International box office hit Calendar Girls’ Producer Nick Barton is joining Norfolk-based independent filmmakers Teele Dunkley and Lesley van Dijk to make multicultural dance film, The Secret Folk Dancer. And he believes it could have worldwide appeal
Discovering that an Estonian filmmaker lives nearby has led Norfolk-based producer of Calendar Girls, Nick Barton to get behind a dance film production set in both the UK and Estonia. The Secret Folk Dancer is Director and Co-Writer Teele Dunkley’s first feature film, and follows a teenager’s life in London who is part of a multicultural family and keeps his passion for Estonian folk dance secret from his skateboarding friends.
Executive Producer Nick says: ‘Based in Norfolk, by chance I discovered that I have a talented young Estonian filmmaker living nearby. Teele approached me with an interesting idea that she and her creative team have been working on.
‘The film is inspired by true stories and in a world riven by war and conflict in Eastern Europe, I really felt that this film, partly set in a Baltic State bordering Russia, would appeal to an audience worldwide. It’s important to support new creative talents and to open people’s eyes to the different worlds and lives in countries other than our own. I’m positive that together we can make a brilliant and successful film.’
Although centred around Estonian dancing, many other dance styles are featured in the film and the filmmakers hope that the dance communities across the globe will embrace this film. Now, with the Ukraine war raging along the Russian border, the cultural connection and wish to keep folk dancing alive is stronger than ever among the European countries who used to be once ruled by the Soviet Union.
Teele has directed close to 30 projects, including award-winning short film Metres Apart and Estonian music band Vihma Loits’ Greip’s video – which became an instant success with more than 2.5 million views on YouTube. Her latest film with Producer Lesley van Dijk is the short Losing Us which was made in Norfolk and is doing the festival rounds.
Teele says: ‘I’ve been wanting to make this film for years. It’s a dedication to the Estonian people, the culture and joy of folk dancing. The theme of multiculturalism is important to me because my own daughter is British-Estonian and we have woven in some of the elements that she faces.
‘I also look forward to filming in Central London which will be the backdrop for Rein’s teenage life that spirals beyond his control while showcasing action-packed skateboarding scenes.’
Lesley, who is originally from the Netherlands, also relates to the multicultural theme and love for dance: ‘When I read the script, I immediately connected to it because of the folk dancing community and the young people’s struggles to find their way, particularly with social media added to the mix. We want to open people’s eyes that pursuing your life’s choices is a good thing – at every age.
‘Making this the conventional way could take several years and we like to take charge of our own destiny. We want to make a beautiful film that will entertain you, showcase dynamic dance and skateboarding scenes, and bring new experiences to your cinema screen.’
Filming starts this summer in Estonia followed by a shoot in the autumn in London with an international cast and crew to capture a section of the feature.
The production team are seeking to fund the first section (Block One) through a crowdfunding campaign raising £54K and sponsorships. Indie filmmaking is going more into this direction and the team has created unique rewards for campaign contributors, including a Star experience on set and role with speaking line, VIP tour and film package, and a folk dancing day with the film’s renowned choreographers.
Featured image, left to right: Lesley van Dijk (credit – Teele Dunkley); Nick Barton and Teele Dunkley (credit for both – Lesley van Dijk)