Pete Bryden & Ed Cookson Interview I was initially contacted by Pete Bryden, who was one of the producers of Summerton Mill and asked if I minded having a look at the show. So I did, and found it was enchanting for a modern day programme, whilst using old fashioned stop motion techniques. Pete was so enthusiastic about the show, probably because it was a labour of love for him and Co-Producer Ed Cookson. So while he was in a good mood, I asked for an interview with Pete & Ed. We hope you enjoy it.   Interview Q: How did you come up with the idea of the Summerton Mill? A: Pete bought Somerton Mill in 1995. It’s the site of a historic watermill dating back to the 15th century. It’s a magical place in a beautiful, secluded setting – perfect inspiration for a children’s story!   Q: How did it become a TV Show and get a prime spot on the BBC show Tikkabilla? A: We made a pilot episode and then approached the BBC. The BBC then commissioned 13 episodes for Tikkabilla. In fact, Summerton Mill has just been given its own stand-alone slot on CBeebies.   Q: Where was the series written, created, filmed? A: The initial creative sessions took place at Somerton Mill, and most of the writing was done there too. The pilot episode was filmed in an outbuilding at Somerton Mill and then, when we went into full production, we set up a new studio in Banbury.   Q: What difficulties did you have while filming the show?  A: Stop-frame animation is a slow process. We aimed for 14 seconds per day, although we often achieved less than that, especially when it was a windy day at Summerton Mill!   Q: The sets look really detailed, how long did it take to create them? A: It took about two months to build the sets and the characters for the pilot episode. We re-used the mill, the Naybhurs’ cottage and the cowshed when we went into full production, but we rebuilt the sets, making them more durable. We also had the puppets re-made by Scary Cat Studios in Bristol. We wanted the Summerton Valley to look very realistic, so we used lots of natural materials. We made the clay roof tiles by hand, and the blue slates are real blue Welsh slate!   Q: Why did you choose stop motion animation rather than CGI, which other companies like Cosgrove Hall, have now moved over to. A: There’s a certain magical quality about stop-frame animation that we knew would work for Summerton Mill. We grew up watching classic stop-frame animations such as Bagpuss, Trumpton and The Magic Roundabout, and we wanted Summerton Mill to have a similar feel.   Q: Fluffa is my favourite character, he looks weird and is full of character. What is your favourite character and why?  A: Pete – I have a special relationship with all of the characters although, being forced to choose, I would have to pick Dan. I love his gentle nature, and the way he’s at one with the Summerton Valley. Ed – I’ve always had a soft-spot for Mousey-Tongue, the laziest cat in the whole world!   Q: Some of the character names are a play on words, Naybhur (Neighbour), Oocuck (Cuckoo). What's the story behind all the character names. A: When we first met the characters, they introduced themselves by name. We didn’t ever consider changing them.   Q: Since my obsession began with Children's TV, I've collected a number of things associated with it. Have you collected anything and what are they, plus what's your most treasured item. A: Pete - I don’t have a collection - apart from Summerton Mill memorabilia, such as original sketches and limbs that went wrong! Ed - I haven’t collected anything from children’s TV, but my most treasured TV item was The Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. I sold it for £5 when I was 12 and have regretted it ever since.   Q: What made Ed jump ship from making computer games to making a children's TV Programme? A: Ed – I’ve always loved games, music, film and TV since seeing Ray Harryhausen’s work as a child. There isn’t much call for stop-frame animation in video games, so Summerton Mill was a natural diversion.   Q: Pete, you were a former rock guitarist. What band did you play in, and were you any good? A: My last band was called Satori. We were a four-piece guitar-based rock band. Our album, ‘Time’, was released on the ‘A New Day Records’ label. I haven’t been on stage for a few years now, and I do miss it. Were we any good? Who cares – we had lots of fun!   Q: What is your favourite Children's TV show and why? A: We’d both choose Bagpuss – probably partly due to its ability to transport you to another magical world. Pete has recently been charmed by Peppa Pig.   Q: What episode did you enjoy writing the most? A: Pete - I think ‘The Sock Thing’ was my favourite. It sums up Summerton Mill for me with its slightly surreal twist.   Q: How stressful was it working on the series and why? A: At times it was really hard. Stop-frame shoots have to be very structured and precise. We had rigid systems that we adhered to – as a necessity. You can’t just go home if you’re half way through a shoot – you have to grind on to the end. Otherwise, when you come back, there’s either been a temperature or lighting change, or the bushes will have moved!   Q: Were you happy with the final results of the show, or were you disappointed with some aspects of it? A: We were really pleased with everything that we did.   Q: How long did it take to create 1 episode and what was the procedure? A: It took 2-3 weeks to film an episode, and another week per episode to finalise the edit, add sound etc.   Q: Were you pleased with Silas Hawkins doing the voices, or did you have someone else in mind? A: Silas was great. We asked him to do the voices when the series was still just a concept. It’s also a great to have the son of such a famous voice- over artist involved in the project.   Q: What were the Puppets made out of and how tall were they. A: The puppet are about 7 inches tall. The originals had heads carved out of builders’ foam, and then painted, wooden bodies and aluminium wire arms. When Scary Cat re-made them, they wrapped our original carvings in latex and cast new, more sturdy versions. Scary Cat did a fantastic job of keeping the new puppets true to the originals.   Q: How long did it take to make each puppet and who did it? A: Pete made the original puppets. It probably took a few days per character.   Q: Will there be a second series? A: We hope so!   Q: Pas Ferrari was one of the animators on Trumpton, how did a visit to your studios come about and what was it like meeting him? A: Pas wrote to us, having seen an article about us in the Daily Telegraph. We invited him to our studio, and we’ve become good friends.   Q: What have you worked on in the past? A: Summerton Mill is our first children's’ TV series   Q: What other projects do you have in the pipeline? A: We have another project in development. It’s a totally different setting to Summerton Mill, but it will be a stop-frame animated series with the same charm and flavour. The Original Summerton Mill (1925) The Original Summerton Mill (1925) Pete Bryden watching Summerton Mill taking shape Pete Bryden watching Summerton Mill taking shape The Pilot Setup Summerton Mill - The Pilot Setup The Full Production Setup Summerton Mill - The Full Production Setup Pete (Left) and Ed (right) Recording the Music Summerton Mill - Pete (Left) and Ed (right) Recording the Music Pete Bryden & Ed Cookson Interview - Summerton Mill
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