And when you were doing a World in Action programme, how long on average would you film for?
About seven days. Certainly the World in Action period for the first four or five years, maybe ten, but say when I started in 1969. The first programme I did was a programme in Northern Ireland called All Change at Newry. This was before The Troubles had really got going. So we spent a weekend over there with demonstrating and people throwing dustbins, and they weren’t plastic in those days, I think they rather hurt when they threw them. But they seemed to project them a fair way.
But the first real programme I did all by myself was I went to South Korea, and we probably had about ten days there and it was basically, it sounds daft but the Korean War was only ten or twelve years old, all the Americans were still there and you’d still got North Koreans… And we went to where the 49th parallel is, and all that, and I got punched in the face by a North Korean because I’d strayed into North Korea. Challenged some Korean soldiers to survive in the cold, and next minute they’d caught this snake and I could see this soldier put his foot on the snake’s back and bit its head off, or part of it, peeled it, and started to eat it. Alan Bale got this wonderful sound of just a sort of crunching away as he was eating it, and I got the camera really up close. The postscript was that when we came back with out 22 silver boxes at Heathrow Airport, they could see there was a sticker saying we’d come from the Far East and the porter who was moving it, because that’s how it was with all these boxes, said, “Oh! Were you the crew that did that World in Action that went out last week?” So we said yes. And he said, “Oh, the sound of that soldier eating that snake!” But that was in the days probably when 12, 13 million people would watch World in Action because you’d just got two channels, BBC1 and ITV or Granada or whatever you want to call it.
So we would go out there. Because it was so far we’d make two programmes. So we went and make another programme in Hong Kong. We’d be away for three weeks and we’d certainly make two programmes. If we went to America we’d try to be away three weeks and make three programmes. The idea was to balance up the economics of the cost of flying us out there and the cost of taking the equipment. One thing I remember quite well was when we went to Korea it was nearly £1400 to take the equipment. I had no idea what the airfare was but that’s what it cost to take the equipment. And it probably only cost about £1500 to buy the equipment in the first place! It sounds daft now when you think about it.
But as a general rule, I think it was on average seven days. But then we would make programmes literally in 24 hours, so, the Grosvenor Square demonstration, that programme, it all kicked off on that Sunday afternoon. We’d done a bit of preparation work with it, but at the end of it, the last about 11 minutes of the riot, was almost 11 minutes uncut. The funny thing about it is, I only had a little camera that wasn’t recording any sound. So they had to make a loop of the sound that came from other cameras that were thereto build up the atmosphere. But the actual footage that I took that you see in the programme, there was no actual sound shot with it when I did it because the camera was just a little mute camera.