksinger, Rob Evans, has been touring in Belgium, Holland and France in the small car his grandpa left him. The car is covered with stickers showing the most important icons of Guernsey - like a cow, a donkey and milk can. He arrives in St Peter Port, the capital of this island. He would like to visit it before going back home by Condor Ferries to Weymouth. Near the harbour he meets a pretty Guernsey girl, who shows him round the island. Rob finds Nancy very nice, but he already has a girlfriend at home ...
The film was made by a remarkable partnership between two well-known film makers, living in different countries: Belgium and Guernsey. We asked them to write separately about the experience, and here we have combined their replies ...
|Writing about the 1998 Guernsey Lily International Amateur Film Festival,
Emma Cunningham in Guernsey Evening Press said:
12 years later I was interviewed by BBC Guernsey, together with Peter Rouillard, the co-producer. I had finally understood that I could not make such a film on my own.
|Having been an admirer of the work of Willy Van der Linden
for many years, I was both amazed and delighted when he agreed to my suggestion
to produce a documentary featuring my home island of Guernsey.
Of course, I was very happy to provide any help that he might require to carry out the project.
Peter's wife, Mary Rouillard, who is also an organiser of the Guernsey Lily Festival, sent me numerous newspaper cuttings. One, from The Guernsey Press was about Guernsey icons:
You will see in the film an example of the Guernsey people's independence and proud spirit at the concert on Liberation Day. The Guernsey flag is shown everywhere. I feel Guernsey people are a bit like the Bretons. There are many special things on the island like the "hedge veg" stands where garden produce is on sale at unmanned stands.
That article about the ten best icons gave me inspiration for the storyline of the film. The ten icons formed the basis of our film. For instance the beautiful sunset at the west coast was one of the icons in the newspaper article and other things as well that are shown in the film. I also like the fine humour in this article.
Thanks to Mary Rouillard, I knew her beloved island much better now. I wrote a scenario and made a story board: a few hundred drawings. It became a love story in a documentary. Despite my lack of drawing talent, I tried to make a picture for each shot in the acting scenes. I also needed two pretty Guernsey girls and one folksinger. You can see some of those drawings here.
|Willy proposed setting the film around the budding relationship of a
young couple, an idea I wholeheartedly agreed with. He then formulated a
script and story-boarded every scene, a task which necessitated very many
hours of work.
Don't miss looking at those drawings here.
One male and two female actors were needed to play the roles and auditions were held in Guernsey in May 2007. We were lucky enough to secure the services of Martine Legg, Adam Powell and Lisa Kennedy - we had found Nancy, Rob and Jill.
Willy began shooting at this time, to capture some of Guernsey's Liberation Day celebrations on 9th May. But the majority of the filming took place in the summer of 2007, when Willy and I shot all the footage required that involved our actors. We were extremely grateful for the co-operation and goodwill we encountered throughout the Island, which enabled us to film in our chosen locations.
|On 9th May 2007 I attended the festivities on the island's main annual
celebration, Liberation Day. Peter and Mary arranged all the facilities needed
to film a concert at St. James Hall in St. Peter Port, the capital of the
island. The Guernsey people went crazy when they were singing the island's
national anthem, Sarnia Cherie ("Sarnia" is the old form of "Guernsey"):
"Sarnia, dear Homeland, Gem of the Sea, Island of Beauty, my heart longs for thee."
Peter and Mary found a little car and covered it with large stickers representing the icons of the island. They began to look for actors and introduced them to me in the bar of the Havelet Hotel and Restaurant. Martine Legg, a 25 year old woman, who seemed very enthusiastic, knew a folksinger with the right looks. A day later he turned up at my favourite Guernsey B & B, "Bel Air". He was a young man with guitar and dreadlocks - ideal for the character in the film! He, too, received a storyboard. We planned the shoot for a few months later, in July and August. Mary and Peter had a pleasant surprise for me and my wife Vera. Their friend Catriona Stares, chairperson of CinéGuernsey, the independent cinema in Guernsey, offered us free luxurious accommodation in her house.
Peter Rouillard and I have the same camera, a Sony 2000, and even the same editing machine, a Casablanca Prestige. But that was not the only reason for a co-production. It needed an outsider's view of the island and an insider's knowledge of the place and people. It was also much more enjoyable to work together.
|Coincidentally, both Willy and I use Casablanca Prestige editing systems and Sony VX2000 cameras, which would enable us to film with two cameras.|
Choosing from the numerous tourist attractions was not easy. Some Guernsey people warned it would not be possible to film acting scenes in the house where French author Victor Hugo once lived. Indeed, that was a challenge which required some diplomacy. We wrote letters in French to the Ville de Paris, which owns the house. Eventually they very kindly granted permission.
Filming in the Millennium Guernsey Tapestry exhibition and the German Occupation Museum was not a problem. Peter Rouillard knows the people in charge very well. Many of them attend the Guernsey International Film Festival every year.
"Rolling" / "One, two, three, ... action!"
The dialogue scenes were filmed from two different angles. Peter and I took turns directing the actors. Peter started with the word "Rolling". I said "One, two, three - action!" but in a soft voice. The actors felt relaxed and that was very important. They laughed all the time and it seemed there was some chemistry between them. Obviously the folksinger Adam (Rob in the film) made Martine's eyes twinkle each time when he looked at her. However, he already had a girlfriend - not just in the script, but also in real life. There was an advantage for us: Martine's facial expression was spontaneous
Guernsey, an archipelago
Afterwards I visited the smaller islands Herm, Sark and Alderney with my camera because actually Guernsey is an archipelago. In every brochure you find information about the four islands. I took shots for the long version of the film on all of them.
|During the following months, Willy proceeded to do a rough
edit, sending me tapes of various stages, for my opinion. In return, I filmed
and posted to him inserts that were needed to complete the film.
In June, 2008, Willy returned to Guernsey to retake a few shots of Martine. At this time, he also visited Herm and Sark, to carry out filming of those Bailiwick Islands. Later that same month, he travelled to Alderney from France to get some footage of the most northerly of the Channel Islands.
Meanwhile, I took some sound recordings and re-dubbed all the scenes with our actors in which the dialogue was inaudible, due to background noise. These were duly sent to Willy for his approval.
It took some months to edit this travelogue.
In some scenes the noise in the background appeared to be a bit too loud. We had used directional Sennheiser microphone on a boom, but, for example, there were too many people in the pub for us to get a clean recording. So Peter got together again with Adam and Martine, the two main actors to re-record their words. The result was perfect. I mixed the new recordings with the images and tried to create a good balance.
We both found some good music for the film and told each other what we thought about the edited parts after every two weeks or so. The Rouillards found an excellent narrator and professional voice for the film.
All our work was finished after just a few years of research, camerawork and editing!
When Peter and I had agreed all the details of the film, we "released" the film for festivals in Britain and abroad.
Love story in a travelogue
This "dramatised travelogue" (about 40 minutes long) was shown at the Guernsey Lily International Film Festival, but out of competition since Peter is one of the festival organisers. For BIAFF it was made much shorter - about 26 minutes. At local festivals in Belgium it was praised for its unique structure: a harmonious mixture of a love story and a travelogue. In Britain its success is more muted but it does have its admirers.
It will probably be my last large-scale production.
There is a great deal of time, work and expense in such a project. To reach Guernsey takes me 8 hours to drive the 790 kilometres from my home to the ferry port at St. Malo, followed by around 2 hours in a ferry crossing before I can land on the island, let alone start shooting. I made 4 journeys to the island over 2 years. I now want to concentrate on smaller, shorter subjects.
|From an incredible twenty-two hours of footage, Willy produced a tape that was forty-two minutes in length. This version of the film was premiered at La Villette Hotel in Guernsey in July 2009. Since then, the film has been edited down to thirty-six minutes. This adaptation was shown in October during the Guernsey Lily Film Festival. Once again, Willy got the 'editing scissors' out and managed to cut the film down to thirty minutes, the length at which it was entered in the BIAFF competition.|
|But Guernsey, I Love You! taught me much more about a place
I love to visit. It was also a wonderful chance to become closer to Peter
and Mary Rouillard, who are excellent co-workers and generous friends.
- Willy Van der Linden
|I feel very privileged to have been able to assist a film-maker of Willy's
calibre during the making of Guernsey, I Love You! and I am
honoured to count him as my good friend.
- Peter Rouillard
Click here to see some of Willy's storyboard drawings.