"I pushed my way through some fallen trees along a small track and suddenly came upon a huge eerie grey house. It looked like a lost palace."
Inspired by a true letter
Late last summer at Great Ashfield House our film team came across a letter in a drawer. The letter was dated 1943 and written by Kate, a Land Girl stationed in Suffolk during the Second World War. In the letter, Kate described her experience visiting Great Ashfield House to record its contribution to the war effort. Entering the grounds, Kate wrote that she entered a world that seemed to exist outside of time, a 'lost palace.' Here she encountered three extraordinary women, Mrs Hollond and her daughters. These women and their home had once been the centre of a literati society, but after the death of Mr Hollond, had gradually detached from the world.
Inspired by this letter, our story follows Kate on her journey through the world of the Hollonds.
"It was completely empty and the windows were open with thick cobwebs across them. I felt rather frightened and would have run away if I hadn’t been warned about the Hollonds. The front door was open so I ascended the once-noble steps and looked in."
A little ghost story
"There were muddy footsteps on the floor which gave me hope of finding someone, but I couldn’t make anyone hear. I then went to the back of the house and saw two beds in the garden made up, and which were evidently used, but still nobody about."
Our curiosity piqued, the letter set our imaginations awandering.
What if the Hollonds' eccentricities had nothing to do with sleeping in the garden, and everything to do with their role as gatekeepers to the afterlife?
Our story is told from the perspective of a ghost, who is unaware of her own death. Only at the end is the role of the Hollond women revealed - are they there to process a soul or capture it?
Living amongst history
Our Creative Producer, Edward Spreull, grew up in Great Ashfield House, surrounded by objects left behind by the Hollond women. Through Edward, we have all become fascinated by the original occupants of the house, studying their scrapbooks, letters and photographs, and imagining what their lives were like when they lived alone in the 'lost palace.' Filming in Great Ashfield House and using the original furnishings to complement and inform set dressing, we hope to bring to life a world that already feels very alive to us.
Look & feel
The Lost Palace is a reshaping of the traditional ghost story; it uses dark humour to confront subjects that are both tragic and creepy. With long, uncut sequences and a visually dreamy look, it gets under your skin whilst transporting you through a magical, cobwebbed and nostalgic world.
To best capture this story, we have sought inspiration in the large format photographs found in the house. Therefore, we will be using the ARRI LF - today's equivalent large format digital camera. We will use cinematic prime lenses that add character and an organic feel to a modern day digital sensor.
Keeping it local
In many ways, the setting of our story is a character in its own right. We want to celebrate the local history of Suffolk by celebrating the past and supporting its future.
All catering will be sourced locally and we will aim to bring business to the surrounding area in the form of accommodation, transport and logistics. We also aim to partner with local community centres to arrange film screenings with a traveling historical display, curated by the current inhabitants of Great Ashfield House.
What about us?
Edward, Freddie and Lucy met 5 years ago. They instantly bonded over a shared love of history, archives, storytelling and truth be told, tequila. Shelbourne Films was created soon after and over the years they have made a number of short documentaries together. Their work has taken them everywhere from Windsor Castle to a forest in Ghana to a yew tree shaped like a peacock in London.
This is their first short film together.
From the moment Edward invited Lucy and Freddie for dinner at Great Ashfield House, they’ve known that there was a story in the shadows that they wanted to tell. Over the years, they’ve spent many an evening at Great Ashfield, exploring the untouched wing of the house, where flashlights are the only source of light and stacks of photographs and scrapbooks have been forgotten by time.
When Edward discovered the letter - they knew they'd found their story.
Similarly, when the team met Estefania Carpio - they knew they'd found their cinematographer.
Estefania is a Mexican cinematographer based in London with 8 years of experience. She recently graduated from the National Film and Television School. On her first visit to Great Ashfield House, she swears she saw the ghost of Mrs Hollond.
How you can help
The truth of the matter is that films cost money and we need all the help we can get to make this project happen. We don't believe that anyone helping us should work for free so we will be paying all crew and cast (excluding us) a daily minimum wage. We will also be covering all expenses including transportation, catering and accommodation.
Although the house is replete with props, there will be some production fees, such as the rig we are building to simulate Kate's transition to the afterlife. Funds raised will also go towards equipment.
Two of our stars are goats and therefore 5% of all funds raised will go to Actionaid, a charity that provides families in Burundi with a goat. A lack of quality soil has made it difficult for families in Burundi to grow crops, but a goat produces high-quality manure, which can help a family to improve their crops and bring food security to their community.
Anything raised beyond our target will go towards festival submission fees, a marketing release campaign and public engagement.