Clacton is used to the tourists who flock to its sandy beaches, but maybe not the film crews featuring talented Hollywood performers and Morris dancers fighting ninjas.
However, for a few weeks the popular seaside town became the main filming location for this interesting mix of people thanks to Colchester-based producer DB Morgan conceptualizing the idea for the feature film in his dream.
“As with all great ideas, they often appear by magic.
“In my dream I had a vision of a row of black-clad Morris dancers standing on a beach, looking out to sea.
“I had never seen or heard of Border Morris Dancers, but after some research I found myself deep in the fascinating universe of the darker side of all things morris dance.
“Once the vision was etched into my mind and I started to research the origins of Border Morris Dancing, I noticed many similarities between dancing and several styles of martial arts involving stick fighting in the frame of their weapons.
“It was then that the story started to germinate in my mind; a world where secret assassins are hidden in the sides of Morris Dancing, ready to deal with situations, good or bad, that others cannot.
Cast – actors filming scenes at Point Clear
In the film, Mr. Morgan combines the talent of Morris dancers with experts in a wide variety of martial arts fields, including Eskrima of the Philippines, to work with the actors.
As a result, they created a number of visually stunning scenes, complemented by the soundtrack produced by musicians who have performed at major festivals, such as Glastonbury.
He was delighted to see all of this come to life as they filmed in a number of popular locations, such as Walton Pier, Clacton’s Royal Hotel, Martello Tower and a few other locations in Jaywick.
“It’s always exciting to see my words on the page start to leap into the real world,” Morgan added.
“The way I put my films together is to audition for acting skills while I work on finishing the script, so at the first opportunity I can see the talent performing the lines.
Drums – cast and team members at Ardleigh
“It works so well because once I know who’s going to play the part, I can adjust things to suit their personality and their speaking pace.
“Then as we move into tabletop readings and rehearsals, the excitement builds and continues to grow until we move onto set. It is a wonderful process.
The film, directed by Gregg Masuak, who created music videos for Kylie Minogue and Belinda Carlisle, also stars a stellar cast of performers from select Hollywood films.
These include Jamie B Chambers, who starred in Fury with Brad Pitt, Ross O’Hennessy, who played Lord of Bones in Game Of Thrones, Jon Campling, who starred as Death Eater in Harry Potter, Ray Whelan, who worked on EastEnders and Star Wars, plus Eloise Lovell-Anderson, who starred in The Royals and Villain.
Some of the scenes shot for The Morris Men
“It’s wonderful to see the incredible talent play in Morris Men, like watching Jon Campling become Bagman Blythe and take on the role.
“He’s a dark, mysterious character with a tragic backstory and Jon absolutely possessed him.
“Seeing Ross O’Hennessy step into the shoes of our main villain, Owner Frank, was a delight.
“He exudes pure darkness and evil as the ruler of a criminal empire that is suffocating a peaceful coastal town.
“In fact, every member of the cast brought their A game to Morris Men and helped add a deep authenticity to the MM universe.”
Mr. Chambers, who plays Tommy Martin in the film and starred in Kingsman: The Secret Service, has said he enjoys filming Colchester and Tendring.
“I’m involved in a lot of dynamic fight scenes which I’m happy about.
Performance – Jamie and Ross O’Hennessy on set
“For example, I enjoyed being part of a seven minute fight scene on Walton Pier with Ed Gamester, who was in Commando 3.
“We also fought through a fully functional arcade, with rides and a working Ferris wheel.”
Mr Morgan said he really enjoys watching this talent run wild on the North Essex Highlands.
He said, “As someone with anxiety, it’s always nice to be near home.
“Approaching Tendring Council with my idea of turning Clacton into Hollywood-on-Sea has been a positive process.
‘They took our ideas and did everything in their power to open up the city for us and give us access to amazing places, including our amazing three story office building, a former NHS office (Carnarvon House) , used as a production base.
“This huge building has also become home to several micro-film sets – our two hospital rooms, Sally and Bagman’s lair, and the guild’s secret base.
“It was also great to meet the locals. We ended up making friends and allies with several Clacton residents who became actors in the film, alongside their first roles in the hair and makeup department.
While making the film was exciting, the team faced a few challenges along the way, when the locations had to be removed at the last minute.
However, their strong relationships with city council and other businessmen helped find new locations quickly and painlessly.
Mr Morgan said he created memories for life on set.
“Without a doubt, two of our most memorable scenes were the Valhalla (filmed on the Point Clear seawall) and Solstice (filmed at my family’s farm in Ardleigh).
“Passers-by were astonished to witness a group of 24 percussionists, as well as a bagpiper and a procession of 30 black-clad Morris dancers descend on the waterfront.”
Morgan is now fundraising to complete the film in post-production and has set up a fundraising appeal page at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/morrismenmovie.