As it turned out, the Wakefield Express used our film for 15 years after that. Colin Pyrah, the man at the newspaper who’d placed the commission admitted years later to me that the newspaper Directors couldn’t believe they’d got us to make such a competent and professional film for such a small amount. But neither of us, Colin or I realized that this was only the start of our working relationship, there was lots more to come, but that future was nowhere on the horizon in 1974.
Whilst we were working on the fiIm, I wrote to Lyndsay Anderson and told him what we were up to. He graciously wrote back, twice in fact and explained how he too had landed the job without knowing much about how to make a film but also managed to delivered his picture.
However being so talented he made one of the post-war classic documentaries. I never did see a copy, probably a good thing as I might have been overwhelmed by its’ quality.
After our first success, I was so full of optimism that I decided to start a film production company for real. We needed an office and an address, as I didn’t have enough money for rent, I asked the inlaws and Phil and I set up office in the vacant garage attached to their house.
From the desk where we sat, which had nothing on it for weeks but an ash-tray and coffee mugs and new style trim-phone, (we had to cadge the smokes from my Madge) , we looked through a window onto a concrete yard and a new double-door garage opposite. This was where all the valuable non-ferrous metal scrap were stored; the copper and bronze, aluminium, brass and lead.
We also kept an eye on the guard dogs’ kennel and the skinny and nervous dog that usually cowered inside.
Her name was ‘ULI’, a good German name for a German Doberman. Her job was to guard Aladdins’ Cave.
Uli was expected to warn off crooks who came up to the house to sell stolen gear and make sure they didn’t get passed the gate until someone came out from the house.
Madge was often alone and the dog was intended as extra insurance, at least that was the plan. Truth was, far from tearing anyone to pieces, Uli would have shaken herself to pieces; she was undoubtedly the world’s most neurotic runt of a guard-dog, just too embarrassing, but at the same time we couldn’t help warming to the poor thing.
So to save her, and Jack’s face, when from the window we saw her shaking, which meant someone was coming up the drive, we’d nip out and lock her up in the kennel where usually she’d already run and hid. There from the safety of her barred kennel window she’d bark like a hound from hell, but she’d only do this when her kennel door was shut and securely bolted, (from the inside I should add).
Then one of us would go out to the character waiting at the gate with his bag of swag and explain that though she was small she was uncontrollably ferocious, the reason why we had to shut her up. We couldn’t even keep her on a chain we said as she went so crazy, so that’s why at night we let her roam free. What a con, but the dodgy visitors fell for it and for a while Uli was a fixture of the yard and became our unofficial mascot.
Phil and I might have become a fixture too if we’d stayed together, but after a couple of years and a several more productions, notably making a series of socio-documentaries about abortion law, (of all things, a good education for a couple of young blokes, sobering to say the least), we both realized that something with a few more laughs was in order and in the end went our separate ways to find them.
Such it often is with partnerships, they’re truly made in heaven. Ours almost worked but we were just starting out and both needed to spread our individual wings.
At the studios, Trevor was always on the lookout for me, and when I told him I was interested in maybe a full-time job at the studios in the graphics department, (maybe I should try a real job, after all we did have a baby on the way). He got me fixed me up for an interview with the head of the graphics department, a man called Dave. Dave was the most rampant out of control alcoholic who ever held down a job, how he ever managed to get the graphics out for the weather reports I will never know. But I suppose the way the English weather works, no-one would think twice about snow in July.
This is how I imagine one of Daves’ alchol driven weather forecast might go,
Should be a great day for the beach though where the fog and drizzle will mingle with the on shore blizzards. The wind will be light from the South West and tornadoes are expected across South Yorkshire where structural damage can be expected. It’s the longest day tomorrow with the sun setting at 4.30pm.”
And of course everyone would just take it as normal; that the weather people hardly ever got it right- it wasn’t their fault, it was whiskey Dave.
whisky driven weather reports…..