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To BIAFF 2011 results | To Full Making Of Index

Montague Jack won
The Denham Gold Cup for best entry by an affiliated club
and a 4-Star Award at BIAFF 2011

The making of  MONTAGUE JACK part one

The poster for 'Montague Jack'.

As chairman of Wimborne Minster Cine & Video Club (WMCVC) for several years I had been looking for a major project for the club that broadly fulfilled two criteria.

First priority: the film had to utilise and stretch the talents of our membership and involve as many people as possible. We have around 50 members and like many clubs produce the usual selection of documentaries, holiday films and occasional drama. We needed to think outside the box.

Second priority: to produce a movie that was relevant to our local community. Over the years WMCVC have produced various films in and around Wimborne, which is an ancient Dorset town steeped in history. Also, our local council has been most supportive in helping us to get National Lottery and District Council funds to re-furbish our clubhouse.

In the end the subject arose quite naturally and a process that took four years was set in progress ...

A local event featuring the town's history highlighted that Montague John Druitt, one of the principal suspects in the notorious "Jack the Ripper" murders of the 1880's. was in fact born and raised in Wimborne not five minutes from our clubhouse in the centre of town. A quick Google search revealed a wealth of information and we were up and running.

Also one of our members John Perry, an ex- Mayor of the town was a local history buff and Druitt enthusiast. He and I began to compile our research.

It became obvious from the start that the project would require planning, planning and more planning if we were to succeed. The process that followed broke down into the following areas:

  1. Committee approval, budgeting and setting the project team up.

  2. Research and scripting.

  3. Recruit actors

  4. Find locations

  5. Plan rehearsals and shooting

  6. Post production

  7. Final presentation.

Sketch of John Druitt from Wikipedia.
from Wikipedia

Committee approval, budgeting and setting the project team up ...

Once I had the basic idea set out (on a single A4 page) the committee was approached and a budget of £1,500 for filming was agreed. This was based on an estimate of costume hire, some venue costs and a contingency sum. The project would be filmed using a single HDV camera, a Canon XL H1 and edited on Final Cut Pro.

At one of our regular Friday meetings all interested club members were invited to attend a meeting to hear about the project in detail and volunteer to take part if they wished, the idea being to involve as many people as possible.

It soon became apparent that we had three groups:

  • Those who wanted to be part of the filming crew

  • people who could help on an ad-hoc basis on a specific area and

  • those who would lend a pair of hands if they were available.

Checking the camera when shooting 'Montague Jack'.

The lead filming team was:

Peter Hale - our Director of Photography.
He was an experienced filmmaker and would go on to work with me through every stage of the project focusing particularly on the storyboards and lighting design.

Carl Appleby and Eric Montague - cameramen.
Both were very experienced and just as importantly were able to work seamlessly with both myself and Peter Hale.

Neil Horder - sound and Bill Horseman - lighting and electrics.
They were both very experienced and worked very much as a team calling on help from other members as and when required.

Terry Hopwood - general factotum.
This turned out to be an extremely important role. He was responsible for obtaining props, set dressing, liaising with just about everybody and providing on-set catering. If there was something that we forgot you could guarantee that Terry had thought about it!

Some of the production team on 'Montague Jack'.

Trevor Guess - "making of the film".
He also provided a great pair of hands to help when needed especially on the larger and more complicated shoots.

These were just the core team. Throughout filming they were aided and abetted by some 20 or so members as and when required. By keeping the core team reasonably fairly small it was much easier with each member taking overall responsibility for his own part of the project

Research and scripting ...

Sketch of the vigilance committee watching a suspicious character,

The volume of data available on "Jack the Ripper" is quite overwhelming with the Internet, books, DVD's and academic papers all covering the subject. We agreed John Perry would examine available local history and I would scour the Internet, read as many books and watch as many DVD's as possible. This process took the best part of a year.

Sadly in September 2007 John Perry passed away after a short illness. This left a huge void, as John had been a driving force and an inspiration to us all.

We decided to dedicate the film to him.

At this point we had not decided the structure of the film: a straightforward club documentary or, as had been suggested by one member a drama/documentary? If it were to involve dramatisation two further problems were created:

Firstly - we needed a fully developed script with good dialogue.
This was way outside my previous experience. I would have to up my game and would need help to get it right.

Secondly - finding suitable actors.
Might we contact our local drama group Wimborne Drama? If they were interested, we had a real chance of success. A meeting was set up and I made a presentation to them about the project. There was a great deal of enthusiasm and quite a few people wanted to extend their stage experience and try film acting. This response decided the issue. We would go ahead with a full drama/documentary. Little did I realise what I was letting myself in for. Three more years of very hard work!

We also had one further decision. How to link the documentary elements with the drama?

Michael Medwin plays Frederick Abberline in 'Montague Jack'.We decided to use a central narrator, who would appear as Frederick Abberline, the lead police officer in the hunt for "Jack the Ripper". Who should play the part? The solution was obvious. Our President Michael Medwin.

Michael although now retired is a highly experienced Film and Television actor and also a producer with a host of credits to his name. We went to lunch and I explained the project to him. I was quite nervous because although I knew Michael socially, I did not know how he would react to being asked to take part with a load of amateurs! I need not have worried. He was on board. He agreed not only to take part but also keep an eye on my script and act as mentor to our actors as and when required.

Scripting was then the main focus.

A structure for the video was decided and we worked on the various elements: narrator and link material, montage sequences and of course the all important dramatised scenes.

To help I used a shareware programme called Celtex which allows the co-ordination of everything required for the project. Not having experience in writing dialogue I viewed as many costume dramas set in the period as possible; and developed a style that I thought appropriate for the material. The draft scripts were discussed with Michael and Jeremy Austin a member of Wimborne Drama. I think that there were about nine drafts before we settled on one we were happy with.

One of the storyboard images.Storyboards - each sequence was discussed with Peter Hale and he began work on the storyboards. This was a vital part of the project as it enabled us to visualise every shot and iron out problems right from the word go and was the first step of the detailed planning that was to follow. In the end there were some 460 sketches that were all scanned into the Celtex programme and linked to each scene in the script.

Planning / Casting / Locations / Rehearsals / Shooting and Post Production ... go to part two ...

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