Frank Clarke describes how programmes where costed in the 1950’s

Whatever the programme was, Denis (Forman) chaired it but when the costs were done, it was to Sidney (Bernstein) it went in those days. After things got run properly, it was just sent to the Producer and as long as it was within the overall estimate for, say thirteen weeks, there were no problems and what we had to remember when we were doing the costs, was a building of a set – let us take an early programme which we had – in the first week Make Up Your Mind, David Jacobs compered. They had a hostess and cameras like…..and they brought live animals in some times. I’ll show you a photograph with a sheep and there was a gentleman, Bob Freeman, an extremely good scenic artist. He would adorn the sets with bits of nature or something like that and the contestants would come on and would have to compare “would we like that sheep or would we take the money?” And see how they would discuss it – very light hearted, but it paid off.

What would happen if the programme went over budget?

Well there were little allowances for it. We were a little generous on the way costs are done, but the main thing was, I was talking about the set. The set was made, would be there, the basic set for the whole 13 weeks and all programmes were based on the 13-week cycle so the cost of building the set was shared out over the 13 weeks. It may be, let’s say, 10,000 pounds, so you would write eight hundred and something off every show in the indirect charges.

There was one incident where I went to see the Production Construction Department Manager and he told me “Oh, I’ve had to put this much on the cost of sets because the maintenance needed doing in the studio.” You can’t do that and we had quite a heated argument – in fact he slapped me at the end and Roy was with me and said “come on out”. But what happened was when the building had been finished; the builders had a six month agreement that they would undertake any repair jobs that came up. Seven months afterwards what’s happening and this is the first case. No one had thought of creating a Maintenance Department.

So the day after this happened, we got in, it was, can’t remember his name now. The General Manager at the time, he came out of the film industry anyway, with George Speller who was the Construction Manager, and Roy and I and Simon Kershaw, the General Manager – he said to me “what do you think?” We need a Maintenance Department.

In the films were – the costs of maintenance are only incurred whilst the film is being shot. We’ve got at least two if not more programmes in the same studio in the week, so you cannot charge all maintenance down to one programme. It’s got to be shared out in Indirects. So we did that, so in fact George asked me to go run the Maintenance Department. I said no. I enjoyed Costing too much. The investigation I was really in to but being there with him would have restricted me purely to Construction. I mean we got on well. There’s no doubt about it. But it was little things like that but

And did you then remain in Costing?

Yeah. Well what happened, just to go back to reporting to Sidney. I felt, in the army I’d learnt to type and I felt we cannot give SLB handwritten costs because of his position, so because we were only doing probably five programmes a week – could have been 6 occasionally – we had time the day after transmission, so I could type the top sheet of, type the supporting sheets and sometimes it would be three or four supporting sheets with everything on, and then just give it to Sidney.

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