Film: `Twelfth Night' and other Cornish tales

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The Independent Culture
On Twelfth Night's first day of shooting, the director Trevor Nunn filmed the scene in which Viola and co scramble ashore after their shipwreck and hide in coastal woods. "You may not recognise that from Shakespeare," says David Parfitt, the producer of Renaissance Films, "but believe me it's there." Out in the bay there was something else that isn't in the Folio edition: the Royal Navy, responding to their own fictional maritime scare, are loudly and persistently practising an air-sea rescue.

This is precisely the kind of aerial interference that filmmakers are going to Cornwall to avoid. "It is virtually impossible now to shoot in the South-east," says Parfitt. "It is really difficult to find a place where you don't get aircraft noise."

This year has been as busy as last, when Twelfth Night was joined by Poldark, The Lord of Misrule, a German adaptation of four Rosamund Pilcher novels and another series of Wycliffe. Granada's forthcoming version of Moll Flanders was partly shot in Charlestown harbour. Jonathan Creek, a BBC comedy drama by David "One Foot in the Grave" Renwick, was mostly filmed in south-west Cornwall. An adaptation of Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda starring Ralph Fiennes and set in and around Boscastle, has just wrapped. On the north coast, Beeban Kidron is filming Joseph Conrad's story Amy Foster with Ian McKellen. The surge into Cornwall is so relentless that the South-west Film Commission is quietly reminding all-comers that it has other counties on its books.

Although most of these films specifically call for a Cornish setting, the descent on Cornwall isn't just plot-driven. Renaissance, guided by Nunn's call for a Celtic location, originally looked into casting Ireland or Scotland as Illyria. "Both of them offered us financial incentives," says Parfitt. But in both cases the distances between locations were too great. And in Ireland "the main problem apart from a poorer road network was that a lot of the houses that we were interested in weren't terribly well kept". Cornwall, where Celticness is available in spades, is also well supplied with carefully preserved National Trust houses, and so Cornwall it was.

For films such as Twelfth Night, where the finance comes through suddenly and filming has to go into frenetic pre-production immediately, the assistance provided by the South-west Film Commission in unpicking red tape, helping to suggest locations, pulling together local crew and facilities is invaluable. "If they hadn't been here," says Gillian Dawes, the production coordinator of Twelfth Night, "there would have been a lot more pressure on the crew, and we would have felt a lot more in the dark."

One thing the Commission can't control is the weather. The Camomile Lawn had to create an idyllic Cornish summer with the help of arc lights, while a backdrop of clouds frowned out at sea for the entire duration of the shoot. Twelfth Night and The Lord of Misrule brought any meteorological misfortune upon themselves, because they were both after an autumnal look. Renaissance's second day of filming was washed out by merciless rainfall.

Many inhabitants of Fowey stood around for 12 chilly hours to play a wassailing mob in The Lord of Misrule. The Cornish tolerance of disruptive film crews was possibly motivated by an understanding that co-operation brings more rewards than just a bit part in a crowd scene. Tourism, the busiest industry in an otherwise economically stricken county, can only benefit.

The South-west Film Commission reckons that, even before the dividend from tourism is calculated, last year's filming brought pounds 10m directly into the South-west's economy. And, as Cornwall is the most popular location, it gets a disproportionate slice of the cake. If Twelfth Night can repeat the success of Renaissance's Henry V and Much Ado, Cornwall will reap the benefit of a free worldwide advertisement for filmmakers and holidaymakers alike. They may even have to reopen the tin mines, to make cans for all those reels of filmn

Jasper Rees

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