Saturday, 31 May 2014

Interviews It's A Richard Ashton Interview

Live Interview with Richard Ashton

“I produce a prop you will be proud of, with excellent workmanship that stands out from the crowd.”

Richard Ashton is amazing, not only does he cosplay as two Doctor’s of Who, and Legolas of LOTR, but also builds many awesome props from the world of Sci fi and Anime.  I caught up with Richard recently as he took a break from a build to chat to us about his many creations and his stint on the Virgin Media Ad with David Tennant. 

Where did your passion begin for prop builds?

Richard: I used to make models, set pieces, kits from when I was about 12 and I’d get annoyed when I’d get older when I’d been making up stuff that they didn’t bring out a model that was connected to Mad Max or something like that.  So I’d end up creating my own, into what was available.  It’s called kit bashing, sticking this to that or that to this, it doesn’t mean getting hold of a car and sticking wings to it.  It’s not that “Oh look I’ve created a plane out of a car.” 
I used to work for Jordan GPR (Grand Prix Racing team) making models of Formula 1 cars for static displays advertising their model kits.  My passion is motorsport, motorsport models; I’ve met Damon Hill and Schumacher.  I made models for Revel for about 3 years.

I liked those TARDIS’ you made, were those commissions?

Richard: The Airfix TARDIS kits?  Yeah, they’re nice.  The interiors are rubbish.  They don’t put interiors in, they’re pathetic.  The exterior is really accurate, really nice.  And when painted up looks really the bee’s knees.  I’ve got the War Doctor TARDIS done, thinking of banging it on Ebay and selling it.  I managed to acquire a couple more of the kits, two more and another one – Daleks in Manhattan set.  They only did 2 sets!  Discontinued now.

I like the TARDIS though!

Richard: That’s the first prop I ever made.  It was for my son, not sure if you could call it a prop, it was ¾ scale TARDIS, it’s on the It’s an Ashton Page on Facebook, which I’ve now sold when he was about 6.  That had no interior, then I built a time rotor, put that in, and it was Christmas time when it was finished.  Started in September, every weekend on and off every week, this was when I had a full time job.  I wasn’t doing this for a job and I got it made two weeks before Christmas.  And then basically hand balled the thing in here into the living room.  It had to go upstairs to his room, don’t know how we judged the size, me and my Dad we sometimes make the sides solid and you’ve got to make it flat pack, and so the top came off and the bottom came off but the sides were solid.  It managed to fit through the door, don’t know how we judged the size.  It just fit.  I sold it on Ebay and saw it two years ago and it looked in same condition.

After that I made a Dalek, a David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston Dalek called a D4.  It was a life sized one.  Originally it didn’t have a wheelchair but we put in a wheelchair as otherwise it was like pushing around a wardrobe.  It’s totally mad.  They’re so heavy inside.  Some are made out of fibre glass, mine was plywood, and marine ply, that’s the skirt.  The base was made out of hardwood and the guttering; it’s got the same angle.  The shoulder section where the gun arms are is actually made from steel.

So I can imagine it would be heavy to push around!

Richard: Yeah it was like, at the time, we’ll make this bit with wood but we have to fill this gap, what have we got? – well we’ve got some sheet aluminium.  Well this works!  So we bent it into shape and put it in and when we took it to shows, people were like a Dalek made out of wood – lalalala.’  I said ‘have you got any magnets?’  We used to take fridge magnets with us and put them on.  It’s armour plated.  It was so heavy to shift about though, with the wheelchair in it just bombs around.   Since then I’ve got 2 New Series Daleks.

So you’re not like the guy who places his motorcycle engine on the kitchen table and takes over the room?

Richard: No, we have a big kitchen, then I’ve got a workshop at my Dad’s with lots of wood working equipment, such as a table saw which is such a godsend, it cuts any wood out.  Then obviously I’ve got another workshop down at my house that I do all the fibre glassing and sometimes I do spraying in there.  I cleared it all out and it’s just got bits of doors in but not much.  I can warm the place up as fibre glass doesn’t like water, doesn’t like moisture and thirdly it doesn’t like cold as it will go off.  So you have to treat it well.  Then I have the finish which is in the kitchen, on the kitchen table, and I’ve got a massive thing there so I can work at painting and finishing. 

You never know what you’re going to make one day to the next.  Somebody might send in a request and it could be a small thing and you’re like ‘Ahh.’ Then you’ll get a commission come through and it will be massive.  ‘How the hell am I going to do this?’

Were you into Arts when you were in School or College, or did you hone your craft in Uni?

Richard: Yeah I did Art in school; it was one of the things I excelled at.  I was a sod at school.  I used to bunk off.  Some lessons I didn’t like I’d bunk off...which is wrong.  But the weird thing about it was, I didn’t go off to where other kids bunked off to, I went to the library.  How stupid is that?

I used to go to the library and get books out that were art books and something I was interested in, novels and read that.  I never missed an Art lesson.  Mr Wheeler my art teacher, I never missed a lesson, ever.  I used to love it.  I mean I left school with GCSE’s.  I got mediocre grades in everything, Passes, but in Art I got 1 for something and then a 2 overall.
I did a JCB with a certain person in pyjamas trying to protect his house for my final exam.  Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  I also did HG Wells War of the Worlds and I got a B.  I look at that now and I go, ‘How did I get a B?’  It was physically impossible.

From that I went to Chesterfield College and studied art and design for two years.  I also studied computer aided design for another two years.  I have a Level 2 NVQ in machine engineering and received extra tuition from my father, (also an engineer).  I’ve always wanted to do what I’m doing now.  Thanks to my saviour of working on the David Tennant Ad that big lump sum of money for filming, I could basically afford to say “Right, I can choose my own destiny.”

How did you get involved in the David Tennant Virgin Media Ad?

Richard: It all started from way back when I first did David Tennant and the guy who was meant to be playing Tennant, a really good film maker, he needed a Tennant.  I’d been playing him a few years.  I didn’t have the correct suit.  My hair was about right, I watched a good number of episodes, I got paid, I thought let’s give this a whirl. 

There were 40 odd Daleks there, and Davros in the centre.  I stood up and rose to the challenge and did it.  Between doing Tennant and then jumping in my own Dalek, so I was doing two things.  That’s the day I lost my voice.  Bloody knackered as Dalek didn’t have motorisation, so had to push the damn thing around, then leaping out to do Tennant, back into the Dalek, back out dripping with sweat, back into Tennant gear. 

Terry saw the potential in me.  Terry just went, ‘I think you’d be really good.  This could be big’.  I didn’t know that he had a friend who is an agent.  He contacted me and asked if I had an agent.  I said ‘No, why would I need an agent?”  He said Well I can get you work, professionally, some events where I can get you paid, you can actually be doing it properly.’  I thought Yeah.  So that was thrown in my lap.  He came onboard as my agent and got me some gigs. 

I got loads of gigs at the start and then when Matt Smith took over it just died.  Flat lined!  As everyone wanted the New Doctor and I thought, ‘It’s over.’  I’d thought of giving up on David Tennant, just thought no-one is interested, he’s had his day, it’s been a good ride now move on to something else.  But then it was weird because when it came to the 2nd season with Smith, there were a lot of people wanting Tennant back.  Then I got a couple of bookings.  I didn’t expect this, and obviously I was doing other stuff then. 

Couple of years later (a year or so ago) my agent got in touch and said ‘Are you available?’  I said ‘Available for what?’  ‘Can you get down to a studio in London for an audition for Virgin Media Ad, to do a body double of David Tennant, to not just look like him but also do his mannerisms, not just stand there and smile.’
I asked ‘Do they want David Tennant or do they want the Tennant Doctor?’  At this stage he didn’t know. He said ‘Just take your gear with you.  Can you do it?’

Well at this stage I got the phone call Thursday, the audition was Friday, and I’m working.  I’ll need to ring my boss and say I’m not coming in tomorrow; I’m going to London for an audition.  That cannot happen.  So I basically said, right, I’ll have a word.  Agent said, ‘Could you do Monday?’  I thought about it and there’s two ways to attack this. 1) You pull a sickie.  But I have respect for my boss, he’s not a bad bloke and we respected each other.  I didn’t want to do that, so I’ll tell him.  He said you can have Monday off.  I said what happens if it goes to two days, he said we’ll come to that.

Anyway, I went down to London and did audition.  Quite a few other people were there - cosplayers.  One of them Carl Hopcroft did quite well too.  I got the call back to go on Tuesday.  Called Boss he wasn’t pleased but there was nothing I could do about that.  Came back to work, had grumble in office, I told boss it was a waiting game.  Branson’s crew came back from Bahamas to film Usain Bolt’s scenes and then I’m waiting and waiting.  Only boss knew about it, those on shop floor knew nothing.  I had a grin on my face – this might just happen.

I got the phone call on Friday from agent saying ‘You’ve got it.  Basically you start filming Tuesday in London’ and this was Friday.  I went to my mate, can you back my car in at the workshop.  He said ‘Why?’  I said, ‘I’m going, bye.’  He said ‘What do you mean?’  I said ‘I’m going to work with David Tennant!

I was on Cloud 9.  You couldn’t imagine how happy I was.  It was unbelievable. Over the weekend I was so excited but scared as well.  Have I done enough, do I have to learn lines as well?

I got the train directly to London.  I got a phone call ‘Mr Ashton, your car is waiting for you.’  I went out, and there’s a car with MY NAME ON IT!!!  He took my suitcase off me; I sat in leather seats with newspapers waiting for me, and bottled water.  ‘Everything alright for you sir?  We’ll take you to your hotel now sir.’
It was like a dream, this is not real.  I’m going to pinch myself to see if it’s all a lie.  I’ll be sat there thinking ‘bugger’.  It was real.  It was like I’d get to the hotel and the PA woman would ring me up and say ‘Richard, hello, all food is on tap, and bar is on tap’ and you could really get drunk but I won’t.

I had a lovely meal, drink and sat in my room.  Nervous.  This is scary!  It was a really nice hotel, everything really cool, and then another phone call.  ‘Have you brought a blue suit?’

Now at that time I had two.  One was not good the other was my blue Tennant suit, pinstriped.  So I brought it, didn’t I?  I needed it for the shoot.  ‘So we’ll be picking you up at 6am and David will be coming Wednesday.  So Tuesday will be you.  Want to use you, set up shots, walk through lines, blah blah blah.’  So another black out car came down with no name on it, and then we went to their secret filming location.  You know how they did their secret locations with Doctor Who, signs and stuff, unless you knew what the signs mean, same kind of stuff.  Then we went to a warehouse in Heathrow, big warehouse all done up as a set, massive it really was.  No expense spared.  People fed you; people were running around with cups of tea for you.  Sat there in a chair, sat there with suit on and big coat as it was freezing, and the Director, Peter, he ran through shots he wanted me to do. 

This was where David vanishes in front of the telly when Richard Branson is watching and then reads the news on Richard Branson’s knee, and he runs through that all day!

Then when I got back to the hotel I was greeted by another person, Pete who is Richard Branson’s body double.  He got chatting over dinner.  He’s an electrician by trade.  Come Wednesday we’re back down at warehouse, had breakfast there.  They took me to wardrobe wearing a Gucci suit and Armani shoes, and a shirt, there’s quite a bit of money on me.  Peter’s shoes were the same as Branson’s, he had his hair changed to Branson’s hair and coloured and got him spot on.  And then I’m all in kit and I think I was wearing my own shoes.  Then David came on set.  And it was weird cos I looked at him and went ‘Is that David Tennant?’  And he walked straight over to us and said ‘Hello Richard, how you doing? (Impersonates David with the voice and the mannerisms)  I look forward to working with you.’
It’s like inside I want to scream like a little girl...

With pig tails?

Richard: Yes.  Saying ‘Yes, what do you want us to do and what is in the script that you want us to learn, but inside I’m like my head is going LALALALALA!!!
It’s just mental.  Peter told me he completely lost it.  But I tried to stay professional. 

Wardrobe woman came and brought my shoes.  I put shoes on.  I had to do sequence to camera that David was doing.  Autocue set to David’s line, not mine.  I had to learn the lines really quickly.  It was a case of ‘here’s the lines, learn them’ and I did that and did it to camera.  Then there was the costume.  Woman says, the shoes you’re wearing, you’ve got them on, how can you fit in those?’  I said ‘What do you mean?’  She says ‘David’s shoes are size 9, you’re a size 11.  How did you put these on?’ They just fitted!

I thought David wore bigger shoes!

Richard: He wore a bigger size when he was doing Who.  Wearing Converse he wore 2 pairs of socks, his waterproof socks that he wore on the outside and thermal socks on the inside to keep his feet warm.  Cos they’re filming stupid hours and his feet got really cold.

We had to map out scenes so then David would come over to me and then he’d see what I’d done and how I’d done a shot, then he’d copy me.  Then add bits to tweak it.  Then we’d sit together and it was really weird.  For someone I’ve looked up to for a long time and he’s just chatting to me like a mate... I showed him some of the Who stuff I’d done. 

They ran out of coats with David on the Tuesday and when it comes to a Wednesday, they were a coat short, so if you’ve got a coat, bring it.  Of course, there’s only one coat I brought which is the Tennant coat and so best of it is, it’s long.  So I wore that on set to keep me warm and David kept looking at it and looking at it. 
He went ‘Excuse me, Richard, do you mind if I...feel that.  That’s just very, very close.  Can I have a look at it?’  He was inspecting the lining.  ‘Well that’s good, I like that.  Yep that’s right.’
‘Would you like to try it on David?’
‘Maybe, maybe later.’ (laughs)

The costume woman said it was really weird as I had hung it in the wardrobe before I had found out there were no coats left and when David went for his costume he saw it there and was like ‘What’s that in there?’

It’s unbelievable on set, so many please and thank yous and nobody swore on set. Nothing was too much trouble.  You were working long hours, it was wonderful.  And when David started on Thursday, he was there from 6am onwards.  We had breakfast there and were there till 11pm.  So a long day but it went quick.

Did David sit on his own between takes?

Richard: The whole crew made a makeshift canteen and they all sat there.  David sat with the two hair stylists who did my hair and makeup and they’d worked with David on everything he’d done.  Even down to Secret Diary of a Call Girl – one did make up for Billie.  So good at their job and the woman worked on Casanova with David, wig work etc. 

When we did the scene where David jumps on my back that was a very, very long day.  We filmed indents for media bits, for virtual bits for that.  By dinner time from filming him jumping on my back I think I said to the stylist, ‘I hope I do him and also David proud.’  She said ‘You’ll be fine.’ It all worked out perfect and I was shown how to do a certain thing and I got it.  I think it was just nerves really. 

When I went back, the costumers said, ‘Take your costume off when you have your snack, if you get anything on these, we only got these suits, if it gets messed up we’re screwed.’  I abided by that. 
On my way to getting a snack, David said. ‘Richard, you did really well.  Fantastic job!  Really hard to get everything right.  So you did a really good job!’  So for David to say that it really meant a lot.
I said, ‘Cheers, on that David.  I’m going to get into my civvies so I don’t spill anything on my costume!’
‘Oh bloody hell, they’ve got you well trained!’  And he was having his dinner with his suit on. 

I got a good photograph of me and David right at the end.  Its how the other half live.  I can’t get over that.  I’m sorry!  I’ve done gigs as far as Newcastle and to experience that is very different.

Have you done anything similar to that since?

Richard: I’d like to say I’ve been to gigs, special guests and stuff and been driven to gigs and that’s still professional and on my line but that was borderline movie star kind of thing.

To have a car with your name on, wow

Richard: Oh that, yeah that was incredible!  I could get used to that.  But like I say, they had another gig, this year but it was cheaper with Carl living in London to do the 1 day gig than for me to travel to Heathrow to do these sequences.  And I was already booked to do another gig so I couldn’t do it.

I had a stage gig to do.  I couldn’t just throw that away.  But they never contacted me; they contacted Carl as he was local.  People had it in their head that I was thrown off the gig, which was a pack of lies.  It’s just sent up by people who were jealous.  Carl had the same.  Sadly for Carl he never got to meet David as they’d already filmed it.  In my eyes, the one they produced was in no way as good as the one they produced with David.  No way.  They only used Carl for 2 seconds in the shot and that was the back of his head.

And I thought, was it worth it?  He said they spent ages; throwing a pizza box at Branson – they never used it!!!

To my knowledge, Pete is still being used as Branson’s body double which is really good. 

I decided with the money I got from that, that I didn’t want to go back to engineering.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do which was making props, because I loved making stuff.  So it was feeding back the passion.  It gave me the stepping stone as such and that’s what I’ve done.  With being your own business you have good weeks and bad weeks, sometimes you have to scrimp and save and others everything is ok. 

I was so used to doing stuff when I was working, you had an income, every week, you knew how much money was coming in every week.  To pay bills, but self employed you don’t know.  But you work on the next commission and you get help and Working Family Tax Credit is still there.

The business has only officially been running since back end of August 2013, so business has been running for 6 months.  So what we’ve achieved so far is a new sci fi production to be made for the BBC so that’s what I’m working on heavily.  I’ve got some more costumes to make for one of the characters, so got that to do. 

Traffic Experiment - We’ll be using a space suit for photo shoot, which is my space suit from Impossible Planet, for launch of their new album.

I have big commissions that keep dropping through the door.

Do you ever get commissions from Doctor Who themselves?

Richard: The thing about the BBC guys, everything is in Wales, their build is in Wales, Millennium FX and Rubbertone and it has to be said it’s not to the best of standards.  Sorry!
I’ve seen some of their stuff and I’m not impressed, but you’ve got to understand it’s for TV not for everyone to look at up close.  That’s the difference with my props I have to build.  Say someone wants a K-9.  I have to make K-9, it has to look good from a distance but look immaculate close up.  The Original prop was made by Matt Irvine.  It’s made for TV, so it’s not immaculate. 

So things that are made for the new sci fi show have had to be really sharp as it’s filmed in Hi Def and I’ve had to build the main character, which has to be a real close up shot, which has to be immaculate.  And I’ve made a mask for that.  Originally they were going to be made by Millennium FX but they were waiting for BBC approval for it to go ahead and they were literally going nowhere, so I was contacted and that was it.

So do you do commissions for just anybody or do they have to be in the business?

Richard: I make anything.  I get commissions coming from industry but I get people wanting commissions.  I’m currently working on this sonic screwdriver.  That’s going to the States, thought I’d make 2, the idea is, because the prop is so expensive it’s all down to manufacturing, and with the exchange rate in US it’s even more expensive for the guys over there which I can’t do anything about.  What I’m trying to do is hopefully put it in a mould.  I have a friend who does a lot of resin moulding, so bang it in a mould and then I might drop the price down a bit, then whoever wants one of these, it’s not going to be as much, which is better for them really.

The only difference is it will be made out of resin and machine acrylic plaster and so if they drop it it’ll break.  I’ll build it as strong as I can but you’ll always get someone being stupid with a prop – I’ve had it before. 

I loved the weapons that you created for your cosplay action.

Richard: I learnt all of that from a friend of mine called Mark Corduroy, First and Second prop builder on Doctor Who, and I became good friends with him.  He just literally walked me through what he made stuff out of and literally it was great being him.  The Girl in the Fireplace, the fire extinguisher guns, that was just a trip to B&Q for them.  It’s just ridiculous.  It was, ‘Right, I’ll need a hose connector for garden hoses, oh nice shape to it.’ Cut a bit off it, so it’s not recognisable.

You start to gain an eye for things.  You have to be careful you don’t gather too much stuff.
All I have is a blue print.  I like to make it to a kit, which is a full scale version or a scaled down version, so I can get a better look, either take a photograph that I can send to a client or they come down and have a look at it. What you have to remember, it’s all down to interpretation, and sometimes, you’ll interpret it as ‘this goes here, that goes there’ then you give it to someone else and they go, ‘that’s a bit to the left or that’s more to the right.’  It’s awkward.  Little tweaks here and there you can do.  It can be a real pain in the arse.  You can be ‘how do you do that?’

I think some people go to everyone for a commission prop and they all do a ‘Uh uh uh oh nooooo’ and then they go ‘Rich, can you do this?’ and I’ll go (looks at plans) ‘I’ll give it a go.’  Then I’ll scratch my head and think ‘Why did I take this on?’

Somebody wanted an Attack on Titan.  I did two of the damn things.  Never did them before, they were Japanese Anime, what works in Anime doesn’t work in the real world.  I redesigned this thing, the price I charged I should have doubled as the amount of work I put into it, design drawings, sketching, it was bloody hard graft.  The finished design was brilliant, but it was a real pain to make.

How do you gauge a price on a build especially when you’ve put a lot of time into each one?

Richard: If I have to gauge it at all, its if I take so many commissions I can work on that one and that one and that one, at the same time if it’s a small commission  and I can charge a lesser amount for it but I know I’m doing alright out of it. I mean sometimes when you’re working for a TV company you’ve got a set budget so they will literally say to you ‘Just make it that’s all we’re paying you.’  You can either say ‘shove it up your arse and chew on it.’ Or like with the sci fi show, I literally went, I’m doing something that is probably ground breaking so are you going to bite your lip and do it because when it comes out what I’ve made and it goes on my CV it’ll be pretty bloody impressive!!!

When we start filming it, it might start gaining me a trip to Australia for three months.  Originally it was filmed in Australia but they might film it in Manchester’s Media City. 

The way that you’re working on the set for the show that’s got to be worth it though

Richard: Yeah, with this I’ve contacted a few people I know and I’m putting a team together, builders, set designers, to work on it which makes me Head Prop guy, I don’t know.  If it’s your passion then you’ll do it, even if it’s working silly hours, you’ve got to do it.  I was told that they in Australia kit the place out.

Have you ever made any Torchwood props?

Richard: I’ve only been requested to make the ear pieces that were for people interested in that.  It was hard to gauge a price for that.  If you want to pay silly money, if you want to have it done properly, it’s all intricate, sticking stuff on the side.  If you want to go for some cheaper option, it’s hard to gauge.
I try to do it with the best stuff.  I always gauge my stuff on being a high standard of making something.  I’ve tried to look at props and other people’s costumes along the lines of ‘it looks good but around the edges it looks rough and would I pay for something that is like that?’

It’s all about the finish, if you’ve made it and you’ve cut corners, will it come back and bite you on the arse?  It can happen.  Somebody can do something with a prop and they break it, and you go, if only I’d done that, then this wouldn’t have happened.

We move onto the subject of papier mache models

Richard: There’s nothing wrong with papier mache.  I’ve made some models that were (lifts over the witch king helmet) “hello tis I Leclair!” That amazingly enough is made out of card.

That sound, is card, these bits are sharp.  Bloody hell they’re sharp, and this is wood.  And these bits here are done with cocktail sticks, then I used car body filler to shape it up to it.  Sand it back and you get that effect.  Other bits I’ve not sanded to give it that look of it being cracked.  So it gives the denting effect.  This has been in battles, big holes in it where it’s rusted through each side of it.

If you look at my stuff now, it’s gone to “What can’t Richard make?” My Dad helped me out with a lot of the turning as I don’t excel in that.  I’m not bad but it’s getting it to the exact diameters.  It’s just a bit under.  Measuring that’s fine.  Milling, I can do, no problem.  Painting – I can do artwork, make anything out of wood.  I’ve started sculpting with Gandalf’s Staff.

I liked the Spider from Planet of the Spiders, not a fan of arachnids but that was bloody brilliant

Richard: That was the first thing I did.  The first sculpt I did. Major.  Before, I dabbled.  I did the pelmet for Game of Thrones, like on Boromir’s pelmet, when you put it on the sword, it doesn’t come off.  That was like a massive block of plastic that was another piece shoved on the front then I sculpted it.  Somebody is using that as a prop.  It was actually shown to the guy who does Game of Thrones and it was the closest he’d ever seen.  It just needed to be a little bit longer which I could have done, that’s no problem now, but that’s recommendation from the guys.

My dream job would be to live in New Zealand and work for WETA.  I posted my Witchking, on WETA’s Official Page, they actually put Bloody Fantastic.’

I have two loves, Doctor Who, though sadly not the Matt Smith era, not at all.  I hope Peter Capaldi is going to be better.  My other love is Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

LOTR is fantastic.

(Lifts off his phone which Richard was using during the interview to show off his LOTR cabinet)

Richard That’s something I sculpted when I was younger. Treebeard.  (shows off his armoury and Gandalf’s Staff)  All I need is Gimli’s axe and I have the full set.

Entering the kitchen we see the Daleks Richard has created.

Every home should have one (referring to Dalek)

Richard: Yes totally agree.  (Shows off Dalek plungers, Steel and aluminium.  Shows off Legolas’ Lothlorian bow.  It’s huge)
It’s all skills you learn.  New sonic that works.  It’s all orange in colour, it’s going to be gold.  That’s the crystal for that one. 

It looks a lot thicker to the other one

Richard: Yeah like I say they’re the same diameter.  Here, I have all my bits that will fit on here, all the blocks, then there’s these that will fit on the side, going to be gold, all the bits and bobs like that on the side of it. 

How much time do you spend a day working on your builds?

Richard: You could be working on stuff like this.  I could spend ages in here, because literally if there’s nothing on telly, I’d prefer to spend my time doing something, like blasting the crap out of people on a computer game, which is still fun, but I’d prefer to use my talents doing this.  The bits and pieces to make a lot of the props can be found in Pound Shop.  A light for something that could be used for sci fi-ish, or pieces from an old Star Wars toy that could be recycled into something else for sci fi.  The thing is making something that looks right and seems right for the job. 

I love doing figurines (shows an unpainted Legolas) I like to do some things for my own collection.

Eve Myles had a photoshoot with a big silver gun and I’d never seen that big gun before.  But I looked at that and thought that looked nice.  I could make that.  But I did look at it for probably making but generally it’s LOTR.  Still doing Doctor Who stuff.

Do the BBC mind you making Doctor Who props?

Richard:  It’s a sticky area to walk with BBC, because they can get their legal team a little bit edgy over stuff.  I think at first they were really frosty about it, unlike LucasArt who embrace Fan Art.  (referring to BBC) They look at people who like Doctor Who as a little bit weird.  Unlike say George Lucas who promotes it.

If I went to Wales now and Capaldi was shooting and I put my Capaldi gear including wig on then did it, they wouldn’t like it.  Me in the gear and they’ve only just started shooting, and I’ve got replica gear!  They’d find it offensive.  Or, they might say, ‘Ooh you’re brilliant.’

How do you get around copyright?

Richard: The way I do it is simple.  These Daleks which are bang on to the prop, I build things which are close.  I know what’s wrong with it and if they put it to the exact prop they’d see it too.  I don’t quote my stuff as exactly bang on.  There’s a reason behind that – I don’t want to get my fingers burnt.  I only make a limited amount of set pieces.  The most I’ve made of Doctor Who is Oswin belt.  I’ve made 4, each different.  You just have to tread warily.

The BBC could come down on me like a ton of bricks over these sonic screwdrivers but nobody makes them to my knowledge in the UK.  Mine are 100% bang on.  When this crystal screwdriver is done it will be 99% right and 1% doubt, so I’m not 100% accurate.  Paul McGann thought it was brilliant.

Thanks so much for the interview and for showing us around.

RichardNo problem.  I’d like to mention two people who have inspired me to do this.  One is my father who has worked with me at the workshop and if I’ve got a problem he gets his thinking cap on and we bang ideas around till we find a solution to the problem.  And the other is this chap Tony Barnes, (lifts over a photo kept pinned by his work station of a man in dark glasses) recently passed away.  He died in his late 50’s.  He was my mentor, took me in from age 13, taught me how to paint miniatures.  (shows Legolas figurine).  He was the one who found out what I was working on, the big TV show, and he passed away before I’d finished the big major prop and never got to see it.  I’m hoping we can get his name on the credits of the TV series.

I’m carrying on his legacy.  And if someone comes to me wanting to learn what I know and hopefully I can pass on what I know to them.  From 13 – 42, I’ve learnt a hell of a lot.

Richard Ashton has a Facebook Page  where you can find all of his creations like the ones involved in this interview.  You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook.  He’s a truly wonderful person and I’m so glad he was able to find the time in between his builds to talk to us.

All photos used courtesy of Richard Ashton

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