Jane Houston’s memories of the Granada drama series, Families

Granada were starting a new soap opera called Families. And I was one of the first PAs to work on that, three or four of us. And that was the first soap opera to do four episodes a week. And it was the first one at Granada where we were using a computer to type scripts and do cameras, set camera scripts and things. So it was, quite a different, different thing. And it was also half set in Australia and half set in the UK. And there was a lot of cast coming from Australia. So that was a very interesting experience. Very, very hard work, just doing four episodes a week, because nobody had done it before, so we had to work out a way of working and a sort of a turnaround for it. I think we did a four week turnaround. 

I think there were four PAs, but obviously there was just so much typing and just so much prep to do, to get four camera scripts out and, and then also the continuity, because there was, I think, three trips to Australia, certainly after the first two series, which is what I was involved with. And the PA that went to Australia had to do continuity on everybody’s episodes, whether they were ones that she’d worked on in the UK or not. So that was quite challenging. So, all the PAs all had to keep notes, anything that… because all the Australian interiors were shot in the studio in Manchester, and most of the Australia exteriors were shot in Australia. So if had somebody came through a door, if there was a scene outside the house and they came through a door, into the studio, obviously you needed to have continuity notes, and you needed to have all the costume notes and everything like that. So that was quite challenging. It was interesting. It was the first time I’d ever done continuity notes for somebody else to pick up. So that, that’s something else that stood me in good stead over the years for having second units and pick-up days and things. So yes, that was interesting. And I didn’t do the first two trips to Australia, but I did go the third time, and we were doing inserts for a hundred episodes so…

Logistically, it’s a huge operation, isn’t it?

Yes. It’s yes, well, yes. And the only people that went out from the UK other than the cast were the producer, director, and PA, they didn’t take anybody else. And there was a lot of set dressing that needed to go. Like one of the houses had big plate-glass windows, and there were Venetian blinds at the windows, just so obviously when we’re in the studio, you couldn’t see outside. Those Venetian blinds had to go on the plane with us to Australia. So the producer and I had all the costumes, we had things like we had a set of Venetian blinds that was six feet long. It was just bizarre. So yes. So, that was another interesting overseas experience.

What time of day was that transmitted, then?

I think it started out sort of a teatime show, I think, but then it went to late night, went to 10:30, and it ran for, I think, four series, maybe five. I’m not sure, but I was involved in the first two, it had quite a cult following, but I don’t think it did well enough in the viewing figures for Granada to carry it on. But I have to say, I still keep in touch with nearly all the Australian cast; with Facebook and that nowadays it’s amazing. And so many of cast, yes, it was Jude Law’s first job, Jonny Lee Miller’s first job. So, and yes, I mean the Australian cast in particular I’m still in touch with, and it changed my life because that’s what made me, I went to Australia and I loved it there, I loved the way of life and thought I was going, I’d think about going to live there. And I couldn’t, I just could not get to do the big dramas at Granada. It was like a closed shop. There was only certain PAs that got to do that. So I came back. I went out to Australia in, I think, end of August, September. And when I came back, it was end of October. So I’d gone in summer and I came back and it was really basically winter.

Leave a Reply