Starburst Magazine recently spoke to PAUL SPRAGG of Big Finish at the recent Tenth Planet event Big Finish Day 3...
Starburst: From the forums and podcasts it seems you are involved in a lot of activities at Big Finish; if there is such a thing as a normal week what does it involve?
Paul: Oh, there’s definitely no such thing as a normal week! It’s basically a collection of jobs I have to sort into some kind of order of urgency. I guess the regular things I do are organising and proofing covers, putting together Vortex , answering customer enquiries, creating information sheets for shops, wholesalers and magazines, updating the website (including creating all the downloads) and getting scripts and contracts posted out as they’re sent to me by David Richardson. But there are all manner of other bits and pieces that go through me.
You also do some production work – how does that compare?
I did produce the most recent series of Stargate and Highlander, and that was a very different experience and an exceedingly steep learning curve! I’m really, really proud of the end results and the response they’ve got, but I found the organisation and keeping on top of where everything was at quite tough. At the moment, the closest I get is my recent work on The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes, where I organised all the scripts and contracts myself, wrangled the actors into studio through the snow, then went in and did interviews on the day. Basically, I was the David Richardson for the release!
Is production something you’d like to do more of in the future?
I’d love to, but the ranges I got were ones which were pretty much having their final fling; one last chance to see if we could find a market for them. As we so far haven’t, it seems unlikely they’ll continue. I feel I’d be a lot better at it now and more in control, but whether I’ll get the chance, I don’t know. I’m busy enough without rushing to get another producer credit, though.
Before Big Finish you were at Visual Imagination for nearly 12 years – was that a good preparation for Big Finish? Did it help with the work on the Big Finish Companion: Volume 2?
It very much was – and not just because I first met David there, so I wouldn’t be where I am now had I not been there then! I learnt an enormous amount at Visual Imagination, but it also honed skills I’ve always had. My spelling and grammar have always been very good (I even know when to use a semi-colon!), and I always wanted to write so I was confident I could do it, and make myself understood. But I certainly learnt how to write better and how to make things clearer and simpler, and all that came into play on the Companion.
Something like the recent Big Finish Day 3 must have taken a lot of planning – when did that all start and how frantic is it behind the scenes in advance?
We sensibly delegated a lot of the work to Tenth Planet Events, to be honest, though David does most of the booking and organising of guests. The headliners like Tom Baker are announced and booked early, but a lot of the others are added later. It’s quite frantic around the office the week before as David gets stock lists together and prices are decided on, but we’ve done this a few times now, so it’s a reasonably well-oiled machine.
The actual Big Finish Day 3 was an early start with a late - finish can you give a rough timetable?
Last time, I got up at about 4am so I could trek from Croydon to Barking – and it was the middle of the night, dark, and utterly, utterly freezing. This time I was a bit nearer but I still had to be up at 5.30 so I was at the school to start setting up at 7. Other volunteers start turning up around the same time, but we’re usually still in the final stages of setting up when the attendees arrive at 9. Then, after that, it’s a fairly full-on day of people selling and doing panels, with the event ending at 6 and the packing up of everything taking until about 7/7.30. It’s not too traumatic because so many of the great and good of Big Finish chip in and help, but the early start isn’t fun.
Did you get any time to do anything you wanted to do on the day or were you too busy in the gym selling CDs?
There’s not really anything I’d planned to do on the day; I knew I was there mainly to man the tables and offer help to customers. And to do the podcast with Nick at the end of the day, which is always fun. I did drop in on Nick’s introduction to the day, which was a bit of a laugh. But I know no one’s really there to see me, so I was happy where I was!
You normally do the interviews for Vortex – how is being interviewed and what question would you ask yourself if you were me (and what is your answer)?
It’s a bit strange, to be honest! I love conducting interviews, especially face to face (I’m never star struck, and I always know my subject matter), but being on the other side is a bit odd. I would ask me ‘Is what we hear on the podcasts a true reflection of how you, Nick and David work together?’ and the answer is yes, sort of. We do get on really well, and work together very well. We all love what we do. And they’re both quite rude to me at times, but I know they’re always joking. Unlike in the podcast, I do get my own back from time to time. Also, I really don’t consider myself in any way a comedy genius, but I’m happy for others to say it, whether ironically or honestly!
And finally do you have any unfulfilled ambitions at Big Finish? If so what are they?
I would love to write an audio. But I don’t think I have the ideas and the ability to do it; I can write fact, but fiction is another kettle of fish entirely. I’d really like to produce one of the Doctor Who releases too. Perhaps one day…