Boom! Boom! It’s Christmas Again (and the Tale of the Lost Boom)

Throughout this year I’ve been involved in another music video with the legend that is Mr Basil Brush. Yes, my old foxy pal is having another pop at a Christmas song with his little fingers crossed behind his back that he can storm up the charts, and maybe, just maybe get Christmas number one.

We’ve been here before, I know. In 2018 we made White Christmas, but on that occasion we didn’t shoot the video until October of that year. With this latest one, Boom! Boom! It’s Christmas Again, it all started way back in January. It was all the brainchild of my friend and filmmaking collaborator Chris Clark. I’ve lost count of how many Christmas music videos of his I’ve worked on now, but this one was the biggest one yet, a blockbuster epic that brought in a multitude of national treasures from children’s television. There’s Muffin the Mule, Mr Blobby, Hacker, and a trio of my childhood favourites in Zippy, George and Bungle.

Ronnie, Chris, Mike Winsor, Paul Denson, Phil Fletcher at the back. The end of a long week of filming in Rauceby

Performing two of these characters, we had the amazing Ronnie Le Drew who’s puppeteered on many big-budget productions (not to mention the original Rainbow series I watched as a young boy). Disney’s new Pinocchio film was one he was telling us about on the BBICA shoot.

The bulk of filming took place at Rauceby Hall, the home of an old friend of ours, Jonny. We had the BBC Look North crew covering it, as well as the local radio station. I took on my usual role, which is something I love doing: shove a camera in my hand and I’ll film all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, all the goofing around, all the ad libbed sillyness (and with these guys there’s usually a lot). When you have Basil and all his friends on set, there is never a dull moment. This converted into a little edit called Boom! Boom! Let’s Try That Again which you can see here:

As it happened, I didn’t film all the shots on this video. For one of the sequences of the music video, I was entrusted to shoot it on the fancy-pants new camera Chris had got for the production, so I had to hand my camera over to someone else (thanks, Sadie who got some great shots of me appearing as if I know what I’m doing).

A couple of times I also found myself in front of this camera. I have absolutely no dance skills whatsoever, but in the party scene at the end, I’m one of those folk boogieing away (fortunately my face was cropped out of shot so no one will know it was me). On another shooting day, down in a scout hut in Watford (or thereabouts), I was in a shot playing a film crew member.

And here’s an interesting thing about that: although it appears I’m a sound operator in that shot, that’s not a boom pole I’m fiddling with, but a microphone stand. We did have a boom pole, something we’ve used on many a film shoot, and I distinctly remember bringing the boom pole along for the filming at Rauceby Hall in April… but I haven’t seen it since. The irony! Boom! Boom! It’s Christmas Again stole my boom pole! It was Basil, wasn’t it? That rascal. I’m sure it will turn up at some point, but yep, for that filming day back in August, we had to improvise with the mic stand.

I literally didn’t realise this until I wrote this blog, but that Christmas jumper I’m wearing is THE Christmas jumper from that Christmas music vid we made in Sleaford town centre way back in 2011!

So is Basil finally going to do it and crack the Christmas music chart? Things have been moving along well in that regard. You may have seen Richard Madeley and Susanna Read talking about the single on Good Morning Britain. You may also have read about it in the national newspapers. And I don’t think we’re done there. This might be our best stab yet.

All proceeds from the sale of the single go to charity, Save the Children and Shooting Stars Chase Children’s Hospice, so please do support us. Watch, share, like the video, and download the single.

And have a boombastic Christmas!

Boom! Boom! It’s Christmas Again by Basil BrushBoom! Boom! It’s Christmas Again on iTunes.

Boom! Boom! It’s Christmas Again on Amazon.

The Dark Harbour Tales Trilogy

the fiend in the flames, book 3 of the dark harbour tales by joseph kielThe month of August 2022 saw me reach a milestone. With the release of my latest book The Fiend in the Flames (under my pseudonym of course), it meant I now have a completed trilogy on my hands at long last!

This place I call Dark Harbour has been with me a long time. In fact, I was still at school when I first came up with the idea of vigilantes prowling a backwater seaside town. Back then I was making films all the time, mostly in my back garden, hoping to be England’s answer to Quentin Tarantino some day. In those early days back in the 90s, my nebulous idea first took shape as a Reservoir Dogs ripoff called Halo of Flies. I’d taken the title from the name of a song by the Alice Cooper group. Instead of the characters being named after colours as in Tarantino’s film, my characters were named after dictators, and that’s how I arrived at the name of Vladimir (after Lenin, not that other one currently causing destruction!). The flick involved lots of guns and fake blood, plus plenty of firecrackers taped to my costumes and then set off. It’s amazing I never lost a limb.

The ideas took more shape and depth as I poured them into writing a feature film script, called Dark Harbour, and even though I never made it into a film, I started work on the sequel. I seem to remember I never quite finished that one.

In 2005 I had a rethink, and decided to turn it into a different format. I’d never written a novel before, but it seemed the best route for these stories. No longer would I have to be constrained by budget considerations, finding locations, sourcing actors etc. etc. It was rather difficult to make a film set by the sea when you lived inland! I could do anything in a novel and go anywhere. It took me a long time to write the first book. First of all I had to learn how to actually write, but I did this as I went along, endlessly redrafting and deleting and polishing.

From their ‘Killer’ album, Halo of Flies was about a James Bond-esque spy organisation, and was released as a single in only one country… the Netherlands!

I changed the name of the vigilante organisation too as they now became Halo of Fires. This was to put my own stamp on it, properly make it my own thing. To this day, one of the checks I go through with my manuscripts is to see if I’ve accidentally used the word ‘Flies’ when I should have put ‘Fires’!


I had other projects going on in my life, so Dark Harbour was not always my central focus, and it wasn’t until 2016 that I decided I was ready to release my first ever book. At that stage, the follow-up book was already half written, and so it was only the following year when I released it. I thought that was pretty fast going, although there are many independent authors that go at a ridiculously fast pace and make this look slow!

A tale of two books… ‘Soul Searcher’ and ‘The Night Shiner’, the original Dark Harbour releases. Although I did have a title in waiting for book 3, this incarnation of the trilogy was never complete

I didn’t really have a great grasp of the world of publishing books and audience expectations when I released these books. Self-publishing had opened up the possibilities for aspiring authors as there were no longer any gatekeepers and anyone could put their stuff out there. As an indie filmmaker, I saw self-publishing as the equivalent section of the market, where these products might not have the same polish as mainstream publications, where writers were free to try less conventional routes, to break the norms and conventions. I still believe this, but I get that the most successful authors are the ones that produce what their readers want to read.

So after releasing my two Dark Harbour books, at some point in the following years I took a step back and gave more ‘professional’ thought to how I should be executing them. That led to me going back to the keyboard and redrafting both of them. The first one had quite a lot of work done to it, the second one not so much. I expanded the universe by writing a prequel novella to go with the series, and eventually I began re-releasing them with new titles and brand new covers.

And at the same time, I’d also begun writing the third in the series. I didn’t have a ropey old film script to work from on this one. It was all done from scratch. That one saw a lot of time on the backburner so that I could work on other book series and other projects and the many life things that were taking up my time. So Book 3 sat there for quite a long time, too.

the dark harbour tales trilogy by joseph kiel

The Dark Harbour Tales trilogy in paperback form

But now it’s finally here. So what’s next? I do have other books in the works but they are not from this series. There may one day be a Book 4 in The Dark Harbour Tales, but it’s a case of wait and see for now. This trilogy has self-contained arcs, and any subsequent books will be separate in kind of the same way the Star Wars trilogies are with each other. I’m still looking for my audience, but that’s what I’m aiming to do next.

If you’d like to check out my books in closer detail, then please head on over to my Amazon page.

Fairytale of the Other New York

My new Jospeh Kiel book is out now! This one marks a change in creative direction for me as there are NO supernatural creatures in this one and absolutely NO ONE gets murdered. It’s also the first book I’ve written that is set in the real world. ‘Write what you know’ is often the advice given to authors. Well, I figured I know my home county of Lincolnshire having lived here for over thirty years, and I know about about the film industry, so why not combine the two?

Fairytale is about a London film critic who returns to the Shire to care for her ailing grandmother (again, this was something I drew on from personal experience). Hazel Nightingale, my main character, signs up to be an extra in a war film that Hollywood is shooting in nearby Woodhall Spa. The male lead is a movie star heartthrob that Hazel has a thing for, and fate keeps bringing the two of them together…

The 353 Squadron football team, my grandfather Joseph on the back row, second from right. Joseph would play in some big matches during the war, lining up alongside some top players

I might have completed this book earlier in the year, but something caused me to go off on a tangent which ended up turning the book into a double feature, a factual section to go alongside my fiction. That’s the thing with researching your family history; it can get a tad addictive! As my characters were making a film about the RAF and the Second World War, I looked to my two grandfathers’ lives as they both served in the RAF during the war. And what fascinating material I found.

I once worked on a family history scheme run in schools by a friend of mine. Making History was dreamt up by actor Colin McFarlane of Outlander and Batman Begins fame. One thing he continued to impress on the children doing the project was to carry out this research at a young age.

I wish that I had done more of that myself now. As I investigated what my grandparents did during the war for my book, it took me a while to piece together what I could from the evidence I uncovered: photographs, RAF papers, letters, items from the war, the hazy memories I had of them talking about the war. So many photographs made me wonder what the context was. I really would have liked to ask them what they were feeling at the time, too.

My maternal grandfather John (smoking the pipe) with his RAF buddies. I don’t recognise any of these other men here, but there was one photograph John took where there was no mistaking the identity of the man in it…

I studied many of these photographs closely, trying to put myself there, getting myself in tune with the emotions they were feeling in those moments. My maternal grandfather put together two albums filled with photographs of all the places he went with the RAF. The underlying subtext to all this was that this period of his life was clearly something that meant a lot to him. He obviously felt a need to document and preserve what he’d gone through. Whether he ever conceived of his grandson going through all his photographs decades in the future and publishing them in a book one day, who knows, but I suspect that he may have hoped that someone may have made something of them in the future.

Both my grandfathers had fascinating stories relating to the war. That was the tagline of the Making History scheme: Everybody Has a Story. And it sure was the case with my grandparents. Between them all they ticked so many boxes: glory, tragedy, romance, encounters with luminaries, and that’s why I felt compelled to write about these tales in my book.

Fairytale of the Other New York is available on Amazon in ebook, paperback and hardback form. It is also part of Kindle Unlimited.

Going the Distance in 2021

Yes, I realise it’s been a while since I wrote an update here. ‘What happened in 2020 then, Rich?’ I hear you ask. Well, despite that there virus, and despite revelling in the social distance thing, things have somehow ticked over. I have now begun the relaunch of my Dark Harbour Tales book series. Having learnt a lot of things about self-publishing, I realised my books would benefit from a revamp, now I know what I’m doing. So the first one, Halo of Fires, is currently relaunched and available, and the second book isn’t far away; I’m looking to release that one in May. Although these two books are reworkings of my original releases, there is a brand new tale in this series, Into The Fires. This is available right now exclusively through my other website, so make sure to check that out. It’s free!halo of fires by joseph kiel

Aside from those books, there is a third Dark Harbour book in the works to complete the trilogy, and that’s not too far away. As for my other book, the vampire story Broken Melody, I’m looking to turn that into a series with an upcoming sequel. That’s not too far away from completion either, although it’s on the back burner for now. 2021 may well give the illusion I’m somewhat prolific. I’m really not!

I’m also working on something completely different, which I’m aiming to release around November. This one is absolutely nothing supernatural, no blood and guts or anything like that. It’s set in the real world of my home county Lincolnshire, and how much realer can you get than Lincolnshire?

richard dutton's lockdown hair

So, lots to look forward to. In amongst all this, I also desperately need to schedule in a haircut, as currently I’m rocking a serious lockdown mop. The last time I got it cut was just before lockdown 2 in early November. The cat doesn’t seem to mind my dishevelled look though.

Anyway, take care, stay safe. We can do this!

The Magic of Norton Disney World

One summer’s day seventy years ago, the great Walt Disney visited a tiny Lincolnshire village 17 miles from my home where he created a secret portal that would magically transport people to his Disney World theme park in America. Okay, so maybe not all of that is true… but remarkably some of it is.

True story time: Last month I realised a lifelong dream when my wife took me to Disney World in Florida (it coincided with me turning 40… yay!). I found it a pretty surreal experience being there, this place that, as a kid, I could only dream about visiting.

Cinderella's Castle of Magic Kingdom

Norton Disney or Walt Disney World. Can you guess which one?

When my brothers and I were young, our aunt and uncle once gave us this VHS tape that was essentially a publicity video of all the attractions of Disney World. They’d visited Disney World themselves (they’re American, so it was a tad easier to get to than it is for us). I don’t know how many times I watched that video, but I was completely enthralled, vicariously enjoying attractions such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Haunted Mansion, even the animatronics of the Hall of Presidents.

Walt Disney World VHS

A Dream Called Walt Disney World, PAL version

The video incorporated some archive footage of Walt Disney talking about how the idea for Disneyland came to him as he was sitting in a park eating peanuts (that detail always stuck out in my mind for some bizarre reason). Even though I was enthralled by the magic of Disney like every other kid, I think that video was the first time that I’d actually seen Walt Disney himself. It had never occurred to me who the man behind Walt Disney was. ‘Walt Disney’ seemed to mean something much bigger than one man.

As the years went by, the dream of going there myself inevitably began to fade, so last month it really was like reanimating a forgotten childhood dream as a world-weary adult, and as I wandered around the park and kept seeing the various attractions in Magic Kingdom I would keep thinking back to the footage I’d seen of them in this vintage video, unlocking these deep childhood memories. While I was over there, I had a dig around YouTube and found someone had uploaded this particular video if you fancy seeing it.

Freeze! It’s the FBI! Put down the camera and obey the copyright!

Since I’ve been back, I dug out my copy of the video (it survived the great VHS tape cull of 2007, naturally) – coincidentally my aunt was over from America and her eyes lit up in surprise when I showed it to her. My brother reminded me that it was a Christmas present, circa late 80s / early 90s. Watching it back, I love how US videos start with this stern FBI warning. I imagine the feds will bust down my door now for illegally copying even this warning sign (presumably the guy who put the whole thing on YouTube is on Death Row now). My cousin and I once made our own comedy film with this very premise… but that’s another story.

Fancy a swim?

While we were over in Florida, we spent a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at Hollywood Studios, which, as an adult, held an even greater pull for me with the new Galaxy’s Edge area that has been created there. I think if it was 30-year-younger me visiting, I would have happily also spent a day at Epcot and other places like Universal Studios. My sensory capacity threshold as a 40-year-old is definitely a lot lower, however, and so we also spent slower paced days visiting the beach and checking out the Florida wildlife (we even found some alligators!)

Galaxy's Edge in Disney World

Right before I took the Millennium Falcon for a spin

The cool thing about Galaxy’s Edge is that it’s a really immersive experience and you feel like you’re walking around a Star Wars world. So the filmmaker in me couldn’t help but get creative and I found myself putting the camera in my wife’s hands and getting her to film me being daft again as we made another offbeat video.


Another Magical Adventure

Remember the New York video? The tiny Lincolnshire hamlet that shares a name with an American metropolis? I thought it was time for another one of those. There’s no villages around me with the name of Orlando, or Galaxy’s Edge, or Hollywood Studios, but there is a quaint little place 17 miles away called Norton Disney which just happens to be the ancestral home of the Disney family. So that’s the particular Lincolnshire village where I had my next magical adventure…


As I started making this video, it reminded me of a story I’d once read where Walt Disney himself had popped in to this very Lincolnshire village one day back in the summer of 1949. He was there to research his ancestry, and as I re-familiarised myself with the story, I became quite fascinated by it. One photo of the event shows him standing by a road sign which also happened to have my home town of Sleaford on it. Somehow those two things just don’t go together, but with Disney of course, anything is possible…

Walt Disney in Norton Disney

In the very spot where Walt Disney crouched 70 years earlier

So I’ve also started making a new video about this fascinating little story, along with my friend Dan Sumpton (he’s the librarian in the phone box) as we try and find the very spots where Walt Disney once stood exactly 70 years ago. Stay tuned for that.

Alas, a busy guy like Walt Disney didn’t stay long that day in Norton Disney. He wrote in his diary that he had to ‘pop off again’, hence my final line in my video.

I’m Dreaming of a Basil Brush Christmas

It’s never been a particular ambition of mine to be involved with a Christmas number 1 single, yet strangely I find myself in that position for the third time with what is most definitely the best shot of the lot. This time I’ve been working with a television legend who’s been on our screens for over 50 years, the one and only Basil Brush!

Filmmaker Richard Dutton with legendary fox Basil Brush

The man behind the camera with the fox in front of the camera

It was back in October when I travelled with my fellow filmmakers Chris Clark and Dan Sumpton to ‘Brush Manor’ in Oxfordshire for a three day film shoot of ‘White Christmas’. The single was the brainchild of radio legend Mike Read (currently appearing with Basil in panto) and he got some top record producers to arrange and record the song.

White Christmas by Basil Brush

The cover for the White Christmas single. The song is available for download now on Amazon and iTunes!

It was a bit of a rerun of last year as Chris directed the music video and I mainly filmed a behind the scenes documentary. I was also on hand for the main shoot, naturally, holding a blue screen here and there, doing some B camera work, creating some fake snow. Chris then spent a few weeks in post production making it look all Christmasy and even more snowy, even though we’d been filming during a warm and sunny October!

The story was something our local BBC news team reported on, with Look North coming out to interview us while Basil was interviewed by Peter Levy.


Basil Brush filming White Christmas

I bet you’ll never guess what Basil is getting for Christmas!

Making Basil Brush's White Christmas

On the set of ‘White Christmas’, me between Dan Sumpton and Jonathan Owen (the producer of the video). Photo: Basil Brush.

Making Basil Brush's White Christmas

Chris Clark the music video director chatting with Basil after we’d finished filming.

It was quite a hectic few days we had; whenever Basil was waiting between shots I would squeeze in some little interviews with him to use in my documentary before Chris was ready to film their next scene. The shoot wasn’t without problems, like how we would maneuver a great big trampoline over a hedge for an important shot.

In my video you’ll get to learn which famous Christmas TV advert was the inspiration for this particular shot. You’ll also hear about which other musical legend created his music in ‘Brush Manor’.

Although it would be nice to get Basil to number 1 this Christmas (that little fox has some fine lungs on him let me tell you!), the aim of the single is to raise money and awareness for a children’s charity called Shooting Star Chase. Whilst I was putting together my documentary, I looked into the charity and what it was all about. It was extremely sobering to learn about some of the cases of these children, so I really hope that Basil’s single is a success and can help raise some money for them.

Please do check out my video too, and don’t forget to buy / download the single and help out some kids who are not as fortunate as ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

Radio legend Mike Read with Jonathan Owen, Dan Sumpton and Basil.

The Crown from the Crowd

A couple of months back I had an email from Photobox about a book they were going to publish, made up of images of the Royal Family taken by members of the public. It had presenter Jennie Bond and historian Dominic Sandbrook behind it, and was inspired by a photo that a member of the public had taken of Prince William, Kate, Prince Harry and Meghan last Christmas, an image that then went viral.the crown from the crowdI thought back to the only images I’ve ever taken of the Royal Family, which were on one particular day in November last year. I happened to be in the capital one Monday morning with my fiancé. We’d spent the weekend there seeing a show (The Toxic Avenger Musical no less!) and visiting the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. With time to kill until our train back to Sleaford, we wandered around seeing the sights.

Buckingham Palace on Monday 27th November 2017

Buckingham Palace on Monday 27th November 2017

We’d seen the news as we were getting up that morning, the announcement that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were engaged, so somehow we gravitated towards Buckingham Palace. As we walked up The Mall, there was a police presence, and no vehicles on the road until a motorcade came right past us. We could only assume that it was Harry and Meghan onboard. For some reason we thought that they might make an appearance at Buckingham Palace so we hung around there until we found out that actually they were going to appear at Kensington Palace. With hours still until our train, we decided to trek on over there. Incidentally, by foot that’s actually quite a long way so it felt like quite the expedition!

Kensington Gardens

I stopped to take a photo of this squirrel and magpie on the way in Kensington Gardens.

Media people outside Kensington Palace

Media people outside Kensington Palace

When we arrived there, we saw that the world’s media were already there, a long line of television crews shooting endless reports and footage of the palace, waiting for Harry and Meghan to appear. We took a spot by a gate, and soon afterwards the crowd we were in swelled with paparazzi, reporters, royal fanatics and random onlookers joining us to get a glimpse of the couple.

Media vans outside Kensington Palace

With a dish that big I bet they were able to broadcast all the way to Tatooine.

Lizo Mzimba

Look! That’s Lizo Mzimba! And maybe Jane Hill?

Eventually Harry and Meghan appeared. I cursed myself for not bringing my longer lens with me on this trip, but as it happened, it was probably a good thing. The image I submitted to Photobox had other people’s mobile phones creeping into shot, a bobby at the edge of the frame quietly watching on. It probably encapsulated well what Photobox were after: the more spontaneous, ‘behind-the-scenes’ type photographs that regular people take of the royal family, not the clean, slick and polished photos that you see in newspapers and magazines.

The Crown from the Crowd

My photo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the Crown from the Crowd book

I found the whole process fascinating – fascination with other people’s fascination, I guess. I took plenty of video on my DSLR, and just watched as the journalists went straight to work on putting their articles together. We were even interviewed ourselves by a reporter from one of the papers.

Mr Royalist Fanatico

And I interviewed this guy. He was awesome.

Harry and Meghan engagement

Afterwards they let the riff raff loose in the gardens where Harry and Meghan made their announcement

Amazingly, and much to my delight, my photo was chosen for the book. I had a sneaking suspicion it would be when it was used in an article about the book in The Mirror.

There are some fascinating photos in this book stretching right throughout the decades, and I’m excited to be a part of it. It’s going to be presented to Harry and Meghan on their wedding day so I hope they like the snap I got of them. You can get a copy of The Crown from the Crowd from Photobox and all profits go to Help for Heroes.

Have you read my new Broken Melody book yet?

Broken Melody by Joseph KielMy latest novel, called Broken Melody, was released last month. It was in fact set on the very day that it was released, February 2nd. I didn’t realise in my planning that this was actually Groundhog Day, and curiously I made a reference to that particular day in the book! Maybe it was my subconscious working there. But anyway…

So what is Broken Melody about? I decided to try something new with this book, different from my Dark Harbour books, that is. I know vampires have been done to death, but I thought what the hell, and went ahead and sank my teeth into that genre (see what I did there?). I injected this with a lot of twisted and adult humour, so if you do decide to take on Broken Melody, please be advised you may need a strong stomach!

Shadows of a Stranger movie posterAnother thing I did with this book was to set it in the same story world as my film Shadows of a Stranger, just for the hell of it. Although we’ve never planned a sequel for the film, we have made plans to ‘expand its universe’, something we talk about in the upcoming directors’ commentary, so this was one way of me doing that, to see more of the characters I’d created for the film medium albeit in cameo-sized roles. This book has a bunch of new characters (and vampires!) leading the narrative, winding their way through the streets and places that were conceived for the film.

Vampires of MeridianAs ever with my stuff, the responses to Broken Melody have been quite the mixed bag. Although there’s only a couple of Amazon reviews so far, I seem to have bucked the trend in that the American audience has appreciated it more than the UK audience. The UK review complains of no coherent story, even though I aimed to get the story firmly going from the opening page on this one… You can never win! Maybe I caught them on a bad day, because the US review, on the other hand, says that it is a really good read. Another review, which was on a fellow author’s blog, says it’s a full-action book that is refreshingly British and that it’s “darkly funny, intriguing, and strangely emotional”. So far it has scored higher than my other novels on Goodreads. All in all I’m pretty pleased with how it’s going down.

I’m looking forward to more responses appearing, even if they have seemed to have ground to a halt at the moment. So if you’re reading this and have already read the book, then please do leave some thoughts or a rating (a 5 star one, of course) on Amazon or Goodreads, no matter how brief.

The book is available on Amazon in eBook and paperback form. I hope you enjoy it!

The Return of the Red Jumper

Recently I had the honour of being involved with another Christmas song project. You may remember that six years ago my friend and fellow filmmaker Chris Clark released his Christmas song, Christmas Number One. On that occasion, myself and our friend Ben went into town one morning and filmed Chris prancing up and down the Sleaford high street as he serenaded the bemused townsfolk with his festive tune.

Well, this year he wrote another Christmas song, this time for a Sleaford primary school, The William Alvey. It’s a certain school that I once attended so I have a bit of a soft spot for the place.

William Alvey ChristmasWilliam Alvey ChristmasAt the end of November myself, Chris and ‘Deck the Halls’ Dan dusted off our blue screen studio and began work on a music video, filming members of the ‘Christmas Club Choir’ in such set pieces as riding a guinea pig-drawn sleigh and hopping on board the William Alvey Express train. The song was released on Amazon and iTunes at the start of December, just after the kids performed the song at our town’s Christmas Market. Since then it has gone on to feature on our local radio stations (Rob Hammond of Lincs FM is going to play it in full on Christmas Eve!) and after making a bit of noise, BBC Look North even came over to film a piece on it.

Instead of going for Christmas number one, the hope was more realistic this time as the aim was just to get the single to chart inside the Top 100. The town has really got behind it, inviting the children to perform it at various events and at supermarkets and churches. It has even had some celebrity support with TV stars like Andy Crane tweeting it. You just need to look at the reviews on Amazon to see the reaction it’s got from people and with proceeds of the song going to children’s charities and future projects, the children really have done so amazingly.

On the first filming day I said to Chris that I may as well film a bit of behind the scenes material while we were at it. I didn’t have anything particular in mind and didn’t plan it or anything. When I came to editing it, I didn’t realise quite how much material I had. We’d had such a fun time making the music video and the kids were just so full of exuberance that it was a joy to see the process unfold and so I had just kept on filming. I managed to come up with a 23 minute edit which I thought was rather long but somehow it scored about 1000 hits after a week of being uploaded. It just goes to show what a joyous project it was and I am pleased that I was able to capture it.

So please check out the music video and the ‘making of’ documentary (and also the Look North report). See if you can spot one of our Shadows of a Stranger locations in the video!

So maybe the kids didn’t quite make it into the charts but it wasn’t despite our best efforts, campaigning the likes of Radio 2’s Chris Evans, and Chris tweeting every celebrity in existence. I even sought advice from that guy who got Rage Against the Machine to the top spot ahead of the latest X Factor winner. The William Alvey kids did actually hang on to some high positions in the Amazon charts for a while, beating off the likes of Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran, but whatever. I’m sure it’s going to be on a lot of Sleafordians’ playlists for many Christmases to come. And who knows? Perhaps next year we might be back with another Christmas song…

Shadows of a Stranger Emerges from the Shadows

It’s a day that some people thought would never happen, but our film Shadows of a Stranger is soon about to get a release…

August 27th 2017 is the date for your diary, and it’s a significant day because it was on this very day 8 years ago that the journey essentially began. I had just turned 30 back then, wondering what I should be doing with my life, when I embarked on the start of our own feature film production. That was the day that I met up with Chris and another filmmaker friend Brad and we set up a green screen in a pub in Swineshead.

Shadows of a Stranger Showpiece Video

Filming the showpiece – Don’t we all look so young back then?

There we filmed a sample scene from my script (called just Strangers back then) and from that footage we created a ‘showpiece’ video that would serve as a test for us to gauge how to film the entire script, and also serve as a demonstration to people as to what we were trying to achieve. It was a great tool for attracting actors as they were able to see our vision.

Shadows of a Stranger Showpiece Video

A shot of the Joe’s Parlour cafe from the 2009 Showpiece video.

Shadows of a Stranger

And this is how that same shot turned out in the final film.

It was the following year, in 2010, when the main production of the film took place. We built our own blue screen studio (it was blue because the jacket that Chris wore in the film was green) in a farmer’s barn somewhere down the fen. The following years saw us painstakingly compositing all the shots, filming further pick ups, recording dialogue, recording sound effects, recording music, and filming even more pick ups – in fact, the actors that you see in the final film are spread across 5 different years. Because of the nature of our production, we could have people in different years in the same shot, sometimes interacting with each other, and sometimes it was the same person in the same shot because their appearance had changed so much!

Shadows of a Stranger

Strangers across the years: the guy farthest right and farthest left is the same guy (Ben) in 2013 and 2010, the foreground actors are in 2010, the couple at the rear are in 2012. The music video on the TV is from 2011 and only made it into this edit of the film in 2017!

To be honest, I didn’t think it would be a whole 8 years before I would be unveiling the film to the world – and by the way, by ‘the world’ I mean the UK, the USA, Japan, Germany and Austria, for those are the only available territories on our chosen distribution avenue. We’ve chosen Amazon Video for that particular purpose, somewhat an uncharted territory for independent filmmakers looking to get their work out there, but there’s potentially a large audience base there and it allows us control over everything. So we’ll soon see how that pans out.

Until then, please check out the new trailer for the film that I put together. And come August 27th make sure to search us out on Amazon and watch our long awaited production.