Talking time travel, Charlie Chaplin and Donald Trump with filmmaker George Clarke

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George Clarke is an award-winning film director, screenwriter, producer and founder of independent film company Yellow Fever Productions. Best known for his micro-budget zombie horror flicks, his sixth feature film, The Blood Harvest, won two awards at the 2015 Freak Show Horror Film Festival in Florida.

But back in 2010, George shot to worldwide attention for an entirely different reason. He found what he believed to be a time traveller in a Charlie Chaplin DVD extra and posted his discovery on YouTube, sparking a 21st-century urban legend.

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Today I’m interviewing George in order to get to the bottom of his thoughts on the time travel conspiracy happening all around us…

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Hi George. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview. How have you been and what are you working on right now?

Thanks for the interest and support! The past 6 months have been pretty crazy on a personal level, which in turn has scuppered the latter half of 2016 for me. We’ve had some major delays in the production of my 7th feature film, Mindy Has To Die, which is based on the novella by US horror comedy writer Jeff Strand. It began shooting in June but with so much having happened in between I’ve still got 3 days to schedule for completion. This meant that at the 7th Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in November, it was the first time in all these years I didn’t have a premiere of my new film. But we’ll get there! I’ve had worse thrown at me over the years and I’m still going…

One of the things you’re known for is the ‘Chaplin’s Time Traveller’ YouTube video, which is approaching 7 million views. In it you talk about how you’d spotted a possible time traveller in an extra on the DVD of Charlie Chaplin film The Circus. Can you talk me through what was going through your head when you first saw this clip?

It’s almost 7 million on my YouTube channel, yes, but I still can’t get over the fact that it was shown on most (if not all) major news channels, breakfast shows and media websites around the world. Crazy! I had noticed the video about a year before I made my discovery public. In fact, a few months earlier, I did a live reveal at our 2nd film festival to an audience and left most people speechless by what they saw. It led to some amazing debates of course!

When I first found it, I remember sitting on the couch just casually watching the premiere footage of The Circus. I’ve always loved old footage so I was watching intently at what was happening on screen. And as you become comfortable watching things in 1928, something as odd as someone talking on a handset really stands out. I jumped up off the couch and rewound the footage to double check, then started calling people to take a look.

Why did you conclude that this woman was a time traveller?

It was 1928 and the woman seemed to be having a fun chat on a mobile phone! What else could I think? Plus, I love the romance of it being a time traveller. Perhaps Chaplin himself went back in time to attend a personal event that made him very happy, but of course, had to be in disguise.

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Time traveller spotted in Charlie Chaplin DVD extra

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Whoops. A time traveller has made an epic boo-boo and got themselves caught on film in 1928. And now filmmaker George Clarke has exposed their clumsy arse to the world.

I’ve mentioned this particular urban legend a few times recently. That’s because it inspired my short story, The Charlie Chaplin Time Traveller, which was published last month in Tigershark Issue 11. In the story, facts and fiction are mixed, so let me now present the uncooked facts.

In 2010, Belfast filmmaker George Clarke posted a video on YouTube explaining that he had discovered evidence of time travel in a Charlie Chaplin DVD extra. The extra was a short behind-the-scenes clip of the premiere of The Circus at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 1928. The Circus is one of Charlie Chaplin’s most popular movies, the seventh-highest-grossing silent film in cinema history, and still attracts high praise today. So it’s a wonder it took seven years for someone to notice this (the DVD came out in 2003).

Anyway, 20 seconds into the clip, you see a bunch of circus animal statues outside the Chinese Theatre. Walking behind a fake zebra is a large woman in a hideous dress, hooded coat, pointed shoes and a black top hat. But her terrible fashion sense and looking a bit like a man in drag is not what caught George’s eye. It was the item she was holding to her ear and talking into.

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