The Man Behind Head Porter

Many of you will now be familiar with the dashing brute of man in the bowler hat who is our very own Head Porter. Many of you won’t be familiar with the man behind the frown – actor Paul Butterworth. He has an extensive career on the big and small screen, yet he still allows himself to be dragged into Old College shenanigans at the drop of a hat. (A bowler hat, naturally).

We have even managed to hijack the talents of his son Josh – although I do have to bribe him with cash and ginger wine.

Here he is in his own words…

Paul Butterworth 

The Background:

Back in the dim and distant mists of time there was Robert Carlisle sitting on a palette with his head in his hands… (it was the press and he’s a pro so didn’t let it get to him)… there was a school yard… “Oo ah Cantana wears a silly girly bra!”

There was The Full Monty and I played the baddie Barry.

It was a great production to work on and followed a period when I was fairly consistently working as a character actor on TV or films.

I was up for the gay guy but Peter Cattaneo said I was too posh.

Fast forward 17 years and my son is 17 and my career has been on tick over since the Full Monty. Josh was a babe in arms when I filmed it. For the last four years he has been living almost full time with me.

Then I meet Lucy.

She showed me her closed down blog and sparks go off in my head. This is such a good concept and her writing has raw talent that springs from the page. This is rare. I’m in BAFTA and read loads of scripts and get pitched stories. To find something that shines like those words on that page (rather than lose a night’s sleep over how you’re going to be polite in your feedback about something overworked and under-talented) is a joy for any creative.

I encourage her to write it as a fiction.

Time passes and PorterGirl is born and grows. It throws a few tantrums and has a few growing pains but always inside its talent shines.

Lucy works really hard – and I mean really hard – and it starts to blossom.

She writes a book and asks me to play Head Porter in the trailer.

Paul as Head Porter 

Head Porter

I love Head Porter.

He feels like he’s me. Not me obviously but another me inside me that comes out to play now and again. I feel him. I’ve grown into him. He has a very complex relationship with Deputy Head Porter which has evolved naturally over the last two years as we’ve discussed the character.

I was playing the lead in a TV series this is how I’d feel.

I say yes.


The Trailer

My only caveat with the trailer is we have to be as professional as we can be with our budget of £300 – an hour’s good TV drama is £500,000.

Lucy sorted the location.

I bought a microphone and boom as I refused to act without at least trying to get the sound capture right.

My son who is now at Manchester Met Film School directs – he’s young – got ideas – has a great eye for an unusual shot – has a voice – and understands narrative. Lucy does the storyboard.

From my perspective I just turned up and did the job. I was there as an actor and stayed focussed.

Josh was brilliant. He already has a way with actors where he reimagines the scenarios… so repositions the actor emotionally for the start of the scene. If you enter the differently you’ll play the whole scene differently.

Paul & Josh Butterworth 

I insist Josh treats me as an actor and not his dad, and promise not to question his authority. I say to Lucy she is the producer on set – the boss woman.

And when we’re acting together to lose herself in the moment, do nothing, listen to me and react. If the moment passes and she doesn’t remember what happened we’re in the ball park.

My only caveat is that because we had to borrow the set – and a massive thanks for that – we had people watching who weren’t filming and the the on-set discipline (apart from me, Lucy and Josh) was… shall we say… a bit loose.

Acting with Lucy is great because although she isn’t an actor we have a real relationship. And that reads on camera. I don’t mean as friends I mean our relationship as Deputy Head Porter and Head porter.

She lives Deputy Head Porter and knows the character intimately and is now learning to turn Lucy off when we’re on camera together.

And she brings so much spontaneous personality to the trailer it works brilliantly.

I wouldn’t want to work with any other non professional actors because we can’t afford anybody that’s good enough to enhance what we’ve got. They would kill the scenes and anyway – I point blank wouldn’t work with them.

An extra is fine… up to a line is fine (if we’re very careful) but beyond that we need actors and a budget which we haven’t got.

I’ve seen too many brilliant technical bits of filming from young filmmakers who’ve used their mates and granny as actors and thought it would be ok.

And their product has been ruined.

Doesn’t matter how well you capture something if the performance isn’t there it’s going to look rubbish.



Josh Butterworth


At first I was a tad skeptical about the project as I was unsure how successful working with my Dad could possibly be. We don’t argue a lot but he’s certainly not used to being told what to do by his 18 year old son! But he was great and a pleasure to direct once he got the message that I was in charge, Lucy who acted partly as my enforcer made sure he knew that and the filming went smoothly.

Everyone on set, all of different ages and backgrounds, had complete enthusiasm throughout which really made it a fun shoot. Everyone pitched in ideas and helped out, there was 110% energy throughout!

Lucy, as always, was a delight and great fun to work with. Once she had relaxed and got more into character she was very natural and strong in front of camera. She didn’t want to take over in any way and become an actress/director so there was no asking to look at shots once they were filmed or changing anything I had done. She put her faith in me which I am grateful for and have not let her down!

A final point on the set, which was incredible! Lucy managed to get us into an antique dealers that was in a an old barn full of beautiful old things such as suits of armor, beautiful paintings and almighty tables. We couldn’t have had a better set unless we were in Old College itself.

I would really like to thank Lucy for the great opportunity and fun everyone had, I can’t wait till our next project!!!

Click here to see a snippet of Josh’s work

38 thoughts on “The Man Behind Head Porter

  1. It was fun to get a bit of back story of what turned out to be a very fine trailer. The deveil is in the details, as they say. Josh has an excellent eye. How did you determine your budget? Did you have a bit of funding, or was this a self-funded effort? I am in awe of your ability to organize it all. Good job! xx, mgh

    1. There was no budget to speak of. Between us all we had some basic equipment, but enough for what we needed. Josh has just completed his first year studying film making at Manchester University – when he did this he hadn’t even started his course! He has since worked in LA and this summer will be working as a runner on various projects after his talent was spotted by a producer. He has a bright future ahead of him and he is a hard worker. All credit to Paul, he has done an amazing job bringing him up.

    2. I love to hear about involved fathers! Good for Paul. My own dad was loving, but absent, for the most part. His career involved long hours & frequent time away from home – and it seemed he never really understood the dreams of any of his kids, I’m afraid.

      As for Josh – I’ll be waiting to hear great things. Your book trailer was a wonderful example of his talent.

    3. Paul really is a credit to fatherhood! He put all and everything into helping Josh realise his dreams – even when Josh thought that was the last thing he wanted! I’d like to work with him again but he is quite in demand and I couldn’t be happier for him.
      I only barely know my own father. I met him once when I was 20 and decided that was enough. But my awesome Grandfather (Pops) has been the most incredible male role model to my brother and I, so I haven’t missed out on anything 🙂

    4. We seem to have an imbedded fantasy about fathers, don’t we? Sadly, few men can live up to it (and few even try 😦 )

      Glad you had Pops, but I’m sorry to hear your own Dad was even more absentee than mine. Brandy was a military scientist – intellectually amazing, but emotionally? Not so much! I chalk it up to the fact that his mother died when he was a tike, and his Dad sent him off to military school. Tough love isn’t the best preparation for emotional accessibility. Oxymorons rarely are.
      xx, mgh

    5. I guess we just expect people to miraculously gain paternal instincts when baby comes along and some people just aren’t up to it. I hold no grudge against my father – I was better off without him. He also had a complicated childhood. If I ever have children, at least I shall know how NOT to go about things! Sending big hugs from across the pond, my friend.

    6. Back atcha’ I think women fail to remember that Dads don’t have the same experience of the nine months prior to birth as Moms.

      I saw a great men’s talk show, years back, where the 5 hosts agreed to test a “pregnancy belly.” They agreed to wear it for a solid week. Apparently this thing was heavy enough to cause backaches after a bit, and had some little dealieo that simulated a baby kicking. I think they weren’t allowed to drink, either.

      In one of the background videos, they threw a bunch of toys on the floor and the men had to pick them all up, belly and all. 🙂 The funniest part was the opening of the concluding show, when the youngest looked straight at the camera and said, with what sounded like true desperation in his voice, “Honey, I am so sorry. Please forgive me, I had no idea!”

    7. Ha! And that was just for a week!! A good friend of mine had twins a few years ago. She is a beautiful, willowy creature and from the back she didn’t look any different. But from the side she was immense!! Pregnancy is indeed a bizarre miracle.

    8. I wouldn’t know – never met a guy I thought would be good Dad material (and I was pretty sure I didn’t have it in my ADD Poster Girl being to manage as a single Mom). 🙂

    9. Fur babies are just as rewarding and less hassle 😉

    10. Plus, they are always thrilled to see you walk through the door whenever you’ve been away, even for a little bit – and they never ask you where you’ve been, either. 🙂

    11. Let’s just stick with fur-covered companions 😉

    12. Rightio! If I weren’t allergic, I’d have a kitty too (to keep Tink in line -lol)
      xx, mgh

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