Cinders is a proof-of-concept short for a British pantomime version of Cinderella, but set in a real land, rather than on stage. Cinders has all the razzmatazz of the theatre; blending real-life locations with theatrical scenery, dames, heroes and villains, to produce this unique presentation of a classic story. The Cinders concept is now well placed for further development, with real potential for commercial realisation.
After concentrating on putting Doom Raiders together for general release, and after Darren Scales had completed an MA in Media Production, Backyard Productions were looking for a new project to work on. They considered a number of ideas before deciding to make a film of Cinderella based on the British panto version Mark Scales was already writing. They were to take not only the story, but Ed Hollingsbee worked tirelessly on designing sets and set dressings that would bring the theatrical look of a panto to the screen as well. The aim was not to make everything look realistic, but to use exaggerated perspective and white outlining to give sets and locations a fantastical feel.
They did not have to go far to find an ideal location: Sundown Adventureland, Retford, Nottinghamshire, could be filmed with only minor set dressing. But in other locations, such as Ashby Hall, Lincolnshire and even Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, they cleverly managed to incorporate theatre scenery among the real landscapes and undergrowth. It sounds crazy, but the footage shows how a well-placed painted-on piece of flat wood can actually add a great deal of depth and mood to a scene.
Innovative as this is, it would be wrong to think that this was in any way the only ground-breaking aspect of the project, at least for Backyard Productions.
For the first time, they filmed in 1080p HD, using professional equipment and professional television studios, with the kind permission of the University of Lincoln. Although not new to CGI, having gained experience for their previous three films, there were some new techniques they used live, such as filming from a raised platform and using a spotlight on location. All this added to the theatrical sense the film evoked.
Never before had they held auditions or had quite so many extras. It was true that they had advertised for people to get involved in TENCLO, but this was nothing compared to the three sessions of auditions, both locally and in London, as well as a casting session weekend. They also enlisted the help of a local theatre school and choreographer to work out routines for the main dance number. That way, amateurs and aspiring young stars rubbed shoulders with semi-professional and professional performers, all enthusiastically working together on this production.