From Telford to Hollywood: Film director's award-winning film getting Chinese Theatre screening
From humble beginnings in Telford to a starry screening at Hollywood's most famous cinema, an award-winning independent film is wowing audiences worldwide.
Director Gary Delaney first starting working on the initial ideas for Hello Darlin' three years ago and, with a little help from a hardworking cast and crew, has seen it win seven awards at seven different film festivals.
With a cast including Nimmi Harasgama of The Good Karma Hospital, Doug Allen of Band of Brothers and Sian Reeves of Coronation Street, there are more than a few familiar faces in this modern crime noir.
Gary, 59, lives in Bratton, near Telford, but over the next month will be jetting off to Los Angeles for a screening of the film at the world famous Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Boulevard.
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It will be shown as part of the Golden State film festival, and Gary hopes it will make a similar impact as it already has in the rest of the world.
It was named overall best film at the Birmingham Film Festival and a winner at Calcutta International Cult Film Festival and Mindfield. Dumbo Film Festival, based in New York, named it as a semi-finalist, and it was officially selected by the European Cinematography Awards and at the Vegas Cinefest International Film Festival.
Gary said: "It was about three years ago that the producer, Patrick Carney, came to me with an idea for a film – and I really didn't like it.
"There was one element in the story that I liked, so I built a story around that element. That is when it started to take shape."
The original plot was based on a true story, and would have been set against the backdrop of the 1960s.
The high cost of shooting something that looked suitably retro while also having car crashes and action scenes meant that the plot had to go in a different direction.
The final story is very different. It is set in the modern day and follows armed robber Les DAllen, who is released from prison and wants to get on with his new life. But everybody wants to know where he stashed his unrecovered gold – gold he says never existed.
As he tries to start his life again, plans are afoot to force him to give up his secret.
"There was this element of threatening people by taking photographs," Gary said. That was the one element of the original pitch that stuck in his mind.
"It's about showing people you can get to them – it's more scary knowing that people can get into your house and take photos of your children," said Gary.
"I wasn't comfortable we were going to raise the amount of money needed to do this story set into the 60s, so I decided to bring it into the modern world.
"The new script was written by Ted Hawking, and once he gave me the script I looked at it and rewrote it. I had to look at it from a producer's point of view. Removing parts didn't distract from the story."
With the finished script in hand, it was time to start bringing the world to life.
Part of that is the hard work of breaking down scenes into shots, working out a production schedule and setting a budget.
Raising the money for an independent film can be tough, but Gary said Hello Darlin' proved to be an exception. Soon they were meeting with potential cast members.
"Our project right from the start impressed people," Gary said. "The actors we targeted were very keen to get involved.
"Doug Allen, a very experience actor, made up his mind he wasn't going to do this film - until he met us. He could see the passion and he changed his mind.
"I only had one stipulation – I wanted Nimmi Harasgama, a regular in The Good Karma Hospital. Nimmi is a regular in that. There was one episode where she was trying to adopt a baby, and the emotion blew me away. She was fantastic.
"We were determined to get her, but she couldn't get the dates because she was filming in Canada. We were so lucky – the permit didn't come through for their films and she wanted to do our film so much she paid for her own air fare."
With a cast set and a gruelling three-week shoot in the can, it was time to unleash Hello Darlin' on the world.
"I am very happy with the final project," Gary said. "I always had the film in my head from the word go.
"It has won seven awards in seven different film festivals. This was everyone's film – there was such a good atmosphere.
"I love the fact that everybody's creativity is being awarded. This is a British independent film, it doesn't have a huge budget. It's mindblowing to me that it will be shown in the Chinese Theatre.
"It is incredible what we achieved on this film. We shot the whole thing in three weeks. It's a credit not just to me and Pat, but the whole crew. We were one huge family on set. What we achieved as a group of people is fantastic. I'm at the helm as director, but it really was a true team effort."
Gary's next film will be something he has been working on for some time.
"I wrote a script about 10 years ago and it has been gradually getting momentum," he said. "A lot of it will be shot in Sri Lanka, but the British things will be filmed locally."