Lucinda Spurling’s ‘Empire of the Air’ selected for Beverly Hills Film Festival
Bermudian filmmaker Lucinda Spurling's latest film about a British airship disaster hasn't even been produced yet, but it is already garnering attention.
Ms Spurling's screenplay ‘The Empire of the Air' has been selected as a finalist at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
It is based on the novel ‘The Airmen Who Would Not Die' by John Grant Fuller, which was published in 1980.
The novel is about the crash of the British airship R-101 in 1939 in France. Forty-eight people were killed more than in the more famous Hindenburg airship disaster seven years later.
“This is an honour and it is one step closer to getting a production deal,” said Ms Spurling.
“It is not a film that I would be able to make myself as it would need a budget of at least $10 million or more. I am setting up meetings in Los Angeles, partially due to the contacts I made in London on a research trip I made last year that was sponsored by Bermuda Small Business Development Corporation (BSBDC) and British Airways.”
‘The Empire of the Air', is a tale of hubris and human tragedy. It also attempts to answer the eternal question, is there life after death? It is set in London between the World Wars when tensions in Europe fuelled the budding industry of aviation. In the story, a WWI flying ace, Captain Hinchliffe (Hinch), attempts to be the first to cross the Atlantic from the east, a feat equivalent in its day to walking on the moon.
In the story, Hinch dies trying but his spirit returns and through a famous medium he warns his wife, Milly, that the hydrogen airship, the R-101 is fated for disaster. Political ambitions and empire-building conspire to allow the flawed airship to fly to India with the hopes of connecting the Empire. With Britain's prestige and commercial dominion riding on the journey's success, he R-101 crashes in France sparing only six men out of fifty-four. The unparalleled disaster ends the Imperial Airship programme, paving the way for development of the airplane and the world we know now.
The filmmaker explained: “Hinch and his wife's efforts to warn the flight crew failed. Or did they? An official inquiry is held into the cause of the crash, but evidence that would damn the Secretary of State for Air for his rash decision is missing, and the inquiry is deemed a whitewash.
“The restless ghosts of the R-101 crew return to communicate through the same medium, and supply clues helping Milly uncover missing evidence that will prove a government cover-up. In the process Milly and Hinch prove something much more unfathomable that life, does indeed, continue after death.”
Ms Spurling said she has faith that her screenplay will be seen by the right people and will be made into a movie.
“I think it will be made because I believe in the story,” she said.
“I don't have control of other people's interest, but when I read the book, which is a true story, I felt it could only be done justice by a big film. I felt like I wanted to tell that story. I am still very confident. As I got into the process of writing it over the last couple of years the story became more real and I am more committed with seeing it through.”
If the film is made, it will be her first narrative film. Ms Spurling is well known locally for documentaries ‘Rare Bird', in 2006, and ‘The Lion and The Mouse', in 2009.
She said the story of the disaster inspired her to try the more creative approach.
“When I read the book it felt bigger than a documentary, and it felt like it fit into the perfect screenplay structure,” she said.
“But that didn't make it easier to write. There were so many characters and I had to cut people to make it work and make it more of a drama. I have written a couple of short fiction pieces, but this is my first feature length screenplay.”
Ms Spurling said there are trends in filmmaking, and she is hoping the trend will roll in her favour for this movie.
“I have been told that there is this growing body of films about the paranormal,” she said. “Maybe that is because this is a more introspective time. I am hopeful this is the beginning of a lot of films about spiritual topics.
“I think the fact that ‘Empire of The Air' is based on a true story will generate more interest in it. All the events and characters were real people. That is part of my interest. I was thinking of also trying to pursue a documentary about the R-101 disaster. There have been loads of films about airships and airship disasters, but none specifically about the R-101 disaster.”
While in California, Ms Spurling hopes to network with agents, filmmakers and actors to help generate interest in the film. She is also working on another film about Los Angeles in 1939, and she is hoping to use the opportunity as a research trip for that project. While there she will meet with Charlie Skouras, executive producer of the television show ‘Desperate Housewives', and also Diane Powell who wrote ‘The ESP Enigma The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomenon'. Ms Powell is a member of the Parapsychology Foundation founded by the real spirit medium involved in the R-101 disaster .
The Beverly Hills Film Festival runs April 6 through 10 in Los Angeles, California.
Ms Spurling can be reached at afflarefilms[AT]mac.com, 297-5451 or 799-7770.
Useful websites: www.afflarefilms.com; www.beverlyhillsfilmfestival.com.