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International film festival heads for The Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne

Film festivals are usually held in exotic places like Venice, Cannes or the USA.

But the seventh international Nightpiece Film Festival, normally staged as part of the media-friendly Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is taking place in Sittingbourne this weekend.

Medway director Al Caretta in The Devil Made Me Do It (42637719)
Medway director Al Caretta in The Devil Made Me Do It (42637719)

Director Al Carretta, who has more than 40 films under his belt, has been forced to switch venues because of the coronavirus pandemic and has picked the Covid-friendly 100-seat Avenue Theatre.

Al, 40, from Marlborough Road, Gillingham , said: "I have used the venue before as a base and location for some of my films. It is a perfect space. When I read it was in financial trouble because of the coronavirus I thought this might help them out."

There are still some places available.

Since the festival was launched in 2014 it has attracted nearly 5,000 submissions from more than 170 countries and has screened 250 films.

Al was last in the theatre over the summer when he conceived, wrote and directed his latest and 16th film Set Roaring War over two weeks during lockdown.

Sonny Barr, Hattie Kemish, Stacey Pomeroy and Lesley Hayes in Al Carretta's Set Roaring War filmed in the Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne (42637730)
Sonny Barr, Hattie Kemish, Stacey Pomeroy and Lesley Hayes in Al Carretta's Set Roaring War filmed in the Avenue Theatre, Sittingbourne (42637730)

The title comes from Prospero's speech in Act 5, Scene 1 of The Tempest by William Shakespeare, if you were wondering. The full quote is 'Set roaring war to th'dread rattlin' thunder.'

The seven-day shoot took place at the end of June and is about a student's unorthodox revenge on her flatmate from hell. It will be shown on Sunday.

In all, 28 features and shorts will be screened over two evenings in five sessions starting at 4pm today (Saturday)and 4pm on Sunday. Tickets are £10 for each day at the box office in Central Avenue.

It is the brainchild of Al who has been performing, in various ways, since he switched from Chatham Grammar School for Boys to the sixth form of the girls grammar school to study A-level media studies.

He went on to read American Studies and Visual Arts at Keele University before launching his own theatre company and returning to Medway.

Al Carretta directing Automatically Sunshine (42637724)
Al Carretta directing Automatically Sunshine (42637724)

He said: "My theatrical background means I can do just about any job on a film set which helps keep costs down."

Where many other movies might start at £500,000, most of Al's come in at under £2,000 thanks to an expenses-only deal with actors in return for helping to create their show reels. He also waited until the price of digital cameras dropped. Most of his productions have been shot using a Canon 60D camera more commonly used for stills.

He also creates most of the music himself.

One of his secrets is to film virtually everything in case it comes in handy. Which explains how a chance opportunity to record the burning down of the Black Lion sports centre near his home in 2017 ended up in another of his films.

Medway actor and director Al Carretta as Father Barulhenton in Th' Dread Rattlin' (42637721)
Medway actor and director Al Carretta as Father Barulhenton in Th' Dread Rattlin' (42637721)

"People thought it was a £100,000 special effect. I even managed to get actors to be filmed in front of the wreckage the day after," he admitted. Likewise, capturing the demolition of Kingsnorth power station became a drone attack in The Madness Of Tellaralette Sevill.

"You just need some serious ingenuity when you don't have much money, " he said. "And never be afraid to experiment."

On October 24, his team returns to The Avenue to begin shooting yet another production, this time a western set in 1861 during the American Civil War called The Judge of Harbor County.

The box office is on 01795 471140.

Read more: All the latest Sittingbourne news here

Read more: All the latest Medway news here

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