Thursday, 23 June 2011

What's 'The Storey' Morning Glory? Tales from Paradise Heights comes to Lancaster

Hi all

Quite a week lined up for the last week in July as Tales from Paradise Heights comes to Lancaster.  The venue is the fantastic THE STOREY and we will be bringing all the productions to this venue over the coming months. 

Tales from Paradise Heights Film Night

Monday 25th July will see a Tales from Paradise Heights Film Night, showcasing much of the work produced in the series so far. 

This is a poster for the stage production, a different animal from the
Paul Murphy directed film, to be shown on the night, Poster design by
Joe O'Byrne.

Poster for the feature film, designed by Simon Scoffin

The Watcher: Poster design by Michael O'Hanlon

The films I'M FRANK MORGAN and THE WATCHER will be shown, along with clips from LOOKIN' FOR LUCKY, documentary's on LOOKIN' FOR LUCKY and RANK, and clips from RANK and THE BENCH.  As well as a Q&A with myself and other Paradise Heights regulars there will also be one or two surprises on the evening...but that's not all...

THE BENCH: A Tale from Paradise Heights

The Bench: Poster design by Jo Carlon, AKA Salford Artist

The critically celebrated tale - THE BENCH - will run for four nights at The Storey, from Tuesday 26th July through to Friday 29th at 7.30 pm each night...come and check out why some people have seen this play five times since it premiered in 2008.  A timeless piece and perfect introduction to the world of Paradise Heights...

Ian Curley and Stella Grundy in THE BENCH (Pic: Ian Currie)

Phoebe Marie Jones and Ben Hood in THE BENCH

Here are just a few review quotes for the play...

'Highly recommended and a play and writer that will surely go on to great things...' Kevin Bourke, Manchester Evening News

'Loved it! Wonderful gags out of left field, intrigue, suspense, heart-rending scenes and heart warming moments.  A great night of theatre! Do more!' David Slack, Director, 24/7 Theatre Arts Network

'A snapshot of 21st Century life on the streets of 'broken Britain'. The Bench is giving it to us like it is; no frills theatre with balls and undiluted attitude.  These people are going places. Fast.'  Brian Gorman, The Public Reviews

'Very well put together and superbly performed to create a very funny, moving, thoughtful piece of theatre that deserves a wider audience.' David Chadderton, British Theatre Guide

'The struggle of being human and finding your place in the Jim Cartwright, O'Byrne has a knack of finding poetry in the most ordinary of situations: he has a real affection for his characters and they feel like flesh and blood people.'  Steve Timms,   

'Entirely gripping, utterly enthralling.  It's so difficult to pick out highlights in a piece so uniformly powerful, performed with pitch perfect style.' Steve Balshaw, Director, Salford Film Festival. 

Come and join us for a fantastic week screen and stage wise at The Storey, Lancaster, 25th to 29th July, 2011

Poster Designer Darren McGinn serves up another winner...

And finally, Darren McGinn's poster for the soon to premiere STRAWBERRY JACK, I want one for my bedroom wall...

The play will premiere later this summer, more details on all these events soon...

Joe xx

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Paradise Heights and and it's future: The Revolution Will Be Digitized...

Hi all

I've just completed a Q&A for a Press Call for THE WATCHER, I thought it was worth sharing here...

Joe O'Byrne

Joe O'Byrne has been described as Manchester's hardest working writer and director.  He has built up a highly respected reputation as a top dramatist thanks to his Tales from Paradise Heights series of plays and films, set on an estate entrenched in all the problems of modern life in a poverty stricken community, but also shot through with a flavour of the supernatural.  All the tales have been critically acclaimed and have thrilled audiences across the North West.

Joe is currently in pre-production of Strawberry Jack, the latest multi media play set in Paradise Heights, this will premiere later this summer, still chasing a literary agent he is looking at to get all the tales in print over the next year.


THE WATCHER is a fantastic addition to the Tales from Paradise Heights canon, working very well on its own as a story, but dovetailing wonderfully into two previous tales – RANK, and the first tale from the series I’M FRANK MORGAN.  The three tales are now a wonderful calling card to illustrate how the Tales from Paradise Heights back catalogue should now be a TV series. 

Poster Design by Michael O'Hanlon

There is an incredible mood and atmosphere that pervades the film, locking minds with Colin Warhurst was a great experience.  Colin worked extremely hard as DOP on the film to create the world of Paradise Heights so graphically illustrated in the previous productions, but Colin also managed to achieve a very unique look to the imagery, stamping his own creative influence on the film.  Chris Lane (producer) drove the film forward at a ferocious pace as we had a deadline to meet, but even then his eye on the final quality of the film never strayed, he cut the wonderful trailer for the film.  With a beautiful score by Salford composer Barry Thompson and sound design by Barry and the wonderful Holly Kim Wyatt it is a film that will stand the test of time.

So many talented creative’s worked on this, and I am sure it will be a calling card for all of them. The Heights now has a really diverse range of characters brought to life by incredibly talented and passionate thus far ‘unknown’ actors and crew… I owe them all a huge debt. Ultimately this form of art is a collaborative process, without their incredible efforts the work stays on the page.

Joe O’Byrne, Director


Q:        Tell us a little about the origins of The Watcher

A:        The Lowry approached me earlier this year with a view to bringing Tales from Paradise Heights productions there.  They had shown all the previous productions there and were big fans of the work, they wanted to show two existing tales but also wanted me to produce a new piece of work to premiere as part of DIGITfest.  With my knowledge of local film talent in the Manchester area it was very easy to get the project off the ground as they were as keen, cross collaboration between us had always been on our wish list, this will be the first of many cross collaborations that will push the creative envelope.
Q:        Was the process made easier by working with cast and crew who you knew and had worked with before?

A.        There are several ‘permanent residents’ of Paradise Heights that have been with us from the beginning, Ian Curley, Ste Myott, Jeni Howarth Williams, Barry Thompson  – so there was already a strong rapport, I knew we’d be singing from the same hymn sheet. 

Q:        The Watcher is your first film since Lookin’ For Lucky, there was a time when you thought you wouldn’t make a film again, what made you change your mind?

A.   The previous film productions I’m Frank Morgan and the feature film Lookin’  For Lucky are great pieces of work, but making Lookin’ for Lucky was a very time consuming task, I wanted to move on to the next tale but the film was bogging me down, and getting little of the recognition it deserved because the terrific cast were ‘unknowns’ and this makes selling your film very difficult indeed, I was discouraged by the whole marketing process and found it very cynical – a creative turn off.  I found working in theatre a quicker way of getting story’s out there, reviews, audience feedback etc, helping to establish the name of Paradise Heights on the cultural landscape – all the tales are transferrable to film, but to do that you need investment – having a portfolio of glowing reviews really helps to obtain that investment.  Getting behind the camera with the likes of Colin Warhurst, Chris Lane and so many other fantastic creative’s working alongside me brought back all the joys of film making, it was such a buzz, and we knew we had something special...I can’t wait to do it again, it has restored my faith in film making.   

Q:        What was your inspiration for this film?

Darren McGinn's Excellent New RANK Poster Design

A:        The whole I’m Frank Morgan mythos and the horrific event in that first film that spilled over into the play Rank, also setting the incidents that take place on Halloween, with a solar storm and strange goings on around the estate – already featured in Rank.  For instance Marek’s incident alone out on Athlone Avenue – heard but never seen in Rank.  I wanted to show what he encountered.   This allowed me to explore further aspects of the story, it expands fantastically on that and also allowed me to introduce further characters and indeed story threads for future stories, it’s a very densely packed plot – a powerful 24 minutes of film. 

Q:       The film was made in less than two months, how did you achieve such a fast turnaround?

Chris Lane, Producer, THE WATCHER

Colin Warhurst, DOP, THE WATCHER

A:        That’s all down to crew, and in particular Chris Lane driving it - Barry Thompson, our composer is a real night owl, producing wonderful work overnight that Colin Warhurst would then edit too, or indeed vise versa Colin edits a sequence and Barry scores, all helped fantastically by Dropbox, a great internet tool for exchanging large media files online.  They would work their magic and I would be able to review it at home, make notes and suggestions and drop it back to them – Holly Kim Wyatt was also able to do some magnificent work on the sound design using the same process.  Everyone is highly skilled in their field and they were able to turn stuff around at lightning speed. 

Q:        The sounds and music are very important throughout the film, were you always aware that this would be important, how did you settle on Barry Thompson?

Barry Thompson, Composer: The Watcher

A:        Barry did the radio inserts on Rank, a multimedia play, there was a terrific piece of music we used for the interval on the play and to start the second act. As The Watcher is a ‘sister piece’ to that tale it made sense to start with that same theme and build from there. I sat down a couple of times with Barry, bouncing ideas around, but once he got the flavour he was off.  What he produced for The Watcher worked wonderfully, I believe he has a fantastic future as a film score composer – and this was his first score produced for a film, he really has a wonderful grasp of what will work well with the image and the mood of the scene.  

Q:        What was it like working with child actor Hannah Green, and how did you come across her?

Hannah Green as Stacy Tyler, THE WATCHER

A:        Hannah was cast from open auditions, she certainly had the look I was looking for but her presence on screen and set lit us all up.  It was her first shoot but she was absolutely amazing.  Confident, accomplished, responded fantastically to direction and she was always throwing in suggestions of her own, this young girl is a star in the making and I would encourage any film maker looking for a great child actor to work with her, she won’t let you down.            

Q:        If you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?

A:        Nothing.

Q:        What can we expect next for Tales from Paradise Heights?

A:        A Tales from Paradise Heights TV series remains a long term aim, The Watcher is a bridge to getting Tales from Paradise Heights in our TV screens. 24 minutes running time and encouraging that several people who attended the premiere at The Lowry said that they could see it being on TV.  It's already being compared very favourably to the works of Scorcese, Marquuez and Wim Wenders - company I am very proud to keep thank you very much!  In the meantime there is much more to come from The Heights.  Strawberry Jack, the next multi media play premieres this summer, I am planning a web based series, two feature films and getting the stories into print in script and graphic novel format.  Including work I have yet to premiere there are now seven tales in the series across stage and screen.  Initially I had planned to have Ten Tales from Paradise Heights, however as the universe expands I am recognising that there is scope for more, and this again would be across a range of media.  I am looking to bring RANK to the Zion Centre later this year – Halloween week and having a whole Halloween event based around the play, to create a much more interactive experience for the audience; it’s really going to be something else and will be remembered for a long time.  And then of course there’s Torch...a project that will be absolutely EPIC in tone and scale...then of course there is the West End that remains on our radar and we already have some contacts there eager to bring the series to the capital.  

Q:        Where do you see the future of British filmmaking?

A:        The Revolution Will Be Digitized...fantastic pieces of kit like the Canon 5D Mark II in the hands of the right creative’s produces truly stunning work, passionate creative’s – particularly in the Manchester area – are blazing new paths in getting their films out there, it’s truly empowering.

These film makers have recognised that you cannot rely on our existing film and cinema distribution models.  I’m staying off my soapbox here but the stinging betrayals of the past have only succeeded in spawning a new, street wise version of film maker, there is a real revolution taking place – I firmly believe it will bring down the current Hollywood based structure, the internet is our future...streaming etc, collectives working together, pushing the distribution envelope...The Revolution Will Be Digitized...

Q:        Who will this film appeal to?

A:        The existing enthusiastic Army of Paradise Heights fans but also people who have never seen anything from Paradise Heights before, as each tale can be viewed in its own right you can certainly start here, as you see more you see the links, the characters that cross back and forth and indeed the incidents and places that have shaped this ever expanding community.

We are only just beginning...

Joe O'Byrne

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

HEIGHTS and Lows...Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Hi all

Well, what a day - Sunday, Bloody Sunday...

Sunday up to the show was pretty much a battle, getting the show in and teched in very difficult circumstances in a short space of time for a VERY technical show.  As well as the cast of RANK there were several hero's elsewhere doing their best to battle the 'Ghost' (more like a feckin DEMON) in the Machine of technology that caused a few niggles for us - DARREN McGINN, IAN CURLEY, HOLLY EVE WYATT and COLIN WARHURST being said hero's.  It's fair to say I was slightly dissappointed with the screening of THE WATCHER, the projector struggled to cope with the settings the macs were locked into - this left much of the film very dark indeed.   Time...the one thing that never runs out - yet there's never enough of it is there?  Nobody's fault, but this certainly won't be happening at future screenings of the film.


If you are from the press or write a blog, there is a Press Screening of The Watcher this friday at the BBC in Manchester, please get in touch if you can attend and perhaps review it.

I'M FRANK MORGAN went down well in the morning screening, but The Lowry ran out of time to show the films for the evening show, out of our control there.   However as for RANK...? 

Jeni Howarth Williams (LISA) RANK - Pic:Ben Mottershead

The play went down a (solar?) storm with the audience.  The cast were absolutley on fire, knocking the show out of the park - I was proud to be sharing the stage with them.  It's a MONSTER of a show, enormously exhausting for actors, but a gripping ride - that said I am looking at trimming this behemoth down a little for it's next public performance, making it a leaner and meaner, emotional killing machine.  We certainly affected the audience judging by the fabulous feedback we have recieved, thanks to all of you that came...

I'm now looking at producing a DVD set of the trilogy - I'M FRANK MORGAN, RANK and THE WATCHER.  It's a fantastic showcase for the supreme Manchester/Salford/London talent involved in the tales, that's actors, producers, technical wizards - everybody involved in these productions - maybe they will all get some extra work and well earned recognition for their huge efforts in bringing these tales to life.  

RANK will return, aiming at Halloween week, somewhere around Manchester, a HALLOWEEN THEME to the evening...Everybody scream, everybody scream - in our town of HALLOWEEN...

So, what's next...?

I'm already clearing the decks for STRAWBERRY JACK - the next play in the series.  If you were at Sunday's show you will have heard his name during the play, the door man who had left Corny in the unconcious state he was found in by the Shirley, the Angel in Rank.  You'll also get to meet DEAF FREDDIE, a name heard in Paradise Heights in some of the other productions, but thus far he has not appeared in the flesh.  As usual the play will be a complete story of its own, you won't feel you have missed anything if this is the first story you see from Tales from Paradise Heights...oh, and Shirley returns...;)

Stay tuned for dates and venues - that's in addition to the show coming to the Sir Robert Powell Theatre in Salford.

Don't cry for Bad Lad, Argentina...
DIARY OF A BAD LAD goes on sale in Argentina

Finally, it's great to see DIARY OF A BAD LAD going on sale in Argentina! The film continues from strength to strength. I am so proud of being involved in this production, for a featrure film that cost less that five grand to make - it's got legs! 

The Double Disk DVD version is out here later this month...CHICO TIME! 

Joe x

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Rehearsals for RANK: The plot thickens...

It's great to come back to a play. 

It's funny how the first time you do it you think 'Yeah, that's it - we got all we could out of that.'

LISA (Jeni Howarth Williams) confronts ARIF (Aaron Rochford) Rehearsal shot

Then 18 months later, you come back to it and you find so much MORE.  There really is a much greater depth here now, stronger connections between and depth to the characters, actors throwing in suggestions and coming up with pure gold.  This has really, really moved on and evolved into a much richer experience both for the actors and for the audience...but it's the same script.  Like I have said before, a script is words on a page until an actor gets hold of it - and it's obviously about not being afraid to try things in a rehearsal and each and every one of us have really set a new bench mark with this.

NICK (yours truly) LISA (Jeni Howarth Williams) and ARIF (Aaron Rochford) Rehearsal Shot

There is still work to do, two of the cast don't join the rest of us till Friday(!) but they are working their scenes together down in London, and when you have two actors of the calibre of PHOEBE MARIE JONES and BEN HOOD there is very little to worry about, two young dynamo's at the top of their game. 

ARIF (Aaron Rochford) ets worked up in RANK (Rearsal shot)

As I write this we are setting up to shoot the new footage that is used within the play, a very late shoot tonight to bag it, and this is following on from BEN MOTTERSHEADS shoot of the opening scene between NICK (a driver from LUCKY CABS) and a very mysterious passenger and stranger to Paradise Heights, a smooth enough shoot but also a 3 am finish!  The look and feel of the footage links very, very nicely to THE WATCHER - it's companion piece, audiences are really in for a treat - and tickets are now flying - this is gonna sell out so I'd really recommend getting those tickets.

The Lowry
Sunday 12trh June @ 3pm and 8pm

Book your tickets here...

And come and experience an unforgettable trilogy from TALES FROM PARADISE HEIGHTS

All pictures in this update by BEN MOTTERSHEAD.


Saturday, 4 June 2011


OK, 8 days out and still LOADS to do -

But when I think about what we have managed to do over the last few weeks I'm sure we're gonna have no problem at all...err...yeah - NO PROBLEM AT ALL - I'm spinning so many plates at the moment I should defintiely consider a career in the circus. 

Over the next week you may be getting a sneak peak inside the rehearsals for RANK.

JENI HOWARTH WILLIAMS as Lisa in RANK (pic: Daniel Warhurst)

The play really has moved on, evolving further and I'm pretty sure that when you see a Halloween Mask like the ones's we are using in RANK that you'll always remember this play...and indeed THE WATCHER.

On the subject of THE WATCHER I really think this is gonna...No.  I'm gonna keep my powder dry I think.  But it's different...and I'm sure you'll remember it, and I'm already storylining a feature film around it and it more than comfortably knits in to the storylines of RANK and I'M FRANK MORGAN. 

CHRIS LANE is still doing a magnificent job promoting the event, COL WARHURST is putting some final flourishes to his Masterful edit, BARRY THOMPSON is producing a wonderful score for the film and HOLLY EVE WYATT is working wonders on the sound mix...just over 7 days to go to THE WATCHER Premiere...

In the meantime here's a link to a lovely piece on the Tales from Paradise Heights Trilogy event done by TOM RODGERS and BYRON SAXTON of SALFORD ONLINE...'s_lowry_adventure.html

Who Is The Watcher...?

SUNDAY 13th June, 3pm and 8pm

BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW...0843 208 6000 it would be LUVLY to see ya's...Joe x


Strawberry Jack

Strawberry Jack
Designed by Joe O'Byrne