Gareth addressing classroom

The Dresser

Life is slightly stressed at the moment. In addition to my Digital Technology and Solutions Apprenticeship (above is a picture of myself speaking as part of National Apprenticeships Week) I am fulfilling my commitments to Bolton Little Theatre and assembling the sound cues for the last three plays of the season, most crucially The Dresser, which will be presented 8th -13th April. I’ve just made a trailer to promote what promises a marvelous play, and I decided to use the opportunity to learn about Adobe Premiere. I’ve been aware of this software for years and seen others using it. It’s used on all Westlake Film shorts. It is something of an industry standard at the lower end of video production. Manchester Metropolitan University now installs it as standard on their PC’s and my work computer has recently been upgraded.

My first impressions are pretty good. Compared to Cyberlink Power Director, my usual choice of video editor, the interface can be a bit intimidating and confusing with so many windows opening, but there is a logic to it. It didn’t crash and there is an impressive set of tools. The audio clean up tools were particularly helpful on this project, because I had recorded the actors in far from studio quality surroundings, although the reverb from the auditorium did add to the atmosphere for this play about a theatre company. I might add more thoughts about using it in time. For now, I hope you like my first Adobe Premiere promo clip.

The story: World War Two is grinding on and England perseveres. Last of his kind, actor/manager ‘Sir’ and his wife ‘Her Ladyship’ continue touring Shakespeare in the provinces with a company depleted by conscription. Sir is plainly unwell, discharging himself from hospital and Her Ladyship believes he should cancel his upcoming performance of ‘King Lear’. However Norman, his loyal, outspoken dresser disagrees and is determined that the show will go on.
You can find out more and book tickets from http://www.boltonlittletheatre.co.uk

Two other quick bits of news. James Axler’s Deathlands is back from the nuclear wilderness with a new series of audiobooks, edited and written by Rik Hoskin. Rik has written several of the original range, as well as masterminding the later years of its spin-off Outlanders.
Deathlands is a post-apocalyptic USA adventure series following a band of warriors searching for a home, but only finding mutant horrors, extreme environments and violent communities, as well as more bizarre SF threats.
The first book in the relaunched series is Glory’s Stockpile and you can listen to an excerpt at https://soundcloud.com/graphicaudio/deathlands-134-glorys-stockpile

Finally, the second episode of the Talking Pictures podcast is out and you can hear me and my thoughts on the Laurel and Hardy short Tit for Tat within it, amongst many other talented contributors. There is also an excellent interview with the head of Talking Pictures –
Sarah Cronin-Stanley. Listen to it at Spotify, ACast, iTunes or from Adam Roche’s own blog: https://www.attaboyclarence.com/the-talking-pictures-tv-podcast

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Talking Pictures TV podcast

In the last few years, Talking Pictures has gradually built up a reputation as the go to TV channel for classic and cult films. In fact it has recently been confirmed as the most successful independent television channel in the UK. This confidence is reflected in its latest production – an official podcast which launches today.

For a long time, I and many others have wondered why with so many movie channels available, the opportunity to see old films has become increasingly difficult. It seems the mainstream UK broadcasters have decided to practically ignore black and white movies, and indeed anything made pre-Eighties. Not just that, but it feels as if the same handful of films are on constant rotation. How many times have Die Hard and the Back to the Future trilogy appeared in the listings recently? So it has been a joy to find a free-to-air place run by enthusiasts and their sympathetically curated schedules, a mix of classics and rarely seen curios, mostly from Britain but also the United States.

When the podcast was announced, its producer and presenter Adam Roche put out a request for contributors and I could not resist taking part. I have recorded a couple of previews of Hammer films being shown this February – The Pirates of Blood River and These are the Dammed. Although they do not feature in this episode, I intend to record a few more over the next months.

You can listen to the podcast via iTunes, Acast and other podcast providers. It’s an excellent magazine show about the channel, its films, and I recommend it even if I am not in it yet 🙂 You can find out more about the channel at: https://talkingpicturestv.co.uk/

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Friends visit Battlestar Galactica and Warhammer

Well I’ve been busy with my BSc in Digital Technology and Solutions lately. First term was a success, but that’s a personal challenge but perhaps not engrossing reading for you. However, whilst I do not have much personal creative news, friends of mine have been busy with great new projects.
John Isles (my co-writer on Auton Diaries 2, amongst other things) is kicking off the new year with an ongoing marathon viewing blog of the 21st century version of Battlestar Galactica. Meanwhile Rik Hoskin will have a short story included in the next Warhammer anthology from the Black Library.

In The Caprica Experiment John and our mutual friend Aaron Small embark on a marathon viewing of the whole Battlestar Galactica saga, beginning with the mini-series that successfully relaunched the beloved, if extremely 70’s franchise. John is long time fan, whilst Aaron is watching it for the first time. They will be recording their impressions as they go. Personally it’s a series I’ve seen one or two episodes of, but for some reason I have never got around to watching properly. Certainly I have been aware of it, for years it was the hottest SF show on television, though somehow it never quite broke into the mainstream in the way Game of Thrones or X-Files did. This seems like a great time to rectify that, so I’ve borrowed my dad’s DVD box set and I’ll be trying to accompany them myself.

Another fantasy universe is at war in Warhammer: Age of Sigmar and Rik has written the short story In the Mists of Chaos for the third Warhammer anthology Inferno! Volume Three. This series features tales from across the Games Workshop worlds. The book is due out in May 2019. For more details, pay a visit to the Warhammer Community news pages.

Finally a reminder that the Fairlight Pantomime Group in the village of Fairlight, near Hastings is performing my Rumplestiltskin on 24-26th January. Wishing them all the best. More information about Fairlight and its busy social life can found on the Fairlight village website .

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Table with PC and mixing desk

Pantomimes, stories from two World Wars, and an Apprenticeship

Plenty going on at the moment, which has left me trying to find the organising equivalent of Hermione Grainger’s magical Time Turner gadget to fit it all in.

Most pressing at the moment has been compiling and operating the sound effects for Bolton Little Theatre’s production of the WW1 play “Private Peaceful” Running 10th – 17th November 2018. It’s the story of Tommo Peaceful, a British Army private facing the firing squad for mutiny. As he waits for the dawn, he looks back to his childhood in the Sussex countryside and his hellish experiences in France. As sound design I have created a trailer as well.

It’s always interesting to find the effects and then edit them to fit the director’s intentions. Not all my sounds are authentic to the period but they fit the model of what the audience will expect to hear on a battlefield. When I was first learning audio drama production, I soon appreciated that there are certain conventions about sound, such as arriving lifts which ping ,that are vital shorthand in telling a story. However whilst its good to keep my audio skills fresh and to help create a theatrical play, I do intend to pull back from this kind of role for a while after Private Peaceful has finished.

Why? Because there is plenty going on elsewhere. For a start I have begun a part-time degree called BSc(Hon) Digital & Technology Solutions Apprenticeship at Manchester Metropolitan University. I do believe that decisions and people can connect in unexpected but beneficial ways. So although there is not an obvious crossover between fiction writing and programming / web development /  business information systems, part of me thinks what has started as an opportunity to update and increase my technical knowledge, might help my creativity nous too.

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Recently I was approached by my old friend Nigel Anderson, director of Angel Snow amongst others, too take part in a new exciting project. Six Million Voices is a short film inspired by the classic book about the Holocaust – The Diary of Anne Frank and is being made in cooperation with the Anne Frank Foundation. It is built around the album of music and narration produced by Chris Williams. You can listen to some of her music via her Soundcloud page.

I have been asked to play Anne’s father and the founder of the organisation, Otto Frank, which is a great honour and I am looking forward to working with Nigel and Chris soon. I’ll be able to tell you more about this film and my role in a future update. In the meantime for more information about Anne Frank and the work of the charity set up in her name, visit their website.

The sound of sleigh bells is in the air and I am delighted to announce that four theatre troupes have chosen to put on productions of the pantomimes I have written/co-written. Knowing how much work goes into any panto production, it is always very gratifying when people choose my work. I hope they all have a great time and if I get hold of any posters I’ll share them here. So coming soon for Christmas:

  • Aladdin, Spotlight Performing Arts, Middlesbrough, UK
  • Aladdin, All Saints’ N20 PCC, London
  • Rumplestiltskin, Fairlight Pantomime Group, Fairlight, UK
  • Treasure Island, Whitefriars College, Northcote, Australia

Thanks for reading.

 

Portrait of Wikkaman

It is time to keep your appointment with – Wikkaman

Some days I am amazed by what appears in my inbox. Such as this, the latest project from the indefatigable and talented Rik Hoskin. Wikkaman is a brand new comic strip appearing in the pages of Aces Weekly – an online comics anthology edited by UK comics legend David Lloyd, the artist responsible for V for Vendetta, Hellblazer, Night Raven and many more memorable guest strips.

Wikkaman will run for seven weeks beginning Monday 15th October.  It’s based on a real life band – a Dorset acoustic folk group – who’s company includes Rik’s wife Hannah. Now he has put them into some comic book adventures, which are in the style of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons he and I grew up with in the 70’s and early 80’s. It will run for seven weeks, beginning Monday 15th October. A labour of love for Rik, to me it is a project that harks back to his early, more personal work, and the indie anthology Nu-Comix.

Artwork is courtesy of Nick Taylor. Incidentally the colouring is by Chatri Ahpornsiri, no mean musician himself who provided music for my own Fine Line and Agents of Psyence audios.

Rik recently talked about the origins of his new work on John Freeman’s long-running comics blog Down the Tubes

Aces Weekly is a comic art collection of serials and short stories beamed directly to readers through cyberspace, featuring a mixture of new talent and established names. Subscriptions to Aces Weekly are a mere US $9.99 or UK £6.99 for about 150 pages over seven weeks. 21 of those pages are written by Rik. So it’s a pretty good deal, even if you don’t enjoy the Wikkaman story! You can find out more about this exciting project from its webpage.

And if you are interested in what band look/sound like, you can check out their Youtube promo too:

And why not visit their Facebook page too.

comic strip panel

White Sand wins an award for Rik Hoskin

I’m delighted to report that Brandon Sanderson’s White Sand, written by my good friend Rik Hoskin, has won Best Graphic Novel at the Dragon Awards 2018, announced at DragonCon on Saturday night 1st September 2018.

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I’ve mentioned this New York Times bestseller before and it is great to see Rik’s talent being recognised by fans of fantasy from around the world.

White Sand is based on Sanderson’s first ever completed novel, although he never submitted to publishers because he knew it need polishing. In later years the author had always had an ambition to go back and revise the book to improve it, and fit it into his later Cosmere saga. Eventually Dynamite Comics came to him, asking if he had any titles which he would like to be adapted into a comic. Sanderson saw this as an ideal opportunity to revisit White Sand and develop it into a graphic novel trilogy, which is now the canonical version of the story.

On the planet Taldain, the legendary Sand Masters harness magical powers to manipulate sand in spectacular ways. But when they are slaughtered in a sinister conspiracy, the weakest of their number, Kenton, believes himself to be the only survivor. With enemies closing in on all sides, Kenton forges an unlikely partnership with a mysterious Darksider, with secrets of her own.

Available from all good bookshops! Rik and I produced a fantasy audio series called Agents of Psyence which you can listen to and download from this very blog.

About Dragon Con

Dragon Con is the internationally known pop culture convention held each Labor Day in Atlanta. Organized for fans, Dragon Con features more than about 3,000 hours of comics, film, television programming, costuming, art, music, and gaming over four days. For more information, please visit www.dragoncon.org.

For a complete list of this year’s winners, please look at their blog here

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Video

Nell Gwynn, appearing at Bolton Little Theatre this September

My favourite theatre is opening its new season with Jessica Swale’s accessible, funny and intelligent play about the infamous 17th century royal mistress. In this take, she is a woman not only of her time, but also ahead of it. She was England’s first well known stage actress, thanks to Francophile King Charles II’s abolishing the stricture that women were not allowed to tread the boards. The author enjoys drawing parallels between 1660 Drury Lane and the West End of today, ruefully pointing out that some problems like good roles for women and the dangers of celebrity have been with us for centuries.

I’m involved with the realising the soundscape and I’ll be one of the sound operators during the week of the show. I had been offered a part but sadly did not have the spare time to take the director up on it. Last Sunday I attended the rehearsal and filmed some of it to create a promotional video, which I’ve just uploaded to social media. Starting off with 40 minutes or so or material, I gradually pared it down to a few clips which were full of movement and expression. The music has been specially recorded for this production and will be heard on the night. I’m pretty pleased with the way this one has turned out, and I hope you like it too.

Nell Gwynn runs 17th to 22nd September 2018 at Bolton Little Theatre. For more information and to book tickets, please visit http://www.boltonlittletheatre.co.uk

Dalek

Doctor Who – Most Wanted 11th July 2018

Next week I have the pleasure of taking part in the third Manchester Indie Film Makers Group Doctor Who podcast, following on from discussions about The Daleks and The Doctor. This time myself, Nigel Anderson and Brian Robinson are going back to the 60’s to talk about the missing 97 episodes of Doctor Who. With the classic BBC series finding a whole new audience on Twitch, there’s never been a better time to rave about Hartnell and Troughton.

Most Wanted

Doctor Who is in an unusual position. No other TV drama programme with a similar high profile has such a large gap in its library. Can you imagine 60’s Star Trek or the Twilight Zone with half of their second year missing presumed lost? Yet I’m going to argue that existing in the Schrodinger state has actually enhanced the show and given us fans a chance to exercise our imaginations.

The event will be filmed on multi-cameras and edited for an eventual podcast. However if you are in the area you can take part in the free live debate and the recording, which is being held at Manchester Central Library on 11th July at 6.15pm.

“An evening inspired by the lost episodes of 60’s Doctor Who. Debating the merits of these lost stories and why these treasures need to be returned to the BBC archives for future generations to enjoy once more. With a panel of experts this will be a spirited event for both fans of the show or for anyone interested in the developmental history of TV. Not to be missed.”

Free drink at reception and a chance to win TV memorabilia in our free prize draw. Free prize draw will take place at the event on Wednesday 11th July 2018.

Book your tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/doctor-who-most-wanted-tickets-47601076100

London, 1965!

 

Paul Ferry’s 10 Favourite Doctor Who Fan Films

Top writer of cult TV and film matters Paul Ferry has just compiled a list of his favourite Doctor Who fan films. I’d agree with a lot of the choices – “Resurrection of Evil” and “the Millenium Trap” especially. He also kindly singles out “Future Investment” for praise, a film I appeared in. He is too modest to mention it but the group he belongs to – Timebase – produced some superb fan films too, especaily “Phase IV”.

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White Sands, Cemetery Club and other shares

Easter has just passed by and I seem to have reached critical mass with a number of little bits of news about what is happening in my world. So here is one of those occasional news round-up type posts of mine.

I’ve been pretty busy down at Bolton Little Theatre in the last few months. We had an extremely successful screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with plenty of the audience in costume and some wild behaviour in the aisles! I must admit I was pretty nervous how this night was going to play, so it was a big relief to hear our guests leaving in high spirits and some lovely feedback on the night. We’ll be showing Dirty Dancing on Saturday evening 9th June 2018. Visit the BLT website for tickets and more details.

But my main job in the last few months has been as sound designer and operator for various productions on both of our stages. Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn was a particular challenge, requiring party sounds every time the kitchen door was opened, and that door gets used an awful lot. Another tricky part was that each act opened with a Seventies Christmas pop song, which faded from normal to mimicking the tinny sound coming from an onset radio. But I pulled that off and this brilliant play about materialism and self-delusion was brilliantly acted by an excellent cast. I thought it was one of our best productions in a while. Although The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, which I was only tangentially involved with, was every bit as good in every department.

Currently I am rehearsing The Cemetery Club by Ivan Menchell, a witty comedy about love in New York’s senior citizen community. the sound requirements for this are relatively modest, probably the most challenging of which is a whistling kettle and getting the volume of it right. But its still quite a time commitment and will take up most of this and next week’s evenings. I’ve also put together a promotional trailer, which you can watch below:

Overlapping with that production is Agnes of God by John Pielmeier, an intense interrogation drama set in a New York convent. I’ve already recorded some voiceovers for it and will shortly be assembling the choral musical cues with the director. Earlier last year I recorded the three woman cast at a readthrough, and so was able to create a particularly effective trailer, my favourite in a while:

With all this tech work, and editing a monthly BLT newsletter, there has been a knock on effect on my writing but I’m becoming more productive now with a couple of projects. One I can’t discuss yet but hopefully might turn into my biggest theatrical script yet. The other is a short video about my love for Michael Mann’s 1983 horror movie The Keep. I am currently writing the script. This will be the second in a new series Westlake Films is producing. The first episode, in which Carl Bowler rhapsodies about Scott Pilgrim vs The World, has just been released online. Carl does an excellent job in praising what makes the cult comic strip adaptation tick and how it links with his own life. You can find it on Westlake Films’ Youtube channel. Or indeed, right here!

My fellow writer Rik Hoskin has had several exciting projects published lately. His marvellous six-part SF comic Red Rising: Sons of Ares has been collected into a handsome graphic novel. Based on the hit YA series Red Rising by Pierce Brown, the comic tells of the origins of resistance leader Fitchner Au Barca. Born as a Gold, one of the ruling class of a brutal future human solar empire, the misfit Fitchner soon recognises the cruelty of the system. To protect his secret wife and son, who come from the lowest caste, Fitchner’s fight against the Empire leads to tragedy and the seeds of a rebellion. The artwork is engrossing and Rik’s storytelling skills are well in evidence.

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Speaking of graphic novels, the sequel to the New York Times bestseller White Sands, which was also written by Brandon Sanderson and Rik Hoskin, is out now. White Sands Volume Two continues the adventures of a young magician on an alien world where sand can be magically wielded to create and destroy. It is adapted from an unpublished manuscript of Sanderson’s and is a part of his Cosmere universe. Both this and Red Rising: Sons of Ares are published by Dynamite Comics.

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Outlanders may have concluded but Rik is now involved with a new series of action novels – SEAL Team Six, alongside Max KentIt depicts the all action secret missions of a group of Navy SEALS – the proverbial best of the best of the best. Executive Order sees them dispatched to track down a ruthless ISIS group which has got its hands on US drone technology. I’m currently reading it and it’s great entertainment.

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Finally you can learn more about Rik by reading this recent interview, carried out by fellow comic and magazine writer John Freeman for his blog downthetubes.org. Click here for 10 Questions