Is this the best sit­com you might never get to see?

She’s the novice writer who penned a promis­ing sit­com, he’s the show­biz chauf­feur who per­suaded one of his celebrity fares to star in it. And, af­ter re­mort­gag­ing their house to get it made, all Kay and Jerry Lock­ett need to do now is get some­one to broadc

Cynon Valley - - BRASS BAND NOTES -

IMAG­INE hav­ing a go at writ­ing a sit­com for the first time.

Then imag­ine it be­ing so good that even one of Wales’ big­gest act­ing stars agrees to star in it for peanuts.

Pic­ture then hav­ing to tell that award-nom­i­nated ac­tor, who’s also a huge hit in Amer­ica, that his char­ac­ter ac­tu­ally dies in the first 10 min­utes – while, em­bar­rass­ingly, hav­ing sex in a run­down car­a­van.

But that’s one of the main rea­sons Matthew Rhys ini­tially agreed to be in Down The Car­a­van in the first place – The Amer­i­cans ac­tor slip­ping his brief and scant­ily-clad cameo into a rare break from film­ing the State­side spy drama in New York.

“I’ve been a show­biz driver for decades, fer­ry­ing var­i­ous ac­tors and actresses around the place,” says Jerry Lock­ett, whose wife Kay wrote the for­ma­tive draft af­ter un­der­go­ing a six-week creative writ­ing course.

“I’ve known Matthew ever since he did his first film, House of Amer­ica, in 1997 – so when I picked him up from the air­port I thought, ‘Why not?’ and handed him a copy of Kay’s work – which I’d printed off without her know­ing.

“He read it and said it was ab­so­lutely bril­liant, adding that he’d be back it the UK in a few weeks and, if I got a hand­ful of other ac­tors to­gether, we could do a read-through at Pinewood Stu­dios.

“But when I went home all ex­cited and told Kay, she was like, ‘Oh my God, you did what? I only wrote it for a laugh’,” says Jerry.

Born from the cou­ple’s time spent in their own static home down in Laugh­arne, the story cen­tres on Dai Hy­att, the du­bi­ous owner of a ru­ral car­a­van park, whose ticker packs in half­way through some rather vig­or­ous ex­tra­mar­i­tal cou­pling.

How­ever, his fam­ily end up hav­ing an even big­ger shock at his fu­neral ser­vice, with Dai re­veal­ing via a video­taped mes­sage that he’s leav­ing half his busi­ness to his long-suf­fer­ing wife, the other 50% to his mistress, in whose arms he’d passed away.

Writ­ten four years ago, with Rhys shoot­ing his scenes in 2016, the 30-minute pi­lot episode has proved a real labour of love for both Jerry and Kay – the pair even re­mort­gaged the house in Llantwit Fardre they share with their two teenage daugh­ters in or­der to finance it.

“We started crowd­fund­ing last Au­gust and raised al­most seven grand, af­ter which we ap­proached some pri­vate in­vestors. And then we re­mort­gaged our home,” adds Jerry.

“It’s cost us about £130k to make it – so, yeah, we’ve got quite a lot rid­ing on this.

“Put it this way, by this time next year we’ll ei­ther have a re­ally posh house some­where or all four of us will ac­tu­ally be liv­ing in a car­a­van,” he smiles.

Di­rected by Rhyl-born Sara Su­gar­man – of Very An­nie Mary fame – and de­scribed as hav­ing “a lot of heart” amidst all the laugh­ter, it also fea­tures the likes of for­mer Ca­su­alty star Jan An­der­son, stand-up comic Mike Bub­bins and Me­lanie “Gavin & Stacey” Wal­ters.

With com­par­isons to the work of Peter Kay be­ing bandied about, Jerry and Kay are cur­rently tout­ing around the fin­ished footage to prospec­tive TV sta­tions in the hope of gen­er­at­ing in­ter­est.

“We’ve had an ex-BBC com­edy com­mis­sioner look at it and he said it was great, al­though he did rec­om­mend we knock seven min­utes off to get it down to half an hour,” says Kay, who’s been back in the edit­ing suite in or­der to slim down the run time.

“We’ve also had a cou­ple of suc­cess­ful screen­ings – in­clud­ing one at Chap­ter Arts Cen­tre in Cardiff – both of which were in­valu­able in help­ing me see which jokes worked best.

“The good news is that all the laughs seemed to be in all the right places – we even got a few big belly ones where I was only ex­pect­ing gen­tle chuck­les.

“So that was a real con­fi­dence-booster for me be­cause it was my first at­tempt at a script of any kind – I didn’t even know how to write in script form.”

A 38-year-old com­mu­nity carer, Kay adds that she and Jerry have been over­whelmed by the gen­eros­ity of every­one they’ve met since mak­ing the Down The Car­a­van pi­lot.

“All the ac­tors agreed to ap­pear for a cut price – the crew too.

“Our daugh­ters, who’ve both been be­hind this since day one, worked as run­ners on the set and we also got a drone loaned to us for noth­ing.

“Bless the cater­ers too – they dropped their prices as low as they could go.

“Best of all, one cou­ple whose house we used for film­ing down Sully way were so im­pressed with the rough cuts we showed them that they do­nated £10k to help us com­plete film­ing – that’s how much they be­lieved in it.

“And it was re­ac­tions like that which helped us to de­cide on the re­mort­gag­ing of our place. We fig­ured that if com­plete strangers have this much con­fi­dence in the ma­te­rial, then so should we.

“Also, be­cause most pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies were un­will­ing to take a punt on an un­known quan­tity such as us, we knew we had no other choice but to form our own.

“So what we’d both like, should the pi­lot get picked up and turned into a full se­ries, is to keep that tight lit­tle team to­gether, since it seems to work so well.

“If it’s not bro­ken, don’t fix it, as they say.”

Shame they killed Matthew Rhys off so spec­tac­u­larly in the open­ing episode, though – there aren’t many home­grown sit­coms that can boast a fa­mous face from Hol­ly­wood as a re­cur­ring char­ac­ter.

“Ah, but we’ve thought of that even­tu­al­ity,” laughs Kay.

“Matthew’s al­ready said that if we get a full se­ries we can bring him back as Dai’s twin brother.”

For more in­for­ma­tion about the progress of Jerry and Kay’s sit­com go to www.face­book.com/ down­the­car­a­van

Kay on set with Hol­ly­wood ac­tor Matthew Rhys

Kay and Jerry Lock­ett

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