John on becoming a lighting director

In 1980 I got my own crew. Or ‘79, ‘80, I got my own crew, with certain people on it, and it took me until 1988 to get a job as a trainee lighting director. I applied three times. Well, the first time they wanted two, because they were going to train new lighting directors instead of bringing them in from outside or using the established three that they’ve got at Granada. They wanted to train more. So, what they did was they gave the jobs, four jobs, four new jobs, two to sparks and two to cameramen because the new agreement they got was going to create a new grade, called lighting supervisor A and B. Now, lighting supervisor A and B could either do camera work or could light, or could do a combination of both on the same shoot. So, that’s when I got to work outside on mobile units. There was a thing that David Liddiment did, telethon, and I did the camera on that, but I could just as well have done the lighting as well, because it was all shot on location. I’m digressing now from what I’ve written down. 

So, I started as a lighting supervisor grade B, and it took five years to get to LSA grade, and it should have been two, but Granada weren’t in the process, in 1988, of promoting people once they got to a certain grade, because we just had two upstart caterers join us, as you well remember, and they put a freeze on virtually everything. There were to be no promotions, only redundancies. But I’ll come to that again later. I didn’t get promoted to a full grade of lighting supervisor until I got my redundancy in 1998. 

So, as an LSA/LSB, it was a new grade which enabled somebody on the grade to switch between lighting and cameras or do both roles simultaneously. I worked on local programmes Granada Reports, Upfront, This Is Your Right, Aap Kaa Hak, Clapperboard. And then I spent, rotating with Paul Maddocks, some six years lighting This Morning in Liverpool. So, that was a role where it was mostly lighting, and it was definitely on location. We all used to go round the dock and we used to light a shop so that Richard and Judy could go down for five minutes and interview the person in the shop, or in a restaurant where they would have a celebrity chef or something. Not everything was done in the studio. Quite a lot of it was done on location around the dock. 

I had a chap, a cameraman called Alun Evans, who was the senior cameraman with me working on This Morning, and there was one classic instance when we were doing Coffee Time with Richard and Judy, and they went to the VTR, and Alan thought they’d finished Coffee Time, and the VTR, they would reposition to the studio. So he started unplugging the cameras, but of course they’d got another link to do to go to an ad break before they came back to the studio. By the time we’d got out of the VTR, the cameras were all dead and Richard had to do a voiceover, and it was just over a This Morning caption. It was not funny at the time, but they saw the funny side of it later. 

After This Morning finished, I went down to London actually to help them and advise them on lighting for the new studio, which was in the London Weekend building, overlooking the river. Because the biggest problem with This Morning was the light. If it was sunny outside, then you had to have nets across the window. If it was not sunny and it was dull, all the nets would get pulled back. So you had to have neutral density nets to actually adjust the sun. So, the same principle applied in London as it did in Liverpool, where you’d just pull nets across the window. And I think, I’ve got a feeling that’s still the case. Although, Don Trafford and I went to Pilkington’s Glass near St. Helens, and they were developing a new sort of glass, which was you connected it to electrodes on the bottom of the glass, and the glass would turn dark as you put more current into it, and turn light as you took the current out of it, which was a really good idea. But at £40,000 for each 6 foot by 12 foot panel, it was out of Granada’s reach. So, we carried on using nets across the window.

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