Mancunian Matters – POSTED Weds, 08-07-15 at 06:05 am by Mary Naylor

‘Northern films are more realistic’: Ricky Tomlinson talks up new talent ahead of Manchester film fest debut

Ricky Tomlinson has long been a familiar face on British television so now he has the luxury of picking and choosing those roles which appeal to him as well as the chance to promote young talent. One of those hand-picked projects is Him Upstairs, which gets its Manchester debut this weekend as part of the Manchester International Film Festival.

While the film is making its first trip down the East Lancs Road from Ricky’s native Liverpool, it’s already been on quite a journey. In 2013 the screenplay won Best Unproduced Screenplay at the British Independent Film Festival and in February last year it was finally brought to life at the nearby Lime Studios in Liverpool.

Veteran actor Ricky, who has lived nearly all his life in the city said the Liverpool setting and filming brought back childhood memories of the way things were.

And, perhaps predictably, Northern filmmaking and creativity is something Ricky feels strongly about.

He said: “There’s a big difference [between the North and the South], I find films made in the North of England are more realistic and my favourite roles have been when I’ve worked in the North of England.”

Ricky is probably best known for his role as Jim Royle in The Royle Family and his activism, both political and charitable, including a £1million donation to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in 2010. For the 75-year-old, Him Upstairs was a chance to support new talent, something he believes all established actors should do.

That new talent was young filmmaker Zoe Guilford who produced Him Upstairs and you may know from Lemon La Vida Loca where she played Keith Lemon’s agent.

Zoe approached Ricky to take on the role of Frank opposite Gwen Taylor’s (Heartbeat, Coronation Street) Margaret. Kieron Richardson – better known as Ste Hay in Hollyoaks and Benidorm star Michelle Butterly make up the rest of the cast. Ricky said: “My role was secondary to the lead, Gwen, I really enjoyed making the short and working with Gwen.”

Him Upstairs invites you into the world of Liverpool fortune-teller Margaret (and her husband Frank) as they live somewhere between Her Next Door and Him Upstairs. According to Ricky ‘there is no difference’ in the making of a short compared to his more well-known TV work. He said: “They are produced and directed in the same way and I put the same amount of effort into a short as I would any project.

Him Upstairs will be shown at the Manchester International Film Festival on Saturday July 11 during the first British shorts session at 6.15pm.

Manx Radio – POSTED Weds, 03-04-15 at 14:12

An award-winning Manx short film is going to be shown at an international festival in Las Vegas later this year.

Him Upstairs is about an aging clairvoyant and her husband set in the 1950s. With a mainly Manx crew, the film features well-known names including Ricky Tomlinson and Gwen Taylor.

The two producers Zoe Guilford and Jane Glasson said on Women Today that they’re thrilled with the response to the film so far.

Digital Women UK Blog Post – April 2015 (

Filmmaking in the Digital Age

Him Upstairs is a character-led short film that gives us a window into the colourful world of Liverpool fortune teller, Margaret Conroy, and her husband Frank. It is written, directed and produced by a mainly female team based on the Isle of Man.

The film stars Gwen Taylor, who has appeared in some of this country’s best loved TV dramas and sit coms such as Coronation Street and Duty Free, and Ricky Tomlinson, the English actor and comedian best known for his roles in Brookside and The Royle Family.

As co-producers of Him Upstairs, we realised very early on in the filmmaking process that so much of the success of the production would depend on how we managed its social networking potential. Though we both have experience in the industry, we are far more familiar with commercial work. Short film is an entirely different beast: it’s a genre that relies on favours and volunteers and working for nothing. In this world, social networking becomes more important than ever.

Despite us making nothing, you can’t make a film without money so we needed help. Crowdfunding, the practice of raising money for a project using contributions from a large group of people via the internet, is becoming commonplace in today’s digital filmmaking world. It is a viable option for so many, especially short film producers. We considered it for Him Upstairs, but then realised we hadn’t exploited our unique selling point – the story itself.

Him Upstairs is fundamentally a film about dementia, so we are raising awareness of an important cause that has been growing rapidly in significance year on year. We researched dementia organisations online and managed to engage a very receptive charity, Age Isle of Man, which recognised the benefit to modernising its marketing strategy by supporting us in a campaign that could makes waves online and get people talking about the issue.

As soon as we were able to promote our association with Age Isle of Man online, private sponsors became interested in the project. Two online gaming companies matched the charity’s contribution – PokerStars, through their corporate giving programme, Helping Hands, and the Microgaming Health & Care Trust, whose trustee, Dr Roy Clague, said: “What’s brilliant about this short film is that it will reach an extensive audience, appealing to both the older and younger generation, covering topics which aren’t necessarily easy to talk about.”

We also received support in kind from local Manx businesses, the Steam Packet Company and Shoprite. We were overwhelmed by people’s generosity. All they seemed to want in return was a positive mention on our blog, the modern day letter of commendation.

Soon our online presence was growing. Shooting in 2014, we were well positioned to jump aboard the Isle of Man’s Year of Culture that year, so the Arts Council gave us a grant to support such a rewarding creative project for the country.

As soon as we had reached our budget target, we green lit the film and launched a proper online campaign. This included designing and managing a dedicated website and starting a Facebook page, both of which attracted an initial audience and kept interested parties updated with news of how things like casting and location scouting were progressing.

We also created a Twitter profile for our fictitious main character Margaret. By this point, we had cast Keiron Richardson, who plays Ste in Hollyoaks. He has a strong following on Twitter so we encouraged him to leak the odd detail about the film and his involvement in it. Coincidentally, he’d also just been made an ambassador of a dementia charity. Everything came together beautifully.

The online campaign started a great buzz for the project and it proved we meant business, which encouraged further cast, professional crew (even a BAFTA-nominated cinematographer) and suppliers to work with us.

When it came to the shoot itself, of course we used a digital camera. Moving away from the traditional film camera has transformed the movie world. It’s made it accessible to the masses and has moved the industry from strength to strength during recent decades.

Having completed the project at the end of last year, we have now moved into the festival spotlight. Exposure around the growing worldwide circuit not only boosts interest in your product, but gives more back to your supporters who are on the ride with you.

In March, Him Upstairs won Best Narrative in its hometown of Liverpool at the Lift-Off International Film Festival Network. We have been so lucky to kick off our festival strategy with Lift-Off as its philosophy is to nurture, expose and maintain a new generation of indie filmmakers online. We look forward to releasing the film online once our festival run is complete.

Digital filmmaking is truly global these days and we girls are just getting started.

Isle of Man News – POSTED Thurs 02-10-14 at 1:42 pm
Article in the Liverpool Echo

Ricky Film to Get First Showing in the City

Ricky Tomlinson’s new short film is to be premiered in Liverpool at FACT this Sunday.

Him Upstairs is an 11-minute film, which has been written and directed by Neil Mooney and Sonya Quayle, and stars Ricky alongside Coronation Street and Heartbeat actress Gwen Taylor. It has been produced by Zoe Guilford and Jane Glasson.

Shot in Liverpool’s Lime Studios, the short film is a character driven piece that focuses on Margaret (Gwen Taylor), a popular and colourful character who we learn about through her interactions with various visitors and her beloved husband Frank (Ricky Tomlinson).

The film is based on a script that won Best Unproduced Screenplay at the British Independent Film Festival 2013.

Ricky said, ‘I am proud to have taken part in this short film.’

He added: ‘Apart from thoroughly enjoying the experience, I am delighted to promote any project that raises awareness of an important subject and a recent personal experience. I know the stress and anxiety it can cause to both the sufferer and their families.’

Manx Radio – POSTED Tues, 23-09-14 at 10:07 am

An award-winning Manx film has premiered on the Island to a packed audience.

Him Upstairs, which stars Ricky Tomlinson and Gwen Taylor as a devoted husband and wife, is a short film and was shown at a private screening at the Broadway Cinema to coincide with the Island’s Year of Culture.

Written by Manx resident Sonya Quayle and her best friend Neil Mooney, the film won Best Unproduced Screenplay category at the British Independent Film Festival in 2013 and has high hopes for another win when returning in October as the finished product.

Isle of Man News – POSTED Mon 10-09-14 at 1:42 pm

Margaret Conroy lives somewhere in between. Somewhere in between a little sit down and a bit of a dance. Somewhere in between the then and the now. Somewhere in between Her Next Door and Him Upstairs.

Little Sky Productions is pleased to announce the completion of their film “Him Upstairs”, to be shown at a private screening at the Broadway Cinema in the Villa Marina at 5.30pm on Wednesday 17th September 2014.

The Screenplay was written by Isle of Man resident Sonya Quayle and her best friend, Neil Mooney, and won The Best Unproduced Screenplay Award at the British Independent Film Festival, 2013. Also involved in the production is Isle of Man-based and BAFTA-nominated Cinematographer John Craine.  The script went on to attract a highly talented group of actors: Ricky Tomlinson and Gwen Taylor play devoted husband and wife, Frank and Margaret and Kieron Richardson and Michelle Butterly take supporting roles as James and Eileen.

The film was made to coincide with the Isle of Man’s Island of Culture Year. It was filmed at Lime Pictures in Liverpool using a production team largely from the Isle of Man.

We are very grateful to our sponsors, Age Isle of Man, Pokerstars through its corporate giving programme, Helping Hands, and The Microgaming Health & Care Trust, as well as support from the Isle of Man Arts Council, The Steam Packet Company and Shoprite.

Jane Glasson, Co-producer of Him Upstairs, comments: “The entire team and I are incredibly thankful to our sponsors, who have supported us with our vision and enabled us to create this film.”

Helen Southworth, Chief Exec of Age Isle of Man said “We are really looking forward to seeing this award-winning story brought to life on the screen. We hope this moving and vibrant film will open eyes and help people understand the challenges which face some older people. Age Isle of Man is really pleased that an Isle of Man based team is making such a great contribution to the debate.”

Sue Hammett, Head of Corporate Giving at Pokerstars: “We are delighted to have been able to support “Him Upstairs”, a poignant film that we hope will raise much needed awareness of issues facing elderly people today. We congratulate all those involved in the making of the film and for producing something so authentic, that will resonate with so many people regardless of age.”

Dr. Roy Clague, Trustee of the Microgaming Health Care & Trust, adds: “It’s an honour to be able to contribute towards this unique project. What’s brilliant about this short film is that it will reach an extensive audience, appealing to both the older and younger generation, covering topics which aren’t necessarily easy to talk about.”

The film will be entered into the film festival circuit from October 2014 and we have high hopes that it will become an award winning film.

Isle of Man News – POSTED Mon 10-03-14 at 1:42 pm
Age Isle of Man & “Him Upstairs” – by MT

Age Isle of Man & “Him Upstairs”

Gwen Taylor and Kieron RichardsonAge Isle of Man have announced their association with the producers of a short film “Him Upstairs” which has recently been filmed in Liverpool using a production team largely from the Isle of Man.

The award winning character lead script tells the story of Margaret and her beloved Frank. Margaret’s visitors come and go, revealing what a popular and colourful character she is.

George Quayle, Age Isle of Man CEO said:

“It is a very moving, yet often funny story which we felt deserved to be told. I am sure it will be an outstanding film and this is an exciting involvement for our Charity.”

The high quality of the film script has enabled “Him Upstairs” to attract a very strong cast. The part of Margaret is played by Gwen Taylor of Coronation Street fame and that of her husband by Ricky Tomlinson. The film also features supporting actors Kieron Richardson (Hollyoaks) and Michelle Butterly who has appeared regularly on UK television including the sit-com Benidorm.

The producers are looking for further funding to complete the project and are currently approaching Isle of Man businesses, trusts and foundations. (Contact: Jane Glasson, Co-Producer,

George Quayle added:

“I am hopeful that “Him Upstairs” will help its audience understand that older people were once vibrant people, with happy and  successful lives. They are deserving of dignity and respect, but too often we are tempted to see just the ‘old person’ before us.”

Photo – Gwen Taylor and Kieron Richardson.

Isle of Man News – POSTED Wed 19-02-2014
Lights, camera, action as Steam Packet supports film project by IOMSPC

Lights, camera, action as Steam Packet supports film project

Him Upstairs On The Steam PacketThe Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has leant its support to a Manx team involved in a new film project.

Eight film crew members travelled to England to shoot ‘Him Upstairs’. The short film is a touching character-led comedy drama about a Liverpudlian psychic, Margaret Conroy.

The screenplay was written by Manx resident Sonya Quayle and her best friend Neil Mooney, and won Best Unproduced Screenplay at last year’s British Independent Film Festival. Also involved in the production is Isle of Man-based and BAFTA-nominated Cinematographer John Craine.

The film is being made to coincide with the Isle of Man’s Island of Culture year, and is also being supported by the Isle of Man Arts Council and charity Age Isle of Man.

The lead role in Him Upstairs is being played by Gwen Taylor (Duty Free and Coronation Street). Ricky Tomlinson (The Royale Family, Brookside and Cracker) plays her beloved husband Frank, while Kieron Richardson (Hollyoaks and Dancing on Ice) appears in the role of James.

Shooting took place on a purpose-built set at Lime Pictures in Liverpool, and the Steam Packet Company agreed to meet the transport costs for the local crew.

Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward said: ‘When we were contacted by the producer of Him Upstairs, we were very keen to lend our support to what promises to be an important project.

‘The Island is fortunate to have many talented, creative people, and working at a facility like Lime Pictures with such an experienced cast will help enhance those skills and bring benefits to the filmmaking community in the Isle of Man.’

Him Upstairs Co-producer Zoe Guilford added: ‘This project has been kindly supported by the Isle of Man Arts Council and charity Age Isle of Man, and it is important as much of the budget as possible is spent on making the best film we can. That is why assistance from the Steam Packet Company is so vital.

‘On behalf of the whole team I’d like to thank the Steam Packet Company for helping us make this ambitious project a reality.’

Photo: (from left) Jane Glasson (Producer), Gemma Wasley (Design), Zoe Guilford (Producer), Dawn Hamer (Design), John Craine (Director of Photography), Sonya Quayle (Director), Georgia Quilliam (Camera Assistant) and Adam Gilman (Hair and Make-up) on board Ben-my-Chree.