I was a student at the National Film School, which is now the National Film and Television School, and I was in its first ever year when it opened. And I had started making an observational film about my local Labour Party, which was the Norwood Labour Party; it was largely about their social interaction. And during the time I was making this film, a postman who was a member of the party very kindly came up to me and told me that Shelter were secretly planning to symbolically occupy Centre Point, the tallest unoccupied building in the centre of London, very famous symbolic building, and that this would be non-violent, they would go in on a Friday afternoon, come out on a Sunday evening, basically to make the point that, whilst many people were homeless, this huge building shouldn’t be left empty. So I said, “Oh, that’s very interesting,” and I went back to the film school, got a couple of friends to do camera and sound – I think in those days we used quarter-inch Acai video tape, which is totally unreliable – and we joined this group in some under the arches warehouse in Waterloo. We were given our instructions, and different groups appeared at different entrances and exits to tube stations, waiting for a signal to run across the quadrangle and the patio into Centre Point, and right at the last minute the guy in charge of this called it off and got everybody back to the meeting place and said there were three guests, very sort of sober business people walking across to enter the building and we couldn’t risk doing any harm, so we are going to call it off tonight, we would like everyone to remuster next Friday at the same time and the same places that they wee all designated to be, which turned out to be a very good thing, because I thought to myself, “Why am I making this on quarter-inch video tape? It could be very interesting,” and I raised my standards and got a big film camera and 16mm film and got myself prepared with my little crew better than I had done the week before. Anyway, the next Friday it went absolutely smoothly, we got into Centre Point at about 5pm, the janitor was on the door in reception, the glass doors were barricaded with huge beams in a kind of cross, and I said to the janitor, “Would you mind if I used your phone?” There were no mobile phones in those days, this was 1974 I think it was, and he said, “No – carry on.” So I picked up the phone and I happened to know, from being a student, Gus McDonald, who was the then editor of World in Action, or he might have been the executive producer, I’m not sure. And I rang up Gus and I said, “Gus, we’re in Centre Point, it’s barricaded, nobody can get in, nobody can get out, it’s a symbolic occupation, we’ll be here to Sunday night, I thought you might be interested in this for World in Action.” He said, “No, no – we’re making a programme about oil, we’ve interviewed Lord So-and-so, who is the Secretary of State, we’ve spent £750…” – which in Granada means you have to continue and complete the programme – “Why don’t you offer this to This Week in Thames?” I said, “No, it’s either a World in Action or a student film, and if you don’t want it we’ll make it as a student film. Here’s my number, but it’s not my number, it’s the number on reception, if you change your mind let me know,” and I put the phone down. And it was one of those absolutely classic American silent comedies where the phone literally jumped back out of the hook and began ringing, out of the cradle, and began ringing, and I said, “Hello?” and he said, “STEVE! You’re barricaded in, and everybody else outside is barricaded out? This is a scoop, man!” I said, “I’ve just explained that to you, Gus, but you don’t want it.” “No, no, no – we’re sending a man down, he’ll somehow smuggle more film and more cans through the windows. Keep going, and on Sunday night when you come out there will be people there to meet you.” So we were now making this film supposedly for World in Action, although I suppose in our minds we still thought we were making our National Film School film. And I got the organisers up onto the roof, and a big map of London, and they recreated how they planned this, and which groups they had approached and how they did it, and where they arrived, it was a bit like a military operation, which groups arrived from which directions, obviously what their goals were, how they intended it to be entirely peaceful and were coming out on Sunday night, and obviously I spoke to a lot of people who were part of the occupation to find out why they were doing it. Sunday night, it’s dark, the place is surrounded in spotlights from various crews, and there’s about a few thousand people outside the building, and we all pour out and I’m filming away, and I feel this hand on my shoulder, and a guy whispers to me, “Are you Steve Morrison?” and I said, “Yes,” and he said, “I’m Mike Beckham from World in Action, we need you to stay awake all night tonight because this is going out tomorrow night, and there will be two cutting rooms and you’re the only person who knows anything about what’s in this film, so we’re going to have to keep you awake with coffee and keep two cutting rooms going, and we’ll piece this together for tomorrow and we’ll transmit it from ITN in London.”
So it went out the next night, I think slightly out of synch, but everybody was in a hurry and it was obviously very immediate. Mike did a terrific job filming outside, so he cut all the stuff I’d done with what he’d done, and I then, having been up for three nights and three days, went home, and the next day I was literally in my pyjamas and dressing gown and a guy knocked on the door of my house, and he said, “Are you Steve Morrison?” I said, “Yes,” and he said, “I have a message from Gus McDonald.” I said, “Oh, what is it?” And he said, “Gus said, if you can hustle your way into Centre Point, you can hustle your way into Granada. Would you like a job?” So I said to John, “I really don’t know, I’m a student, and I haven’t finished my course.” And he said, “Well, don’t waste your breath engaging with me, I’m only here to deliver the message.” So I then went back to the director of the film school, who was… he is – he’s still alive, thank goodness – a terrific Scot called Colin Young, who had started the film school, now the National Film and Television School, and was the original director. I said, “Colin, I’ve just been rung up by, or been told, or invited, by Granada to go there, but you know, I’m in my final year, I haven’t finished my course, I haven’t graduated,” and Colin said, “You have now – take the job, man!” So on May 1, 1974, I turned up at Granada and somehow made my graduation film at the same time.