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North Norfolk on the big screen

PUBLISHED: 11:50 05 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:50 05 September 2016

Tony Britten on the ChickLit set

Tony Britten on the ChickLit set

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The stars of a new film include a north Norfolk pub, several Norfolk towns plus its coast, countryside and cathedral city, and 200 Norfolk extras, writes Rowan Mantell

The dominoes team in ChickLitThe dominoes team in ChickLit

The four men playing dominoes in a north Norfolk pub have a secret – they are the writers behind the glamorous young, and female, author of the latest “mummy porn” bestseller.

That’s part of the premise for a new movie filmed in Norfolk, but the story begins with director Tony Britten, playing dominoes in a real north Norfolk pub.

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

Every week Tony enjoys a game a dominoes in the village pub, and the secret of these real-life domino-playing friends is about to be spilled across cinema screens all over the country.

They haven’t written a salacious novel, but they have helped inspire a film, and some of them even have cameo parts in ChickLit.

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

ChickLit tells the story of a group of friends who discover their beloved local is threatened with closure, and decide to make enough money to save it by writing a Fifty Shades-esque bestseller. Their saucy book is snapped up and the film rights sold – but when the authors have to keep their involvement secret, things get complicated…

Tony, who lives in Thornage, near Holt, began his career as a musician, and has helped write and perform the film score, as well as the script, for ChickLit. “I’m the cheapest I know!” he laughs.

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

However, his best-known piece of music is regularly played around the world. Tony wrote the UEFA Champions League Anthem in 1992 and the stirring tune is still played across Europe before each Champions League game, and at the beginning and end of every television broadcast.

Tony’s career has included working in musical theatre with Cameron Mackintosh and directing the television films of operas. He fell in love with directing and jokes: “I enjoy the power! And I enjoy the creativity of it. It’s a huge puzzle you are putting together.”

Some of the cast of ChickLit, filming at the Holt Bookshop. Left to right, Miles Jupp, Tom Palmer, David Troughton, Dakota Blue Richards and Christian McKaySome of the cast of ChickLit, filming at the Holt Bookshop. Left to right, Miles Jupp, Tom Palmer, David Troughton, Dakota Blue Richards and Christian McKay

He loves being able to make films close to his Norfolk home – even sourcing a Soviet tank from the Muckleburgh Collection for a ChickLit scene.

“There’s pretty much everything we need, except mountains,” says Tony. “Because I live up here I know the countryside. And we have the coast, the saltmarshes at Stiffkey, the beach at Holkham, and it’s all very accessible.”

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

Tony was the first artistic director of the Holt Festival and his previous films include In Love with Alma Cogan and a portrait of one of his musical heroes, Benjamin Britten (no relation.)

With his production company, Capriol, based in Holt, scenes for ChickLit were filmed throughout the town, as well as in nearby Cromer and Sheringham. “There is a bona fide Hitchcock-like moment in Sheringham,” says Tony. “If you look very carefully you will see me!”

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

The Hunny Bell pub, in Hunworth, near Holt, where he plays dominoes every week, stars as the pub in his film.

One entire day was spent filming here and Capriol production manager Helen Cogman says: “We didn’t have any trouble getting extras in for that, funnily enough!”

Tony Britten with John Hurt on the set of ChickLitTony Britten with John Hurt on the set of ChickLit

The film also features John Hurt, Miles Jupp, Christian McKay, Eileen Atkins, Caroline Catz and Dakota Blue Richards and Tony admits: “I do feel a bit star struck really. It’s a very starry cast.”

One of the producers is John Hurt’s wife Anwen Rees-Myers and both Tony’s sons were involved too, with 25-year-old Oliver writing the initial script and 28-year-old Alex a composer.

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

They are both based in the United States, where Oliver is waiting for his second kidney transplant. “His mother has already given him one and the second may be from me, I’m having the tests at the moment,” says Tony, Oliver’s illness a sombre counterpoint to the charm and comedy of the film he helped create.

Tony describes ChickLit as primarily comedy, with a bit of romance and drama thrown in.

A scene from ChickLitA scene from ChickLit

A premiere, and question and answer session, will be held at Cinema City, Norwich, on Wednesday, August 31, with the official UK release on September 2. It will be shown at Cinema City, Norfolk’s Hollywood Cinemas, The Regal Moviplex in Cromer and many other independent cinemas across the country, plus numerous Norfolk village screenings, including North Creake, near Fakenham, on Tuesday, September 13 – when members of the audience should spot familiar faces from the local drama group in the crowd scenes.

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