Mr Flibble Talks To... Model Maker
You'll have seen more of Steven Howarth's work than you think - and not just aboard Red Dwarf. Steven's SF credits include Space Truckers, Star Trek and Men In Black - but sometimes, as he explains, it's a blink-and-you-miss-em appearance.
30 March, 2001
Steven Howarth
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Let's talk about how you got into model-making in the first place.

That's a long story! You got a spare couple of days? The upshot of it is, I always liked making things - even as young as two or three I was making little men out of my dad's wire pipe-cleaners. Then the usual progression, plasticine, Lego and [then] onto kits. At primary school I'd even made a full size pterodactyl foot out of papier maché.

Most people are creative when they're young, and most people seem to lose it, as I did. It wasn't until I was twenty that I started modelmaking as a hobby again - and even then I never knew you could do it for a living. I never knew there were college courses that specialised in modelmaking. I found out about those and got into industrial modelmaking via that route.

Actually, I wouldn't have had a career at all - or a life - if my mum hadn't stopped me, literally, in the nick of time from sticking the legs of those little wire pipe cleaner men into the plug socket! (Laughs) I'd seen an old B&W Frankenstein film and I was trying to bring my little man to life!

Your website biography mentions Blade Runner as a specific influence.

Yes, one of many contributory influences throughout my life, but that was the film that hit me straight between the eyes; that, and to a (slightly) lesser extent, Alien. I was so bowled over with Blade Runner's visuals that I missed the story completely the first time I saw it; that was back when it was first released. Nothing that rich had ever been seen before, so much going on in every scene.

I love it for all the other reasons now though. I'm into flying cars as well, I'm sure we'll crack the gravity problem one day - what with quantum mechanics and all that. I don't think it'll be in the year 2018 somehow.

What was your first job in the movie and TV business?

I'm sure it was for an advert, making a fake cash machine for Halifax Building Society, I think. That was a team effort down at Parallax Models. The ad agency couldn't guarantee clement weather for the day of the shoot, so they went for a prop cash machine so that they could shoot on stage.