A new era of filmmaking? Guy Potter on working with Falmouth film talent to produce his debut film
24 January 2024
With the success of Mark Jenkin’s BAFTA award-winning film Bait and Enys Men (recently dubbed “a bone-chilling folk horror opus” and one of the top ten horror flicks of 2023 by Rolling Stone), Falmouth University is no stranger to developing and supporting independent cinema that provokes curiosity and attention across the globe. The latest jewel in the crown for this era of filmmaking is Trengellick Rising by Guy Potter.
It's the winter of 1735 and, sentenced without trial, Private Gerren Pascoe is banished to a remote outpost to report on the movements of enemy ships. With only an unhinged superior for company, in a desperate land driven to extremes, the lines between right and wrong soon become blurred…as does the reality of why they’re really there.
Originally dreamt up by aspiring director Guy Potter, this ambitious project morphed into a four-year production that’s stubbornly adhered to filmmaking techniques from over a century ago, involving hand-processing miles of film in bathtubs, trekking over Bodmin moor to shoot with their rare 16mm ARRI camera, and dubbing their moody black and white silent film into Kernewek – the Cornish language – with the help of Cornwall Council language experts.
We caught up with Guy to hear more about Trengellick Rising, just as he prepares to accept an unconditional offer to study Film & Television MA (Online) at Falmouth University in 2024!
So, Guy – what inspired you to take on this project?
I wanted to be a part of a community of people helping to preserve and keep alive a minority Celtic language, which I think is hugely important to Cornwall’s cultural heritage and our own modern understanding of that connection. We are so inundated with the angle of Cornwall being a tourist destination and the sunny sandy beaches obsession that it’s distracting from the fact that Cornwall is actually a very wild and culturally rich Celtic land. Anything helping to mend that disconnect I was very happy to involve myself in. It’s also a beautiful language and is starting to experience a ground swell of support behind it.
Falmouth University regularly assists visiting filmmakers with support from our Sound/Image Cinema Lab, technical stores and crew support from our rich pipeline of film production talent at undergraduate and master’s level. What sort of help did you receive from the School of Film & Television?
Trengellick Rising did have help from Falmouth in terms of kit hire, use of the stores and we sourced crew through Professor Neil Fox and the Sound/Image Cinema Lab. We had Falmouth University graduates Rachel Burton (production co-ordinating), Edie Moles (production design and costume, hair and makeup) and Theo Cordery (camera assisting) working on the shoot of the film specifically. The team behind the scenes put all they had into this production, and sometimes more, battling the elements, location dynamics (who doesn’t love lugging kit over Bodmin?) and narrative tweaks to fit changing production circumstances.
Our camera was the ARRI 16ST. It was put together with parts sourced from all over the world, from collectors to sellers to people refurbishing. It was first introduced in 1952 and was the first professional 16mm film camera with a reflex mirror shutter – many cinematographers still today refer to it as their favourite little camera. Lightweight and versatile, it’s been used on thousands of films - even on productions like Apocalypse Now. The camera needed an overhaul in order to be used effectively with modern filters, power and endure consistent use as an ‘A’ camera on set… but we got there in the end.
The film was all developed by hand, slowly and carefully to incredibly specific times and temperatures in a DIY darkroom here in Cornwall. We used techniques from nearly a century ago so that the finished project looks like something that was shot in that era. It’s a little piece of film history!
Trengellick Rising is a story of redemption, self-discovery and revenge. Gritty, raw, and "rough around the edges", it is the world’s first hand-processed Cornish language short film.
What sort of response have you had to the film and what’s next for the film?
We were really excited that last year, we were selected to screen in-competition at the BAFTA/Oscar/BIFA qualifying Encounters Film Festival in Bristol. It also showed alongside Kestav, made by Christopher Morris, and Art by Ben Kernow – both funded by Screen Cornwall’s FylmK award.
We recently had an agreement with Merlin Cinemas to show the film here in Cornwall as part of a triple bill of Cornish Language films, which is nearly sold out, so we’re hoping to go up a screen size to get everyone in and maybe expand to other locations – as the demand is clearly there! I’m extremely pleased that it’s resonated with so many, and I can’t wait to show what we’ve made to everyone. Beyond that, more film festivals and extra cinema showings possibly further up country...we’re hoping for many more in 2024!
[Cornwall] is not only a viable place to shoot in terms of stunning landscape, but the talent pool of cast and crew are here too, and everyone's willing to get stuck in and get things made.
Do you think the film sector here in Cornwall and the south west is playing a big part in the UK creative industries and what are your hopes for the future of Cornish film?
Yes, films like Bait and Enys Men have been integral to the Cornish film sector – it’s a snowball effect that’s only getting bigger. The more films that are made in Cornwall, the more are going to get made as people are seeing it’s not only a viable place to shoot in terms of stunning landscape, but the talent pool of cast and crew are here too, and everyone's willing to get stuck in and get things made. I like the phrase ‘Cornish Expressionism’ – we were heavily influenced by German Expressionism and 1920’s silent film.
I absolutely think Cornwall is starting to contribute to the UK creative sector/film industry. When you’re out on the fringes, you have to be more creative, you have tighter boundaries and you have to think outside the box, hence Bait and Enys Men and Cornish language films like Trengellick Rising, Art and Kestav – they've all got their own angle (and more often than not, they’re rooted in Cornish heritage/identity).
We’ve learned to become more resourceful to get films made and the quality is very high – imagine what we could do with even more funding and support! That being said, Falmouth University, Screen Cornwall and Cornwall Council should get a lot of the credit for helping get films made, as without their help and support they wouldn’t exist. So, we’re doing pretty well, and I think the industry is starting to clock the work emerging from Cornwall and beginning take notice - and long my that continue!
Find out more about Guy's film on the Trengellick Rising website.