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First look at Film London Microwave feature Sweetheart

Date posted: 22.10.2019

Sweetheart is the debut feature for writer / director Marley Morrison and producer Michelle Antoniades. A charming and uplifting story about a socially awkward 17-year-old named AJ, as she embarks on her first romance during a family holiday at a caravan park in Dorset.

Starring This is England and After Life's Jo Hartley, Ella Rae Smith (Into the Badlands), Sophia Di Martino (Flowers), Samuel Anderson (Dr Who), Tabitha Byron (Hetty Feather) and introducing Nell Barlow as AJ.  Sweetheart was filmed on location at Freshwater Beach Holiday Park on the Jurassic coast of Dorset.

Sweetheart was commissioned through Film London's Microwave scheme, supported by the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, and BBC Films, with support from ScreenSkills. This is the final film in Microwave's recent six-strong slate to go into production and is produced in association with Phil Hunt's BOHEMIA FILM and Andy Brunskill's SUMS FILM AND MEDIA LTD. With additional funding from Executive Producers Evan Leighton-Davis and Pietro Greppi, academic author and champion of female stories Safitri Widagdo, plus female neuroscientist and promoter of equal rights, Dr Anna Antoniou.

Sweetheart is a comedy drama about April or 'AJ', (as she insists on being called), a highly intelligent introvert, who embarks on an unexpected romance on a family holiday. Following AJ's suspension from school, mum Tina has dragged AJ out of her bedroom and driven four hours to an old-fashioned coastal holiday park in Dorset. Joining them is AJ's neurotic and heavily pregnant older sister Lucy, their curious younger sister Dayna and Lucy's attentive boyfriend Steve.  For AJ, the only thing worse than spending an entire week with her uniquely uninformed family is being in a holiday cabin with no WiFi. She's determined to have the worst week of her life, but her plan comes unstuck in the launderette, when she meets a confident and carefree lifeguard named Isla. Isla offers escape from AJ's suffocating and embarrassing family, and the two embark on a series of adventures that AJ tries and fails to keep secret. In this magical, witty coming of age tale AJ falls in love for the first time and back in love with her own family.

"The desire to tell this story was born out of my own battles with gender identity; a need to discover the truth within myself and fully embrace that, as well as attempting to understand where some parental fears and anxieties may stem from. I am interested in the way queer visibility and freedom of expression has changed over generations, and how that impacts a family when confronted with the reality of an ever-changing world inside their own nuclear unit. Through AJ's story, I hope to bring visibility to the people who don't fall under society's expectations and to allow specifically female/trans/non-binary perspectives to be at the forefront. My hope is that the film will be an uplifting and joyful experience, full of colour and youthful energy but rooted in heart, thus reflecting the rush and excitement of falling in love for the first time, and how when we let go of our constructed ideas of ourselves we are free to just be.  A summer romance film but not as you know it" - Marley Morrison

Nell Barlow made her small screen debut as Beatrice Gresham in Julian Fellowes' screen adaptation of Anthony Trollope's novel Doctor Thorne, for ITV/Amazon. Her next role was Lucy in Channel 4's controversial, true life drama Married to a Paedophile, directed by Collete Camden. Nell also voices Elsa Platt in animation Where is Anne Frank?, directed by Oscar-nominee Ari Folman, which is due for release in 2020. Sweetheart is Nell's first feature and also her first leading role.

Jo Hartley has appeared in many British films and television series including This is England, Not Safe for Work, After Life, The Young Victoria (2009), Eddie the Eagle (2016), Slaughterhouse Rulez, and Torvill & Dean (2018). She is currently filming In My Skin, a darkly comic coming of age story which follows a teenage girl trying to hide the reality of her home life and her mother's mental health problems.

Writer / Director Marley Morrisons's previous shorts have focused on LGBTQ+ narratives, portraying relatable and engaging storylines told in a subtle comedic style. With a background in music videos, Marley founded Hazey Jane Films to tell real LGBTQ+ stories to excite and entertain, and invoke conversation.  Marley's crowd-funded short film ​LEROY ​was nominated for the Iris Prize - Best British Short and Youth Jury Award, with lead actor Nathan Bryon winning Best Emerging  Male Talent at the British Urban Film Festival Awards 2018.  Marley was one of six filmmakers chosen for the Encounters Film Festival, 'Widening The Lens' competition 2016, earning 1st Prize for pitching short filmBABY GRAVY starring ​Sophia Di Martino​ and ​Jade Anouka. The short was later chosen as part of Film London's, 'London Calling'  scheme, premiering at the BFI London Film Festival and later nominated for the screenwriting award at 'Underwire festival'.

Producer Michelle Antoniades had produced a handful of low budget online shorts before joining Marley Morrison and Hazey Jane Films in 2013, with a shared vision to create original and heartfelt stories on a low budget basis.  Michelle created and managed the ​crowdfunding campaign for short film LEROY which gained a large social media  following and was nominated for a number of short film awards. In 2017, Michelle produced the BFI Network & London Calling funded short, BABY GRAVY, and in the same year the team were commissioned to make Sweetheart.  As well as developing projects under Hazey Jane Films, Michelle has worked on a number of independent documentaries and more recently produced other comedy projects, including a 22x2 min ​Web Series for Rovio Entertainment and Blink industries.  Michelle was a BAFTA CREW member & BFI Network 18/19 and is an alumni of the Edinburgh International Film Festival Talent Lab. 

Other key crew include Directors of Photography Matt Wicks (People Just Do Nothing) and Emily Almond Barr, plus Production Designer Carys Beard, Costume Designer Amy Thompson, Editor Keelan Gumbley, Photographer Chloe Sheppard and Casting Director Carolyn McLeod.

Learn more about Microwave here: http://filmlondon.org.uk/funding/feature-film-funding

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