Leslie Woodhead describes how he moved into drama-documentaries

By then, I had moved on from World in Action, I can’t remember the exact dates, but I discovered that I really… I had this 18 months as co-executive producer of World in Action, and it was really useful that I did – because I discovered something important for me, which was that I didn’t enjoy being a studio-bound executive. It was all right, but I just felt… I remember there came a moment where one of my colleagues on World in Action, John Shepherd, put through his expenses after shooting in Vietnam, and item three on the expenses was ‘opium party for Laotian general’ and I thought, “Come on – I don’t want to be signing the expenses – I want to be at the party!

And I – with some difficulty, actually – persuaded Plowright and Forman that I really didn’t want to do the exec-ing thing any more – I wanted to go back on the road. I wanted to make documentary films. And I remember Plowright saying, “You can’t be Peter Pan all your life!” I thought, “Yes, I can.” So I left World in Action to others, including Jeremy Wallington, Gus, and John Birt, who took over, and David Boulton who took it on, but I then only returned spasmodically to doing some World in Action’s in the early 70s, and then mainly made one-off documentaries. And from 1970 onwards, I also got involved with doing drama documentaries, which was another territory I was utterly inexperienced in – I had never directed an actor in my life!

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