Matthew Smith Interview After being contacted by Matthew's son (Steve) and being told that his father might give me an interview, I tested the water and asked away. I said to him that if someone had told me years ago that I would be discussing The Little Green Man (in the future) with its creator, then I would have thought they were mad! We hope you enjoy it.   Interview Q: How did you come up with the idea of the Little Green Man? A: While attending boting meetings at the college at which I lectured, my pad was invariably covered in doodles of a character I became rather fond of. I was struck by the interest of the office staff who gathered up the waste paper afterwards, and the doodle became the Little Green Man.   Q: How did you come up with the names of the characters? (What’s the story behind them?) A: I wanted to write stories about a character from outer space. I had young children in mind as my audience and my objective was to create stories which were totally wholesome, which carried some kind of message which would help children, and if possible keep the interest of grown ups who watched with the children. Nothing was simpler than to call my little character The Little Green Man (from space), and there was always some kind of learning experience as he came to learn from and with small boy, Sydney Keats. Adding The Little Green Man's pet, Zoom Zoom was just a bit of fun. Add to the mix the invisibility of The Little Green Man to everyone but Sydney Keats, and magic, and you have, invariably, the winning formula for a children's story.   Q: How did it become a TV Show, and how long after creating the stories did it become a TV Show?  A: I had always wanted to produce animation for television. My very first venture was called 'Peter and the Planets' which was put up to the BBC for Blue Peter. This was in the days before video recording, when such tales were presented by a series of 'flip' boards. (Camera One, cut to camera Two, back to One, etc). The initial story was tried out in the studio, but in my anxiety to introduce the illusion of motion, I specified a great deal of camera movement, zooms and pans, and the producer eventually gave it up, saying that the only way would be to film it. This, he said, was too expensive. Next I filmed a version of the 'moving flip board' idea called 'The Adventures of Sir Ned the Knight'. The animator was absolutely brilliant. He had worked for Disney at one time and, unhappily, Drikki the Dragon resembled the Disney version too closely. This was the undoing of the idea, but I had used Jon Pertwee for the narration and he was exceptional. When I decided to advance 'The Little Green Man' into the marketplace, I first took it to the BBC. They made encouraging noises, but there was no doubt they had no real interest in it. (But see *** below). I had made an appointment to meet Lewis Rudd, Head of Children's, at Central Television the same day and he instantly saw potential. It was not long before he was looking at storyboards, about which he was enthusiastic, and a contract followed. There was probably a year from my first contact with the television to the time we started production. Production took about a year. *** I had occasion to meet the Head of Children's Programmes at the BBC when Greenie was being screened. I introduced myself saying, 'You might have heard of The Little Green Man?' He replied just a bit sheepishly, 'Oh yes, I have heard of The Little Green Man.' Greenie's success had preceded me.   Q: How involved were you in the TV Programme? A: The quick answer - I was totally involved, even though I considered myself lucky if I reached home each night in time to see News at Ten!   Q: Were you happy with the final results of the TV show, or was you disappointed with some aspects of it? A: The backgrounds to the animations were a really special feature of the series, and I was more than happy with these. I had to use a variety of animators, however, and the slightly changing styles did not appeal to me. One style would have been likely to emerge as predominant if we had run to further series, and I would have hoped the fluency would have improved.   Q: What episode/story did you enjoy writing the most and why?  A: I really find the 'which was favourite' hard to answer. Perhaps the 'grumpy old man' since it gave me an opportunity to introduce several other characters I liked including Croc O'Dile, the Irish alligator and his friends. But then there was the story set in the zoo, which also gave me this opportunity with, for instance, Sam the snake.   Q: Were you forced to make any changes for the TV version? A: There was only one thing Lewis Rudd drew attention to when he saw the pilot film: the gang, Greenie, Skeets and Zoom Zoom were rewarded with chocolates and ice cream, and he thought we might be criticised for it. I promptly changed it.   Q: How stressful was it working on the series and why? A: It was extremely stressful, due in part to staff problems and availability.   Q: What difficulties did you encounter while filming the show?  A: Every day brought one difficulty or another; some were quite serious. In addition to writing the stories and the music for the series, directing and producing, I became the trouble shooter. For instance we bought film stock in bulk which gave us problems, since it eventually proved the entire stock was sub-standard to some degree or other. We might have overcome this more easily if the labs had been more vigilant, but since they closed down immediately after we got our last footage through, (nothing to do with us, I hasten to add) I guess they had problems which we did not find out about until it was too late.   Q: Were all the episodes taken from the books? A: The film stories were all originals. They were never published, but I wrote a series of four new stories which were.   Q: How many Episodes / Series of it were made and how long was each episode? A: There was only one series made, consisting of thirteen ten minutes programmes.   Q: Where was the series written, created, filmed? A: The series was written primarily at my home at Sheffield, though I did some writing at the Pentagon studio in Nottingham, where it was filmed.   Q: How long did it take to create 1 episode and what was the procedure? A: I can't answer the question about the time it takes to make an instalment. As one film was being finished another was half-way made and another just going into the system. As for the procedure I would double the length of this reply on this alone. Perhaps another time.   Q: Did you get to meet Jon Pertwee and what was he like? A: I produced the recordings of the sound tracks at a London venue where I took Jon through the scripts and rehearsed him before making the recording.   Q: Were you pleased with Jon Pertwee doing the voices, or did you have someone else in mind? A: Yes, I was delighted with Jon Pertwee's contribution. I found him helpful, easy to get along with and altogether a pleasant man. His voice-overs speak for themselves. An extremely professional man. We always recorded in the mornings and had lunch in a Soho restaurant afterwards. When Lewis Rudd (Central) heard how well we got on he was just a bit gob smacked. Lewis was responsible for the production of Jon in his scarecrow guise. I gathered he gave his producer and staff something of a bad time, particularly one day when he stood in a pile of cow dung.   Q: The show was very successful at the time, were you surprised about that? A: I had hoped for a success for the show, but no-one was as surprised at me when I found the ratings increasing week by week until we hit No 1 in the Children's Charts with viewers reaching some seven and a half million. We were top rated three times, once in the week before Christmas when we had not been seen or heard of since March of that year.   Q: Are you contacted about the show much and are you surprised that with the current flood of nostalgia, that The Little Green Man seems to have sunk without trace? A: No-one ever asks about Greenie. It was sunk without trace for one main reason: when I sold the rights I withdrew all copies from the Central vaults, which meant there was no way they could reprise for shows featuring children's shows. It was also sunk without trace for another reason: Lewis Rudd asked me to make another series and series may have been followed by series, except I refused. At that time I was sickened by what you might call the business side of the studio. I had a bad time raising money and it was going to get worse for a second series. You see the television commissioner only provides about a quarter of the money needed to produce a series. And don't forget that if you put all the programmes together you get 2 hours and ten minutes, equivalent to a feature film. It was hard parting with Greenie and co, but the prospect of having to seek large sums of money for production did not appeal to me. I am not a business man and I didn't enjoy that part of production.   Q: Do you still own the rights to the show, if not who does? A: I sold the rights. I got little out of the work and was glad to sell to keep head above water. The series went to a Swiss buyer and I have never heard of it since. The only rights I retained was the music rights.   Q: Were there any merchandise created for the show, as I've never seen any?  A: There was not a great deal of merchandise for the show. Greenie and friends appeared in a comic for a while, and a sweet manufacturer produced a Greenie lolly. A clothing manufacturer produced a t-shirt and pyjamas, videos were made, a cuddly Greenie and one or two other items.   Q: Will the 'Little Green Man' fans ever get to see it again on Video / DVD? A: It is very unlikely the videos will be resurrected.   Q: Will you write anymore 'Little Green Man' stories. A: Since I have not the rights to Greenie any longer, I cannot write any more stories. I have other characters, though.   Q: What other shows have you written for (any other children’s TV shows)? A: I have not written for any other shows.   Q: What are you doing now? A: I presently write for adults. I write about true crimes, the assination of JFK, the murder of Robert Kennedy, the murder of Marilyn Monroe. It keeps me busy. You are likely to find in the shops JFK: The Second Plot; JFK: Say Goodbye to America; Victim: the Secret Tapes of Marilyn Monroe and my most recent book, The Kennedys: The Conspiracy to Destroy a Dynasty.   Q: Have I forgot anything, that I should have asked you? (or others might be interested in) A: I don't think you missed a trick. Matthew Smith Interview - Creator of The Little Green Man
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