St Mary’s Church warden snubs £7m vampire film

Sean McConville at Whitby Town FC, the location of his proposed film.''w124606f
Sean McConville at Whitby Town FC, the location of his proposed film.''w124606f

The man who looks after Whitby’s historic churchyard and 199 Steps has said a resounding no to a £7m vampire film being shot there.

The Whitby Gazette revealed last month how film producer Sean McConville plans to shoot the movie in Whitby which he says will be a huge boost to the town creating jobs and increasing the number of visitors.

But St Mary’s Church warden John Hemson said he was horrified when he read the story which featured in the Whitby Gazette on 28 December.

“I thought ‘no’ when I read the article,” he said. “We don’t like anything to do with Dracula linked with the churchyard.

“It’s sacred. It’s just ridiculous, it’s what the author Bram Stoker saw when he was staying in the hotel on the other side of the river.

“We always get people asking us where Dracula’s grave is. It’s only a story.”

Mr Hemson, added the church doesn’t need paying and is doing well financially thanks to visitors who have flocked to see its recent Christmas tree exhibition.

“If they wanted to do a religious thing we would say, of course,” he added.

“I don’t know if there is anyone who can say we have to do it.

The 199 Steps belong to the church and the churchyard is a religious place like the church.

“The church is actually a lot older than Whitby Abbey. We don’t want it used with anything to do with Dracula.

“The filmmaker has got to get permission from the rector of Whitby Canon David Smith and I don’t honestly think he would agree to this.’’

Mr McConville, who has re-located to Whitby from LA in a bid to make his comedy film about vampires and footballers a reality said he was disappointed with Mr Hemson’s response.

“I would say in defence that Vampire United is a positive story about good overcoming evil intentions, and is in not in any way anti-religious.

“However, I completely understand the church warden’s concerns.

“We would only need to shoot exteriors of the church and the graveyard and the 199 steps.

“Some access to the church grounds could be required but certainly not access inside the church at all.”

He added for closer shots they can build small sets which is usual in the making of films but they would still need to make establishing shots of the church grounds and 199 Steps.

This would not interfere with the church or grounds itself, he said, as the cameras and crew can often be some distance away from what is actually being filmed causing minimum disruption.

“The benefits brought to a town by a film crew making a film usually far out weigh the temporary disruption caused, especially from a financial perspective.

“In any case, I am very happy to talk personally with the church warden and answer any questions or concerns they may have.

“And they are very welcome to read the actual screenplay to know how the locations are used and why.

“I’d like to think it’s more likely to make them laugh, than be offended.”

St Mary’s Church hit the national headlines in 2011 when Canon Smith decided to ban photographers from taking pictures in the churchyard over Whitby Gothic Weekend of goths posing on or near gravestones.