The centrepiece of the 1215.today launch, a specially commissioned film from the University of Lincoln written by dramatist Laura Turner and directed by Philip Stevens has won a British Universities Film and Video Council 2016 Learning on Screen Award. This is the UK’s only celebration of film and media production in education.
The awards recognise the innovative ways organisations use film and media to educate, with special categories highlighting productions from students at UK colleges and universities.
The Empty Throne was chosen by the jury for its beautiful production design, innovative staging and for bringing ideas of kingship and democracy to life.
The Chair of the Jury, Ian Wall, Director of Education at The Film Space, commented:
‘Every year we see outstanding submissions and we always wonder if the high standard can be repeated. This year certainly did not let us down, with submissions making it very difficult to settle on our eventual list of category winners. I’d like to personally congratulate to all our winners and nominees, and thank them, once again, for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.’
We talked to The Empty Throne Director Philip Stevens about this atmospheric production that explores the key characters and events that led to the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.
Philip Stevens The Empty Throne is a living painting, a window into some of the central characters and key events that led up to the sealing of Magna Carta by King John in 1215. It also stresses the power of the individual and is a call to arms for young artists to make their voices heard. With determination and passion, we can all make a difference in the world.
Magna Carta has become a symbol for liberty and freedom throughout the world, but I have always felt that the story of its foundation has been lost along the way. Bad King John and the Barons forcing his kingly hand are now synonymous with the application of democratic rule, but we rarely hear the personal, emotional stories that also played an integral part in its foundation.
I took this idea to writer Laura Turner who crafted a script that gave the injustices of those who suffered at the hands of King John, and their emotions and actions, a thoroughly modern relevance.
The Empty Throne was shown as part of the multi-faceted 1215.today launch event at Lincoln Castle, where the film was simultaneously projected onto multiple walls inside the castle. Viewers could catch a glimpse of the film as they passed by, perhaps coming across one of the tableaus – a scene in which all the actors are motionless – and thinking it was a still, a painting, before noticing that the actors were moving almost imperceptibly. Or they might have caught a spike of action or a scene in stylised slow motion, enticing them to engage with the film. In this way every viewer would have had a unique experience of the film.
So often we look at a painting and see the figures in it purely as part of the composition. I thought it would be interesting if those characters came to life, allowing us to discover a backstory to the image. We also wanted to tie in the film experience with a live performance, so we brought King John and some of the other characters to the launch event and let the public quiz him in person, just like the Barons in the film.
I should not be shunned; I should not be hated; I should not be judged. I should be above contempt!
Visually, I took inspiration from painters such as Caravaggio, Vermeer and da Vinci’s The Last Supper. This was realised beautifully by our art designer Charlotte Ball, our costumier Pauline Loven and our director of photography Stewart MacGregor. In addition, the powerful, immersive audio design was created by Chris Hainstock.
The Empty Throne was an excellent experience for me as a director and a great pleasure to work on. I hope we have created something that is thought provoking and affecting, and that the film gives viewers a fresh perspective on the sealing of Magna Carta, a universally important event.
The production was also distinctive as it developed as a collaboration between staff, students and graduates of the School of Film & Media at the University of Lincoln, working together on a professional shoot to produce a film the University is incredibly proud of. As a key partner of the 1215.today project, who commissioned the film to form a key part of the launch event, the School of Film & Media is delighted and grateful that the project has provided our students with this invaluable opportunity to extend their skills and expertise. We look forward to supporting its exhibition at events such as Frequency Festival and beyond.
Philip Stevens is a multi award-winning film and theatre director. He is a Lecturer in Film Production at the University of Lincoln, UK and is creative director of UK film production companies Urban Apache Films and Red Dog Film.