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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
I bet you’ll never guess what Basil is getting for Christmas!
On the set of ‘White Christmas’, me between Dan Sumpton and Jonathan Owen (the producer of the video). Photo: Basil Brush.
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.
Radio legend Mike Read with Jonathan Owen, Dan Sumpton and Basil.
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.I 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
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!
I stopped to take a photo of this squirrel and magpie on the way in Kensington Gardens.
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.
With a dish that big I bet they were able to broadcast all the way to Tatooine.
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.
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.
And I interviewed this guy. He was awesome.
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.
My 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!
Another 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.
As 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!
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.
At 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…
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.
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.
A shot of the Joe’s Parlour cafe from the 2009 Showpiece video.
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!
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.
My new novel has now been published! A follow up to the book I released last year, and the second book of the Dark Harbour Tales, The Tale of the Night Shiner is about a brutal supernatural creature that is haunting the town and killing off all the losers and the wasters. Our antiheroes at the local vigilante organisation, Halo of Fires, are called upon to somehow succeed at the impossible task and slay the beast, but they’re not so keen to take on the job as they’re busy chasing down abusers and bad boys themselves. So yeah, a real feel-good story as you can tell.
The book is a cross between the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack and one of my all-time favourite films, Jaws, and I think it’s an even better read than my first book. A lot of the original characters return for the sequel, with even more twists and turns and surprises to be revealed. The series takes an even darker tone in this installment, so it’s a definite Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy.
Anyway, please check it out, even if you haven’t read the first one. I really think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written and I’m looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts on it.
Recently I also recreated my author profile photograph as I stood beside a ghost train in a certain seaside town… Okay, yeah it wasn’t Dark Harbour because there is no such place (in our dimension), but can you guess where I am? It’s a certain resort that has inspired this series of books, and I make one or two oblique references to it. Clue: there used to be a cool helter skelter there.
Ah yes, about time I made an update here… So recently I went to a mystery location in America which you’ll never guess, but here’s a visual clue to help you work it out:
Richard Dutton with a big apple in the Big Apple.
Yes, that’s right, I went to New York. What you may not know is that I actually live near New York… the one in Lincolnshire, that is. I bet you never knew that, did you? That there is another New York somewhere in the world. I’m not sure how it got the name. I think New York City was already established by the time New York Hamlet was established, but it could have been named after York (of Yorkshire), whereas NYC was named after the Duke of York (so says Wikipedia). Whether some 19th century fen farmer was having a joke naming this tiny place after NYC, who knows?
Anyway, two weeks before we travelled to America, I was driving to Skegness with my partner and saw a sign to the hamlet of New York. I’d known about this place for ages but had never actually been. To be honest, there really isn’t that much there. It’s a hamlet. Hamlets are small. The antithesis of a metropolis. The two New Yorks couldn’t be any more different.
I bet you’ll never guess which New York I’m filming in here.
Anyway, as we knew we were visiting the Big Apple soon, we thought it appropriate to visit the Small Apple too, so on the way back we stopped off there to have a look, for curiosity’s sake. Whilst we were there we also shot a little video, a guide to the sites and sounds of New York, which I intended to resume a couple of weeks later… The results of this video can be seen below. We shot this on the fly, so the sound isn’t great, unfortunately. And I rather did feel a tad self conscious talking all this Lincolnshire-related nonsense while I was over in the big city! But I hope you still enjoy it. It sure was fun to make!
It’s all change here now at www.richarddutton.co.uk and I hope you enjoy the new website.
You’ll find information about my films and books and other creative projects, as well as random updates and blogs, so stay tuned and something might happen here, hopefully more so than it did at the last place!
P.S. “stranger in the shadows” refers to the film I made, Shadows of a Stranger, not that I’m a creepo stalker… or am I? No, no, it’s okay. I’m really reasonably normal. Trust me.