Set and filmed in Birmingham, The Casebook of Eddie Brewer, which premiered in Sutton Coldfield on 22nd April, finds the eponymous Eddie, played effectively by Ian Brooker, investigating reports of supernatural phenomenon in Birmingham.
The film starts with a supernatural encounter at Rookery House, Erdington, and takes the form of a mockumentary with Eddie being interviewed for a news show on the paranormal. Eddie has his own collection of supernatural antiquities, which he has collected throughout the years as a paranormal investigator.
Running at 89 minutes, the length is just right, the humour is particularly witty and there are some suitably creepy scenes too, especially involving a rather disturbing child. I mean, let’s face it. Kids are scary!
Star Ian Brooker took time out from his busy schedule to talk about Eddie’s experiences.
Theresa: Hi Ian, what can you Tell me about the film?
Ian: The film is essentially a mystery-thriller concerning the paranormal. It’s a hybrid of form and content. It’s not strictly a horror movie as it overlaps with other genres: it has humour as well as darkness, but it’s not a comedy-horror either. The humour is natural – fitting with the overall documentary realistic style of the piece. The film starts off quite light in tone but becomes progressively darker as the story develops.
Over the course of a number of weeks, a TV documentary crew follows Eddie Brewer – an old fashioned paranormal investigator as he becomes involved in a couple of disturbing and baffling local cases. He visits a suburban house where a neurotic mother is convinced that a poltergeist has entered her home and that her ten year old daughter, Lucy, is possessed by something malevolent; and a dilapidated Eighteenth Century building, Rookery House, where weird and disquieting noises have been heard in the cellar. As the story develops it becomes apparent that something sinister lies behind the phenomena.
The film is also a character study. A lonely figure, Eddie has not only to contend with sceptics and rivals in his own field who denounce his methods as anachronistic and who try to undermine his investigations, but he is dogged by personal guilt over the death of his wife, Sarah, many years before. By the end of the film, Eddie faces the greatest challenge of his life when he confronts the source of these paranormal manifestations during an all night vigil at the old house. For him it’s not just a matter of belief – it’s a matter of survival.
As well as being about the nature of belief, the film is also about loneliness and loss. Most of the characters are seen in isolation – either in their work environment or in their homes. The relationships are largely dislocated: Eddie is alone but talks to his dead wife, Glenda Blakewell is effectively a single mum bringing up her young daughter, Foster Harbinger never married etc etc. The only married couple in the film appear in a light and humorous scene. Most witnesses to the supernatural in the film are on their own when they see or hear the ghosts – as are the ghosts! Eddie needs to believe. His mission is a personal one.
Although the film is largely about the making of a documentary on the life of a paranormal investigator and Eddie’s hit and miss relationship with the director and the TV crew, it is not exclusively a documentary. The “filmed” docu-footage is only one medium through which the story unfolds. We also have the objective fourth wall, CCTV and Eddie’s own low-tech recordings. The film uses every medium to tell the story. In many ways it uses the tried and well-worn movie convention of mockumentary (Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity etc etc) – although in this case it is not “found footage” – and then subverts it: objective scenes intrude on “documentary” scenes. It will be worth watching out for how much of the paranormal activity in The Casebook of Eddie Brewer is filmed or recorded by the TV crew.
In my opinion the film works on several levels.
Theresa: How did the project go from conception to a fully fledged film?
Ian: Andy Spencer the creator, writer and director of the film developed his ideas over ten years. There was a thirty minute version of the story filmed at Rookery House by Andy as a comedy with different actors back in about 2001. I’ve seen it. Some of the dialogue is the same. You will have to ask Andy the ins and outs of what happened in development over a decade. I wasn’t involved until the late summer of 2010.
An actor friend, Sean Connolly (who plays Mike in the film) was asked by Andy to cast the film for production later in 2010 and I was approached in August of that year to see if I wanted to be involved. I didn’t know anything about the project at that point. However, soon afterwards I was sent the script in draft 4. I was very impressed. For many years I have been interested in the subject of the paranormal and have read nearly every ghost story in English and American literature and real-life cases. So I know quite a lot about the subject and I realised that Andy did too. It was very well researched, the characters were well drawn and convincing, and the story was fascinating. I’ve seen all the classic ghost stories on TV and film but was still disturbed by this story. I said I’d like to do it. I recognised that Eddie Brewer was a wonderful role for an actor, but not having done much work to camera for quite a few years I did not ask to be considered for the role. I found out later that they had all along wanted me to play the part. I accepted the role in September and shooting began at the end of October 2010. We finished principal photography in January 2011. Throughout last year we devised extra scenes which were filmed at Rookery House and were added to the edit. In September of last year we had a test screening at the Audio Suite, Digbeth. The feedback from the audience enabled us to address any issues with the film. I brought in the very talented composer Jamie Robertson (Big Finish etc) to write the score and create the sound design. He’s done a splendid job as I knew he would. His contribution to the finished product is immense. The film edit and sound design were completed in March 2012 and we had our premiere at the Flatpack Festival onMarch 18, 2012.
Theresa: Why did you chooseBirmingham to film?
Ian: Except for one actor – all the cast and crew are based either in or aroundBirmingham. The locations used were houses belonging to friends of the director. Andy has been involved for some years with the committee for the renovation of Erdington’s Rookery House and it was made available to us for filming. Rookery is a marvellous location.
Theresa: Now that you’ve had the premiere and shown Eddie Brewer, what happens to it next?
Ian: The film is being submitted to genre-specific and general film festivals here, inEurope and theUSA.
Theresa: On a personal level, what projects are you currently working on?
Ian: As well as being the lead actor on the film, I am also co-producer. We are involved in marketing the film at the moment. I am also a Ph.D research post-graduate atBirminghamUniversity. My time is divided equally between promoting the film and academic work.
Theresa: Thank you for your time.
So, it appears the future looks bright for both Ian and Eddie.
Having attended the Sutton showing, I recommend genre fans to try to catch it at available film festivals.
Ian: Thank you