Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is set to hit cinema screens around the UK as the location for BAFTA-award-winning Director Toby MacDonald’s new film Old Boys.
The school’s Grade II-listed Neo-Gothic building and well-preserved interior made it the perfect backdrop for the film set in a posh English boys’ boarding school called Caldermount during the 1980s.
Old Boys, which can be seen at Duke’s at Komedia in Brighton from Sunday 3 March, has already received excellent reviews.
A film that’s “sweet and satisfying”
The Observer gave it 4/5 stars and said: “The first feature from Bafta-nominated Toby MacDonald manages a curious alchemy. It takes two elements – the story of Cyrano de Bergerac and a British same-sex boarding school – that have already been mined extensively by filmmakers over the years. And it somehow manages to create something fresh and distinctive. The 80s setting, distancing the story from the immediacy of the digital age, gives the film a lovely, scrappy, handmade aesthetic.”
Time Out, which also awarded it 4/5 stars, said: “This charmingly oddball rom-com exists somewhere between ‘If....‘ and ‘Rushmore’ in the canon of schoolboy eccentricity.”
The Independent described it as “a romcom that’s both sweet and satisfying”.
The film’s setting is a UK boarding school fuelled by cricket, rugby and the school’s trademark game – Streamers – a kind of British Bulldog in a river. In such an unlikely setting, a love triangle develops between daughter of the new French master, Agnes, sports star and handsome pupil Winchester, and unpopular scholarship nerd Amberson who is the go-between the two good-looking types.
The film’s lead is Alex Lawther, Screen International ‘Star of Tomorrow’ and BAFTA Breakthrough Brit for his role as the young Alan Turing in the Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game.
A whirlwind of activity
Sompting Abbotts’ bursar David Sinclair said filming took place during the Easter holidays. The production team used various locations in the school including the beautiful high-ceilinged wood-panelled Assembly Room.
Mr Sinclair said it had been a thoroughly exciting experience having the film production company at Sompting Abbotts.
“They came in like a whirlwind and the scale of the operation was huge. The sound, lighting and filming people were all over the building with an immense amount of technical kit and there was a sense of strict organisation and energy.
“Actors and actresses were everywhere in dress, waiting to be called. It was fascinating to see how many people are involved in making a film.”
He added: “The first three days for preparation the Assembly Room was re-painted a different shade of blue, its Honours Boards and door removed, and another hung. The hall was stripped of our school photos and furniture. Many props were brought in.”
He said the filming team turned the car park into the ‘technical hub’.
“Enormous lorries with the sound and lighting equipment were parked and the biggest lorry was the ‘Panavision’ filming lorry, full of cameras, monitors and consoles. The lighting people fixed what looked like enormous search lights to the top of the fire escape outside a bedroom they were filming in.”
There was one multiple re-take in the Assembly Room, he remembers. “The director let rip. I have never heard anybody shout so loudly (the language was choice).”
Some parts of Old Boys were also filmed elsewhere in Sussex at Lancing College and Arundel.
Historic location on screen
Sompting Abbotts was also used as a film location in 2005 for part of the filming of the documentary A Canadian in Love (Golden Reed Productions) in which 15 Sompting Abbotts’ pupils also featured.
The prep school today is a co-educational day school for children aged 2 to 13 years. It was a boys boarding school from 1921 until 2008 and has been run by three generations of the Sinclair family since 1946.
The building was originally known as Sompting Manor and hosted the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick, wife of King George IV in 1814.