The first film from Dundee/London production company Emanata Studios capitalising on DC Thomson’s massive library of comic characters begins streaming this week on BBC iPlayer – an adult, darkly comic take on hapless Beano character Calamity James, starring Mark Bonnar (Guilt, Shetland, Catastrophe) and newcomer Dylan Blore (Empire of Light, The Hunt for Raoul Moat).
We first reported DC Thomson Media and Beano Studios had teamed up for the launch of Emanata Studios back in 2021, to develop the company’s wide-ranging portfolio of comic characters, stretching back to the 1920s, for TV and film.
We’ve been lucky enough to have a sneak peek – and while it’s very different to reading the strip in BEANO, it’s very funny, as poor Calamity’s woes get ever worse!
Commissioned for the BBC by Gavin Smith and Navi Lamba as part of the Comedy Shorts strand and co-funded by Screen Scotland, Calamity James is a 14-minute slapstick adventure about young James (Dylan Blore) who is cursed with ‘acute misfortune syndrome’. James is on a mission to reconnect with his estranged dad (Mark Bonnar).
Created for adult audiences, the short will be available on BBC iPlayer from tomorrow, Friday 26th May, and will be shown on BBC Three in the coming months.
Emanata Studios is the film and TV production arm of media company DC Thomson, set up in 2021 to develop the IP from its vast archive. This ranges from BEANO (the world’s longest running weekly comic) and The Dandy, to adult anthology comics Commando and Starblazer, Britain’s best-selling teen magazine of the 1970s Jackie and girls’ comic Bunty.
This reinterpretation of Calamity James is the creation of Edinburgh-based writer-director Louis Paxton. After studying at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow, Louis embarked on an MA in Directing at the National Film and Television School in London and his films range from comedy drama to horror to musical comedy. Previous work includes BBC Three comedy/drama Ladybaby, BBC One’s Shetland and he is currently directing a block of the BBC Three horror/comedy series Wreck.
“Calamity James has been a wonderful opportunity for me,” says Paxton. “Together with some of Scotland’s best cast and crew, we’ve made an ambitious, heartfelt, and befittingly disastrous short film.”
Emanata Studios is headed by Mark Talbot, Chief Creative Officer, a multi award winning producer including the BAFTA winning comedy The Revolution Will Be Televised for BBC. Mark is responsible for the creative output across all of Emanata Studios’ comedy, drama and animation projects.
“It’s been fascinating to take a character like James, who causes chaos in Beano every week and think, ‘What if he were 20?'” says Talbot. “What would he be like, what would his life as the unluckiest boy in the world have been like, how can we expand him to be a real person?
“Marvel and DC do this all the time. You see it with characters like Batman – you’ve got the Robert Pattinson Batman but you’ve got Teen Titans as well. Ultimately, this is a comedy for adults that honours its comic strip origins.
“What we’ve got with the Calamity James short we’ve made for the BBC is a really good proof of concept, that we can take the vast trove of ideas, characters and stories that are in the archives and make something new. Calamity James in the short is still recognizably the character from the comic – it sits alongside the comic character – but it is its own separate thing, existing in its own world as well.”
Executive Producer is Charlie Coombes, who looks after comedy and drama at Emanata Studios. Previously, she was at CPL Productions where she produced the award-winning Hounslow Diaries for BBC Three. She’s an EITVF 2016 ‘Ones to Watch’ and mentor of the year, a 2018 Broadcast Hot Shot, a British Screen Forum Future Leader and a mentor for Arts Emergency.
Producer is Laura Taylor who is working with an array of writers and has a diverse slate of projects that have been commissioned by Sky Studios, funded by the BFI and Screen Scotland. In 2022 she was a part of the EITVF’s ‘Ones to Watch’.
Calamity James was cast by Rosalie Clayton and shot in Portobello near Edinburgh, Eyemouth, and Livingston. Post production took place at Blazing Griffin in Glasgow and line producer was Jess O’Shaughnessy.
Calamity James is an Emanata Studios production for BBC iPlayer, BBC Scotland and BBC Three.
• Created for adult audiences, Calamity James will be available on BBC iPlayer from tomorrow, Friday 26th May 2023 and will be shown on BBC Three in the coming months | Direct link to Calamity James on BBC iPlayer
• Emanata Studios is online at www.emanatastudios.com | Twitter | Instagram
Categories: British Comics, Comics, downthetubes Comics News, downthetubes News, Other Worlds, Television