Darren Carrington is a multi-talented artist his skills include: Puppeteering, Producing, Writing Comedy, Singer/Song Writer, Low Budget Film Making, Miniature Model & Set Building, and Directing.
I was chosen out of a selected few at my school to play one of Oberon's Elves in Shakespeare’s ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM’ at the ‘Glyndebourne Opera House’ this was my first acting role.
My friend Robert Semple who I went to school with lent me his hi8 camcorder for an evening and that was how things progressed from there. I tried creating stop frame animation but the technology back then was far too expensive and time consuming, so I made do with creating tiny plastercine figures using pipe cleaners as a frame for their bodies and then moved them accordingly for the camera, it was just a case of not letting our fingers be seen once the camera was rolling. Robert Semple helped me by filming whilst I operated the figures. We filmed a few short films that have never been shown. However one that stuck in our minds from those early days was the 48 minute drama ‘Thatch Close’ which was based on the actual close I was growing up in at the time. It also resembled the vibes we got from the villagers. The VHS tapes were packed away for years. The short 48 minute show can be found on 'youTube' under 'Thatch Close 18th Anniversary'.
'Smelly Ann' was a short series I wrote in 1994 about a deprived child with an alcoholic Mother. She was always getting herself in trouble and her Mother and Father often beat her as a punishment. The series was recorded on a hi8 camcorder. The characters were made from plastercine. ‘Smelly Ann’ was my first attempt of writing. The idea came to me, after finishing my own alternative version and ending of ‘The Diary of Ann Frank’ in my English lessons at school. I had turned the story into a 1990’s video nasty, or so my teacher stated and marked my home work 10/10 for effort.
‘The Hell Block H’ Named after the Australian cult television series ‘Prisoner: Cell Block H’, this was a monthly fanzine for the fans of the series. It featured : G’day (the latest updates and news page), Star profiles, Episode Guides, Interviews with the Stars, Prisoner and Officer Files, The Hell Block H Series’, Quizzes and Ask Daz? page (Where the fans could write in and ask any questions regarding the series).
I wrote ‘The Hell Block H’ the series from 1995-2000 which featured in the fanzine each month and consisted of 100 episodes of a comedy version of ‘Prisoner’, this would be broken down throughout the issues. I felt that from a comedy angle there were so many avenues to explore in a women’s prison so I did. I would later go on to make a series with the sets and plastercine figures which was also filmed. (see 1998 below).
‘Matilda’ this was a spin-off series to 'Smelly Ann'. Ann had a child which she named Matilda. Matilda is the main character and continues in her Mother’s footsteps. The characters were made from plastercine all episodes were filmed on a hi8 camcorder and transferred to VHS.
Penny Rose was a comedy character that I created and played the role. She was in the public eye for her fashion design and was known for gate-crashing many celebrity bashes, sweeping up more names than drinking the champagne. Penny loves to promote new fashion accessories. (although, she hasn’t got the faintest idea). She also has a mystical side to her, but is not quite sure which plane she’s on, it’s not too long before viewers realise she’s become famous for being absolutely potty, she has become a fashion icon for literally throwing anything on and parading around in front of the media and on the red carpet. She can’t string a sentence together and the media have begun to make a clown of her, which she plays to perfection. Don’t get her started on names of types of stones and crystals or makes of watches or you’ll be stuck with her all day. Keep an eye out on ‘YouTube’ because apparently she’s making a comeback.
Having played my acting role as one of Oberon’s Elves in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ back in 1988, I found my way back into Glyndebourne Opera House, venturing behind the scenes at the props department, asking to help them out for a few weeks. I made pigeons out of polystyrene blocks and helped to make life size trees for the stage.
Still feeling I hadn’t quiet put a lid on the comedy ‘The Hell Block H Series’ that I had written. I decided to make a puppet series featuring a variety of plastercine figures and filmed each episode. I made all the sets of the prison and all the inmates and wardens and friends helped to voice over the characters. The mouths couldn't move which was a huge problem. 'YouTube' is currently showing the first five episodes which are easy to find 'Prisoner Cell Block H Parody: Hell Block H'
‘The Land Of Other Living’ was a puppet short film. The story of a young girl called Poppy, who has a rather outlandish imagination. She falls asleep one night and wakes up in the 'Land of Other Living', an adventure begins and she is sent on a quest to free the beautiful princess Elena Swan and stop the wicked witch from turning the rest of the land evil with her wicked sorcery. She meets a few friends that are willing to lend a helping hand along the way, including a tropical fish with large feet and a robot called Zeeco. This short film showed how I had progressed with my filming and my use of clay and other materials used to create the puppets.
The same year I completed another track at the recording studios called ‘Take Me in Your Arms’ that I had written and sung myself and I also featured on 'Brighton Rocks' on a TV channel called 'UK Living' where I dressed up for Gay Pride which was fun I wouldn’t do it again it was colossal.
‘Putting the Past behind Me’ was my autobiography which reveals all my secrets and looks back at my past. There are good and bad times. It dates from my earliest memories of the early eighties up until 2004.
The theme tune to Thatch Close ‘So us, So us’ was written, performed and sung by myself at the ‘Anzac’ studio in St James Street in Brighton. It was originally sung as part of my solo pop career that never took off it might have been because I called myself ‘Shush’ which is hardly fetching. I did various venues in the Brighton area. I had a photo shoot taken and I also had another two songs I had written completed at the studio 'Don’t Need This Anymore' in 1998 and '2 Together' 1999. My backing vocals on both tracks were sung by Sharon Woolf, who sang the Number one hit ‘Sweet like Chocolate’ by (Shanks & Bigfoot) and would also be recognised for ‘Straight from the Heart’ by (Doolally).
‘Women on Top’ another short series I wrote the characters were made from plastercine and the sets were cardboard. The series was based on tough, successful, powerful women who worked together in a shares company in a huge city sky scraper. The women were all fighting for top positions in the work place and lived the high life in an expensive part of the city. The storylines involved: blackmail, love affairs and greed to name but a few the episodes were unfortunately borrowed on vhs and were never returned.
It wasn’t until 2003 that I came across the old VHS tapes with ‘Thatch Close’ and I wanted a project (a hobby) to work on, I felt it really had some credibility and so I started writing the scripts and building upon the characters I had already invented. I remade the sets and puppets in a much larger scale, the puppets stood at about 6 inches tall and looked half starved because of the lack of funding I had to stuff them and pad them out. They were made of clay with a strong wired frame. Although they were not rod puppets or marionettes they had all moveable parts for the use of filming. The first 6 episodes can be found on 'YouTube' under Thatch Close vhs version.
The sets were all cardboard and painted. I couldn’t wait to start filming and got Robert on side to voice over Tanya Fisher who he originally played in the short 48 minute ’94 version. Another friend also helped with voice overs to other characters. I also added brand new characters this time around and I had invested in a second hand VHS movie camera, which was on its last legs, but had some great SFX only I ended up filming all ten episodes in this slow motion setting which looked great at the time, but a nightmare to touch up or restore it in the digital age. The other novelty the camera came with was audio dubbing and this later came with a few other camcorders I also used before they went digital and to DV tape.
Audio dubbing meant that we would mimic the characters movement of their mouths whilst watching on play back, usually on a weekend with a bottle of red wine. Whilst having the script at hand that looked like it had survived a murder scene by the end of the shoot.
Dubbing was hilarious it never worked even after endless practice runs, and we ended up using it as an ongoing joke, if the dialogue on our scripts run out we just made anything up that we felt like at the time to fill in the gaps.
As most of us know in the world of filming, everything is filmed back to front or in no particular order. So the scenes involving shots of ‘Thatch Close’ which was on a miniature scale compared to the main sets, were all shot separate and later added into each episode. Like a Tv drama would shoot all location and exterior scenes separately.
I knew the series was drawing close to an end and I had originally written in a huge hurricane, which would tear up the village killing off the entire cast. So having no SFX help I took the large set, which was roughly the size of a large table down to the beach in a massive rain storm to film it being destroyed. However the paint work and cardboard lasted all but 5 minutes and the camcorder was wrecked even though I was hiding under an umbrella. I had to fold up the sopping wet ruins and discard of it into a bin in the street.
Separate to the character in Thatch Close, Deirdre Fisher was a comedy character I created from 2003-2004 and I played the role. Deirdre’s a farmer’s wife and lives on
a farm. She is tatty and dirty in her appearance, presenting her own food and cookery program. She has a strong country accent; viewers are sickened by her bad hygiene and extremely bad cooking. Soon
to come on 'Deliciousdazmo' channel on 'YouTube' along with all 'Thatch Close' episodes.
Around 2006 I finally came across my first DV camcorder and told friends we’re going to start from episode 1 again ditching the VHS ten that were filmed before. No questions asked and understanding my crazy vision they went with it. Darren Cann the voice of Maria Welsh in the early days, who is a great laugh and quite forgetful at the best of times kept saying “But we’ve done this part before” I ditched a few characters and I started the series as if it followed on from episode ten.
The former series involved main character and business woman Kathy Collins being killed off. When a bomb goes off at the shares company she works for and Kathy is buried in the rubble.
So as we see it today Episode:1‘Death or Detox’ starts where Janet Bennett and Maria Welsh are both grieving over the loss of their close friend Kathy. Originally episode: 10 'Cheryl vs Carmel' was going to be an end of the series until I realised that it wasn’t a hobby anymore and that I had created a bit of a monster. The sets were then changed into plywood and the puppets themselves were fuller figured and more life like.
April 2008 was a special moment for me because it was the first time ‘Thatch Close’ the trailer went to ‘YouTube’ I had the first ten episodes all complete and I was so lucky to have found some very talented people to help me get my work shown. Online Editor Dan Creed dancreed.blogspot.co.uk edited all ten episodes and taught me all I know about editing. I would recommend him to any budding star in documentary and film that needs that extra professional finishing touch. Film Maker Anthony Carpendale is famous for his short films in horror, drama and music promos to name a few helped not only with Film making tips, we even made a puppet horror film together, where I created a large sea creature called 'Cthulhu'. Anthony soon found a band called 'Thumpermonkey' who loved the filming he had produced and used the footage in their music video. The video can be found on both 'Vimeo' and 'YouTube' as 'Thumpermonkey-Sleeve (Cthulhu Puppet).
I was ready to edit the other 7 episodes of ‘Thatch Close’ with software I had only ever dreamed of owning and using social networking sites to market and promote the series.
'Gcene' (Brighton & Hove based Magazine)- featured an article all about 'Thatch Close' and the puppets. I also had an interview on a show called 'Talking Brighton' on 'B.H.C.R' shortened for 'Brighton & Hove Community Radio'. Both features can be found here on the site and go onto explain how the use of social networking sites and video streaming sites such as 'YouTube' have been such an important platform in making 'Thatch Close' the success it is today.
Thatch Close, Darren Carrington,Thunderbirds, Spitting Image, Gerry Anderson. Dynasty, Newzoids, Bad Girls, pop video, Drama, Entertainment,Comedy, series, puppets, Crapston villas, Team America, Big Brother, The Muppets, French and Saunders, Puppeteering, Humour, Absolutely Fabulous, Footballer's Wives, Wentworth Prison, Prisoner Cell Block: H, The Mongrels, Puppetry, Terra hawks, Film Maker, Comedy Writer, Aardman Animations, Nick Parkes, Thatch Close Ross-On-Wye, Shaun the Sheep, Wallace & Grommit,