Suffolk Plays A Role In Netflix’s New Film: The Dig

After seeing a shout-out on Facebook by Suffolk’s official film office, Screen Suffolk, local musician, Jay Ducker, couldn’t believe his luck when he was chosen to be the on-set assistant to none other than Oscar-winning actor, Ralph Fiennes…

The film, screening on Netflix since the end of January, sees Fiennes playing Basil Brown, the archaeologist who helped discover Sutton Hoo. The Dig, which also stars Carey Mulligan and Lily James was directed by Simon Stone, and is based on the 2007 novel of the same name.

It reimagines the events of the 1939 excavation of Sutton Hoo, which revealed a previously undisturbed ship burial dating from the 6th to 7th centuries along with a wealth of Anglo-Saxon artefacts.

Jay says of his initial interview with Fiennes: “I remember being relatively relaxed because I honestly wasn’t expecting to get the job. I don’t have the strongest Suffolk accent and I had very little experience in the feature film industry. What really put me at ease was that Ralph was already using the Suffolk accent.

“It kind of disarmed me and made me feel as if I was speaking to a local or someone I knew really well. But what helped me get the job, I think, was that I immediately heard when and where he was going wrong with the dialect and without thinking I started correcting him in the interview. He seemed to respond well to that, and I told him my background, which was in the music industry, so I believe it was my good ear that got me the job.”

THE DIG: RALPH FIENNES as BASIL BROWN. Cr. LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021 

Screen Suffolk locations used in the film include Thorpeness Beach, Shingle Street, a footpath in Snape on Suffolk Wildlife Trust land and an RSPB site, Boyton Marsh. The film’s unit base was set up in Snape Maltings which is where Jay spent his first day while the crew filmed classic Suffolk scenes of sky, reed beds, beaches and sea.

The crew filmed in and around Suffolk for a week with further filming taking place in Surrey: “My role was to assist Ralph in getting the best possible performance. Everything from making sure he was fed and watered to perfecting and correcting his Suffolk dialect,” comments Jay.

He would listen to Fiennes reading scripts and suggest ways for him to perfect his Suffolk accent. “There was a three-pronged approach when it came to the dialect coaching. Jamie Matthewman was the principal voice coach for all the actors; Charlie Haylock, a specialist in Suffolk dialects, focused particularly on Ralph’s accent, and me being the everyday reference point. I think all our differing approaches really complemented each other.”

THE DIG: RALPH FIENNES as BASIL BROWN. Cr. LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021 

Jay is still in touch with Fiennes as well as many other crew members. “The camaraderie amongst the crew was the best thing about being on set, for sure. There’s a real sense of togetherness when you’re cold, tired and in the mud together. You really pull on that to get you through.”

He certainly made the most of the opportunity and gained praise from Ralph himself who said: “Jay gave me a lot of support and help during the shoot of The Dig. I requested, from Screen Suffolk, an assistant on set who was from Suffolk – someone I could practice my Suffolk accent with. Jay adapted very quickly to the grueling filming hours and really impressed me with his spirit of commitment and dedication. He worked really hard.

Jay says of his experience: “It was definitely character-building, and I know a lot of people would have killed for my position so I’m always going to be very grateful that I had the opportunity.

Screen Suffolk offers a ‘one-stop’ film service, from initial enquiry through to crew sourcing, locations and permitting. Screen Suffolk’s aim is to make Suffolk the most film-friendly county in the UK. For more information, go to screensuffolk.com. The Dig is now available to watch on Netflix.

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