I always used to the think the TV and movie business was full of creative people. It isn’t. Sure, there are creative people, people who write and direct and act but for the main part, the industry is full of dynamic people, people who get things done, people who make things happen.
I am many things, some good, some bad, but not by any stretch of the imagination can I be called dynamic.
A long time ago, fresh from my encounter with channel four (read about my Taxi project here) I was determined to break into film and TV. I had a friend called John (once again, names may have been changed to protect the innocent) who was interested in video and we made some video movies together on a pretty amateur level. We lost contact for a while but we both saw an advert in the ‘Manchester Evening News’ advertising Manchester’s new film office. Neither of us knew what the film office was so we both went down to see what it was, to see if we could maybe get a job there or make some contacts or even if we could get someone to listen to us for a few minutes. It turned out the film office was just that, an office for film makers who wanted to film on the streets of Manchester and the office would facilitate that. Anyway, because of that we met up again and John and I started to chat about our ambitions. John had found a comedy script written by an old friend and wanted to make it into a comedy TV show. It was about a Yorkshire yokel and the silly things that happened to him so we put together a ‘treatment’ as they say in the business and took it to channel 4.
“Great,” they said, “we like it!”
“Great,” we answered, “can we have the money to make a pilot?”
“No,” they said, but if we made one they’d look at it. Well that was it I thought but John went away and came back to me a few days later. He had placed adverts in the press looking for actors and needed me to help him with the first rehearsal!
I have to say I was surprised and a little and shocked but I looked at John, dynamic John, with new found awe and respect. Numerous people turned up at John’s place and John gave out parts and we had our first read through. Afterwards John cooked a meal; basic stuff, beans, toast and so on, but he cooked a meal for the assembled company. Most of them were students so perhaps John thought that was a good way to keep them coming back! The one problem was that our star actor, and here my memory has failed me a little, I can’t remember if the star actor was a friend of John’s or the writer or John’s mate’s friend or whatever but the star actor lived in Huddersfield. He played the leading part but he was too busy to come over to Greater Manchester and mix with his fellow TV actors and crew. In fact he felt we should all go over to Huddersfield!
Anyway, rehearsals continued without our lead and we chose an actor from our new troupe to stand in for the lead. The lead’s mother was played by a lady from Stockport amateur rep and she seemed to feel that perhaps we were more amateur than her and resigned. Her place was taken by a young black girl who did a great Yorkshire accent and generally played the part pretty well.
A week later she astounded us by playing the part in a Caribbean accent.
“What are you doing?” I asked, and she explained that her mother was a Caribbean immigrant and therefore a black woman of that age in Yorkshire must have been an immigrant also. Her logic was clear and she was playing a good part, bringing her own background and experience to the role so we said, “great. Carry on.”
A few weeks later the guy playing the yokel’s father left and our Caribbean girl suggested a replacement. It was another black actor so we gave him a shot and he worked well with the ‘mother’, also playing things from a Caribbean perspective. Now about this time I was concentrating on the video side and I was busy trying to get Panasonic to lend me a broadcast standard video camera so we could shoot our pilot. When I returned to our ‘set’ a few weeks later we had lost control of the shoot. Our Yorkshire yokel project had become a sort of Afro-Caribbean meets Yorkshire project and on top of that, John, and it is probably an understatement to describe him here as a fellow who liked the ladies, John had lost no time in using his new ‘producer’ status to attract more young ladies. Various females appeared ‘on set’ and he took pictures of them or videoed them reading from the script. They were clearly thankful to their producer for giving them this chance!
One day we were shooting out in Didsbury when a girl I had never seen before called out “CUT! Set up for retake!”
“Who are you?” I asked only for John to shoot over and calm me down.
“Can’t we give her just a bit of a chance at being director?” he asked. John, like many a producer before and since had lost his soul to the power of the movie business.
Anyway, I thought the time had come to return the project to its humble beginnings. It wasn’t a show about Caribbean immigrants. It had morphed into something I didn’t know anything at all about but John felt things had evolved naturally and it was important to follow that course to the end. Sadly, John and I went our separate ways. I went back to bus driving for a short while then I later became a cigarette salesman and today, apart from being an amateur writer and blogger I work for the Highways Agency.
And John? Did I mention what John does? No?
He’s a film producer.
Anyway, not to worry, has he got a blog as good as this one? Doubt it but if you enjoyed this post you might want to read my book. Click the icon below!