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Matt’s animated dream project hits the big screen

A filmmaker from Dudley has created an animated Christmas film which has debuted in West Midlands cinemas, after he revisited the passion project during the pandemic.

Light House chief executive Kelly Jeffs with local filmmaker Matt Hickinbottom
Light House chief executive Kelly Jeffs with local filmmaker Matt Hickinbottom

Matt Hickinbottom from Sedgley has made films for over 20 years and shot projects all over the world, but with Covid-19, many creative avenues came to a stand still.

So during lockdown, he decided to return to Emily The Little Match Girl, an animated musical film based on a Hans Christian Anderson short story.

Mr Hickinbottom said: "Many years ago I had an idea for a film - I was at college at the time. I started to write a musical based on a book that I found whilst in the library.

"It almost magically fell of a shelf and I went to pick it up and there was an image on the front of a girl who was striking a match in the Dickensian period.

"And this image struck me straight away. This Hans Christian Anderson story really did jump off the page at me with all these amazing things that were going on in her little world."

In the Dickensian-inspired film, Emily is taken to the local match factory after the sudden death of her grandmother. Here, Harry and his wife, Mary, exploit the children to sell their matches in exchange for lodgings and a warm meal.

On Christmas Eve, Emily struggles to sell enough matches to keep Harry and Mary happy, but what money she has made is lost in a drain.

Deciding to stay out to avoid any punishment, Emily strikes a match to keep warm. The matches take her on a magical journey, eventually re-uniting her with her grandmother.

Matt has been dreaming of the project for many years, but it was the pandemic that finally pushed him to finish the film.

He said: "For years and years my mom and dad have been saying to me when are we ever going to see this film? We love the music, we love the songs, you play them to us every year, are you ever going to get round to making it?

"And because we were so unfortunate with losing a few people who were close to us, it suddenly hit home that if I don't do something about this and make this project, it's never going to get seen.

"I literally made the decision between Christmas and New Year of 2020, 'I don't care what happens in 2021, I'm not going to let anything stop me, I'm going to find a way of making this movie'."

The impressive cast includes David Bradley, known for his roles in Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, and Birds of a Feather's Lesley Joseph, alongside many local talented voices.

The filmmaker has never been a musician, but the story even inspired him to play with his parents' piano and write one of the film's songs, If I Could Wish Upon A Star.

​Emily The Little Match Girl premiered at the IMAX cinema at Resorts World, Birmingham, on November 28, before making its Wolverhampton debut at the Light House on Tuesday, December 21 - with funds going towards supporting the cinema.

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