Talking books with Hannah Kate

hannah-kateIt was a genuine pleasure to be the guest on Hannah’s Bookshelf today, hosted by Hannah Kate on North Manchester 106.6 FM.

Two hours of chat – two hours! – meant we covered a lot of ground, not least chatting about some of my books but also common areas of interest such as short fiction and classic horror films and TV.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect for me was being invited to choose my ‘apocalypse books’ – the works I’d choose to safeguard if the world was headed for the shredder.

I selected Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), The Rats (James Herbert) and The Collector (John Fowles), all novels that affected me in some way or another.

I’ll post a link to Hannah’s show when it lands. In the meantime, to my writer pals, you could do a lot worse than to contact Hannah and offer yourselves up as guests.

You can find her here.

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Hannah’s Bookshelf… and me

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Listen in to North Manchester FM 106.6 on Saturday afternoon when I’m the guest of Hannah Kate on Hannah’s Bookshelf.

We’ll be discussing my latest book FANTASTIQUE – Interviews with Horror, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Filmmakers as well other titles in my back catalogue.

fantastiq-front-cover-finalBut there’ll be a chance to consider influences, inspirations and maybe even authors and themes that get under the skin. I’m sure horror will make an appearance somewhere, particularly as host and guest both write short fiction.

So please tune in. You can find out more here.

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The metropolitan elite… it’s everywhere

Just contributed a quick opinion piece to BBC Radio York, speaking with Nathan Turvey about the Great Exhibition. Is the north outside of the great metropolitan elite of the south, or is that a concept that is as redundant as it is inaccurate?

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Farewell to Gene Wilder

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I was sad to hear of the passing of Gene Wilder, a performer who redefined the notion of comic acting in the 1970s and into the 1980s. I was asked to give my thoughts on this ground-breaking all-rounder by my colleague Nick Ahad, who was sitting in for Andrew Edwards on BBC Radio Leeds’s Big Yorkshire Phone-In.

The link is here. The segment begins at 13.01.

“Come with me and you’ll be

In a world of pure imagination…”

Gene Wilder 1933 – 2016

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Ghostface chatting

I was delighted to be interviewed by Hayley and Caitlin, aka the Ghostface Girls, after meeting them at HorrorCon 2016. Their Q&A with me is now online and can be read here.

 

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And FANTASTIQUE has just been described as “awesome” by Norwegian filmmaker Andre Overdal, writer/director of Troll Hunter, who is one of the 30 directors featured in the book.

I thank him for that. He and his film are pretty awesome too.

 

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On location: Swallows and Amazons

 

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I’ve worked with Screen Yorkshire on a number of occasions, documenting the wide variety of movies and TV shows that choose to film in our region.

They have included TV productions such as A Robber’s Tale, the location for which was a dilapidated abandoned farmhouse on a freezing winter’s day; the interviews took place in a drab upstairs room as filming continued below, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, with shooting taking place in Wentworth Woodhouse on a grey, wet and very cold day. I feel a pattern beginning to emerge…

The feature films have included ’71, where I hooked up with Jack O’Connell after having interviewed him a couple of weeks earlier at Derby Film Festival; Bait (originally The Taking) with my mate Dominic Brunt; Swallows and Amazons, on which I re-connected with producer Nick Barton a full 13 years after meeting for a pre-production interview on Calendar Girls; and, just a fortnight ago, Dark River, the third film from rising director Clio Barnard. I’d first seen her on the amazing and ground-breaking The Arbor, shot live in the middle of a council estate in Buttershaw, near Bradford.

The Screen Yorkshire connection is the natural evolution of my relationship with the former Yorkshire Screen Commission. Back in the mid 1990s it was run by Liz Rymer, who gave me (and photographer Jim Moran) often exclusive access to a string of movies. They included Brassed Off, Little Voice, Solo Shuttle, Among Giants, FairyTale – A True Story, and L.A. Without a Map (with a pre-stardom David Tennant).

All of the resultant location reports appeared in The Yorkshire Post. Later they were adapted (along with an exclusive interview with Ken Loach on Kes, plus reports on classic titles such as The Railway Children, Agatha and This Sporting Life) for my 2008 book Made in Yorkshire, which I wrote in partnership with Jim Moran, who supplied many of the photographs. Made in Yorkshire

I’ve always enjoyed the dynamic of the set visit. It requires a different journalistic discipline to other jobs. Patience and tenacity are necessities. Inevitably there is a lot of hanging around waiting to speak to actors. So the trick is to grab anyone and everyone who might have an interesting story to tell. Thus I’ve spoken to extras, location managers, cameramen, as well as key personnel such as scriptwriters, producers, directors and actors.

Writing a location report is akin to stitching together a tapestry. It’s about focusing on seemingly unconnected moments to create a series of interlocking vignettes that give a flavour of the day. A vital component is keeping the energy high – being able to jump straight into an interview at a moment’s notice, and to pick it up seamlessly if, as is often the case, that individual is whisked back to the set mid-chat.

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Director Dominic Brunt and actors Joanne Mitchell, Victoria Smurfit and Jonathan Slinger on the set of The Taking, later retitled Bait. (Photograph copyright: Tony Earnshaw, 2014)

On location at Plumpton Rocks for Swallows and Amazons I picked up no fewer than ten interviews. How to sift wheat from chaff (not that there was much of that) is the key to compiling a winning piece. The other aspect is recognising and respecting one’s contacts. So I remain grateful to those that made it work: producer Nick Barton, PR guru Lawrence Atkinson and Screen Yorkshire’s Rachel McWatt.

The report – an exclusive – appears in The Yorkshire Post (see cover below) and can be read here.

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Remembering Peter Cushing

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August 11, 1994.

I was in the office of the Wharfe Valley Times in Otley, West Yorkshire, when a call came through from my friend Paul Burland, then working at Yorkshire Television.

“I thought I’d better let you know that Peter Cushing has died. It’s just come over the wires.” A few minutes later he sent over a copy of the brief announcement that had been put out by the Press Association: the veteran star of innumerable horror movies was dead at 81.

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I was immensely saddened by the news. Cushing had been my favourite actor since childhood – ever since an eye-popping sci-fi spectacular called Star Wars took the world by storm. And I loved him as Grand Moff Tarkin.

 

But of course I’d been aware of Cushing through his Hammer horrors. And I became a devotee of his work, collecting obsessively anything and everything he appeared in.

That day I called some of the names in my contact book. I rang Ingrid Pitt for her comments. And I got in touch with British comedian Ernie Wise, to whom I broke the news of Cushing’s passing. It was a sad moment, but everyone I spoke to had only good memories.

As I did – and do. I still get a kick out of watching Cushing on screen. He was such a versatile actor, equally reliable as hero or villain. It’s hard to think he’s been gone for 22 long years. But isn’t it heart-warming to think of all those films and TV shows, and recognise that as long as cinema survives, Peter Cushing will never die?

Peter Cushing 1913 – 1994

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Tales from the black chair (almost)

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I’ll be watching out for new episodes of Mastermind over the coming weeks after bagging tickets to be in the audience.

What a delight it was to be a part of it, albeit at a slight distance and in the semi darkness. And what a thrill to mentally count down through the various questions, making a mental (and silent) note of the ones I got right and then calculating how well I did compared to the contestants.

I remember one person answering questions on Ewan McGregor as her specialist subject. I’m proud to say I got nine correct – not bad going to say I hadn’t researched it.

So that’s another thing crossed off the bucket list. It’s a little like being a film extra but without the long hours. (I’ll be in the new series of Cold Feet, too, as an extra, playing a businessman at a conference. That’s as long as I made the edit. We’ll see).

Read more about Mastermind here.

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Is that me? ‘Appen it is…

Returning from holiday three years ago the Earnshaws flew in to Leeds Bradford Airport. En-route to baggage claim we noticed this nifty piece of advertising for The Yorkshire Post.

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“Wait a minute,” I said. “I wrote that.” And indeed I did. Thus the unsmiling visage of ex-Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell looked out at me from an interview I’d done for the YP. Moreover there was my byline, as large as life. Bonus!

I’m not often taken aback by advertising but I was pleased to see this for the Yorkshire Post app. I wonder if it’s still there…

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On location: Swallows and Amazons

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A jokey clapperboard drawn on the side of a tent on the Yorkshire location of Swallows and Amazons, summer 2015. (Image by Tony Earnshaw. Copyright: Tony Earnshaw, 2015)

Last summer on a glorious August day I visited Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, to deliver a location report from the set of Swallows and Amazons.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be on location for a clutch of movies and TV shows over the years. The first was Wall of Tyranny in 1987. Then, over time, I reported from the sets of The Secret Garden (at Allerton Park, Knaresborough) in 1992, Brassed Off (filmed in Grimethorpe, South Yorkshire) in 1995, FairyTale – A True Story (in Keighley) in 1996, Little Voice (from Scarborough) in 1997, and more recently L.A. Without a Map (from a Victorian cemetery in Bradford) in 1998, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (from Potter HQ at Leavesden Studios), ’71 (from a Blackburn terraced street doubling as Belfast in the 1970s) and Dark River (Skipton) just two weeks ago.

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Streets are closed as director Yann Demange films a riot for ’71. Blackburn, 2013. (Image by Tony Earnshaw. Copyright: Tony Earnshaw, 2013) 

Being on set is a privilege. It’s also a magnificent insight into the rigours and discipline of filmmaking.

Swallows and Amazons is a throwback to a time when kids got their kicks from the great outdoors. You can read my piece in The Yorkshire Post on August 13.

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