Interview: JAMIE ANDERSON, Head of Anderson Entertainment

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Starburst recently caught up with the head of Anderson Entertainments, Jamie Anderson, to talk about his father's legacy, Gemini Force One and next month's inaugural Andercon convention...

Starburst: So tell us about Andercon...
Jamie Anderson: It’s going to be brilliant! That’s the first thing. I’m really excited about it. We’ve done our absolute best to make this the biggest and best celebration of all things Gerry Anderson that’s ever been held.

We’ve got over 40 guests booked – cast and crew from every single Anderson production from Twizzle to Stingray, and Thunderbirds to New Captain Scarlet.

Let me take you on a little walkthrough:

From the moment you walk in you’ll be immersed in the worlds of Gerry Anderson. As you come through the doors, you’ll see Scott Tracy sat in Thunderbird 1’s cockpit, and you’ll hear Barry Gray’s wonderful music filling the air.

Once through the ticket barriers, having passed a replica SPV interior set from Captain Scarlet, you can enter the main space (sponsored by Starburst magazine) which is divided into two fairly distinct areas – Puppetry and live action. In the Supermarionation (and Supermacromation area) we have a huge range of original and replica puppets and props on display alongside some incredible set recreations (the rolling road, underwater setup etc.) showing how the magic happened.

Head back towards the live action area, past a full size Supermarionation puppeteers gantry recreation, and you’ll be looking at the biggest ever display of original and replica UFO, Space:1999 and Space Precinct props and models ever assembled.

The main are also leads through to the main auditorium, where we’ll be staging some incredible talks, panels, and Q&A sessions on everything from Twizzle to Terrahawks, and Supercar to Space Precinct.

As you head back out of the main area – take some time to look at the production design and illustrators area – showing off everything from Derek Meddings’ original design artwork to original panels from TV21.

In the three remaining areas of Andercon, you’ll be able to see rare screenings including some previous unseen material in the screening room sponsored by Network. We also have some great displays by the Brickish association who have built iconic Anderson scenes and vehicles from Lego, and the National Space Centre and International Rescue will be showing us how Anderson-related science fiction has become science fact. Finally you’ll be able to get your fill of meets and greets (and autographs) in our star signers room.

We’ve been working hard on the event to make it one of the biggest and most interactive Gerry Anderson events ever held. This should be a really exciting tribute to Dad, so I hope we’ll see lots of you there – tickets are selling out fast!

We know it’s not polite to pick favourites, but are there any guests you’re particularly looking forward to meeting up with?
No, that’s not polite or fair. But… I’m looking forward to the Terrahawks reunion as that was always a favourite of mine. I think the Four Feather Falls panel with Nicholas Parsons, Denise Bryer, and David Graham will be fun too.

I’ve met all of the guests (bar one or two) before, and they’re all such lovely people. I’m hoping that the AP Films/Century 21 family feel that was present in every Anderson production will be recreated!

Your father was arguably one of the most important figures in genre television, world-wide, how much pressure is there, on you, as custodian of his legacy?
Thanks for adding to the pressure! Last year the BKSTS created the Gerry Anderson award for VFX. Dad would have been honoured as he was so proud of his BKSTS fellowship. I went to the awards do, did the presentation and we went out for drinks afterwards. I was approached by a smartly dressed man who walked up to me, looked me up and down and said “You have big shoes to fill”, smiled, and walked away. I think that was the first time the enormity of the task I’ve given myself really hit me.

Maintaining the legacy, and developing his unfinished projects has become my life’s work, and it’s no small task! I’m acutely aware of the difficulties and pitfalls involved, and that there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. I’ll do my utmost to see that his legacy endures, and flourishes.

You successfully raised funds via kickstarter last year to complete and publish Gemini Force One. How did you find the process and would you revisit it for future projects?
It was a rollercoaster. The build-up was fun, but the fun quickly turned to anxiety as the “launch” day approached. I found myself staring at the Kickstarter page and checking the app so frequently that it almost became an addiction. Engaging with the fans was great, and there’s something really special about knowing how much people want to see a new project. Having them care about it from so early on makes the whole thing really exciting.

But would I do it again? Perhaps. I think maybe literary projects don’t seem as sexy as a TV or film one. That meant this project was a slightly harder sell. I’d certainly consider it if we had a concept that the execs wanted to change beyond all recognition – but then, I’m hopeful that Gemini Force One will show the World that real Gerry Anderson ideas work!

We imagine there wasa lot of interest from authors wanting to work with you on completing Gemini Force One, what was it about MG Harris that convinced you she was the woman for the job?
There was a fair amount, but there were two things that clinched it for me. Firstly – I read the first book in MG’s Joshua Files series. I really enjoyed it. The pace was excellent, and although it was a book for a younger audience – I still found it very entertaining, and serious. At no point did I feel that a young reader was being spoken down to. That felt very Andersonesque. Secondly - later on, I met up with MG and we talked about Dad’s life and his motivations. It became clear to me that she was a fan, that she understood the material, and that she quickly gained a deep understanding of Dad’s life and the way he was. That convinced me that she was the right author for the job.

Speaking of future projects, are there any clues as to what we can expect next from Anderson Entertainment?
Well, the collectors edition of Gemini Force One will be out in August – so keep an eye out for that! We’re working on funding for a couple of major projects… but I have to keep those under wraps for the time being. You’ll certainly be seeing some more great GA merchandise coming up – and we have a couple of new licensees who are set to produce some lovely stuff. In the meantime – you might want to listen out for some big news. But I can’t say more than that for now!

ANDERCON is taking place on 19th and 20th April 2014 at the Park Inn Hotel, Heathrow, London UB7 0DU. Tickets are available here.

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