When you think of the picturesque north Essex village of Birch, the wild west is not the first thing that springs to mind.

But for budding teenage filmmaker Matthew Harrison there was no better location for his western film.

The former Colchester Institute student is now hoping the movie will be picked up by festivals across the region.

Called The Lonefret, it is the story of a lone gunslinger who discovers an electric guitar and follows how music transforms his life.


Matthew, 18, had been a fan of western films since his childhood.

“I loved western films growing up,” he said. “I would watch Indiana Jones and dress up.

“I had always had this idea of wanting to make a western and in a place which wasn’t a typical western location.

“It started with a project for college but it has turned into so much more for me.”

Matthew wanted to make sure the movie had a strong message for film lovers young and old alike.

He said: “The overarching moral is about the potential music and creativity has to stop violence from occurring.

“I believe a film should have something to say other than being just a piece of entertainment.”


Filming of the alternative Spaghetti Western took two months and was shot at locations around Birch, a village with a population of about 1,000 and better known for its disused but historic Grade II listed church, St Peter and St Paul.

Matthew, from Colchester, said: “I started the script with three pages and then kept building it up.

“There was a lot of pre-production with the costumes and props - a western is all about those things.

“A huge part of post production was the sounds. It took a lot of time as being in England you don’t have coyotes or eagles.

“I thought Birch would be a good place as there is lots of forest areas and fields.”

And Matthew also had to work on creating a more authentic background during the editing of the film using photos his parents had taken on a trip to Utah.

He said: “The hardest element of the film was turning the Essex landscapes into the Californian frontier of 1881.

“In some shots of the film I chose to add in mountains above tree lines and in the background to help convey the fact the characters are actually in California during the old west period.”

Matthew will study a film course at the Norwich University of the Arts in September.

  • To view the trailer visit www.vimeo.com/341081496