So during the time I was head of Features, I got this completely mad idea to start Granada Film, and on a Friday, at the end of the day, I used to sneak up the back stairs and occasionally have a whisky with the Managing Director of Granada then, who then became the Chairman, who was a fantastic guy called David Plowright, who was very different from Sir Denis, very northern, very journalistic, and combative guy, but a very, very, very driven person. And occasionally I would creep up to his office and we would have a whisky together, and he would ask me what I was doing, how it was all going, and we would have half an hour. And on this occasion, I brought this piece of paper in my back pocket, and I said, “Look, David – we’ve got the largest drama department in Britain outside the BBC, we’re making hundreds of hours of drama, we know all the best writers, we know all the best actors…” – in fact, his sister was a very famous actress called Joan Plowright, married to Laurence Olivier – “We’re in that world, we can get good people – why don’t we start our own film company?” And I knew that Granada Group, under the guidance of Sir Denis Forman, also had a small film company, so I wondered whether there might be an element of rivalry here between Granada Group and Granada TV, and would that work against me, or would it work in my favour. And David – this is absolutely typical of Granada – said to me, “Great idea! Let’s do it.” So I took this paper out of my back pocket and I said, “Well, I’ve got a list of names here – David Putnam, Richard Attenborough – there’s a load of producers who love Granada and respect Granada, and they would like to help us.” “Don’t be stupid,” he said. “Leave your office, take your secretary, go into the Bonded Warehouse and start the company – you don’t need the help of any of these people, this is Granada.” So I was a bit shocked, because now my bluff had been called, so I get up to go, and I go out of the office, and I had this sense that as I went out of the office – and this is apocryphal, I don’t know if it ever happened – David would pick up the phone to the finance director, who of course knew me from all these annual negotiations over regional programmes, and he would say, “Bill, I’ve just had a conversation with Steve Morrison, he’s got this cockamamie idea for starting Granada Film. I’ve encouraged him and told him he can start developing it, but don’t give him any money.” Which is very typical of Granada, if that conversation ever happened.
So what you had to do, you would get a few pence to develop the scripts and the projects, but then you had to ring Hollywood to actually get the production money. So you would be sitting in the Bonded Warehouse with an industrial sunset of bright orange sun over an industrial landscape in Salford at four o’clock in the afternoon, and be phoning LA, which of course was eight hours earlier and just coming in, and you’d be saying, “Hello, is that so-and-so productions?” or, “Hello, is that so-and-so distribution? This is Granada.” “Grenada? Are you phoning from the Caribbean?” “No, no, no, no, no – Granada Television.” “Television? We don’t do television, we do film!” and over thousands of miles, you would be basically selling to these people. “I’ve got this script, I’ve got these great actors, I’ve got this director – will you fund the film?” Because Granada wouldn’t fund the film, but you knew that ITV would pay the licence fee, which would go a long way to start funding the film, so you were half way there but not all of the way there. And this had all come about, because during the features department, we had decided to make a film called The Magic Toyshop with Angela Carter, and it was going to be directed by the most wonderful guy, who sadly has died young, called David Wheatley a north east, tall, bluff, interesting, really interesting guy who was a director, who I had worked with on something or other already.