Interview: The ParaPod – A Very British Ghost Hunt

Making the transition this month from podcast to film are the boys from the hugely popular The ParaPod. Hugh had a chance to sit down with Ian Boldsworth (resident sceptic) and Barry Dodds (openminded believer) to discuss a film that is big on laughs, scares and comes with a surprising amount of humanity.

 

Congratulations on the film gents, I saw it last night and it really wasn’t what I was expecting; as two seasoned comedians, I was expecting it to be funny, which it was, but I –

Ian – (laughs) That’s a brilliant review; “I expected it to be funny”.

Ian Boldsworth and Barry Dodds walking through the front door of a house.

(laughs) What I mean is that I didn’t expect it to have so much heart. Did that come naturally when you were putting the film together or was it always planned?

Ian – I would imagine that myself and Barry have potentially different answers to that, because Barry is very passive in this film. We’re just recording what he’s doing, whereas I’m active in it so I’m intentionally recording things and looking at how we can put things together. So, I guess we have very different ideas on it. Barry is just ‘existing’ in this film and while I’m doing that as well, I’ve also got one eye on the notion that we’ve got to put all this together later on.

I know that there was certainly an intent in the editing process with myself and Simon Gibbs, the editor, under my direction to sort of leave things in that you wouldn’t always leave in, because I would be like ‘I’m aware of what this does’, just sort of hold on a moment a little bit longer or chop off a moment a little bit quicker.

I don’t know if I’d use the word heart to describe the film, but I know what you mean. It has a human element to it, so rather than just go and make Barry jump as many times as we can, which is hilarious and I would watch for two hours, this is a journey.

I find it quite exhausting to watch the movie now, after a bit of time not seeing it. When I watch it now I find it quite tiring, like I’ve been on that journey again (laughs). I don’t know if that’s just exclusive to me because I was on that original journey, but other people have said to me that it’s a real road-trip movie in every sense of the phrase; you feel like you go on this journey with us and it’s not straightforward. I wish it had been, in a way.

Barry – I think also because it hasn’t been done in a traditional film sense where it hasn’t had the traditional journey that film would normally have where a big studio would just make it, bang it out and release it fairly quick.

You said you feel it has a heart to it, and I do agree because there’s a lot of passion gone into it. We weren’t sitting down and going ‘right, how do we make money on The ParaPod?’. This was our thing and with Ian’s direction as well, he’s really big on things being independent, so there is a love in it and that love does run through it.

I also agree with Ian that we both had two very different experiences to it. Ian obviously is in it, being the sceptic and I’m the believer; but he is also directing it. I sort of feel bad about it because I almost become redundant because then Ian having just directed it also has to go and oversee the edit. He’s very, very hands on and I just sort of continue that existing thing (laughs).

Ian – I think, Barry, if you ever decide to give up show business you should make peace with being made redundant (laughs).

Barry – (laughs) I already have mate.

Ian – But you’re right. Apart from the artistic decisions that are made to give that soul to the film, that is also informed by the restrictions. Informed by things like how unlikely a project this is to have ever even begun to get made. In a regular film with a proper budget – I mean, we had a budget which is more money than I’d ever seen before in my life, but it was hardly any money for a film. And you only find out when you’re doing it ‘Oh, this is well expensive to do a film!’. And subsequently now; the release in America is being sorted out at the minute and it’s costing an absolute fortune! Lawyers and – sorry, not lawyers, ATTORNEYS – and all that nonsense like errors and omissions insurance you’re just like ‘there’s another grand, there’s another grand’.

If this was a conventional film with a conventional budget, they’d have CGI’d our tits out straightaway (laughs).

Barry – (laughs)

 

What kind of budget would be needed for that? You might bankrupt a studio!

Ian– Thus far I’ve resisted mentioning what our actual budget for this film was, but I’m not sure it would cover it even if it was simple cosmetic surgery (laughs).

Barry(laughs)

Ian – Might be able to get one off. Maybe reduced. Maybe both off with one in the middle (laughs). That’s a Les Dawson joke believe it or not!

Barry Dodds behind the scenes of The ParaPod film.

In terms of the film and its development, how did you guys go about making the leap from podcast to film?

Ian – I think we know the exact moment!

Barry – Yeah! We’d done three series, which was always the plan. And the natural progression for something like this was to take it to television, make a pilot and move the audio to the visual. We got a crew together who were very enthusiastic and tried making a pilot.

Ian – Not competent – Enthusiastic…. (laughs)

Barry – (laughs) When we were trying to make the pilot, I remember having a little break outside and having a cigarette, and I remember Ian saying to me ‘I don’t think this is a TV show, I think it’s a film’. And I remember thinking ‘I can see that’ but also my brain was saying like ‘how on earth do we do that?’.

Cut forward five years later and here we are talking about it. At the time, it was a great idea, but it seemed daunting in terms of how we were going to achieve it.

Ian – It sort of was impossible. But in my history of creating independent stuff, I’m always sort of going ‘just do it. Just try and do it’. And I remember standing outside East Drive (the most haunted house in Britain) at maybe one or two in the morning and when I said that it should be a film and not a TV show it’s because we had a good night and got some good footage, but then, what do you do next week on your TV show? Is it just the same again?

And so, the idea became that this was more of a narrative story than an episodic thing. It was impossible in a sense, but I remember saying that night to Barry that people make films on their phones, I mean you read about that all the time. If you can do that, surely if we can get a bit of money together, maybe listener funded, which it was initially, when you’ve got enough of them contributing you can get a little bit of cash and get started.

Then you get a bit of kit and get people working for favours, and call in a few favours from elsewhere, and you work for nowt yourself; the passion and drive of doing it becomes momentum. And you lose people along the way and you have to up your game, but these things are possible. You just have to decide if it’s worth the effort.

Sometimes it’s not, and you’re right to just go ‘Nah!’ (laughs).

 

Ian, as a fellow sceptic, how did you approach this film? Were you able to go in with the idea that you were wrong or that maybe your beliefs would be questioned? Or was that never on the cards for you?

Ian – I get told I’m close-minded all the time and that I’m an armchair sceptic. And the last time someone called me an armchair sceptic it came to such near blows because I was stood in a haunted house at the time. How can I be an armchair sceptic? I’m here, now. It’s you that hasn’t brought the show, not me.

This wasn’t Barry by the way (laughs). This was with our producer, Bil (Bungay), who owns East Drive. And that’s had no influence on the film by the way, he didn’t say ‘I demand x amount of time for Ease Drive on screen’ (laughs). That’s how I managed to tread the line with the content of the film; he believes in all this nonsense while I don’t. You’ve got two people there who are influential on the film, and the end product has input from both sides.

And to answer your original question, going in I didn’t feel the need to check my scepticism at the door as that was my role within the film. My attitude was always like ‘I don’t need to be open minded. If what you’re saying is true, I should not be able to argue it as it would be like ‘FACT! GHOSTS! FACT’.

If that happens then you deal with that, but that didn’t happen. In my eyes anyway!

 

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And Barry, on a similar point, I actually think it was quite brave of you at points to confront stuff like this and to go to places like that when you have the mindset that it is all real. Was that difficult for you to contend with? That you were visiting these places with the idea that your beliefs might be challenged?

Barry – Don’t get me wrong, I found some of it very tense and there was a couple of occasions where it was a bit much. But obviously you’re in work mode and this wasn’t just me going and doing it as a hobby, so your mindset is a little bit different.

But there were times where I would be thinking ‘I’m absolutely terrified’, ‘I can’t sleep in this house!’ and it would get a little bit too much. But as long as the end result is worth it you just try and get through it.

At the start of the film there was something I had to do that I was dreading, just dreading. I had to go and address a sceptics conference and I was bricking it and Ian was just looking forward to seeing it happen and seeing what the result would be.

And the other thing that unnerved me about that was that the producer had so much faith in me. He was like ‘You’re gonna nail this’ and I was like ‘Aw Bil, you’ve never seen me do a gig, have you?’ (laughs).

Ian – To this day, and in fact I think I say it in the film, I sort of want him to do well and really smash this. Because that would be an amazing starting point to the film, where he just comes off stage and says ‘Right come on fatty, let’s go to Edinburgh!’.

But I was very aware, even when we were driving there, Dodds was getting texts from the producer with messages like ‘maybe say this’ and ‘maybe say that’, and Barry was like ‘I don’t even wanna tell you what it says. He’s telling me to say something about aliens!’ and I was trying to tell him to ignore them and just speak for himself and in what he believed.

But he was getting so much information that by the time he went on the stage he was just like ‘Err, emm, ALIENS!’. It was like something from the end of the Generation Game where they just have to remember everything! (laughs) ‘CUDDLY TOY!’

Barry – I think I can remember at one point I said something about Brian Cox coming out of the closet! (laughs) None of it was prepared!

Ian – You said ‘When Brian Cox came out recently’ and then immediately were like ‘Not CAME OUT!’ (laughs) That speech in the film is relatively short, but in reality, it was twenty-five glorious minutes. And the thing I was annoyed about was that when we got the footage back, even though there were three cameras on it, only one of them very briefly filmed me! There’s one shot of me watching Barry and laughing, but that’s the only shot I’ve got of that!

Barry I think they were a bit distracted by all of the people heading for the exit. (laughs)

Ian – I would have loved to have seen me for the whole thing, because I just remember being delighted, and genuinely feeling for him.

Barry Dodds and Ian Boldsworth standing by the ParaPod car.

You’re a brave man to have done it Barry.

Ian – He’s not brave! He had no choice! (laughs)

Barry – (laughs) If he’d have said to me, ‘Look, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to, we’ll do something else’ I’d have been like ‘We’ll do something else!’ (laughs).

Ian – At no point in that convention did Barry say to me, ‘I’ve got this.’ (laughs)

 

Gents, our time is just about up, but I very quickly have to ask Barry; when did you find out how he did the tent trick? How long after the event did you discover it?

Ian – I’m gonna answer for him quickly; ask him right now how I did it.

 

Barry, how did Ian perform the tent trick?

Barry – He did something…

Ian – (laughs) How did I turn that tent around?

 

Magic?

Barry – Magic. (laughs) A paranormal event that caused the tent to turn around.

 

Ian, all you’ve done here is confirm Barry’s views with your witchcraft.

Ian – I have certainly confirmed what we all knew about Barry (laughs).

Barry – What?

 

Never mind (laughs).

Ian – Never mind (laughs)

Barry – Sorry, I was thinking about the tent.

 

Gents, thank you so much. I really enjoyed the film and I’m sure that it’s going to be a big hit. Best of luck with your tour!

Ian Thanks a lot Hugh

Barry Thank you so much mate.

 

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By: Hugh McStay

The ParaPod Movie is touring selected cinemas over the next month and will be released on VOD on 27 September 2021.