Cult Q & A: Darren Dutton (Big Field)

❉ Director and co-creator of Big Field, which returns to BBC Three today.

Brace yourself – the absurd Big Field, made entirely from recycled materials, returns for its second series, starting tonight on online channel BBC Three. Darren Dutton, director and co-creator of Big Field, joins us for this week’s Cult Q & A…

What were you like at school?

Small, bespectacled, quiet, shy and studious until about the fourth year (Year 10 for you young whippersnappers) when I started playing up a bit because I found that I got laughs in class by contorting my face in unusual ways. My facial expressions used to excite my German teacher.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A classical composer. There was a fancy dress competition at my primary school and I went as Beethoven, complete with an ear trumpet, which was actually a plastic funnel I nabbed from the kitchen. I used to buy manuscript and write proper music too.

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

Never kill and eat a man. This has worked for me in my adult life.

What are your best and worst qualities?

If I hear anyone expel gas, I can tell you the exact pitch. I heard a G below middle C this morning. Depending on the context, this is both my best and worst quality.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I did a 12 hour shift at a pie factory where my job was pressing a button to fire meat into pork pies ‘husks’, which were regularly forthcoming on a conveyor belt towards me.

Who were your heroes growing up?

Composers up until I was about 12. Mozart in particular. Then comedians – The Pythons, Rowan Atkinson and later Reeves & Mortimer.

What do you consider to be the single greatest piece of television ever?

Probably the “Salad Days” sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Monty Python: Is it funny?

I would hope so, we’ve ripped it off enough. I was obsessed by Python when I was a kid. The BBC repeated Flying Circus Series 2 and 3 in ‘87/’88 and I used to record the audio on a tape recorder plugged into the headphone socket of the TV. And I had this chart on my cupboard door where I’d mark each episode out of ten. They used to show them really late on a Saturday night and one time I fell asleep just before it started and missed it and I genuinely cried my eyes out. I went to school on Monday morning begging to see if anyone had taped it. Series 3 is my favourite I think. Series 1 is a bit shaky, Series 2 they’re confident with the form but by Series 3 they’re really starting to push boundaries.


What was the last film that you watched?

Disney’s Moana. When you’re a parent (I have 6 children) most of the films you see are kids’ films. That was a good ‘un though, I do have to say. Some good songs in it. The Blu-ray of Napoleon is still waiting on my shelf.

What film could you watch every day?

Back To The Future. It just has everything. I think it has one of the best screenplays ever written, it’s multi-genre – comedy, sci-fi, romantic, action, and it has fantastic performances.

What’s your favourite film soundtrack?

Anything by Bernard Herrmann; Air’s soundtrack to The Virgin Suicides. I must also commend Carl Davis’ scores for silent films.

Which four actors would you like to see in a film together and which genre?

David Jason, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Buster Merryfield and Arnold Schwarzenegger in an Only Fools / Terminator cross-over.

Which film, book or record last disappointed you the most?

There’ve been a few but I’d rather not comment on specifics for fear of offending people who’ve put a lot into them. Even something that ends up being shit takes a lot of hard work.
Which record would you recommend and lend to a friend?

It’d have to be a Nilsson record. Son of Schmilsson probably.

Which record wouldn’t you let out of your sight?

I have an original pressing of Nilsson’s Pandemonium Shadow Show.

Which book would you save if your house was on fire?

I wouldn’t be bothered about my books; my first consideration would be children, spouse and pets.

What’s your definition of what makes something cult?

Something that a small percentage of people will think is AMAZING which other people will think is cack.

What are you reading at present?

Re-reading the Joe Orton diaries. 50 years this year since he was murdered and his writings are still hilarious.

How did you start your comedy career?

I won a sketch writing competition that the BBC used to run and I’ve been plugging away at it ever since. Before that I just used to make stupid videos with my mates.

Who has inspired you over the years?

Woody Allen, Buster Keaton, Vic and Bob, Harry Nilsson, Hylda Baker, The Beatles, The Pythons, WA Mozart, Leonard Rossiter, David Renwick, Marty Feldman, Tony Hancock, Spike Milligan, Galton & Simpson, Anthony Newley.

What’s the best bit of advice anyone has given you?

Never kill and eat a man.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career, and how has that person changed your life?

Me. You have to create your own opportunities.

You’ve recently made a new series of Big Field, which airs on Monday. What’s it been like? Can you tell us a little about it?

Big Field is a BBC Three show where we take the sound from different sources (mostly telly shows), re-edit it all to make it silly and mad then get actors to mime to it. In a big field. It was great fun to make despite being filmed in a field up north in the winter. I think the new ones are straight to the point and are probably better for it. We also had a great cast of very funny people. We’ve done Big Field versions of various telly shows like “Pointless”, “Judge Rinder” and “Go For It”.

Do you think it’s true that you should never meet your heroes?

Possibly. But ones I’ve been lucky enough to meet have been charming.

What would you like to be your epitaph?

He successfully refrained from killing and eating men.

We are at a bar, what are you drinking?

A pint will last me all night. Two and I’m on the floor.

What are your three favourite cities?

Vienna, Prague, Preston.

What do you do to chill out?

Listen to music. Maybe the slow movement of Schubert’s String Quintet in C.

Is there anything unique about yourself that you would like your readers to know?

I am, in fact, the singer Barbra Streisand.

What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Editing. Seeing the thing come together. Making comedy is always a bit of a gamble so it’s great when you can see in the edit that it’s going to work.

What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career so far – and why?

Probably Big Field because it’s pretty much the thing I’ve wanted to make for a long time.

Do you have any upcoming projects? How can our readers discover more about you and your work?

I’m writing stuff at the moment so hopefully something will come of that. And check out my YouTube channel for silly things I’ve made.

 Click here to watch all episodes of Darren Dutton and Jonny Roberts’ brilliantly surreal programme made entirely from recycled materials.


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