“DRAGON CHASERS” / “BRYN CELLI DDU” – From Script to Screen
It started with a holiday.
In December 2010, my then-fiancé and I went on holiday to Anglesey. I was living in Wrexham at the time and, having gawped at and photographed most of Edward I’s castles, I was eager to show my partner the same.
As a side trip, we decided to visit one of Wales’ older monuments – Bryn Celli Ddu. From a distance, it doesn’t look like much – a “grass igloo” in a field. But when you arrive at the place, it is resonant with its own ancient magic, the idea that this place was once special to many different people.
When I got home, the magic percolated for a while before I wrote this note in March 2011:
Three teenage boys raise an army of undead Celtic warriors to battle the Neanderthal bullies at school. But when the warriors wreak havoc on their nerdy surban lives, it’ll take a White Witch to bring them down.
This is actually for a film version of the story, and there are a few other notes about general plot – and characters:
> Ben “Galahad” Jones – the proactive adventurer – “the Knight”. Into weapons metal, social and virtual.
> Trevor “Mordecai” Thomas – the history nerd – “the Mage”. Into ancient history and practical magic.
> Shoaib “Shozzer” Abdul – “The Paladin”. Into the noble defence of virtue – and hiding in the broom cupboard.
I liked the idea, but it jostled for position among a whole hoard of plots. I occasionally went back to it, wrote a few more lines, and then left it brewing in a folder for a few months.
When I heard about the It’s My Shout scheme – a brilliant project encouraging those with Welsh connections, particularly young people, to get to grips with the filmmaking process – I knew that this story was perfect. With some editing:
Three nerdy teenagers travel to Anglesey to raise a Celtic warrior from the grave.
Now we’ve slimmed down to one warrior – much more budget-friendly – and, interestingly, Trevor and Shoaib swap personalities. The synopsis also gathers Gwen, “an outcast Goth”, who replaces the older White Witch character.
I submit my application to IMS – with this script – and wait. And wait. And get rejected in the first round.
I’m disappointed, because I’m quite pleased with the script, but rejection is the cost of putting yourself out there.
And then get a phone call on my birthday saying that there’s been a mistake and I’m not only unrejected, but my script is one of the six being made for IMS! The squeeing could be heard for miles around.
What followed was Development. My script editor Gruffudd Owen gave great notes via phone and e-mail and, as a result, we cut back some of the setup to allow more time for character development. We also amputated some of the more expensive features – i.e. the car crashes. I was also excited to learn that Gruff would be writing a Welsh version of the script for a parallel production!
Unfortunately, day job commitments kept me away from set, so it wasn’t until the grand première event at the Wales Millennium Centre that I got to meet some of the cast and crew behind “Dragon Chasers” (as the English version is now dubbed). I also got to see my baby on the big screen for the first time!
I must say that the cast were fantastic and, while I didn’t chat with Alex Reid, it was great to get to know some of the actors and hear about their experiences on set – and share some of the backstory to the script with them.
It was such an eye-opening experience to follow my little idea through to production, and I’m proud that it’s now on freakin’ BBC iPlayer for y’all to peruse.