Shot entirely in Wales over 17 days – one-day filming in Caerphilly Castle, the rest around Dunraven Bay and Ogmore-by-Sea – Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot is the result. Starring Richard Short (Mary Kills People) as Arthur and Richard Brake (Game of Thrones) as Merlin, you will recognise other faces making up the rest of the cast. Made on a very small budget, the director and writer of the film Giles Alderson talks to Carl Marsh about the production of this film ‘pre’ and ‘post’ lockdown, and of course, the Welsh location!
Am I right in saying that you were still editing the film during lockdown?
Yes, at the beginning of lockdown we were still finishing Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot as we had a load of posts to do so we were doing that all remotely, which was interesting. This is the first time I had done that without being in a music studio or a sound studio to listen to it back. So, I would get sent stuff to watch on my laptop, make notes and then send it back. It was very different, especially with the colour on my laptop’s not going to look like it would on a movie screen.
It was daunting, it was that worry of something could be missed or something could go wrong. Sending files back and forth is never ideal. You’ve got your main backups, of course; it’s not going to be a problem, so yes, it’s daunting because it’s different. It’s a new process. I think it’s quite a good process. To be honest. I believe there are pros from that, but also it’s not the same as sitting in a room somewhere saying “just tweak that or “let’s just change that”. You can’t do that, you’re now doing that very separately, and you can’t create this nice bond with others, but we’ve all got to change, and changes coming. And this is one of the first films out there that had this happen to it this way. I think it’s interesting, but I much prefer being with people developing and creating, it’s a much nicer place to be than being sat in your room, that’s for sure.
Your film is called Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot; the title gives away what it ‘more-than-likely’ is about, however, as these are seen as mythological creations by most or real figures that existed by some, albeit without all the magic stuff; we really could go backwards and forwards on this topic all day but with your film, what makes it stand out from other previous adaptations of the story/myth?
I wanted to make this movie because I wanted to tell a version of this story. As you said, there are so many versions of King Arthur already told, whether he was true or not, it is irrelevant, it’s one of those things that people believe he was alive and believe there was some form of him. I’ve always loved the myth of him, and I’ve always loved this idea of someone like a King Arthur, but I wanted to tell this story a little bit differently.
I wanted to do it as someone a bit lost, a King who is reluctant to go back home. He knows he’s got to face specific responsibilities. He does, yet he wants to hang (out) with his knights, he wants to drink, he wants to meet girls. He wants to fight and play around and not have the responsibility of running Camelot, of running a land.
At the beginning of the film he’s hiding out in France after having his big battle in Rome, which they won and now he’s on his way home, but they seem to stay in France because they’re having a good time there. I wanted it to be about getting inside the mind of King Arthur and his journey of why he is who he is, and why does he go back to Camelot.
When you make a movie like this where budgets aren’t massive, you’ve got to think outside the box of how you could do this, but I wanted to make a movie that stood on its own two feet about a man who was lost, about someone troubled and found it very difficult to get back home. And again, it’s a mythical, magical world, so it’s very different, but I wanted to make it as real as possible about someone who struggled to go home. And in the end, he learned he has to, and his destiny is to do that, his fate is for things to go wrong and for people to die. All for him to be the leader, he was born to be.
What made you decide to film it in Wales, rather than elsewhere?
Well, there’s a few reasons, for one I love Wales but the team had filmed there before with Robin Hood, so we knew we could get a castle, and if he’s out of season, you can get the Caerphilly Castle, which is gorgeous. So, if it’s a film anywhere else, you’d need a castle, you’d need a beach, all within a short space that isn’t too far away. And I think what one of the main selling points was that we could get Caerphilly Castle on this day. It was a location thing. It was a beauty thing. I mean, the whole places are stunning.
To anyone else that doesn’t live there they’ll ask “Where is that place?” You know, Americans are like “Oh my God, this looks amazing!”. For us, it adds so much production value, so it’s totally worth filming from Wales. It could look like New Zealand, it could look other-worldly, and I think that’s what’s lovely about it.
Arthur & Merlin: Knights of Camelot is on Digital HD and DVD now from Signature Films.
Words: Carl Marsh