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Tolkien Blues

I’ve been watching The Rings of Power on Amazon, and I’m afraid it’s done nothing to shake my firm belief that Tolkien is unfilmable. The stuff of Middle-earth can be put on screen - the battles, the cities, the monsters - but the budget required to do so means the resulting film or show has to be a mass-market, all-action fantasy, in which all the quieter, odder, and more profound aspects of Tolkien’s work are sidelined or left out entirely. But at least the Lord of the Rings films were made by people who knew and loved the books. The Rings of Power has clearly been designed and art-directed by people who know their stuff - the layers of detail in the sets and costumes of the Númenor sequences alone are quite extraordinary. But the storylines which have been invented to try and breathe some Lord of the Rings -ish life into the rather dry history of the ‘Second Age’ as told in the book’s appendices seldom rise above the level of bog-standard sword and sorcery. You might as well be
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The original Star Wars film knocked my socks off back in '77 when I was eleven, but I've never had much interest in the various prequels and reboots, although I've sat through a lot of them happily enough for the sake of all the excellent production design. The Mandalorian was fun when it started, but gradually more and characters we recognise (or are clearly expected to recognise) from other SW things started making cameos, until the galaxy far, far away seemed to shrink to the size of a small town where you're constantly bumping into the same people. I’m sure it still thrills its target demographic, it’s just not for me. So I wasn’t planning to watch Andor, and   only stuck it on as background noise while I was working on some of the props for my own little movie . But after an episode or two I noticed the background noise was taking the form of some rather good dialogue, and I started watching it properly. It turns out to be a very intelligent, rather old fashion

Gwenevere: It’s A Wrap

Well, almost. We spent last Friday and Saturday shooting a few last scenes for our Arthurian mini-epic : long days, but luckily the weather stayed dry again, and I think we got good stuff. Even if it something goes horribly wrong in the edit and we never get it finished, the shoot has been huge fun. It’s certainly more enjoyable and better exercise for mind and body than writing books - if only there were some way it could be monetised. Laura Frances Martin came back to be Gwenevere, and Rosanna Lambert joined us to play a mystical maiden who pops up with advice for her at a low point in her story - she’s exactly the sort of character you’re not supposed to put in the last act of films as she’s a bit of a Deus Ex Machina etc, but she’s exactly the sort of character medieval poets and storytellers did put in their Arthurian Romances, which is very much the mood we’re going for. Rosanna is studying theatre at Chichester Conservatoire and we were very glad she was able to fit us in duri

Egg and the River Girl

Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild is one of my spookiest efforts, so here for Hallowe'en is a little excerpt, featuring one of the supernatural denizens of the Vale of Barrowchurch.    I’ve borrowed two pictures to illustrate it. The green lady above is by the brilliant Iris Compiet, from her book Faeries of the Faultlines, which features a host of eerie and unsettling beings. The one below is one of Brian Froud’s paintings from his 1979 book Faeries , with Alan Lee, which partly inspired the river girl and much else in Utterly’s world.  In the story, Utterly and her Uncle Will are visiting Barrowchurch as guests of his cousin Francis. Utterly's friend Egg has gone with them, and is posing as their servant... *  *  * Egg had been exploring too, although he had no guide except his own curiosity. It had led him first to the kitchen garden, and then into the large fruit-cages there, where he ate a large number of ripe strawberries and raspberries before a gardener saw

Gwenevere: The Shoot

The weather has been unsettled here on Dartmoor, but somehow, in a brief and busy few days last week, we managed to shoot about 80% of our little Arthurian film . We got rained on a bit, but we had plenty of interior work to keep us busy when it got too wet outside, and the sun even shone on several scenes. The light failed quite early on the last day, so the fight scene might end up being a bit truncated, but it’s not really a film about fighting, so I’m not too worried.  The fact that we got it done at all is a testament to Sarah Reeve’s organisational skills, to our brilliant cast and crew, and to the friends and neighbours who have so generously let us use their woods, fields, and outbuildings. Laura Francis Martin, Joanna Neary, and Jonny Hibbs all turned in lovely performances with very little direction from me, and never complained about having to stand around in mud and drizzle for hours. Niall Parker loomed menacingly as the sinister Knight of the Wild Woods. Tessa Arrowsmith-

Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild

The second Utterly Dark book, Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild , is published in the UK today! Here’s the magnificent cover illustration by Paddy Donnelly. As you can probably tell from Paddy’s artwork, this book isn’t concerned so much with the sea, which is what the first one was all about. This time, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, it is …  But on dry land, magical trouble is lurking.  As usual I hadn’t planned on writing a series, and it was only when Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep was done and dusted that I started wondering if she could have more adventures. I wanted to know a bit more about Egg, so he gets more to do in this book, and there’s more of Will and Aish too. I grew very fond of all those characters while I was writing the first book, and I’d have been quite happy writing a sequel in which they just sat around and talked and went for walks on the beach, but I guess readers prefer it if something happens too, so I’ve thrown them i


There are about five months left until (weather and other variables permitting 🤞) we start shooting the low-budget Arthurian film project I embarked on last year . It was partly inspired by watching lots of bigger-budget ones , but I’ve been meaning to make a movie for ages, and the landscapes and locations I have to hand here on Dartmoor are perfectly suited to Arthuriana. (I had some very helpful advice early on from Elizabeth Jane Baldry , the director of Sir Lanval , another independent Arthurian project made round our parts.) Our film is called Gwenevere , and so far I’ve mostly been working on the script, storyboarding, and sorting out locations, while co-director  Sarah Reeve hones her lighting and cinematography skills. We’ve also been searching for a cast - it turns out finding actors and arranging to get them all together in one place is by far the biggest challenge. But I’m very pleased with the actors we have found: in the title role,  Laura Frances Martin will play Gwene