Dean Matthews needs no introduction in Columbo fan circles on Twitter. Known as @DastardlyDeano, he’s become one of the essentials in the monthly #ColumboTV screenings where Columbo fans the world over live-tweet to episodes every month. Not to mention Dean is also one of the more, shall we say, passionate people I’ve encountered on Twitter. There is no limit to his love for Columbo and his talent as you are about to see…
Here is a very special guest post by Dean Matthews:
I guess I’d have to start by explaining one aspect of my personality. I’ve got, what some people have called, an obsessive streak. You see, I have fads. It might be scrambled eggs for lunch, in which case that’s all I have for lunch for days on end, and eventually I grow weary of it, and move on to something else. Sometimes these things might be authors, playwrites, actors, and very occasionally they are expensive fads! When it was Doctor Who I spent £2,500 on a full size Dalek (I still have him in the garage, and I called him Derek, by the way)
One day I went to see a play, it was Agatha Christie’s, “And Then There Were None”. When I got home I watched it again on You Tube as a black and white movie, and found the script on Ebay and immediately bought it. This was where my love for acting got a boost, and my interest in Murder Mystery’s began. You can take a look at the 1945, Rene Claire film here.
I joined an acting group, and for a year I was in a Murder Mystery Dinner troupe, The Mowbray Murders, ad-libbing, being in character for the duration, and playing the fool for money and for sheer kicks.
One rainy Sunday afternoon I watched an old Columbo episode. Bang! Begin the Columbo obsession! I’d seen Columbo before of course, back when I was younger more than likely, but for some reason it hit a chord with me now more than ever. I invited a friend and his wife round for dinner, and we had a Columbo night. I was dressed for the part, with posters on the wall, Columbo coasters on the table, and I even created a Columbo Quiz to finish the night off.
Around this time I was just starting out on Twitter. After a quick search I can across #ColumboTV and found my new extended family of Columbo fans, world-wide.
As my love for the rumpled detective grew, it soon became apparent that I wanted to host one of the up-coming #ColumboTV evenings. However, as with everything in my life, if I do something I have to go over board. I thought to myself, I’ve dressed up as Columbo before, I love acting, and with social media starting to be more interesting to me, I figured I could make a short trailer for my hosting night.
It’s Columbo Time! began as a simple idea. I didn’t want to BE Columbo, after all who could really carry off such an un-repeatable role! So this time I would be the next best thing about Columbo, the lovable villain! It was important to me that the opening scenes be as true to a Columbo episode as possible, with little scenes, such as the checking of a watch, the straightening of a picture, the pouring of a drink.
I pictured the scene that a villain would be reading by the fireside, in a kind of “story teller” way. After seeing Suitable for Framing, I knew I wanted a velveteen dinner jacket, (had to be red in my imagination), and as important was the chair. It had to be a high-backed Chesterfield (again in red leather – a must!)
I found a local guy on Twitter who was into film making of his own, and I asked if I could secure him for a one of 5 minute film shoot, to which he kindly agreed. @JetpackPic (I cannot thank this man enough. None of this would be possible without his help, his work, his equipment, his time, his dedication. I wish I could have paid him. Perhaps one day I can)
Then I found a bar that had the right chairs in it, and after a little bit of embarrassed conversation about what I was doing, why I was doing it, and whether I could use their premises to film it in, they too kindly gave their permission to arrive one morning before their customers arrived, to move around their furniture, and make “It’s Columbo Time! 0 Murder By The Tweet” (Thanks to Printers Bar and Brasserie).
Two days later, it was put on You Tube. The total personal cost came to around £150 in props.
Watch “It’s Columbo Time!“
Then I decided to try to promote the 5-minute trailer. This involved sending the link to all the #ColumboTV family, but it didn’t stop there. I sent emails out to local TV stations and radio stations. Gover over-board again you see. I got a friendly email back from BBC Radio asking if I would go on air and talk about #ColumboTV. Naturally, being shy and introverted, I immediately jumped at the chance.
Listen to Columbo TV Radio, Part 1 here.
Listen to Columbo TV Radio, Part 2 here.
In short, people seemed to really like it and I loved making it. So much so that I immediately began planning the next trailer.
This time I knew it wouldn’t be for a night I would be hosting myself, so this was done purely with the aim of keeping the faithful #ColumboTV folk entertained, but also informed on the schedule for the next few months. Also for new people who might stumble across #ColumboTV to find out how it works.
Enter Texas Dastardly in “Death Comes in Spades”. A new villain would explain what to do and when, but I wanted to raise the bar from the previous film, make it a little longer, do an outdoors shoot, and this time let the viewer watch the villain commit murder, just like a real Columbo episode. I thought it might also be fun to involve the viewer in the villains alibi.
Total cost for this one came to around £500! (old phones, cowboy hat and boots, yellow lens glasses, etc, etc) Thanks to Mowbray Hotel Eastbourne, and Claire Penfold for letting me use her stables.
Watch “Death Comes in Spades”
And that’s it. I still try and promote the trailers, raising the viewer base, and in general to get more and more people to attend a #ColumboTV event.
A massive thanks to all the people who helped me make the films possible on an extremely limited budget, made purely on favours and help from people and places. It is because of the great feedback I’ve received from friends, family, and online Twitterers, the plan is to make a feature-length #ColumboTV movie later this year.
This will be dependant on the generosity of others to donate to a Kickstarter page I am soon to make in order to fund the full budget of the next movie. I hope that the love and warmth I’ve received from viewers would translate easily into a small donation in order to keep making these entertaining little trailers and films. I love making them, and I love to entertain, but of course when it’s all been made in spare time and favours, sometimes the bank balance doesn’t allow for continued production.
I hope this has been interesting. I hope you view the trailers. And most of all I hope you like them. Please follow me on Twitter @DastardlyDeano, and let me know what you think of my amateurish, rushed, low-budget, yet fun and entertaining offerings.
– Dean Matthews