To start off Nicholas, how did you
start off in the industry before becoming a Journalist?
I worked in BBC Radio and in fact only do journalism
as a spin-off from my TV work. I got into radio really by a) going to university and b) attending an early radio journalism
course at the long-defunct National Broadcasting School.
You have since set up your own company Quanta Films, how do
you feel about this achievement?
It is always good to have a company through which to make a film.
The real sense of pride comes from building up a library of copyrights. However it is very hard work and most of one's efforts
produce little results.
did you first become involved with the 'Thomas the Tank Engine Man' documentary?
My mother wrote an
article in 1993 about Wilbert Awdry for 'The Oldie' magazine and spotted that in 1995 it would be 50 years since the Thomas
book was written. I then went to see Wilbert and he agreed to take part in a possible film. I offered the idea ot both Channel
4 and BBC TWO and to my amazement they both wanted to make it.
Was it hard preparing and setting
up the project?
Preparing to film Mr Awdry, his friends and family was not difficult. In those days there
was far less material available to do research, ie no internet. But setting up filming the shoot of Thomas Series 4 was a
nightmare. The makers were impossible to deal with.
You were indeed given access to visit the filming of the Fourth Series of 'Thomas the Tank Engine &
Friends', what was it like seeing the models and sets in all their glory?
We had to pretty well charge
onto the set to film them, because we were being ignored by the PRO for the shoot. But it was a grat surprise to see this
huge trainset, under very bright lights, with a busy crew. I was very impressed, and found the models wonderful.
What was it like meeting David Mitton, the
A charming man, confident in his abilities, who gave us his opinions despite being very busy.
I found him the only agreeable person in the studio. His death was sad.
You secured a lengthly interview with the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, how was that for you?
took a lot of effort but it was a very interesting day. Sadly, he had got up specially for us the day before, only to collapse
so we had to film him in bed, heavily medicated. I am very glad I got the chance to film him - no-one else had so much time
Upon meeting Awdry, did you recieve
any nerves about meeting the man who created it all?
No, because I had met him already and we were very
well prepared. I was more worried about his health. It was a hot day in September and his bedroom got very warm with the film
lights. But he was determined to put his all into our filming shoot.
What was Wilbert like in person, did you get along well and become friends
after production on the documentary finished?
A very honest man. I think he rather liked me - he liked
the fact that I knew his books and could remember extracts from over 30 years. We certainly got along well, but I did not
see him again. I wrote to him after he received his decoration (due, in part, to the film I think).
What was the most interesting thing you shot
or saw during the making?
His bedroom was lined with books written in the Manx language. I aske dhim if
he had read them. "I've read them all five times", he said! I didn't know there were any books in Manx... Also, it was fun
going in the signal box on the West Somerset Railway.
How was your knowledge of engines, railways and Thomas before, during and after filming?
always had quite a detailed knowledge of railways and enignes. As a child, the steam engines we played wiht a smodels (Hornby
etc) still actually ran on the real railways. I was particularly pleased to access the Ivo Peters archive colleciton (for
the shots of the trains climbing the Lickey). My rail knowledge enabled me to choose good archive for the film.
Was there any footage that was left
in the cutting room floor?
Most of it! We overshot greatly. I'd say we used under 10% of what we shot.
When Wilbert died, BBC TWO granted your request
to repeat your documentary on their channel, how did you feel about it?
He died the night my first documentary
about Sir Frank Whittle went out, by coincidence. I rang the BBC and to my surprise, they agreed to show the film without
any hesitation. I was very flattered and pleased.
You are a fan of 'The Railway Series', do you have a favourite book, character and/or story?
favourite story will always be out of the Mountain Engines book - Skarloey etc. I vaguely recall being read the story as a
child. Also, I recall the story of Henry and the rain. I've a photo pf me clutching the postcard of him bricked up - probably
taken in 1962 when I was 4... But in recent years I came to like Percy - I asked Wilbert if he were his favourite enigne.
He wouldn't say - but I suspect it was!
Do you still keep in contact with key contributors involved in the film such as cast and crew?
can still contact Wilbert's daughter Veronica. But actually none of the production crew kept in touch afterwards. It was a
difficult film to make (apart from filming Wilbert and his friends).
The phenomenom of Thomas is insanely
large and the character is recognised in almost every country, what's your view on that?
I find it amazing!
I think that money has become the sole reason for the interest today's producers and publishers have in Thomas. Yet money
played no part in the original ideas. I think that the focus on money has ruined the whole thing.
The TV Series is still running to this day, have you watched
more episodes such as the HiT Entertainment produced ones, do you have a favourite episode?
I have to confess I have never watched the TV series except where my work required it,
and that meant those exisitng by 1994. I would only be interested in stories from the original Railway Series. However, I
thought the TV verison of Thomas and the fish in his tank looked lovely.
If you have seen it, what is your view on the CGI Series and were you
suprised when the announcement was made to produce Thomas in CGI?
I'd like to see the CGI version. I'm
not at all surprised by the decision to make it in CGI - the sheer cost of producing a series like Thomas meant a move to
CGI was inevitable.
Starr was involved in the first two series and Michael Angelis still voices the series ever since his first in 1991, what
do you think of their performances, have you met them?
Sadly I've never met either. We could not persuade
Ringo to appear in the documentary. I was astonished when I learned Ringo was to do the voice but he has been a great success.
He clearly loved the stories and that comes across.
Season Two is considered by a number
of fans as the definitive series, do you agree with this and do you have a favourite series?
I think the
second probably is the best. I know that Wilbert quite liked it. But I've watched far to few of the TV programmes to have
a favourite series. What inspired the documentary was the original books and the TV verison was merely part of the story of
is your collection of Railway Series, Thomas books and do you own any of the DVD's/Videos?
got all the first series of the Railway Series from when I made the film. Wilbert signed a few of the copies for me.
You have often been campaigning about getting
your documentary released on DVD, do you think you will ever see the light of this?
I am not optimistic.
One just never knows. Maybe one day people will see the value of the film and I'll get all the necessary agreements to make
a version available.
the last thing here is about the recent 42nd Railway Series book, Thomas and His Friends. Have you read it yet, what do you
think of it and have you also viewed the predecessor, Thomas and Victoria?
I'm afraid I have not seen either
book. I prefer to remember the first 12 books, of Wilbert's.
end of a new book, there is a play on of words suggesting that this could be the last Railway Series book, would you like
to see more and not see it end?
I'm afraid I think it is time to stop producing more material. The best
books have all been written long ago. Wilbert stopped in 1972 for good reason - he had no more ideas.
is there a message that you would like to give to the fans?
Firstly, I am always flattered that so many
young people are interested in the film. I know Wilbert would have been delighted. My message is simple: if you enjoy something
creative, stick with it and learn as much as possible about it. And for all those, like yourself, with YouTube channels or
blogs, let me wish you the best of luck with them.
SPECIAL THANKS TO THETOPHATTS
AND NICHOLAS JONES
SiFansite would like to say "Thank You"
to TheTopHatts for his kind offer to publish his interview with Nicholas Jones long-term. It's highly appreciated and
done to our own standard of questioning.
We would also like to thank Nicholas Jones for participating and providing
such wonderful insights. We wish him all the best for future.
For the 70th
Anniversary of the Railway Series, Nicholas took part in an interview with The
Timewarped Hour – which you can hear here!
|Click on image to access site
Click here to check out the other
work that Nicholas has done through Quanta Films.