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An Afternoon in the Pub with the Guys from Pleased Sheep Productions, Makers of Tash Force

by Rob Ireland

October 2012

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I am waiting for the Pleased Sheep boys in the pub used as the location in Tash Force, just a stone’s throw away from Blackburn Rover’s Ewood Park ground. I nurse a pint of the guest ale in the snug, which looks like it hasn’t been upgraded since the football team won the Premiership in 1995. It’s a typical, miserable wet Autumn afternoon but as Mark Woodward, Ian Wiggins, Stephen Rigg and Michael Booth bound in through the door with drinks and bar snacks they portray a bunch of lads at the start of a stag do in Tenerife. They are all chatty and excitable at the prospect of the impending launch of their new film. Tash Force, based on a comedy viral video Mark and Ian made previously, is the story of the head of football related crime in Blackburn. And they ensure me their mood is nothing to do with several lunchtime pints.


"The film’s been complete for 12 months, but the distribution company rightly decided it would probably benefit from being released at the same time as a major football tournament, so we had to wait for Euro 2012", director Michael Booth tells me, "it’s been excruciating, but it has allowed us to hone it slightly. We’ve improved the edit, got it graded, and added the soundtrack mixed by Verbal Vigilante of Preston. We’ve used the time well."


I ask the team about their backgrounds and all have been working in filmmaking for some time, getting into it through different routes. Ian Wiggins (producer/writer who also plays the documentary maker) and Michael Booth collaborated on a previous Pleased Sheep production Diary of a Bad Lad. All except Mark that is, who plays the eponymous Tash. Aside from a few jokey videos, this is Mark’s first professional foray into filming. He is normally a full time teacher, and still is. So how did they get on filming around a teacher’s schedule?

"We only had about 24 hours with Mark which was spread out over about 10 days. So one day we would have him for a couple of hours, then the next we had him for the whole afternoon, and so on", producer Stephen Rigg tells me, "Ian was also flying off to work in New Zealand for 6 months in June, and we only started filming in May, so we were really against it. 90% of the script was completed by then, and the remaining 10%, which didn’t contain the leads was filmed in the next 3 months."


You get snatches of Tash (that sounds ambiguous!) as Mark talks, and I am surprised to hear that he is not responsible for the character’s creation. This is down to Ian.

"He’s loosely based on an instructor I used to work with on the railways", Ian laughs, "we exaggerated his mannerisms, and Mark added his own ideas. I stuck a grey wig on him to hide his ginger hair." Mark is ribbed for his ginger hair by the rest of the boys throughout the meeting. Cruel, but in fairness it is the same colour as a Duracell battery. "I wanted to create an incompetent head of football related crime after a friend of mine was banned from attending football matches a few years ago, but was completely innocent. He was given a VHS of surveillance footage which was basically men walking from pub to pub and contained no violence whatsoever! I decided this would be a good subject for a comedy ‘mockumentary’."


When we move on to influences, it is unsurprising given the imposed zero budget approach to filming that the boys want to talk about directors with similarly austere beginnings. Tarantino, Rodriguez and Kevin Smith are all name checked, with Shane Meadows coming in for special mention. Mark and Stephen also wax lyrical about Ken Loach’s 1969 masterpiece Kes. So would they have done anything differently with the film if they had had a bigger budget?

"To be honest, I’m very happy with the film and its look. And more money would possibly have complicated things", says Stephen. " This was a quick shoot, made with funds from the bank of Adrenaline."

"I would have had a big catering van following us around so that I wouldn’t have to keep buying crisps all the time", adds Ian, and Mark would’ve liked the Stone Roses or Primal Scream to record the soundtrack.


As we move on to what’s coming up next, it appears the Pleased Sheep team are involved in a myriad of different projects. Stephen Rigg is working on a new movie called Loonar Mission, about the British involvement in the 1960s moon landings, and a drama called An Actor’s Life. He also has two horror/thrillers in the pipeline called Psychoactive and Schizoid which are being shot simultaneously. Ian filmed a pilot sitcom in New Zealand for which he is in talks about receiving funding to produce a 6-9 episode series. All the team worked on the next Pleased Sheep offering, Bar Stewards, which features a cameo of Mark playing Tash. And perhaps most importantly, the world premiere of Tash Force is in Blackburn on 19 April, which will be attended by all the team, including Tash McDermott himself!


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As the lads sup up, I am bombarded with people I mustn’t forget to thank in the article. Paul Birtwistle wrote some of the scenes, and Jon Williams (executive producer and Michael’s former college tutor) deserves special credit for pitching the original idea to Safecracker. Sumners Post Production in Manchester graded the film, and Michael honours the sound editing team, mainly Norbert Weiher and Dean Covill. The remaining member of Pleased Sheep who couldn’t make the meeting, co-producer Paul Coppack is also equally responsible for bringing the film to realisation. Lastly, Mark would like a plug for his mate Andy Birtwell’s new film, Black Dog, which I say is fair enough, as long as he sends me a review copy!

As I bid them farewell, I ask Mark how he thinks his students will react at the release of the film.

"Oh, a lot of them have already seen it and they think it’s brilliant", he tells me on his way out, "I’ve heard them saying, ‘there’s Tash’, as I walk down the corridor."

Preferable to the names I used to call my teachers I think!


For more information on all of the above, check out the following links:


© by Rob Ireland

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Thanks for watching !!!



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directed by
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written by
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