Dark Lantern

The brainchild of the original minds of  animators Robert & Jan Jefferson, The Dark Lantern was devised as an  animated story set within a live-action world. Tales told by the projectionist, the operator of a magic lantern that brings to life the dark  stories of the soul.

The first story from The Dark Lantern

‘The Devil’s Night Glass’.

An enigmatic but cantankerous Projectionist played by international  film/television and theatre actor, David Soul is the caretaker of an esoteric story machine known as The Dark Lantern.

The machine squats centre stage like a giant robot cuckoo, part renaissance lanterna magica, and part nightmare  contraption. The lantern chamber is a conflation of theatre, cinema and puppet booth, like the next level down from Lynch’s Black Lodge.

The Projectionist collects tales as little moral messages and his book-ending performance strangely echoes and counterpoints the content of the ANIMATED tale he chooses to project.  Tonight, he decides to tell an old story the way it really happened – “the truth “ and what comes out is ‘The Devil’s Night Glass’.

This traditional hand-drawn CUT-OUT ANIMATION, narrated with a complex mix of diffidence and enthusiasm by the tobacco-honeyed gruff voice of The Projectionist provides the bulk of the film.

Provoked by the devil of the snowbound forest, a clutch of peddlers lay siege to a winter mansion and its skeleton staff. Repressed natural forces creep down the chimney, and the desire to covet silverware ends in an ice-rink of frozen blood.

The narrative is expressionistic and surreal,  by turns funny and grim. The film puts the emphasis on visual style and atmosphere, creating a hermetic world that evokes the puppet theatre or silent movie screen.

The live-action role of The Projectionist, ‘Gepetto’ our storyteller, is played and narrated by international actor,  David Soul.

Robert & Jan are reunited creatively with Peter  Kershaw having collaborated on the award winning short cinema filmWilfred, the war tale of Wilfred Owen the first production from Duchy Parade Films. The Lanterna Magica is our second.

Robert Jefferson writes -


Who why what is ‘Gepetto’ ?

A name humanises a metaphorical character…Gepetto is the ‘father’ of Pinnochio,a puppet maker/master whose love brings his creation to life…we could even call him Rotwang, the roboteer who creates a false Maria in ‘Metropolis’…but let’s stick with Gepetto.

On the surface, Gepetto takes on the role of straight storyteller, working the Lantern like an engineer of folklore, but  he is more about the ACT of making things up and the creative process of  imagination…he is like a SHAMEN who reaches deep inside himself to find a  truth worth ‘telling’.

So, he’s mysterious and knowing, and has the
patriarchal presence of the initiated…

Gepetto exists in a metaphorical world of visual codes –the Well, the  Lantern, even the Checkerboard Floor, so

He needs to possess the charisma of a
vital persona – the human light that shines
in his eyes needs to be bright enough to
engage the audience through the uncanny
atmosphere of the Lantern Chamber.

Unlike the fatalistic archetypes that populate the stages of Beckett and the films of Jan Svankmajer (our reference points), Gepetto has a certain AUTHORITY in this world.

It is he who has constructed the chamber (read it as an external manifestation of his inner state)

And he exhibits the same schiziod
devotion to it as a serial killer
who gains power from delusional

But here’s the rub…

Gepetto, as a ‘serial teller’ repeats his tasks  over and over again, the storyteller’s lot.
Like the performer or artist who ‘conjures’ up the repressed to entertain or (like shaman) impart the truth as they see it to the world
like the black magician whose spells start to take their toll…

Gepetto is world weary, jaded and
exhibits an element of psychic

He has built this artifice for his own entertainment, he’s telling himself these stories, he’s playing a game with himself to keep his interest up  because this is solely what he does…forever.

The Lantern
A conflation of apparatus for translating stories into light…an alchemical machine, a photo booth, a zoetrope or kinora, television itself, cinema, the act of narrative
Etc, etc !!

The Set
Not so much a set of ‘ a cinema’ or ‘a theatre’ or ‘an attic’ more a bricolage of echoes of each…a beam of light, a red velvet drape, the gleam  of iron and old wood or the gristle of rust and bolts.

The checkerboard floor is a matrix of polarities and good for playing  hopscotch on.

The Future:
 A dark story before bed………..

The Dark Lantern was screened in the North-East of England on Tyne Tees  Television in autumn of 2003.

The Devil’s Night Glass was devised as a pilot. Duchy Parade Films are  currently seeking a commission for a series of Dark Lanterns with the  original creative team of Robert & Jan Jefferson, Peter Kershaw and David  Soul.

The original programme, made as part of the Hothouse series on ITV, had to  fulfil an ITV running time of half-hour, 23 minutes. There has been much  discussion on the ideal length for such a series of dark tales of myth and mystery and how the original format might best be adapted. One consideration  has been to look at the world of music suited to the cult imagery of the programme creators.

See the latest programme from Duchy Parade Films featuring animation by Robert Jefferson the music video for legendary space rock band, Hawkwind. Details on the video Spirit of the Age can be found elsewhere on this web  site.

For more information on the availability or commissions of The Dark Lantern contact:
Contact for more details:
Peter M. Kershaw
Duchy Parade Films
20 Glebe Road
North Yorkshire
T & F 01423 – 526835
M. 07799 - 765481


The Dark Lantern
The Devil’s Telescope

The Projectionist
David Soul

Written and animated by
Robert & Jan Jefferson

Lighting Camera
Alistair McKenzie

Sound Recordists
Peter Rossiter, John Cook,
Cliff Burr

John Mason, Gordon Porteous,
John Haynes

Carole McKenzie

Camera Assistant
Georgina Kiedrowski

Julie Matthews

Art Director
Mike Myers

Art Department Assistants
Paul Aziz, Steve Steel, Pierre Huegenny,
George Pearce, Billy Gilbert.

Production Runner
Paul Dolan

Sound Design
Andy Ludbrook

Online Editor
Susan Cosgrove

Executive Producers
Graeme Thompson
Tom Harvey

Co-financed by Northern Film and Media (logo)
With support from
One NorthEast (logo)

Peter M. Kershaw

Robert Jefferson

© Duchy Parade Films production for Tyne Tees Television 2003

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