ANGELS IN NOTTING HILL captures the vibrant, multi-cultural, creative spirit and the playfulness of old Notting Hill, once an iconic birthplace of rock-pop culture that is more and more disappearing. It was shot on 27 original locations in Notting Hill, Bayswater, Little Venice, Grand Union Canal plus Hackney, Brighton and Abney Park. Quintessence composed the title song "Notting Hill Gate" that topped the charts in the '70s.
The story how this film was made is a film by itself.
We were a small, dedicated number of old school filmmakers, mixed with enthusiastic young actors, who became fiercely determined to make a different kind of feature film. Fantasy born out of reality.
So we started with professional digital cameras and no funding at all except the director's own savings and all the patience, madness, hope and passion it needs to face a task like this. We included the changing seasons and our own changing moods in the story. And all of it left an imprint on the film. It was fascinating to see the story growing - almost like a plant. Week by week we discovered new surreal locations in the reality in our neighbourhood and told our fantasy story around it. It took three years to finish.
We used only basic special effects like in the early days of cinema. Whenever we needed help from specialists, we just asked. And we got it. The star was our animatronic puppet character: Mr. President, a sarcastic toy pet - a dog like a teddy bear with the voice of Christopher Lee. Pauline Fowler and Nick from Animated Extras in Shepperton created a genius animatronics puppet that gave the character life and emotion. And the ingenious puppeteer Marc Jefferis played it - as Pauline once said, "he can get a piece of paper alive". The production was movng happily forward on a wave of support: angels everywhere. This became the center of the story and the production, the "Leitmotiv".
At closer look the film turned out to be less fictional than it seemed. All locations were real, many side characters were real people from the locations, where we filmed. And the story began to strangely reflect our own personal life and history during the shoot in a stylized, surreal way. One day I invented a scene, where the first floor restaurant turned out to be not existing and burned down years ago. A few weeks later the restaurant was really closed - because of a fire. I felt as if I was just shooting the final shots of many places that used to be iconic landmarks of Notting Hill and were about to die. Death was playing a part in the film in many ways. Three of us had lost beloved ones just before or during the shoot. So this became like a journey, mentally, spiritually and physically. We were always on the move in a changing environment.
We had to be invisible in the streets like in a documentary shoot, but still manage a large amount of costumes and equipment. Nobody should recognize us as a film crew.
We had to be fast. The light in Notting Hill changes rapidly and the short periods of twilight always offer the most fantastic natural magic. Often we had just minutes to prepare a scene.
Notting Hill has always been a place, where different cultures, ethnical backgrounds, ages and income groups melted in a relaxed, peaceful, creative spirit of co-existence. Where people were welcome to live their personal dreams in any way the liked. This spirit has made the neighbourhood famous. I wanted to capture the last glimpse of it, as long as it still existed. Many of our locations have meanwhile ceased to exist, others will soon disappear - victims of London’s real estate boom, which suddenly became another theme of the film.
Sometimes reality is faster than cinema.