Interviewed by Stephen Kelly, 14 October 2017.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you join Granada, and how did you come to join Granada?
I think I should start by saying that I grew up in Australia, and probably had not much of an idea about what Granada stood for and what sort of country it was, although growing up, which was just even scooting back before that, we went out, we were Ten Pound Poms to go out to Australia, so we were there from about ‘59 and I came back to the UK in ‘73. But growing up I kind of had seen a lot of Granada’s output, certainly the early days of Coronation Street and some of those programmes like The Army Game and stuff like that. And anyway, just to jump forward, I had worked in Australia at a state film centre, which was a government-run lending library for 60mm programmes, feature films and what have you. So I thought that when I came to live over here I thought that I should perhaps apply to television companies to get a similar position. And I wrote to various companies – HTV, as I was in Bristol, Central and Granada Television – and the only thing I knew about Granada Television that I had seen Stones in the Park, and actually had a picture on my wall back in Melbourne of Mick Jagger releasing the doves and dressed in white, and I remembered Granada from that picture. So I applied to all of those companies, but I think none of them actually replied other than Granada. But the letter that I wrote didn’t give away what sex I was. So the letter came back, as I still get to this day, as Miss Kim Horton. If you’re interested – and this was in 1977 – if you’re if you’re interested in applying, we’re having interviews. And the invite was for an interview and it gave the day in March, I think, in ‘77 and it said, “You will be interviewed for this position in (Tony Brill’s? 3:22) office,” whoever he was. And I came to Manchester, I think I’d only been once before to Manchester, for the interview and I was shown upstairs into what must have been Tony Brill’s office, although it could have actually changed to the personal office, because the people that interviewed me were the head of personnel, which was (Bob Connell? 3:48), (Harry Urquhart? 3:51) and possibly (Keith Thompson? 3:54), I think he was involved with management of library, or was about to take over (Harry Urquhart’s? 4:00) job. And of course, the head of the film library was Sylvia Cowling, and they all had a look of surprise on their faces when I arrived, because they thought I was going to be a girl! And I think knowing that the, a bit later on, that the film library was nothing but women, I think they were determined to keep it that way. So anyway, we went through various things, and they thought that I was possibly right for the job, but they would let me know. Usually, you didn’t sort of get to hear anything immediately, and I certainly had to go back home to Bristol. And I think it was a couple of weeks and I was told that I actually hadn’t managed to get the job, somebody else had got the job – and that was that. And then another couple of weeks I actually got – it wasn’t a phone call because I didn’t have a phone – but I got another letter saying if I was still interested in the position that the person who had thought that they’d take the job had decided not to take the job. And as I found out, that was a girl who decided not to take the job. So there I was, employed as a library assistant, was the title. And yes, it was interesting because when I’d got into the library, they were a lovely bunch girls but they all looked like librarians. They all had the bobbed hairdos… and in fact, Julie Goodyear, who used to take a short cut from Coronation Street going through the film library, as a lot of them used to do, had dubbed them the Nolan sisters, so I became one of the Nolan sisters. I really wasn’t suited to the library life at all, but you know , to this day I owe everything to Sylvia saying, you know, “We’ll take you on.” I mean, the library thing was all about being meticulous, knowing that you should, you know, if you ever put film into a can, that can had to go on a shelf and you had to know the right place to put the can, and I was forever losing, you know, or rather somebody looking for a particular roll of film would go to where that can should have been on the shelf and it wasn’t there, because I’d put it somewhere else – so I wasn’t the greatest of librarians. But what I was interested in, and none of them were interested in, was the music stuff that was coming in. So it goes. And Sylvia said, “We’re not interested in all this disgusting punk stuff. You’re interested in music, you can catalogue it all.” So that was what I did. There were two series to deal with, and some other great things like Tony Palmer’s Wigan Casino, all of that stuff. The outtakes were kept, because you never knew when someone might want to use that in the future. And I saw that… I saw punk… the girls saw it as this is just going to go away because they’re all interested in Sad Café and what have you, The Dooleys or something, whatever the current crop were. And I thought, “Well, this is something in this punk stuff. It’s just brilliant.” Even though I came from, you know, prog rock and the Stones and all the rest of it with me, you know. But I started to actually go to some of these things where they were doing the filming, like The Electric Circus and Collyhurst, and I saw Buzzcocks and Penetration and The Ramones… some of those things were filmed, some weren’t, but I kind of got into it, and it was an absolute joy, you know? And I wrote all these little cards up describing what songs were being done and what was happening, and if the people were spitting the band and all the rest of it, and there was some terrific stuff, which to this day I feel is an unused, underused sort of commodity really and I think there’s a lot of brilliant music stuff that Granada has got in its system that people don’t see because it’s not been transferred to some sort of source that can be used really. I mean, a lot of (??8:50) obviously had stuff in it, but they might only have used half of the song or something, you know, so if it was The Clash at King’s Hall in Belle Vue, you know, they may not have used the entire song, because Wilson might have spoken over half of it, and the rest of it wasn’t, although the entire piece was cut. You know, people like (Barry Byrne? 9:16) used to cut it so it goes with, you know (Peter Kohn? Jeff Moore? 9:22) and stuff , and… yes.
So how old were you when you started?
I was about 25 or something like that, so I wasn’t a young thing. Because I had travelled a bit, all Australians do that, you know, and I had done a bit of a hippy trail thing with a, you know, buying a Volkswagen van, outside the American Express office in Amsterdam, and going around Europe with a bunch of Aussies and stuff, I’d done all that. Worked in a pub up in the Lake District in ’73, ’74, something like that. Yes, so I had done other things, but I’d just decided enough was enough; I had to have some sort of job that hopefully I would enjoy. And I still at that point, I mean, being in the film library wasn’t it. But just down the corridor was it, because there were these bunch of guys who said, “Listen, we’re going for a drink in Salford and we’re going to play some darts. We go every lunchtime, you should come down.” So it’s people like (Bob Morton? 10:51) Jack, and the rest of them that said, “Look, you really should seriously think about joining in, because we need assistants.” And, you know, “We’ll speak to Bill Lloyd.” But I think my first attempt at getting out of the film library wasn’t anything to do with Sylvia, it was (Stan Charles? 11:14) actually told me that, you know, “You’re in the film library, mate – that’s the job you should be doing, and you’re going to have to stick it out a bit longer.” And I thought, “Well, I don’t really want that.” There was an absolute desperate need, because assistants were attached to editors mostly, so you kept the same assistant for some years. So for instance, (Andy Sumner? 11:40) would have been working with Don Kelly, (Roland 11:47) I think was assisting (Jack Darlis? 11:51), and that sort of thing. So once they lost an assistant, that editor would be short of having an assistant. And there was an editor called (Alan Rigland? 12:03) who had lost his assistant, (Paul Kelly? 12:09), who became a floor manager, or one had become a floor manager. So there was a desperate need for there to be a new assistant, and (Bill Lloyd? 12:17) called me up and said, “You’re starting in the camera room on Monday.” Yes. That’s how quick it was.
And there was no interview or anything?
No, not at all! I was showing enough interest, and obviously all the editors were saying, “You’ve got to get this this guy,” you know, “Because he’s interested in it.” You know. And I was terrifically interested in the whole filmmaking thing, because just everything was going on there. You know, it’s just a joy to see, you know, Dennis Mitchell working in one of the edit suites. You know, Ken Russell was doing his Clouds of Glory, I think Roger Grove was doing his British Communist Party documentary, and there was so much sort of going on that that I was kind of interested in, and I really wanted to be a part of it. And I couldn’t have asked to work for a better editor. I mean, Alan was the typical editor of that time, you know? Nobody went to film school, and Alan had worked in a coal mine at (Leigh? 13:27) and he’d hurt his back, and he wanted a easier life. He actually came into Granada I think it was something called commercials makeup, and it was basically in between programmes they had commercials and those commercials were also on film. So you had to make up three commercials to take down to (Tele Cine? 13:52) to run, to be played, in between programmes, and that was a whole department, so there would be that department, obviously the film library, and then all the edit suites, the cutting rooms rather, down the corridor. And yes, it was terrific. And Alan cut things like dramas of the day, so it was (Crib? 14:22), it was Strangers.. what else… the series Fallen Hero (1978-9), which was about a rugby player who had come to the end of his playing days. Wanda Ventham, Benedict Cumberbatch’s mum, was in it, she’s an actress anyway. So… do you want me to carry on?
Yes, go on!
So what happens then, is… you know, we all like to say, “Well, there was never any training involved,” and when you compare it with the BBC where there most definitely was training, as an assistant you sat behind and watched and observed the editor, and you certainly did have the training to be able to do your job, so… I don’t really want to go too technical on what an assistant did, but you were handing shots that were hanging up in the trim bin, syncing up obviously was one of the tasks, a thing called (rubber numbering? 15:42) was another that you had to send it off to get the picture and the sound numbered, so that the editors could keep it in sync, and lo and behold, if you got that wrong, if you’d (sunk up? 15:56) the rushes and hadn’t checked them and the rushes weren’t in sync and they’d been sent away to be numbered, they head to go back to the number and all the numbers had to be scraped off, because they were called rubber numbers, there was a strange system of where a white number was applied to both the picture and the sound, and that kept your alignment, your sync alignment. And obviously making the tea, you know, they were the things that you did, and if the editor wanted to have an extra few drinks in the pub, then you had to get back to answer the phone and so be there with the director who was, you know, twiddling his thumbs, wondering where his editor was. But it was just a great starting point, and we were such a social bunch as well, you know, it was terrific fun to be amongst those guys. And there was great work being done, you know?
And presumably, as you say, the director would often be in there.
And presumably a number of eminent directors.
Yes. I mean, Alan would have worked with directors like (Joanna Weiss? 17:10), who was… people like (Alan Green? 17:13), (Oliver Horsborough? 17:16), and World in Action we did, so all of the crop of (Gail McFadgen? 17:26), (Mike Ryan? 17:28), we must have worked possibly with some of the others, (Steven Clancy? 17:34)… some of these guys, when I became an editor, I worked with as well, particularly on World in Action. Yes. So that happened, and obviously over a number of years that happened, where I was assisting Alan. And then gradually, as it was meant to be, you would get other duties, other jobs, and that usually started with cutting the news.
And this would be you on your own.
Yes, this would be me on my own. I would be given the first… and it was film, so we’re still talking (sceneback? 18:14), and it was a pressured job, because this stuff had to be shot, processed, cut and spooled up for Tele Cine, ready for six o’clock, you know? And it had to be made up into a reel because each programme, all these stories, had to get played in by Tele Cine – and again, lo and behold, if you got those stories out of order, and these things did happen – it would be shocking if you were the person responsible. Even being late with a story, I mean, that was the other thing. And I’m sure it’s the same case now when you are editing news stories and stuff, but there was extra pressure because it was on film, you know… and yes, there were some extraordinary moments. And also they would go out and film football matches on film, whereby they didn’t run all the time and they would only run hopefully to pick up the goals, but journalists would come back and they’d say, well, there were four goals but we’ve only got two of them. So we’d just talk through, you know, they’d write the story up so that it didn’t matter that you didn’t see the two goals, but you had to hopefully have these moments covered in a way that was going to be suitable for the journalists to write the story around.
So you’re still an assistant at this stage.
I was given more jobs to do and that’s how it kind of went. But then, after Alan… I think there was some reason where I had decided I’d quite like to work with another editor, and the next editor I worked with, who’s become one of my best mates of all time, is Oral. And Oral is Oral Ottey, who is one of the most entertaining of friends you could ever have. But like Alan, you know, a very instinctive editor, no previous training, no kind of background for editing at all, but was a brilliant editor. We then worked on other sorts of programmes. I think we did a (??20:56) together. And we did an Emmy award-winning documentary about Ken Milland’s ballet, which was directed by a great British TV director called Jack Gold, who did The Naked Civil Servant, and it was produced by Norman Swallow who, you know, pretty much discovered Ken Russell and had worked with Dennis Mitchel… terrific kind of background of documentary… and Steve Morrison I think exec produced that. I remember when the Emmy was won, I think it was Steve Morrison who was there to pick up the Emmy, and I don’t think it ever got back to Jack Gold! And in fact, Oral and I were rung up one day, and Steve Morrison said, “I’ve got the Emmy, and you can have it for 10 minutes!” and it came down to our cutting room and we had to borrow a Polaroid camera to take a picture of me – I’ve still got the photograph – and Oral holding the Emmy. Yes. So from there on, we did some fairly big shows. We did something called (Rich World, Poor World? 22:24) that we did with John Shepard, and Oral was very encouraging. He used to give me work to do, and then I was actually then doing, just about doing, yes, I was doing kind of a load of programme stuff. We all did Down to Earth, inserts for Coronation Street – they were the fist things that young editors would get to do. And then I did my first World in Action and that was a really big deal, because it really was testing… and it was 1983 and it was produced by Ian McBride, and it was a film about Jesse Jackson, and actually on the road with Jesse Jackson, who was undecided about seeking nomination or putting himself forward for nomination for the Democrats. But what he was doing though was going out there to try and encourage blacks to register to vote, and this was called The Race Against Reagan, so it was to challenge Ronald Reagan. And it was just the most brilliant, for me, first thing, because it was real – it wasn’t archival stuff that, you know, a lot of current affairs stuff, they build programmes nowadays without actually having been out there. But this was typical of World in Action. Steve Anderson was a researcher on it, and it was great. And there was interviews with Jimmy Carter, it even had Stevie Wonder in it at one of the rallies. And he played the song, I can’t remember what it was now, it was the first airing of this song, and I got it done in time, and I think everybody was quite happy with it. I was then asked to do more World in Action, so I think I did two series of World in Action, and worked with what I considered to be some of the great directors – )Steven Clark, David Hart? 24:54)
I didn’t ever work with Paul, no. for some reason, Paul was always in the cutting room next to my cutting room, and I would be working on… it all depended on which shows you were doing. Paul’s always ran over, so they were always given two weeks to edit, and World in Action always had a programme going out. And I always seemed to be on the wrong programme! But having said that, I worked on some really great stuff. I did a couple of Southeast Asian World in Actions with (David Darlow? 25:35), and I think (Smithson? 25:37) was part of his set up then, and I did a film about Lockerbie… I mean, everything… even (David Hart? 25:47), I did a World in Action about living off a tip.
Oh, Bidston in Birkenhead.
Yes. And (Steve Clark? 25:54), we did some (team-picking? 25:58), and the Animal Liberation Front with somebody else, and Charles Tremaine, did something about an MP, (Sir John Brown? 26:09), you know, some reasonably big World in Actions, and then a lot of fillers. (David Mills? 26:18) was always used for NHS stories and quick turnaround, and there would be those… and, yes.
So you’re a fully fledged film editor at this stage.
By this stage I’m a fully fledged film editor, yes. I actually missed out one thing that I did when I was back in… just prior to joining Oral, in 1980, a small highlight was when Alfred Hitchcock had died and I had to find a lot of material that Granada had, and make it up so that that Clive… the Aussie…
Clive Anderson? (I was thinking Clive James – Allie)
Yes, Clive Anderson had come up for What the Papers Say or something, but he was asked to present a studio show because Hitchcock had just died and they had to do a quick pull together, and I had to get Shots of Hitchcock. And there were lots of interviews. Terrific archive, that’s the one thing that having spent time in the film library, there was all sorts of stuff that you discover existed. Some of the Parkinson interviews (for cinema? 27:53), and Mike Scott’s stuff, interviews with all these people, and they had a lot of interviews with Hitchcock, and obviously Hitchcock and Forman had that relationship, so…
Yes, Bernstein, yes. So anyway, where are we? World in Action. That sort of led to sort of that probably current affairs was something I’d like to do more of. But again, I think other people were sort of saying, “Well, you know, don’t get bogged down with that, because you could be there forever.” And other editors had enjoyed doing that forever, and (Kelvin Henry? 28:36) was one of them. I know Roland always liked to do World in Actions and stuff, you know, and of course he made money. I mean, some of those… on the first series of World in Action I did, I made so much money that I came out of that series and I took my family to Cannes, and we had a fantastic, very expensive family holiday in the South of France! So there were some benefits to it. You know, that was when you could work through the night and end up on Monday where, for every hour you worked, you got five hours worth of pay. You know, it’s extraordinary. You did have a sort of sense that somebody was going to kind of catch up with all this and, you know, stop it, but it was amazing. I remember (Jack Dowler? 29:31) saying that he once went to the toilet for half an hour and got paid a day’s worth of pay for going to the toilet! Anyway… I wouldn’t include that!
Note for next bit: IMDb says 28 Up was 1984 (link)
But it was… yes, it was good times. But it kind of led to other things, and one of those things was being asked – because Oral actually had been asked to do 28 Up and they needed a second editor on it, and because I had been his assistant and we were mates, he said, “Why don’t you join me on 28 Up?” And I had an interview with Michael Apted and he was absolutely fine, you know, he thought I’d do fine, I had done World in Actions… and that was 1983, I think, and that was my first 7 Up. And Oral and I decided which characters we would edit, and the highlight of my share was Neil Hughes who has really become the most interesting of the children from 7 Up. And of course that’s been my, you know, if one is to describe one’s life’s work in in one programme, 7 Up has become it for me, and I’ve done 33 years on the project now. And of course the others as well, I’ve done the Russian 7 Up, all of them bar the last one. I’ve done a couple of the South African ones, and… so anyway, that was working with Michael for the first time, and that was an absolute joy. That was the only time that I’ve actually worked with him in in this country because the subsequent Ups have all been cut in America by me, and… do you want to…
There’s other things that we could speak about, if you want to just do 7 Up later on, we can do that.
Yes, we’ll come back to 7 Up. Keep to the timeline.
Yes, stick to the timeline. So that was 28 Up and that did particularly well, another Emmy award-winner, BAFTA award-winner. So I was I was sort of flying high then, and then came lots of lots of other editing opportunities, and there were programmes like Apartheid (1986), which was a big series, so I worked with Alan Siegel, (Max Gresser? 32:35) was the researcher on the episodes that I did. I then did End of Empire (1985) with Norma Percy and Mick Gold, who at the time I didn’t realise, Mick Gold was Jack Gold’s son. And yes, she was a joy to work with as well, and it was just brilliant to work with somebody that carried on that concept of getting access to the very people that were part of the history making, and we had interviews with Ian Smith and Robert Mugabe – it was terrific. Really, I think that still could stand with being shown again I think, that series, End of Empire. And along the way were lots of other things. You bounced back between doing local programmes sometimes, I did This Englands and Celebrations and that sort of thing, and we all had to be rotated into news – so whatever you’d done, you could have just finished Brideshead Revisited, you had to have a spell on the news. And it also applied to things like World in Action, they rotated people around, so you would get to do all sorts of things. And because of that, it meant that you had the opportunity to do drama. I hadn’t done much – I’d done some inserts for Coronation Street, I did a thing called Poor Little Rich Girls (1984), which was a comedy with Jill Bennett and Maria Aitken – and then there were the dramas that were of the of the time. So it was, I think Bulman (1985) I did, with an interesting director David Carson, who went on to direct, some years later, the Star Trek movies, went over to the States. I did a Sherlock Holmes (1993) with Tim Sullivan, which was a feature length Sherlock Holmes, so I worked with the actors on audio, you know, dialogue replacements, so I met Jeremy Brett, Edward Hardwicke, terrific, wonderful… El C.I.D. (1991) was another one… these were Granada, probably forgotten programmes, but they were great, you know, particularly things like Bulman, was really…
It was filmed just down the road.
Yes. A lot of things were – you couldn’t go particularly far to do them. I think (crew? 35:30) was just shot at the city hall, I think. They used to use buildings for inside sets and stuff like that. So yes, it was stuff like that, and working with other directors on factual stuff. Certainly Disappearing World (1987-1993), I did quite a few of those with Leslie, and my great pal John Sheppard. I worked with on Disappearing World… I’m trying to think of other things. We did In Suspicious Circumstances with Edward Woodward, which was an interesting experience. I mean, they were… do you remember them?
I do indeed!
Yes. Yes. So there was, you know, Edward Woodward, he was… I think he described himself as some sort of time traveller, so he would appear in these sort of period stories about poisonings and murder stories that hadn’t particularly been solved, and they were looking back and Edward would sort of come to some conclusion at the end or give you clues about what might have happened. When we cut the drama bits of that, Edward would come into the cutting room. And (Sue Durkin? 37:00) would sort of wheel him in and he’d be sat down in front of the (Steenbergen? 37:08) and there was always an unopened bottle of… I think it was gin, and tonic. And Sue Durkin used to say, “By the way, you won’t be drinking a drop of it, it’s only meant or Edward.” And it was always a new bottle, and she always used to take it away from the cutting room, and then Edward would sit there and he would go, “Yes, I can see a number of places that I think I should appear.” Because he was such a big star, with The Equaliser and everything. And yes… and then they’d go out and film Edward somewhere, and I think they used to give him in Winnebago on set, and you know, they used to look after him. It was just great fun to be part of that. Yes.
So are you still on film here?
I’m still on film!
You’re still on film?
Yes – I’m still on film! And would still be on film, so… we could possibly go back to seven years after 18 Up and carry on talking about the Ups, for instance, which are still on film at this stage.
Are they? Right. So at what point did you switch from film to video?
At what point, that would have been in the in the 90s. It probably would have been possibly early 90s. The last thing I did on film was it was a series called God Bless America, which were great, a great series, all directed by a guy called Alan Gilsenan. They were American authors, and they would basically deal with their writing, but it would be almost like an essay of a particular thing. I did Gore Vidal, so it was everything he thought about American politics, and I did another one which had Marsha Hunt in. Anyway, that was the last thing, and then the first thing I ever did on offline, so this is on the Steenbeck, new equipment, supposed to you know, change everything for us. You didn’t need an assistant for instance, we had assistants up to that point. Along comes Lightworks, and you know, nobody uses Lightworks much any more.
Lightworks is… just explain?
Lightworks is just an offline system, so… do you want me to describe what offline is?
Well, offline is, having shot the thing – and a lot of it was still being shot on film – they would have to transfer on it to tape, and we had this… and then the tape was digitised into the editing system, which was Lightworks, in the computer… it’s just like a computer. So you input all the rushes in and you would then electronically deal with it, edit it. It would all be (sunk up? 40:45), it would be ready to go, and you would just work as you used to work editing it. But there was a sort of a crossover, so you were still trying to kind of edit like you would on the Steenbeck… it wasn’t the easiest bit of kit to get your head around and I did have problems initially with it. But the first series I did was a thing called Ape Man: The Story of Human Evolution, which was Rod Caird’s sort of swansong, it was the last thing that he did, and it was a four-part thing about early mankind. They had four… it was destined for America and it was presented by Walter Cronkite, and they would fly Walter over to Africa to be amongst skulls and what have you, and then they had to fly out to the Stats to get him to narrate, to record his commentary for the thing. I think it went down quite well. That was the first thing, and then beyond that I think I suddenly sort of did a lot of kind of history/science stuff with offline, and we did a thing called Savage Skies, which was the making of… we had a kind of history/science department then, people like Bill Jones and Liz McLeod in particular, suddenly realised that we had a real talent for doing this stuff, you know, and it was weather porn really, that’s how it started, but really well done, lots of people’s experiences with you know, being in the middle of a hurricane and describing it. It was mostly Americans saying, you know, “Well, it was just like a locomotive driving through my house,” or something, or, “It was awesome.” It was nothing… there was no description other than “awesome” to do with any sort of weather. And yes, Bill Lyons, I worked with Bill Lyons, who was a terrific director as well, and we developed a kind of a style in our programme, but interestingly, in another cutting room, doing a completely different style of programme was Julian Farino, who’s become a great mate, and I will mention Julian shortly. He was doing something else, and to this day I think he probably made the better programme about monsoons in India and what have you. But anyway, the style that Bill and I had created carried on. There was Savage Skies, Savage Earth, Savage Seas, Savage Planet, a whole series of all these programmes, and they are all a sort of similar style to the style of Bill and I, who kind of created… yes, and then kind of lots more programmes. Once I was on offline, I was mostly doing kind of documentary work, and it almost became… you kind of had to make a decision as to what you wanted to do, and there were a lot of editors who decided they only wanted to do drama, and that and that left not many of us who wanted to do factual work. But I loved it, you know? And I was getting less and less interested in doing drama, and I think one of the last things I did was… Tim Sullivan, we did a thing about Margaret Thatcher called Thatcher: The Final Days. It was literally a drama of what had, you know, various journalists had recorded, and it had to be exactly as these things happen, but it was a dramatized version, and it had Sylvia Sims in it. That was terrific. Then I did something like… I think I did Medics or something like that, and I just decided, “I’m not that keen on this stuff,” and you know, I much prefer to do documentary work. And because I kind of stuck to that, I was given great opportunities, working with who I consider one of the most under-rated of our documentary film-makers in television terms, is Paul Watson, who I worked with, I did quite a few of his films for Granada.
And you’re still on staff at this point?
Still on staff, yes. So… and some were leaving, you know, some decided they would do better by getting out. Our old great mate (Pavanotti? 46:02) decided he’d go freelance, Tony… not Tony Hand… oh, God. Tim Golson. Fucking hell, I’ll have to think of his name. Chris Gill! Chris Gill went freelance… lots of people I really thought… you know, the drama department probably wasn’t turning out that great amount of work really. You know, there was still some terrific things like, I think Cracker had begun, and obviously Prime Suspect and those sorts of dramas, but I wasn’t being offered [these] because I had pretty much decided that that wasn’t what I wanted to do. So it was los of kind of other things. And kind of along the way, you know, because I was sticking out for doing documentary work, I think eventually, Chris Malone and I worked together on his first film, which was a Down to Earth… that was actually on film, so I had actually already worked with Chris, then fast-forwarding to when all things were offline, I think I did another film of his which was a thing called Missing Lynsey, about a murder that took place in Southport, where he had access to the murderer, because he hadn’t been arrested. Everyone had decided it was him, that he had done this murder… his wife went missing, and it was… Mitchell Quy was his name, Lynsey Quy was his wife. And Chris knew that… it was a difficult programme for Chris to make, because he spent months with him, and this guy was just trying to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes about not having done what he’d eventually… what was discovered that he’d done. And then eventually, the police had enough evidence to arrest him. When they arrested him, he took them to where her remains were in Southport, and they were in a number of places, because he’d managed to cover up… awful, awful story. But Chris and I worked on that for quite a number of months. And it was just one of those projects that you can sort of say in your career that you will never work on anything like it ever again. I think Chris sees it that way as well. And then Chris and I worked, we had pretty much worked on everything that he’s ever done, with few exceptions, so he’s had quite a lot of different sort of genres that he’s had a go at, you know, he’s done a lot of kind history/science stuff that the department was still making.
So when did you come to leave?
So you went on quite a long time, then.
Yes – 32 or 33 years of being staff.
Long after the vast majority of people had moved out. Or gone freelance.
Or been made redundant. Because we haven’t spoken about that! Unfortunately, I’ve been going through my timeline, but along the way there’s all sorts of upheavals in the company.
Tell me about them.
Well, 1992, I think… we’d all thought, “Job for life,” you know? And the Union was strong I felt, because I was there for the ‘79 strike, and you know, it’ ACTT, and I sat next to (Lynne Lloyd? 50:33) in the film libraries, she was a deputy trade union shop steward, we had (Phil Phillips? 50:41) as the shop steward, for the film shop, and then (Malcolm Foster? 50:47) was the (live shop? 50:48).
They were tough cookies. I mean, if Phil Phillips didn’t like the colour of his tea, we’d all be tools down and having a meeting about it, you know, so I felt that the unions were particularly strong, but ’92, I think he was ’92, was the first round of kind of major redundancies, and a lot of people either took voluntary redundancy or… and in our area it was people like Jack Berry, Bob Morton – all went. And it left fewer editors, and you would probably then start to see more kind of freelance editors being used. But I kind of survived that, and it was probably… you know, a couple of other occasions where there were even further redundancies, until they decided that factuals were all going to go. So even though I didn’t work, you know, I wasn’t paid by the factuals department, which was then under Bill Jones, it was clear that we were going to see less work. And I… it was one of the editors said, who was made redundant in 2009, I mean, you know… we were able to take what was considered to be voluntary redundancy, but there was no choice in the matter – you just went. I think my time was up, quite honestly, and I mean, the joke as, I think I literally finished on Friday and I went in and… well, I didn’t go in, I don’t think you are allowed to work for a couple of months, but as soon as I served my, you know, garden leave period, I was back in there, you know, freelance. We were all back in there, you know, Chris Malone… I just didn’t stop working. I mean, you know, it almost didn’t seem any different from being staff.
Let’s widen the discussion a bit now away from your timeline.
There must have been a great deal of competition between film editors. Did somebody always want to do Brideshead, or…?
Well, I think… yes… there was a small amount but we were all, for the most part, what we liked about it was in the early time of my editing, is that you were you were pretty much told what you were going to do. Granada would have people that would say, “Well, we want this person to do this edit. It wasn’t producer choice we were talking about, it was basically the heads of department. So we had people, you know, it was the (Bill Lloyd? 53:49), the (??53:50), it was the John Williams period, and on the way there were other managers, and (someone McGlashen ?54:01) was one of them. And they had discussions with producers and directors and they’d discuss who might be suitable for the job. So it was the office that would tell you what it was that they thought you would be doing. You didn’t really have much of a choice, so if you were told it’s World in Action for a year, then it was World in Action for a year. So in terms of was there any… yes, there probably was at the top. I mean, you know, if you’ve been the man that’s kind of cut some Jewel in the Crown, and you want o continue to cut that level of work, and (Eddie Mansol? 54:49) was the editor, and he was one of the top editors of the country, never mind just Granada. But there wasn’t anything ruthless about it.
It always kind of strikes me as a fairly closeted world.
That you were stuck in your edit suites…
Yes, well, we were – but because you know, when we weren’t, we were socialising with one another, and that meant The Stables or The Old School. And every lunchtime we all got together and we all had a pint at lunchtime. Film editors were always known for being the first in and the last out, you know, in most of the bars. I mean, the stables, you know, we all had our position at one end of the bar, and that’s where we were. In the old school, we were literally the first thing you hit when you came in the bar was you know, a group of kind of film editors. It was an important day, and it wasn’t just the film editors, we were always joined, you know, quite often by directors and stuff, would join us, and it was an important place, you probably would remember it, so…
Hmm. And the canteen also. Now, some of the… let’s just keep n that. Did that lead to excessive drinking?
Yes. Well, as I say, editors are known for being stuck in dark rooms all day, and unlike the crews, who would go out on location and film, and you know, they had their lunches with a nice bottle of red, the film editors would be left back at base – and the outlet for us was going for a drink, playing darts at lunch time, and would be places like the Stables, and the Old School. Even if you were discussing the programme, or the progress of the programme, you know, it was a regular thing to have a kind of media lunch, which meant you know, no solids and nothing but liquids of a lunch time, or an extended lunch time. And as a group of editors, there were quite a number of occasions where the entire department would basically have the afternoon off and carry on drinking. I mean, the licensing laws meant that you weren’t going to get served after half two or something, but – I happen to know it’s the same in Liverpool – there are always places that you can get a drink, and we knew every one of those places, you know, so it meant going down to the… there was a place called the Queen’s Club that was one of these like, one of these little sort of private members bars that had a little kind of window opening at the door, and a guy called Dougie was the manager there, and all of the people in, you know, journalist and press people, would go and drink at three o’clock in the afternoon and carry on, and yes, the culture was, I mean obviously, we all worked terrifically hard and whatever time we lost by having a few extra hours in the pub we had to make up.
So you’d then work in the evening?
You could do, or you would just pull in the work. I mean, you wouldn’t necessarily be claiming overtime to do it, but you know, all of those programmes were made on the basis of editors taking a drink, and sometimes more than a drink, you know? But it was great, terrific fun and we used to do all sorts of stuff – we used to go out to gigs and meals together, we even went on holiday together, some of us, you know? Dave Cresswell came out to Australia with me. And we had an annual trip to Le Mans, the boys liked to go motor racing – only for about 10 minutes, the rest of the time was spent in the beer tent! But we all went, and others came along with us, you know, it was all the editors, Spencer (??59:32) would come along and Charles Lawler and even one of their managers came, Roger (Bett? 59:40) on a couple of the trips. Yes, Le Mans we’d go to, and on occasions I think we even had weekends in Paris, you know, which would involve… somebody obviously had to not be drinking, you know, to drive the van around, but no, they were terrific. Great, fun times.
And would the canteen have played any part in your culture?
Well, the canteen meant that you’d be not having a drink in the Old School, so most of us didn’t eat n the canteen. But you’d go down for breakfast, and it was a wonderful place to see what was going on, so you know, you’d see Laurence Olivier eating in costume, or anybody that was passing though… I mean, going back, the place was wonderful in that you could see… when I arrived, Marc Bolan was doing the (??60:46) show, and you’d see Marc skipping down Quay Street in sort of striped spandex trousers on his way to the film exchange. You know, you would see that fairly regularly. There would always be visiting singers and bands and stuff. I remember seeing John Lee Hooker in the Old School. You know, even wonderful things like when the first lot of redundancies happened, I remember (Alan Price? 61:14) was in the studio doing something, and he’d been taken over to the Old School, with his band I think, and one of the stage hands said, “Well, there’s a group of us being made redundant, any change you’re getting on your piano and playing?” And Alan Price rigged up his group in the Old School and played for about an hour, just as a goodbye to the stage hands that were having their leaving do. So there were terrific moments. And also all sorts of other moments that happen, you know, there were fistfights in the Old School on a regular basis.
Between film editors?
No, not film editors – it was mostly producers and researchers! But yes, there were some notorious incidents that happened. I’d better not name names, but yes, there were definitely…
Tell me the stories without naming names.
Well… local programmes producer that had decided he didn’t like… actually he took against a director, and there was some pushing and what have you going on, but some of us were kind of used to seeing that sort of thing in cutting rooms, there’s pushing and shoving, you know? There was some notorious, you know, an ex World in Action editor – and certainly not Ray Fitzwalter, you know, was known for (??63:00) yes, I think I’d be wrong in saying, you know, fisticuffs, but you know, words spoken. And also, (??63:13), I mean, you work in situations… I remember Mike Short… I was doing the news with Roger Blythe over at… Toxteth was kicking off, and there was (Roy? 63:35) McLaughlin, I think, had decided he wanted to take a crew out into Toxteth, and Mike Short said, “Well, that’s not going to happen, you’re not going to do it,” and there were words spoken. I remember Mike Short having Roy McLaughlin up by the neck, “persuading” him that wasn’t a good idea. So yes, I think when (all other things failed? 63:57), it could end up with a bit of pushing and shoving, so that sort of thing did go on.
Would you say there was bullying?
No, I didn’t experience that, and I wouldn’t think that I could link those two things, but yes, people, strong people, that would have things to say, mostly said with a few too many drinks, I think, but… yes.
Was it a good company to work for? Did they look after you?
Well, I think so. I think… my career… I owe everything to… because I carried on… and still do work for what’s left of… Granada is no longer, and one’s got to say there is Granada and then there is ITV. I sort of still work a lot for ITV at Media City but it’s not the same. But in terms of being looked after, I always felt that I was, and you know, those of us that were lucky enough to be part of the pension schemes for instance, the final salary pension scheme has been fantastic. And the opportunities that I’ve been given along the way, and… we should probably talk about 7 Up at some point, because that’s given me an enormous number of trips to… Los Angeles for instance.
Let’s talk about 7 Up then.
So 28 Up, working with Oral Ottey, the two of us, and thereafter 35 Up… it was decided that there was only one editor needed, and Oral had already left, and I was the editor who had last done it, and Michael said, “Well, I’d quite like you to do it again. This time though, we’ll be editing in Los Angeles, is that okay?” And I said, “well, I think it is.” And so off to LA I went for 35 Up, still on film, and the reason that… it wasn’t just going to the States, there was a reason why it had to be the States. Because Michael has always worked – he has a Hollywood career, so outside of 7 Up, in between the seven years, he’s a feature film director. So the start of his American features career was The Coal Miner’s Daughter, that was his first film, and a good few other films along the way. I had to cut 28 Up after it had gone out for the Americans to be shown in the cinema, and I had to create a continuous film, and I had to go out to Shepperton where Michael was doing Gorillas in the Mist, so every time I had worked with Michael, Michael’s working on his latest feature film. And I always get the opportunity to see the set, see Michael work, so it’s been brilliant. 35 Up, he was doing a film with Val Kilmer called Thunderheart, and doing at the same time a documentary on the same subject, which was to do with Native American… it was a crime the film was based on, and I think Robert Redford narrated the documentary whilst I was working with him at the same time, so he had these two other projects going. And we were at Warner Brothers. So there I was on the lot at Burbank Studios, parking next to Chevvy Chase’s parking space, in between his and Richard Gere’s space, which was… I was allocated a space. And it was just a terrific time. Yes, you really felt, this is… God, you’re working in Hollywood! Of course I wasn’t, I was doing this quirky British TV documentary, which is that stage Americans had begun to kind of know about, because it had first been sort of shown at cinema in in the States at 28. So there were people who had seen it, and it was stuff that was kind of just about being, you know, being sort of registered as something that had some real kind of mileage about it. So that was 35 Up, and then subsequent programmes have all ended up being edited in the States. And you know, in between times it’s been Michael’s… you know, there was one occasion I went to a premiere that had Gene Hackman in it, and sat at cinema with Gene Hackman, and you know, John Carpenter called by, the director, and you know, Michael would take you out to restaurants, and you know, there would be… I think Barbara Streisand was sat at one of the tables on one occasion. So you really felt you were seen here and you were being allowed to see a little bit of kind of Hollywood, and yes… and it’s continued to be that, you know? And Michael comes over, obviously does all the filming, and I usually start the edit over here, and he gives me notes. And that’s the other thing – I kind of… I like the way that he likes me to work. And he trusts me to work on my own, because he has already given me direction. And it’s… you know, you do the work, Michael sees it, he gives me notes, and that’s kind of the way that it’s gone. But as George Turner has probably told you, we are like a family, and so, apart from the subjects of the film all kind of knowing one another.
And you’ve all grown old together.
We’re all… I’m one of the younger ones, I think! Next is a few months older than me. And Michael is like, 75 or something, and there’s Claire Lewis, I’m not going to mention her age! But yes, we’re all pals, and we know… George obviously knows them all because he films them, and obviously being editor I only get to see them when we have screenings and stuff, but I’m pally with all of them when I do see them, and I’ve just literally been to one of the girls’ 60th birthday parties, which happened last weekend, I think. Yes. So I do see something of them from time to time.
So what is the next one?
It’s 63 Up.
63 Up, when will that be shown?
I mean, the filming takes place usually six months or so beforehand, and then there’s the time to edit, so I think it’s probably round about three years, two and a half years time, something like that, is the beginning of the filming. Although I think George was talking about it, I think he said… I think he said.. it could even be 18 months’ time in terms of the start of the filming. In terms of when it goes out, three years. And of course, just finishing up, the other one that I… in 2000, they decided that they ought to perhaps think about starting a new one, and that new one they had to think, “Well, we need a new director for it,” and they… Bill Jones thought that the director that he’d sort of seen, went to Cambridge, did documentaries, directed Coronation Street, ad was doing dramas and stuff, was the right man for the job, and that was Julian Ferino. And Julian did the first of the kind of restart of the thing called 7 Up 2000, and I was the editor on that, 14, and we did 21 Up about three years ago.
Has that been shown?
It has, yes. It goes out on the BBC, so it’s not… ITV make it but it’s for the BBC. And it’s a great pity because I don’t think a lot of people know about it. Yes. And of course, the Russian one is also interesting, because that is working with a Russian director called Sergei Miroshnichenko. And I’ve worked with him on all of them bar the last one, which I was unable to do. And he doesn’t speak a lot of English, so that’s always been interesting, but we kind of manage. And particularly with the producers, Russian speaking, Jemma Jupp, but that’s been an absolutely fantastic project to be involved with.
Would you have had much to do with the likes of Bernstein or Forman? Plowright?
Not directly, but we were always told if the Bernstein’s were in the building, word went around, in my early days, you know, don’t have your feet, not that anybody would have their feet up on the table, but… we were always told, “They may come down.” Sydney might come down. And I think my memory is just all those wonderful momenta whenever we were in situations, where we were able to hear them speak, and particularly with David Plowright, it was so eloquent, some of his speaking, you know, and there were occasions where… 1984 was 21 years of World in Action, we had it over at the Bonded Warehouse, and there was Denis at the door and we all shook hands… there have been a few events I’ve been to that Sir Denis kind of attended, and I think we had something that when Michael gave one of the Granada… they had a kind of talk every year, didn’t they?
Oh, the Denis Forman lecture?
Yes – and I as involved… not involved… you know, they had a sort of party afterward and Denis would be there, and we’d have a brief conversation. I mean, it was just all those moments that you remember, anniversaries of Coronation Street, when David would speak, and the franchise speeches were just fantastic. And I was really kind of moved when Nick Plowright had asked John Shepherd and I had been asked to put a few things together for David’s memorial. Yes… but other than that, no one ever set foot in the upstairs, but I was very lucky that, again, through 7 Up, there was a meal that I attended up in the penthouse, and I sat at the dining table and had dinner there, and that was with Sir Denis, I think.
Yes! And fast forward to an occasion that we were doing some filming up there with Chris Malone, and it was a documentary about Marc Bolan, and we had some re-enactments to do up there, and in typical Granada fashion, if you ever had any re-enactments to do you would always draft in people that you knew to dress up as something, and it was always going to be soft focus, and I was asked to be Marc Bolan. We had a kind of a… it was a sort of a party situation before he went on his fatal drive, and Chris Malone had decided that… he didn’t have any dry ice to sort of fog the place up, and he lit up a handful of cigarettes to waft cigarette smoke across when we were filming it. And there I was, dressed up in bright coloured clothing and a kind of Bolan wig on. I looked completely ridiculous – although in my day I used to have hair a bit like Marc Bolan’s – anyway, so I was quite enjoying it, but to cut to the chase, Chris dropped a couple of these cigarettes and they actually burnt holes through the carpet! Long after, you know, there was never… the penthouse was never used at that time, it wasn’t used at that time for anything, it wasn’t sacred ground any more. And yes, I was just a bit sad to see the end of it. I actually bought one of the paintings. Do you remember when they sold off all the paintings? I’ve got a small watercolour that used to live up in the… that I bought from Granada, yes.
Is there anything that you feel you want to add that we’ve not talked about?
I mean it’s… you know, it doesn’t exist any more, and that’s the thing that one would say that there was probably… you know, the great Granada days probably finished long before 2009 for me, you know? But I just feel kind of honoured to be part of, you know, what had gone on there. I don’t think there’s enough been kind of documented about the talent that was there, you know, when you sort of think of World in Action that produced people like Mike Hodges, director of Get Carter, and there was Mike Newell and, you know, all these Hollywood directors. How has that happened? You know, Greengrass, John (Ware? 80:42), you know? Okay, John Ware is not a Hollywood director, but you know, he’s been a fantastic TV journalist.
And then people like Jim Grant.
Well, Jim Grant, look at him! Yes, yes. And politicians. I mean, you know, there’s Margaret Beckett and Jack Straw in my time, Brian Sedgemoor… just terrific. And just brilliant people, you know? You can’t say enough about people like Ray Fitzwalter, you know? What a great man he was. Yes.