Manny's Blog

Sharing our French adventure as we live and work and renovate our forever home in the Haute Loire.

The Film


If you ever get to heaven is a feel-good family road movie. Beautifully shot on location in France and Spain by cinematographer Kyle Heslop, with a quirky and original screenplay by screenwriter Claire Jephcott.

Below is the story of how it all came together more than ten years ago – Now in 2021 the film has garnered an astonishing 1.7 million (and counting!) views since we decided to make it available to all on You Tube – do take a look!

Shooting in beautiful Castrojeriz Spain

The film follows the fortunes and misfortunes of Jen Belstaff and her family as they find themselves travelling the old medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, in a VW campervan.

If you ever get to heaven was the first feature for our independent film company 43 Pictures, under the umbrella of 43 Media,  and the whole family were involved in the making of it: from the moment Joe offered it up to the family on a snowy walk in December 2008; through the pre-production and the shoot in 2009; the post-production and screenings in 2010 – they have been deeply involved at every step of the way.

Joe directed the film and I produced it…

Joe the Director – Me the Producer

…and I also played the lead, Jen Belstaff. (My stage name is Amanda Garwood)

Me as Jen Belstaff on the steps of Santiago Cathedral

Luke, our eldest son, composed, arranged and played the final song in the film  (If you ever get to heaven ends with a great finalé concert!); and worked as a camera assistant on the shoot.

The Final Concert

Harry, only 14 at the time of the shoot, was the sound recordist.

Harry the soundman

Beth, 11 at the time of the shoot, played Lucy Belstaff, my daughter in the film. She also helped with costumes during pre-production.

Beth as Lucy

Arthur, our youngest, played Jake Belstaff, my son. It was his first acting role of any kind, and he took to it like a duck to water.

Claire who wrote the script is also an actress, Claire Parker, and she played my sister Katie. Her son Rudi played my son Wills Belstaff in the film.

Arty, Claire, Me, Beth and Rudi – Joe on the floor

The rest of the cast and crew were gathered from a pool of hugely talented friends, who worked for expenses only on deferred payment contracts.

Sam Kane  played Elvis

Saul Jephcott played Geoffrey

Richard Shelton played James Belstaff

Nicoletta Sedrani played Valery

and David Coburn wrote the original score

Our crew included Hillary Sloss – Continuity, Script Supervisor and Stills Photographer (most of the photos on this page are Hillary‘s)

Emeline Letellier-Laux – Line Producer

Tyler Jephcott – Art Director

Eben Foggitt – Lawyer

Rémy Cizeron – Camera Assistant

Jim Letts – Post production sound

It was the hardest most of us had ever worked, and the most rewarding six weeks of my life! For the children it really was “heaven” – a summer of action, friends, travel and adventure.

Beth, Rudi and Arty… and who’s that walking away?

For Joe and I we had our backs against the wall – it was a monumental undertaking with unforeseen problems presenting themselves daily (of course! We were making a feature film on a shoestring and on the road!)

But to wake up every morning knowing I was going to be on set all day playing this fantastically strong woman… and spend the whole day with my husband, my children and surrounded by talented friends who had chosen to join us on this great adventure… well really – who could ask for more?

Talented friends…