A teaser film for a new comedy, penned by an Alnwick actor and filmed in the town, has been unveiled – and it has picked up encouraging feedback, including attention from the BBC.
Former Hollyoaks star Kris Deedigan, who grew up in and recently moved back to Alnwick, has co-written and directed First Class.
The sitcom is loosely based on his father Mike’s exploits as a postman in the area and his comedy escapades with pal Lewis Murray.
Filming took place in Alnwick last year – in locations such as Lindisfarne Middle School and Penny Black, which is the town’s former Post Office.
The footage was compiled for a non-broadcast pilot, which has been sent to industry contacts to gauge interest, with the aim of developing it and turning it into a television show.
A 10-minute teaser film has subsequently been posted on social media, with numerous clips from the pilot.
And it has proved quite a hit with industry experts and online viewers alike – much to Kris’s delight.
The 37 year old said: “I am really pleased with the feedback so far – absolutely over the moon. We sent it out to numerous production companies and a lot of them have come back saying they really enjoyed it, so we will have to see what happens.
“It is also with the head of comedy at the BBC and we are waiting to hear back from them.
“Funnily enough, the aim was to keep the taster under wraps and show it purely to the production companies, but somehow it managed to leak out onto Facebook too.
“But actually, the leak turned out to be a blessing, because we have had some amazing feedback; it has been shared and commented on hundreds of times and it has had a few thousands views.”
Indeed, fans on Facebook have described the teaser as fantastic, brilliant, top drawer, very funny and having the potential to become a regular show.
If the pilot is picked up, Kris has already written numerous episodes and has scope for First Class to stretch across numerous series.
And he says that he would continue to film in the area.
He told the Gazette: “We would definitely be back filming in Alnwick. Northumberland, with its beautiful landscape, is a character in its own right.”
And for Kris, filming in and around Alnwick is even more special, considering it is his home town and helped shape his acting career.
The dad-of-two said: “This has been the most fulfilling experience of my professional life. Doing it where I grew up was so special and showcasing Northumberland to the cast and crew, who came from far and wide, was fantastic.
“The comedy is very much set in Alnwick and there are references in it to places like Shilbottle.
“The sitcom is loosely based on my dad’s life as a postman in Alnwick in the 1980s, as well as him doing the comedy act with Lewis. They were known as Gordon and Bennett and they performed in pubs and clubs in the North East.”
First Class is truly a Deedigan family affair, with Mike helping to write it and Kris’s uncle Ed – of Wiltshire-based Kandu Arts for Sustainable Development – also writing and producing the piece.
Kris said: “This was actually Ed’s idea many years ago because my dad had fantastic stories about the postmen and he said, ‘this is a sitcom’.
“We had written a version some years ago and then the idea to make it happen came about towards the end of last year. My dad told some of his stories and we came up with jokes.”
Fittingly enough, retired postman Mike and Lewis make cameos. “They are both in it,” said Kris. “They love it and they did great.”
As well as a host of local actors, First Class also features former Emmerdale actor James Baxter, who stars in the BBC One series Still Open All Hours, and Ed Gaughan, from British comedy Skeletons.
As well as First Class, Kris is working on numerous other projects, including making a community film with young people in Alnwick, based on what it is like to grow up in the area. The initiative is aimed at 15 to 25-year-olds and anyone interested in getting involved should email Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org
Developing local talent is important to Kris and he said he would like to work in partnership with Alnwick Playhouse – where he used to perform – and the town’s Duchess’s Community High School, of which he is an ex-pupil.
“I really want to connect with the Playhouse and the high school and work with local youngsters,” he said.
Kris is due to record a First World War drama and shoot a film based on the Brixton Riots over the next few months.