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Checkmate - Death of a King

The enemy is at the gate, vengeful and filled with hate. Within a King and his court must give up peace, to kill or be killed. Will theirs be triumph or tragic loss? Chess is the game, but kingly demise is the name.

'Checkmate - Death of a King' is, literally, a tragic drama in miniature. With a cast of 32 performers and none of them taller than 2.5 inches this is a short film told in the medium of of chess and with the most striking features of the famed Isle of Lewis chess pieces which have long been a jewel in the crown of the British Museum.

These pieces were believe to be carved in medieval times and there are only two complete sets known to be extant.

The themes in this debut drama by Stephen McKenna (based on a concept by Alex Pearce) are universal featuring as they do moments of love, fear, threat, conflict and untimely death set against a rich musical background.

With an occasional narrative device this is a silent movie that speaks volumes and is rich in pathos.

Technical stuff:

Filmed with the Canon 5D iii in the director's own London studio and later edited in Final Cut Pro.

Music: Excerpts from 'Romeo & Juliet' by Sergei Prokofiev and Edward Elgar's 'Sospiri'.

Running time: 6.32

  • Stephen McKenna
  • Stephen McKenna
  • McKenna White Films
  • Isle of Lewis Chess Players
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, miniature, macro
  • Runtime:
    6 minutes 46 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 15, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    200 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Stephen McKenna

Stephen McKenna is currently celebrating his first year as a film maker.

His first career was as a broadcaster beginning in the 90s in local radio at BBC Radio Bedfordshire . From there he graduated to network production with spells at BBC Radio 2 and the BBC's World Service before moving into independent production.

During that time he picked up a number of industry awards but by 2004 he quit broadcasting to embark on a second career as a photographer.

Entirely self-taught he matured into a studio and landscape photographer of confidence and distinction especially noted for his urban and cityscape portraits as featured in his recent book, 21st Century Thames: Changing River Perspectives.

Now has come film making with a short series of mini-documentaries, a macro piece and some demonstration commercials.

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Director Statement

My first film making influence was probably my father. He was an actor who had worked opposite stars such as Dustin Hoffman, Richard Burton, Trevor Howard and Michael Caine and it was an education to watch a film with him as he'd remark on the lighting, the cutting and the composition of the shots. So, although I'm something of a late comer I've arrived with a pretty mature lexicon and firm ideas of how I want to work the camera and how to plot and develop the stories I'm working to tell.

Favourite book: Making Movies by Sydney Lumet.