John Wiles

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23 Apr 2002
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Interview No 515 with JOHN WILES

Interviewer Glyn Jones                   Recordist — Ian Duff

The interview with John Wiles took place on April 23'd 2002 at his home.

Side 1 of tape — Mostly concerned with John’s earlier career in the camera department at Merton Park studios, from his first work in the 1939-45 war period to his later work after his war service as cameraman on a wide variety of features and documentary productions up to the early 1960s.

Side 2 of tape is mostly concerned with his -work as producer of sponsored documentaries from the early 1960s onwards, firstly with Films of Today set up by the Film Producers’ Guild, and then with British Films from 1980 onwards. This covers the decline of the Guild, and its eventual take-over by Ray Evans of Cygnet Films to form Cygnet Guild (which also folded!). British Films main interest was in the exhibition of films, especially in Africa, but it also had a production arm making short films, and John was head of this for some fifteen years. Not long after he felt to retire, British Films also packed in, largely because of its African activities failing.

Some names mentioned in interview (in approximate order)

Films  The Gentle Sex; On Approval; Men of Two Worlds; A Canterbury Tale. People:  Ethel  Revnell and Gracie West, Jill Craigie, Pennington Richards, Stanley Spencer (the artist, later knighted), Eric Cross [BEHP Interview No 1], Cliff Hornby, Peter Hennessey; the Fdgar Lustgarten series, Ken Hughes, Ron Bicker, John Read, Geoff Busby, Michael McCarthy, Buckland Smith, Beckwith-Smith, Bill Shand-Kydd, Derek Cunningham, David Villiers, Fred Gamage [Interview No 478], Simon Sanders, Pat Ashton, Michael Crane. Also: Erwin Hillier{Interview No 64], Jack Greenwood.

(Note for researchers — John showed me a privately printed handbook which tells the history of the Merton Park studios site. No author, publisher or publication date is included, but the printer was the Roebuck Press of Kingston Road, Merton, and the title is LONG LODGE AT MERTON RUSH),


This transcript has been produced automatically using Otter,

It provides a basic, but unverified or proofread transcript of the interview. Therefore, the British Entertainment History Project (BEHP) accepts no liability for any misinterpretation of the content of this interview.

However, the BEHP wants to make every effort to improve the quality of these transcripts and would welcome any voluntary offers to proofread this and/or other interviews. If you want to help, please contact BEHP Secretary,

Side 1 

Glyn Jones  0:00  
The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. The name of the interviewee is John Wiles producer, and the interviewer, Glenn Jones. The date is the 23rd of April 2002. And this is  side  one of the tape.

John, you've had a career in the business lasting half a century. I know  you started off in the camera department became a cameraman. And that you ended up as the producer of those specialised  films 50 years is quite time, how did it all begin?

John Wiles  0:43  
Well, I suppose it began really with my, as a kid I had an interest in in films, I was always thought it was magic to go to the pictures. And I used to have my own little 35 mil hand turn projector, which I spent my pocket money going to this sweet shop and buying 30 or 60 foot, I think it was rolls of film. And they were through Princeton six months. And these actually turned out to be really what subsequently I found to be off cuts of feature films. So I collected all these these films on my friends. And that was our main interest, because they used to go to the pictures a lot. And then I suppose really, I was away at school at boarding school, at the beginning of the war, when we spent most of our time there sort of digging, air raid shelters and tank traps to stop the invasion and things like that. But when I got to about, I think it was about 17, I realised that I either had to hang on and go straight into the services that I would have had to have done. Or I could try and get my foot in somewhere so that I had some experience so when hopefully it was all over and I came back. So

Glyn Jones  1:55  
By the time you were 17, guess what your boarding school, you're only by then got the bug, but naturally,

John Wiles  2:01  
That's what I wanted to do. Although I knew very little about it all. Well, as I suppose common with those times, my father was in advertising. And he was handling a lot of advertising campaigns, the National Savings and things like that. And he came in contact with a gentleman who was actually in charge of sponsoring these wartime National Savings films. It was a pure coincidence. He said, Well, look, I can get you an interview. I didn't know anything about anything. And he said, maybe you can take it from there. So the only time I've been inside a studio before that was about sort of them. When I was about 14, I went on a visit to Shepperton and I thought this was magic, I think they were making. I think it was the stars up down or something like that. I can't remember them. Anyway. So I went for this interview at Merton Park. And of course, they took me on I didn't really know what I was going to do. There was obviously a shortage of people because you know, more time taken a lot of the experienced technicians away. And so literally they said yes, right start Monday.

Glyn Jones  3:10  
So your first job was actually at Merton Park.

John Wiles  3:12  
My first job was at Merton Park, and I walked in there, and I've known him or anything. And they said, right, you're in the camera department. So this again, was a pure coincidence. And that's how I started. But of course, what I found out at Merton Park, it was quite rare, I suppose, because they had every possible facility there in quite a small way. I mean, they not only shot the films, they edited, they dubbed them, they had their own animation department, everything was done in house because you couldn't hire things in like you could later on

Glyn Jones  3:45  
What kind of films were made without making a whole range of things.

John Wiles  3:50  
The first thing I think I worked on was, it was something for either ministry information or something like that. I can't remember but I think it had Wilfred last near and he was I was sort of astounded to find this guy could actually get himself on the set and do anything, because he was into falling states, charming man, but you know, falling state. And so this is how I got in and, I mean, I didn't know what I had to do. I didn't really know this much about cameras or anything, you know, I did nothing at all. And so of course, I was put on as clapper loader and pushed into the darkroom to load these ghastly 35 mm rolls of film.

Glyn Jones  4:33  
I've always felt an honour feature and vigilant with that, but I was an extremely important job when you got it along now.

John Wiles  4:39  
It was this is what I could never understand. It was important and of course, I mean, the the fact that you had no experience, it's just like being pushed into swim in the deep end. Really, you just had to do it and they were quite helpful to people. The crews were quite nice and quite good. So gradually, I found out what it was all about to know and I managed to load the magazines and all the rest of it and keep the rate sheets and goodness knows what. And then after that, I mean I I was very quickly promoted to a focus puller because probably because there was nobody else to do it you know, so I was then more involved with the cameras and things like that and because what struck me at that time is the equipment was so heavy I mean, it was tremendously heavy equipment you know, and and so much was done in the studio and built which wouldn't have been done in later years, you'd go on location, I mean, you never built sets that they were building madness, I thought really but but because the gear was so heavy, the camera gear and indeed the sound problems because the sound was all on on film, it was you know, optical sound. So we had a sound track if you went out which was rows of converted ancient vehicle with all these sort of sound cameras eaten, and the same way they had to load up the sound stock and all the rest of it. I could never understand why in fact, they had to have 35 mil sound stock to take a little track that an optical track but

Glyn Jones  6:08  
anyway, they did, what kind of cameras where you do the studio. Well,

John Wiles  6:12  
what had happened at that time, I mean, everything was a little bit rundown, because it was you know, two years into the war, there was no new equipment and things did break down quite a lot. We had a Mountain Park had all its own cameras, it had a Vinton, which was then put in a blimp rather than gaming the blimp for the sound. And it had a Mitchell. And it had I think some I think numerous team players at that time, but most we used the debris the superpower though debris, which was so heavy to lift onto a tripod, unbelievable. And of course, it also had this problem that the 35 mil of course was nothing else at that time, the stock was in magazines that were either side, inside the camera, it was a square camera and these magazines inside. So the film came out one side, twisted round down to the gate. And back on the other side. The great disadvantage of this was that when you took the magazines out, you had to be very careful that you knew which was exposed and which wasn't. And although there had been some disasters of unfortunate I was not responsible for because it was very easy to mix them up, you couldn't tell one from the other really. So that was all a big performance. And of course, getting stuff off to the labs and rushes and signing strips for us to have each shot and all this sort of thing. And of course, a lot of the cameramen, they actually demanded their own hand tests, which I thought was a bit ridiculous. So we had to bring or get sent from the laboratory, fixer end developer which we had to get to the right temperature. And the camera man lit the set. And we used to rush off and do this and sometimes have to make prints which to bear a lot of resemblance really to the actual actual sets. I mean, that a lot of them did this, you know, took a lot of time.

Glyn Jones  8:14  
But despite all this, were you happy to stay in the camera side and developing? Yes. I

John Wiles  8:18  
enjoyed it. Yes, yes. Oh, I enjoyed it. Yes.

Glyn Jones  8:20  
The question was usually on the camera operator from focus, follow, wasn't it and then on to like, yes. Well,

John Wiles  8:24  
I mean, I got to be a focus for him. Then we we went on talking about the periods of 19. Well, 40 to 43 and a half that sort of area. And we the thing about Merton Park, was it it did a lot of different things we used to have a lot of feature films came in not for their complete production but because either they'd run over at Shepperton or something or they'd done retakes and all that sort of things. And I was just thinking the other day, I mean, we had quite a few films that that came in like one was "The Gentle Sex" we had on approval with Clive Brook and Beatrice Lilly, and "The Gentle Sex"  had Rosmond John, and then there was a bit of men of two worlds, which was directed by thermal Dickinson. And then the other thing was you also hard out occasionally, so sent off to Denham, which was quite quite a thing. In those days, I had to live in South London and I had to be at Denham and Harper state. Wartime was not that easy. So I was hired out to work on part again of the Canterbury Tales, which was, Michael Powell, was directing it and Erwin Hillier was the camera man, who was probably one of the few people I didn't really get on with very well. He was very tough character. But fortunately, there wasn't there was a an operator called Eric Besche, who was a delightful guy. You know, and I had quite nice time out there. So you'd have things like that happened. And we went out on location to all sorts of things. And they did make also certain amount of second features quotas, quota quickies, which, you know, sort of, I think about five days shooting of these them. We were talking about one earlier one of them with this F Reverend Gracie West had I remember had six song numbers to play back. It's quite an achievement in those days. And the whole thing was shot in, I think, five days. But what this necessitated was working practically till midnight every night, the director, guy called Red Davis American. He used to be asleep behind the set half the time this was going on. And of course, if you worked after half past seven, you got half a crown meal allowance, I think it was, which was half Korean is what 30 P now is in something like that. About half a crown meal now. So that was quite good. But then they had to hire vehicles to get all the home. And then we were back on the Saturdays about the morning. These dreadful films. I mean, they were but they were the quota quickies which of course, filled up the cinemas and we did two or three of those as well while I was there, and then seems an awful lot happened in that short time. I was also then sudden suddenly somebody said well, you've got to go to Port Glasgow. Or I was there up there already when you take the camera gear with you so I had to take this Vinson with a blimp. On the trains in the blackout. On my own. I'm about 17 18 to meet the units in Port Glasgow, and the film was about artists in wartime. And  staying at Port Glasgow in this terrible sort of guest house was Jill Craigie, who was directing the film, charming young lady, charming young lady. There was Pennington Richards, who was the camera man. there was Lesley Hughes, his assistant director. And the main purpose of the visit was Stanley Spencer. So he was in, in the shipyards doing the drawings for the ministry of information. It's famous now, the shipyard thing so but think about it for Stanley Spencer is that he never actually had a bath. Everyone refused to share a room with him. The assessment director was was supposed to share a bed with them. He said there's no way I'm sharing this guy. He hasn't had a bath for 14 years, he says. And of course, I mean, what happened in the morning, we used to get up he he just put a tie around his pyjamas and a coat on. I mean, you've probably seen pictures of Dennis Spencer,

Glyn Jones  12:53  
straw. I'm a fan basically of his painting. And I find that it's Yeah,

John Wiles  12:56  
I think they're wonderful. Yeah. And we used to go out to Port Glasgow in the shipyard and reimagined This is wartime. Sort of remarks we got from and there was Jill Craiie , who was a gorgeous, lovely girl. And all this stuff than he used to do the sketches on a virtual toilet roll. And he did he you may have seen pictures of his in the in the ship. I was doing all these things on toilet roll. And anyway, that was as it was. But this is the sort of thing that happened at a very young age and I got a quite an impressionable age. So you know, it was an unusual situation, a very unusual situation. And of course, we all came back and there were other people involved in the studio. I can't remember the I mean copies the films that exist anyway. But it had very great difficulty in getting distribution through ranks. I think they didn't want to distribute in wartime but it was. So then. I mean, I think, you know, as far as Merton Park goes, it had its own canteen, and it's a it was quite a sort of homely place. You know, there were a lot of people working there. And a lot of them were, I shouldn't say this, but we're sort of keeping out the services by employing themselves on on ministry jobs, or so when it came up every three months, they had to be employed on a ministry job. So good luck to him. So that's the way it went, you know, so, um, but it was, it was employed a lot of people. I think one of the strangest things about it was the, the lighting was always a problem. I mean, the form the photographic side, but it was so heavy the equipment and we had all these electricians, you know, who were difficult character, you probably remember, you know, but I mean, the lights was so heavy. And we used to go out for this mess of stuff. And it was terrible. And then the fuses used to go and we couldn't get a hook up of lights and all those problems. But anyway, so all I can say is it was a marvellous sort of 18 months, whatever I had there and I came For being a school boys to actually know something about what was happening. So then I was off to the Navy

Glyn Jones  15:06  
is some of the people that you worked with in that first 18 months. Did you have any longer associate association with masterworks or a lot?

John Wiles  15:14  
Oh, yes. I mean, a lot I met. Oh, yes. And in the years to come, I mean, we, because it was a relatively small operation in those day being no television there were, I mean, you could walk out and walk down Water Street, you'd mean six feet, you know, but of course, now that doesn't happen. So you all got to know of each other and things like that. And yes, I mean, certainly, you mentioned Eric Krause. And I had the pleasure of working with him. Charming, charming book. I, I think that was on, on the gentle sex. I think a bit of that, I think if I remember rightly, but they're, I think they were really nice people I enjoyed all that time. And then, as I say, the Kenyan country, yes. Which is takes another few years away. You know, I wasn't anything to do with the film yet right? Now, no, no, no, no. I'm just in the Navy. And I've been all over the place in Australia in the Far East and things like that. So I had a good run. Although I did meet in Australia. I was walking on street in Sydney, and met Cliff Hornby. And he was the guy with the beard. Peter Hennessy. If you ever in Peters Hennessy, who I mean, a great character, camera, man, enormous beard, and he actually died by drinkies, by Tim Ferriss following a wasp, and this was me. But I've been, you know, I just met us, they do meet the most unlikely circumstances, what they were doing there, I think there was something to do with some ministry or information or something. And so,

Glyn Jones  16:58  
so no one was able to get back to that to Matt and

John Wiles  17:01  
I came back because one of the reasons for being in the job or getting my foot in the first place was that if you, if you went in the services when you came back, they actually had to give you a job. They had to employ you, which was, you know, employment wasn't that easy, then, because there were so many people coming back and the film is relatively small. So I marched in and looking for rather smart, I thought, I mean, it was offered, I think, four pounds a week or something, which was less than I'd been earning and may take kindly to it. But of course, I neglected to say when I started at Merton Park, I was on I think, 16 shillings a week, which is what ATP, isn't it? Yeah.

Glyn Jones  17:43  
Yes. Inflation in between. Yeah, that's

John Wiles  17:47  
right. Well, I mean, there was yes, that that's right. And I one rather peculiar thing happened to me was getting just back a bit so that I was working with Railton Oh, you may not know it's good Cameron and right. And he was a strong union mind. And of course, at this time, not everyone was in the union. You didn't have to be it was just really the beginnings of it. So I joined and re on one production suddenly decided, here's the deal. You're being totally underpaid for that job. You know, I can't remember I was earning more than 16 shillings, but it was probably two or three pounds or something. He said you should be getting five pounds a week for five pounds. It was a fortune those days. I said, Oh, well, look, Ray, I you know, no. He said, No, no, no, no. He said, we're gonna take this up to the union. So before I know where I am, I'm dragged in to the meeting and I think it was the arts the ESA club in Newport street with Railton making my case to the management who employed me for I should be paid the profit rate and not as a trainee. Well, I mean, this went on it was so embarrassing, because you can imagine the people who were the people employed me were the ones that tried to not pay me and I wasn't too worried because, you know, a pound a week. Nice, but at the end of the world, and so I think eventually, before anything was resolved, I'd gone in the Navy, so that was avoided that one. But anyway, so I mean, when I came back, yeah, they'd offered me four pounds. We I think I got it up to five or something like that. And there were a whole lot of people employed there. This was I was then at St. Martin's lane. I wasn't actually at the park of St. Martin's Lane film, which was then known as still missing. The house was passed on bark. I see. Or Emerton part was formed, or publicity films strand films. I've got a list of them somewhere. Yeah, I mean these these the people. There was Ronnie Riley productions, Verity films, Green Park, technical and scientific publicity films. Net bark studios, WM Larkins was the The animation sound services, talkie strips and guild television. And the smart Indian office was the head office for it

Glyn Jones  20:10  
called called Gil has Vinci was it? Yes, that's right. They changed guild

John Wiles  20:13  
house. I mean that those? I mean, there were, I think, going, I'm not sure. It was just after they came back when people like Sydney box, Betty box, they were running Verity films. And with them, Ken, Anna kin, and Ken Hughes. And quite a lot of people that when I came back, I mean, it was a bit of a shambles. I came back and it was mostly then dealing with, you know, documentaries and locations on various sorts, you know,

Glyn Jones  20:48  
at various companies, you mentioned that, and they were basically the companies that I associated with being members of the film Producers Guild. Well, they were you know, when when did the film Producers Guild actually started, you know?

John Wiles  21:00  
Well, I think it was before. No, it was before there was publicity films, mainly and sound services. I mean, I think one of the things that's I should I'm getting back now, and I shouldn't do that. But it's worth mentioning that at Merton park, there were sound services did all the road shows. And they did a phenomenal amount. They had all these little vans, running all over the country, Scotland, showing the films that the sponsor had made, because they remember, he couldn't get on television, that, so having made a film, they had to get out and show it. So sound services was really, you know, distributing a vast amount of these films all over the country at roadshows like they used to have, you know, before the war with bands and things like that conservative party and things like that. So you know that that was a big exercise. And of course, that disappeared, really, when it got smaller and smaller. The roadshow side, but it wasn't a large part of the organisation. So that was, you know, when it changed to being called guild house, I don't know. I mean, it was just guild holdings. Then I think, you know, there were various companies came and went, but they were all smallish. So that brings us up really, when I went back there, so I mean, we did various, some documentaries and things all over the place, you know, and, and I think, then I sort of suddenly don't ask me how I suddenly became a lighting camera, man. I mean, just by some coincidence, like, what happened? Probably because I was, you know, doing little inserts and things and bits and pieces. And then that sort of grew. And suddenly I became accepted for what I was not very good, probably. But

Glyn Jones  22:47  
do you remember the first film which you weren't liking?

John Wiles  22:52  
I think it was something for the electricity Council, I think I really can't remember very well now. Because I was working there. When I came back. I was really working with camera operator. And we did a lot of like, sort of children's films and things like that, to lose the old Foundation. And there's other things. And then what really happened, which still changed things a bit was them. I mentioned earlier, can you as you know, who unfortunately died recently, I saw he was a bright lead, actually, Ken and he was working there on various documentaries. And suddenly, we were going to make a pilot film for what turned out to be this last Gutten series. So Ken, he said, Oh, why don't you? Why don't we do this together? You know, you do see. And we did and the first one was called the Drayton case, I remember very well about three days shooting. And we got on very well together, you know, because he thought he had a lot of good ideas. And he was a nice, nice guy to get on with. And so that started after that. Drayton case started a whole series, and I can't remember how many there were of these half hour. Scotland yards with Ed Glasgow.

Glyn Jones  24:12  
Some of them were very good. The ones I think particularly which can use directed Probably, yes, even Canada.

John Wiles  24:18  
Yes, I remember that. Very well. Very well. But anyway, these were in the cinema as you know, in those days as I don't I'm not sure where the closer Act was still going. But they were shown quite regularly to the mouth because the milkman used to come in the morning and say odd he said, I saw that Daniels it was terrible.

Glyn Jones  24:41  
I think maybe because they could be kind of a as a small feature, along with a much longer Yes. Experiments with double sales. But if you had a main feature lesson, the best part of two hours, this would slot in quite nice and build about the usual sale link show.

John Wiles  24:58  
Yeah. And I think really the But, I mean, they were quite ahead of their time. Because what we used to do, we had, we did all the stuff with laska telling the stories in one day, you know, we'd have sort of he do three films in one day, we build a set. And we do all the linking stuff for the three films. And then all when we were shooting them, we often had to units. And so we were going from one set to the other, which was really a sort of thing I imagined it would have happened nowadays, you know, if you were in a hurry to do something, but we had three days shooting on each with first and second unit, usually going from one to the other. And a lot of other Cameron, we worked with, I mean, Ron Baker, Chuck, John reed, reed of England. I can't remember many of them, but But anyway, I mean, they went to and we must have done about 30 of those or so it really went on and on and on. And then well, that I mean, after that I was I didn't really look back from there, I was established for what I was doing. So then we had some second features to do. I like the one I was making the man with the gun, the witness. These were sort of hour long second features, still all in black and white and everything, but they weren't bad films. Not bad all films. And then in between this, I was doing documentaries and all sorts things. I mean, I I really have been extraordinary lucky. And I have never been out of work. In all the years I've been in the industry. I've been in some nasty situations financially with companies, but I've never actually been out of work. It's quite extraordinary.

Glyn Jones  26:45  
So if they were also working exclusively for American Parker, did they loan you out at all?

John Wiles  26:49  
Well, all sorts of things happened. Yes. I mean, you know, I miss doing it. There was some years I just can't remember all the different things we did. I mean, we did things like I did one year doing the Grand Prix. I think the 1950s Six or something like that we did went all over Europe doing this with the Newman Sinclair. Can you imagine I mean, imagine trying to shoot a drone pre with the news. So things like that. That was with Ronnie Riley. But because there were all these units, you mix between one on the other, you know, and, and so, yeah, I mean, I think I'm trying to think my time scale is not very good here. Because what happened? I mean, of course, colour came in and things, dealings in colour and things like that. But then, with the guild, he got terribly top heavy because I think it got too big. It got bureaucratic. And you know, it was enormous. And we'd always had lots of clients pouring into our lunches and, but in the end, they were eating our lunches, but not actually making any films or getting somewhere else. Coming in having a good lunch, seeing our films, saying they're a wonderful man go and make him somebody cheaper, usually with rebels or something like that.

Glyn Jones  28:08  
The girls seem to have been a kind of a huge umbrella for a large number of companies, officiating INSEAD and different aspects of the film business, you know? Yes. television commercials. Commercials came in. Yeah. But then how far Was it planned? I have I really just grow like Topsy.

John Wiles  28:28  
Yes, it grew. It grew. And I mean, I don't think really anyone had a vision of what they were trying to do. It was just, and like so many big companies, whether in films or anything else, it becomes easy, doesn't it? I mean, the work flowed in. Because during the war, he built up a great reputation doing all these sort of services films, which as you know, we did many more. I mean, I work vast number of service films. I can't think how many, you know, that was very good business. And although it wasn't highly profitable, it kept it all going. So I think it got really a bit out of hand, you know, and nobody really made any decisions. We had a lot of office staff and far too many half that weren't doing anything, you know, in fact, there was doing anything half the time in the office.

Glyn Jones  29:16  
So what happened it only individual tape production companies, they they shared a kind of common overheads. Yes, that's right. Common head office facility. That's

John Wiles  29:23  
right. Yes. But in fact, they doubled up in some, I mean, they had if you take someone like green power, it was a very successful company, you know, I mean, they had their own group of people, although, in fact, they were part of a main company. And what happened of course, that some people were working and others weren't and everyone was having good nice time. Not much work going on, you know, before the days of this is that journalism. So it became a bit sort of soft centred, and they kept employing more people who knew nothing about films and tried to bring the place around and all that sort of thing. Well, I mean, what then I think in the eye when it was it must have been in the 60s or something. You mentioned earlier, Jeff Busby had always been a friend of mine. He'd been a production manager and director goodness, there's

Glyn Jones  30:15  
been bluff vintage Big Daddy, Jeff J, like us.

John Wiles  30:19  
Yes. And we went a lot of things together. I will I actually, I should mention, that was one slight problem in the middle of all this, just before this time, I was making a film for the Army. I was the camera man on this tool for the army. Directed by a guy called Michael McCarthy, who subsequently went on to do operation apps. They're very bright, very, very good guy. And he made some quite good films with us. But we never got on that. Well, we did get on well, except when we were working. We, it was not due to him. But we did have a series of accidents, which could never have happened now because it wouldn't be allowed to happen. I mean, on one morning, when we woke up in the hotel, somewhere in wheelchairs, or a plane or something. And we'd had a slight, slight sort of contratar about something when he was and he wouldn't sit at the same table at breakfast, or mic. So we weren't speaking. So he went off in his little car with Jeff Busby, as it so happens, and I came on with the camera car about 10 minutes later. So I arrived at this was on Inba down, I don't know, you know, in Salisbury Plain, it's a battle. Yes, place. I don't think it still exists, actually, they take over the whole village. And so I arrived in this car with the assistant who was it can actually be open suddenly to see an enormous explosion. And I thought, Oh, my God, what's happening now. So get out of the car rush up. And it's, well, basically what had happened in the down was littered with with spent cartridges and shells, and you're always told never to touch anything. So they were grouped around this Bren Gun Carrier. And we were discussing, well, I wasn't there because I was just a bit late. They were discussing the next shot. This group of soldiers was Michael McCarthy and Jeff. Military supervisor. I remember to this day Major masport. Jeff. Anyway, one of these soldiers ever standing around this, pick this thing up and dropped it in the middle, and it went off the mortar shell. And it was carnage, I can tell you, Major MOS. I mean, he was as white as that radiates, I thought, because there were no communications we didn't have. We didn't have telephones, we didn't have mobile phones. We didn't have anything and we were stuck miles. And these guys were screaming just at the Battle of the Somme, you know, and I've got, anyway, this is the only part of the story. So we eventually he runs off of major mass and gets the ambulances and goodness knows what and they're all taken back to hospital. I think one of them died and one lost his legs. All right, very unpleasant. You know, you couldn't do anything for them. There's nothing you could do, because it was just but Jeff, of course, Lucky fella, he was standing just around the corner of this Bren Gun Carrier, so he didn't, he was Alright, perfect. All right. McCarthy got a bit of strap on his legs or something like that. But anyway, so that that was that part of the story on that film. And then subsequently, when Michael McCarthy was better, we were doing another film called road since it was about teaching the army how to drive. Well, as I say, these things couldn't happen now. So we engage the actors. And of course, you always ask the actors can you drive? Can you ride a horse? Can you swim? Can you go oh, yes, I do their time, jump of a trapeze during the oil. We get about three days into the shoot. We realise he can't actually drive at all you know, he can but not very well. So we have the Mitchell camera set up in the back of this army truck

which is quite heavy and Wabash down everything else and we're going around double bend. He's first well cut the long story sideways. He he he goes off the road. This is a deep cut in or near Aldershot, he drives off the road. There's a drop. Now the whole thing shot in the air and turned over, threw us all over the place, you know, and and landed the right way up. So the actor who was called Leonard Whitehead inspect, he still exists now. But he was in he was like, again this door. He was sitting there holding the steering wheel and we were strewn all over the place. So in this case, it was micromotion Kathy was, I don't know what's happened to him. But Harry Hooper was the assistant care man, he had all his arms smashed up. And I had the misfortune to be URL to the air and land a very unpleasant way on a stone or something or rock or something and fractured my spine. So that was not very good. So here was the unit finished yesterday, and I was carted off to be Cambridge hospital, Aldershot, thrice, lying there with all these screaming soldiers and goodness knows what I couldn't move I'd finished I thought, well, this is it. I've had it, you know, since I arrived, you gain an order, stop. Practice giving me the last rites. And they would have done if I hadn't actually got out of that hospital in the end. But when I think Jeff said Subsequently, I think he was on that way. He said, we said, I rang up the office. I said, I said always been an accident. They said, they said not the new coma van weren't much concern for us. So then, so that took about a year out of my working life. That's why Yeah, and that's, um, but I did recover because I managed to get out of the Cambridge hospital, Aldershot, which was, I mean, it couldn't be like it now like wartime, then, you know, people die in the night, that awful place, you know, fast wards about 50 people, you know, so I had to, well, two things happen one miracle, but my, one of the doctors came along, and he turned out to be the brother of my GP, which was extraordinary instance. And I said, Look, I can't stand this. I said, I know, I'm finished here. Because they hadn't gotten the plaster, there was a shortage of plaster, and to treat a broken back. And then what they do now they put you in a plastic cast, which means they hang you between two tables, and slap all this plaster on you. But anyway, the army hadn't got the plaster because there was a hadn't come through with a shortage. So I was stuck. And I said, I've got to get out of this face. So eventually, I signed a chip. So wouldn't hold them responsible or anything. And I got out went into civilian hospital, where upon them put in plaster, and you know, gradually, I managed to recover. Strangely, I'm still here today. But that was a slight diversion. But what I'm saying is those sort of things in with health and safety regulations, you couldn't do anything like that. Now, I'm sure you've been the same situation. So

Glyn Jones  37:25  
I'm aware that in the so called, you know, making training films or services is rather boring. I'm aware there's nothing more exciting things that have happened to me have happened.

John Wiles  37:35  
That's right. Yes. Yes. I mean, there are all sorts of things like flame throwers, and other one I really terrified. He especially you set up a shot and the thing turns towards you and is trigger happy and a great shot of this flame comes out. Very unpleasant. Yeah, yeah. But, you know, we're still here to talk about it. So that's okay. I'm not sure where we got to.

Glyn Jones  37:57  
Well, I think we're now probably somewhere around about the end and in the 60s or so. Oh, that's right. Yes, this is chronological time. And you're now you've made a liking camera, and you've been working continuously as these

John Wiles  38:12  
ideas. Yes. So what happened basically, that then was another change in as much as gradually what had happened 16 mil started to show its face. And for years, we'd had to listen to you know, people saying oh, I don't know why you're wasting wisdom, even do it on 60 mil. But of course you couldn't in those days. I mean, you could only shoot on Kodachrome. And you probably remember Ektachrome came in. And by having this very soft, soft picture and low contrast, you could then print through and get tolerable prints. I mean, Kodachrome was lovely, but you couldn't get any prints not good ones. It was beautiful. The master was such like massive visual. So anyway, Ethan colour came in, no, Ektachrome sorry, it came in. And I was, you know, we always talking about these in the midst of this is ridiculous, you know, the guild is top heavy. Other people are doing things on 16 mil, the Gil, everything has to be 35. It's expensive, and we were losing business and all that sort of thing. So Jeff, and myself went along to the powers that be and said, look, we've got an idea. You know, we want to set up as a totally as a 16 mil company, you know, within, within the guild as it were. And strangely enough, they took on the idea and we had our own area, flex our own transport. So it completely self contained Company, which was then called films of the day. And that's how we didn't like the title. But the Chairman said, I'm sorry, you must have this. So we started a company within the guild quite a good one. Well, anyway, we started a company within the Guild, and we I mean, our budgets for much cheaper because we didn't need all the heavy lighting and all that sort of thing. And we were making films for five or 6000 Caribbean elements. thing which is and this was this must have been a 60s 60s I could probably check it out somewhere but I can't remember 60s or something like that, you know? So then that took off. Yes.

Glyn Jones  40:16  
Yeah, I gotta say that's a suitable point. I think the stop is first sight, isn't it?

End of Side 1

Side 2

Glyn Jones  0:01  
The copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project, name of the interviewee John Wiles producer, interviewer, Glenn Jones 23rd of April 2002, Side two John in the early 60s and Ektachrome was coming in before that had really only been Kodachrome, and all of the stocks were reverse workday, as opposed to the negative stock that was used all the time in production. And of course, the colour side was also relatively new. How did you get on with the laboratories in your in your first film? Getting a decent print.

John Wiles  0:52  
With difficulty with difficulty. I mean, there were sort of specialists, the barges like colour film services, who would always dealt just in 16 mm stuff and things like that. And we tended to use that. And there were other I mean, I think ks did it. And one or two, Barclays did deal with it, but I mean, yes, they did. That's right. And I'm not quite sure where we got from using Ektachrome to using 16 mil Eastmancolor which came in, I'm not sure when but not long after, I presume,

Glyn Jones  1:24  
My memory is that 16 mm  Eastmancolor started to be used by television news video people. Towards the end of the 60s, and when we were using it, I think, come to 70s I think sponsored documentaries, where we're using it then as the as the

Speaker 1  1:44  
Well it all went over I mean, we in a sense, with films of the day, we'd sort of pioneered, if you'd like to use that word in the established companies, you know, for using 16 mm whatever the, the actual stock was. And I mean, in fact, was very successful, because we could obviously reduce the budgets because our processing and stock cost and everything were less than 16 mil Airflex, the camera, you know, we've got new then easier to carry around and all the rest of it. And we had our own portable lighting gear we had. Anyway, the first thing we did, was a sponsored film for Glaxo, which was ran for goodness knows how long it's extremely boring film. And I think the total budget was 5000 pounds, which was not a lot of money in those days for a film of that link, you know, for a sponsored film, not a very good film, but nevertheless. But after that, the whole thing took off. I mean, and we were lucky, much people, you know, came to us and we produce their films. So what happened, but as Jeff was doing some of them, then I was started off as being the camera man, rather, with no point in doing this really, I can better occupy my time, tried to write and direct them, you know, whatever they were, and then we'll employ cameraman to do the job. So in the end, that's what we were both doing. And of course, we improved the turnover enormously then. And as we were on a man, usually, in those days, a very small percentage of the profits, which we're very, very welcome, I can assure you, I'm very unusual. It worked quite well. And we I mean, it really took off. And we we were both sort of writing and directing our own things or getting other people to do them or producing them or whatever it was. We had a we had our own offices in Dean Street, very nice offices above the wine shop in Dean Street. 62 that was and we had our own cutting rooms. So we had we were completely self contained. It was just if we were different company. I mean, if we'd have been perhaps more enterprising, Jeff myself, we would have left and you know, gone our own way. But being a bit of a sort of nervous nature and not too adventurous, we thought, well, if we can get somebody else to finance it, we'd hedge our bets about the shit like a unit trust instead of shares. And like

Glyn Jones  4:10  
The shift from being a cameraman to writing

John Wiles  4:15  
and it just happened. I mean, if the occasion arose, I used to work the camera man if it happened, but it didn't. And it's sort of and then what happens of course, in this in the sponsored film is you there's any one thing that counts is sponsored film is that that's can you get the clients of this is what really matters in the end, you know, can you bring the business in? And we were both fortunate. We did. You know, we're lucky. The word that either not that we made particularly brilliant films, they were okay, you know, but we were lucky with the services and BP and we had long established relationship, especially with come down BP actually, who we consistently made films for, you know, over 20 years, something like that. So really then, in the end, then I think Jeff got ill, I think my memory of this isn't very good. I mean, he was he was very ill anyway. And now I think my fault there what now what happened was Jeff myself running films that day that film Producers Guild was then in bad straits. They've had people coming in, you know, experts to do this and that. And Jeff was offered the job of managing director of film Producers Guild, sometime in London. So he left films of the day as such to me, and and he took over the job, which I think was probably his downfall. I'd honestly I mean, I mean, in health and everything, because it was a terrible job. He shouldn't have taken it on it was there was so much dead wood, there's so much history, you know, because he knew all the people that was a disadvantage if he'd gone in, not knowing anyone, he could have sorted them all out. But some of them, he was too much of a philanthropist to do that he wasn't the right guy, really, for the job. And anyway, then then he got ill, and over very quickly got cancer and died very sad, which left me with Phil's the day. So we moved into Henrietta Street. And there was just myself and we had an accountant, local editors, I think. And that's about all and I ran it, you know, and it was, it was fine. We were in Henrietta Street. And then we moved into West Street, right, the Swede that the love is between. and we did a lot of stuff, as you know, for the services, tremendous amount. And unfortunately, West Street being a very convenient place that law office became rather sort of a hostile reefer barriers way with sponsors and to drop in and see if the drinks cabinet was out, which they did rather too often. Well, then, after Jeff death, film Producers Guild was well, I don't know, they were bankrupt. They were they were put up for sale. That's right. Because meanwhile, Charthouse industries that take over. And why I don't know because they This isn't happened, I think is before Jeff died Charthouse industry to take over. But they didn't understand what they were doing. And they didn't invest the money in it. And it just went from bad to worse, you know, the whole thing

Glyn Jones  7:30  
became the people who were running some of the the traditional names of the companies in the guild, I think good things like Green Power Company, and scientific valatie. Presumably, you're getting on a bit now as well,

John Wiles  7:47  
well, they'd gone by the way, they'd lost the fire, you need a bit of fire somewhere, you know, they'd lost it all. And the place the overheads for ludicrous. Guild television wasn't doing so well, because the gilthead division was a, you know, a thrusting business. And I don't they kept up to date with developments there. So another big overhead, there were just too many overheads. We had offices all over the place in London. And, and, you know, I mean, there were one or two of the units was work successful, which I'm sorry to say we were one of them. But then, you know, and this we were in in subsidising the rest of it, you know, they were losing the money and sort of sitting in the pub doing nothing, and we were doing the work. So

Glyn Jones  8:33  
did you ever make any any final films? Or do you use a cookie on? Yes,

John Wiles  8:37  
yes. The history of those car was

Glyn Jones  8:39  
35 most 35 years. Oh, but

John Wiles  8:41  
yes, that's yes, we did make some Yeah. When ever and we did some for some sponsored films I see for Gilby is Jin J and B whiskey, they were done 35 Because they wanted that sort of quality, you know,

Glyn Jones  8:56  
which also attempts at getting films like that, I suppose on the circuits as well.

Speaker 1  9:00  
As well, I mean, if you if you made I mean, the film we made for the whiskey people will be enjoyable when I most enjoyable things photographed by John McCallum, you know, John, very nice guy. And we had a lovely time in the highlands. Whiskey deciders, and they were they were charming, charming sponsors, and they wanted it in the quote, they wanted 35 million, the best possible prints so he said, Right, yes, technicolour dye transfer printing? Absolutely. And the only snag the only thing that went wrong with that whole film was technicolour, who took I think, six months to produce the prints or more. You probably remember what it was like and in the end, I said, I will never ever use you again. Whatever happens, you know, technically because they really treated people are pulling the I mean, we just couldn't get them and the clients you've had is still made, you know, I just want you know, where is it? Anyway, so that was in 35 mil Yes, but Going back to the guild there what happened? I mean, Charthouse didn't take no, but they didn't understand it. They didn't. It was just dying on its feet absolutely dying on its feet. Where  upon. Suddenly, I was in West Street at Phil's day. And I was approached by  British Films of John BECTU Smith, British films, because the guy who'd run it before it died. What was his name, a classmate that transmit That's right, who I knew, of course, was originally at the guild. and British films are sort of again, rather staid place, you know, and if you know Backlund, Smith is a nice guy, but he sort of stayed. And anyway, they just did. And I could see that the guild was going, you know, there was no question about it, it was going go bust. And so I left which upset? Because what, I've missed out a bit, I'm sorry, I've missed out a bit.

Glyn Jones  11:00  
And, but just before that, what was left of the guild was, was merged or may Evans of things right, or what became known as sigma guild for

John Wiles  11:09  
that, right? Yes, yes, they were gonna sell it, they were gonna, they were gonna sell the guild. But of course, as I said, at the time, nobody's gonna want it you I'm gonna need to sell you know, it's got nothing to sell. And eventually, large, I think through the auspices of John Chittick, who always liked Toby's notice in these situations, they bought about this merger, but they didn't pay anything for it. And ravens took it on. Well, I thought this man is a lunatic. You know, I mean, he's, what's he taking on? He's taken with this shambles. You know? It's ridiculous. You know, Ray Evans was an entrepreneur, you know, he made cheap films, you know, full of life and all the rest of it. He took on this monster of a guild? Well, of course, I mean, I forgot that period in my life. Yes. Because when he took it over, unforced, he put us all on the board of directors, which I didn't like much because you couldn't actually do anything. So we used to have board meetings, and everyone say what they think ought to be done, we used to go away and nothing ever happened. You know, a month later, we come back and say, what's up? Nothing. So it gradually went worse and worse, we couldn't pay the bills. You know, people were harrassing me technicians weren't paid all the things film was famous for. And I couldn't stand it anymore. And this is when British films approached me to take over. So I left and that was the year, about a year before it went bust. And the guild went bust because I was a creditor. I lost money. They owed me money. I never got it. And so that was the end of that, then it disappeared. That was in 19. What would it be? I mean, now know, Tim? are the names his 70s 80s

Glyn Jones  12:47  
I remember you pondering what's going to happen to the gold around by the end of 75. When I was working with you, it was still

John Wiles  12:59  
was it still still a guild was

Glyn Jones  13:01  
just a matter of years ago.

John Wiles  13:04  
I'm not sure the data. But

Glyn Jones  13:09  
anyway, who, who else went they went? Well, who else went from The Guild assigment guild, but

John Wiles  13:15  
Well, everyone, because he just took it. It was a ridiculous part. I mean, he took the good and the bad, he took everything, and any astute person with these colossal overheads. And, you know, debts I'm goodness knows what, but Ray Evans, I think was a guy who, you know, he saw himself as this being the pinnacle. It's like sort of taking over ici or BP or something. In his life, this was a great success, the guild he'd always been slightly jealous of and all the traditions, he thought he was gonna encompass this and make it all work because the two companies worked entirely different ways. I mean, he was an entrepreneurial, you know, jump in here, speculate here do that, you know, he never made any money for a lovely cup. I've never made any money. It's always in debt. And of course, it got worse and worse. debts.

Glyn Jones  14:01  
Yeah, it all seemed to be financing is

John Wiles  14:05  
what you paid incident. For us.

Glyn Jones  14:08  
I was paid Yes. Retention, always using the first payment for the new production. You just got to pay the bills. And the last production, we're just finishing.

John Wiles  14:21  
Well, this was it. When I was on the sort of Board of Directors, he said, Now what's our forecast for next year? He said, You've got to bring in so much money, you know what it is? You can't because guess what's gonna happen a year ahead. And he was then using these forecasts for the bank to you know, as if they were real, but they never came about half of them were never happened or half of them just disappeared or, you know, anyway, they went bust. I mean, I left about a year before they went past. I was sad in a way because you know, a lot of nice people. And I felt a bit like leaving the sinking ship, but I was so certain it was going to see go to see the water coming in. So I thought why shouldn't I take a better job so or else then, after that age, I was then quite old, nobody's gonna offer me a job. Are they that age, but they did you know, probably because they couldn't find anyone else. But nevertheless. So then bit again, another chapter with British films, which was not without certain defence

Glyn Jones  15:24  
with British films and UK on basically the same kind of sort of well, I mean, the idea was today. Yeah,

John Wiles  15:30  
I mean, the idea was that I would do exactly what ravens didn't want me to do. And that was sort of take clients with me, but didn't actually do that. But of course, they were the ones I had came to me. I mean, they didn't care whether it was British films or Stickney guild, or, you know, the name is immaterial, or people or the what matters, you know, and I was fortunate you like the BPS, and then they just transferred to British film. So, you know, that was a very small operation, because British films was, again had, as I discovered financial problems, mainly with Nigeria and places like that. And we were British films used to have a factory down in Tottenham, in Southampton, that adapted rate would now call a Range Rover or Land Rovers, as possible cinemas with a screen on the top and all the stuff 16 million the back. And these were sold all over the world for television to Africa, Lagos, Nigeria, all these places. And it was a really big business. And that was the foundation of it. And also, what they had then from that business of providing, like sound services did this, they have gone into production of films to put in their things. So we worked for a lot of people abroad who never paid us. I mean, you know, the Somalis, we did tremendous amount for Somalis, which was quite terrifying. I mean, here was a country that were part of people were starving, and they were spending a fortune on these appalling films of soldiers marching, you know, which regular features we used to have to do these and, and the Nigerians do, which is another thing. We were actually at one point we had. Well, I didn't go but the rest of them went out there to build enormous film studio in, in Lagos. I mean, yeah, the size of Pinewood it was quite ridiculous. And a lot of these people in Nigeria, who are very rich, they used to buy cameras, we used to ship out Aeroflex cameras, 35 million cameras, which would then line boxes, you know, rusting, it's quite extraordinary. But anyway, the main part of the business British films was overseas, an exhibition was signed and the exhibitions and that sort of thing, but not it was all overseas, they used to supply the Land Rovers and we used to, then you know, I had to do that go around and get sort of millions of copies of library films and ship them out there and you know, people used to come in for their commission you know people sound racist that you know, come in from Lagos they knock on the door and want to see a suitcase full of money, you know, sort of thing, which was the normal way of doing business not Not, not from film production side, the rest of it, because our I was really carrying on as I always had, we just had a bit more involvement with this overseas business. But anyway, then really starts another story. Because if I remember rightly, can we stop for a second? I think that maybe it's less. And

Glyn Jones  18:37  
you how long you stay there for what happened eventually?

John Wiles  18:45  
Ah, no. Now, as I say, we got there. We had all this overseas business and we had a film production side the film productions, I was probably about a quarter costs are less of the whole company. We have very nice offices in Victoria. Very expensive, and they run seem to be driving around in company cars, it all looked a bit too prosperous for me. And then of course, inevitably, the Nigerians and the other peoples that need them sort of stopped paying their bills do well. This is not my side of it, because it was really well like the guild all over again a different way. And anyway, they were they used to come over here these Nigerians they had Rolls Royces, they had housing Mayfair, I had to supply films for their children show their private cinemas and it was all the big deal. Perhaps I shouldn't say this, sort of. Against it's is it all right. I mean, I don't know. I guess I would say the bit about Nigerians. I shouldn't say this, really. But I mean,

Glyn Jones  19:47  
I think a lot of people in the film business I've got rubber stamp stories of anywhere dealings in Africa. Yes,

John Wiles  19:53  
that's right. So there were these sad dealings and we had, so the film side went on and then one day of course, in heaven To play, the doors were locked host Friday night, I was the last one there was somebody else. And zombies games. They were changing all the locks on Friday night. Well, I mean, I'm trying to think what, what actually has been because this has happened twice. They changed a lot. We were locked out with plastic bags and the muse in Victoria. The whole company editors, Mike crane was there he was editor. And we were knocked out. And I didn't know that was the end of that one disappeared. So we were out of these offices, they're all locked up and barred. So that's funny. So meanwhile, what had happened just before this, this is this company structure. Oh, John Baker Smith, who I'm very fond of, I still have contact with. He bought in his friend bills and kid who may or may not know who was going to put money in the company. Well, Bill was a wonderful character. And of course, he's well known. And he arrived with his Gucci shoes and all the rest of it. And he said, I'm pretty mad, it's coming. It's all going to be going now get gated and immediately went off on a tour of the world expense to get business came back three months later with nothing, you know, so this was a normal thing, though. Anyway, that that was that was I think, yes. Before the receivers came in, at any rate it that was shut down completely. And we I think it was Bill Shan kid who said yes. Because Becker's missile disappeared, I don't know what that mean. So because the bill Shansi so worth it simply starting up again, he said, we're starting up again. So he, he has some offices round in Knightsbridge, how grand. So we all move into the obviously 19 boxes and things and I'm still carrying on because we've got things on in production, you know, and trying to tell everyone we've just moved from somewhere else. Everything was in boxes, the whole thing terrible. I don't know how we got it out. And then again, I had quite a big film to make for the drinks companies. It was a bit it was about it was all acting all dusty and dancing with Dr. Mitchell with the about young people drinking, you know, and it was a sort of mini feature. So everything. So we got this going and I managed to find a place to shoot now, Wimbledon in a sports club, because we have a big horse. We moved the whole thing in here with all these artists and can teams and goodness as well. We done about three days shooting or four days shooting. And suddenly all checks bounced again. Oh, is the change we just got out of this. Never a dull moment the film is. So all these checks bounced. And then what do you do about this? I know what was going on. I do not know what to do. And I came home it was Friday nights weekend. And I thought what do I do? I said am I going to tell all these artists in which case the whole thing or fold up and you know I will never get paid for the film anyway? Or am I going to try and get get away with it? I was worst weekend of my life that was and then well, when it came over the weekend, right crane said why don't we contact practice Smith, who was the original owner of British bills and be as Bill Sham. Can somebody have a day about it? We said you don't know you might. So on the Monday morning, pick this this turns up for the chequebook and pays everyone that 10 or 15,000 pounds out of your pocket, you know and he said well, I'll take this over. He said if you're gonna run it, he said I'll come back and and so we started again, British films was for the next time on the road. And we saved this production which was brilliant entirely due to him because I wouldn't raise 30,000 quid you know, presenter and we got all that finished and it went on and on from there. We'd bet Chris Smith and then we move to new Cavendish Street. We got off this there. And subsequently, I think Chelsea

I think that almost brings the rest of the story because I mean, we were busy all the time. We're doing a lot for the services as you would probably know and and we're still doing things like SWAT go go on Whatever it was a BP and we did a lot of films for them. And then eventually, old age said to me, I said, John, we'll look. Because John was nothing to do with the films. He was a charming guy. But even nothing to do read anything about films at all, you know, just just liked having it as a hobby in between games, whites club. But he was very nice and very fast raised the die, you know. And so it went on really until I don't know what I got to the age where I said, Look, this is ridiculous. You know, there are younger people better than me to do this round. And I said, I really wanted. Oh, he said, Why don't you go on? He said, You can go on but I couldn't because I was I hadn't got so many clients. They were dying, retiring. You know, my context. We're going as it always happens, you know, and in the end,

Glyn Jones  25:56  
and by now film would be going out and video coming

John Wiles  25:59  
out. Right? Oh, we were already into video. Actually. I'd gone. Yes. I mean, in British films we yeah, we we moved across entirely. A penny. Wow. 80% video at the end? Yes, yes. With all the shenanigans that it brought with it. I mean, we had a lot of problems there actually shooting on film and then distributing on video, we had a lot of problems with prints and goodness knows what. But no, we were on. On video. We then we had nothing we had just there was John, myself. And Karen, a secretary. And Mike crane was editing with us still. He was back with us. He's all gone in circles. And I mean, I got to whatever age it was, I mean, I don't know how long Well, I know. Yes. I mean, I was 70 years. And I said this is ridiculous. You know, nobody wants me anymore. So I said, Well, look, this is the last thing I'm doing, John. And then John actually got his I don't want to finish it. I said, Well, look I I do because it's getting ridiculous, you know. And he then got very cunning. I mean, you must know. He was a writer, director. He did a lot of stuff for services, but it just didn't work anymore. Because as you know, the problem of getting new clients is extremely difficult. He didn't have a track record of clients. He didn't. So he they didn't do anything. And then John folded up, really, and retired back to the manor house. And I was gone. I did after that. Actually, I did one film because somebody came back and said, Would I do a film for the Prison Service or Video after I'd left British films, but I just did that. And I did this independently with John Herbert. I was yes. And Vance Chapman. Yes, that's right. Yeah. And he's now down. And really that that was the end of the story. Which I've done. Nothing to do with films now for five, six years. Because nobody wants me to.

Glyn Jones  28:01  
That's a good point going.

John Wiles  28:04  
Back contemporary.

Glyn Jones  28:09  
Okay, you did get a little bit of work for television.

John Wiles  28:13  
I can. Yeah, well, I was farmed out, you know, as a camera man for things like like this programme with Desmond Wilk, I forget what it was to seed Rediffusion I did two or three items for them. And, and in Kingsway in the studio, I shot some stuff there for for television in the early days. This was really, but like you I mean, I nobody thought at that time that it was going to lead anywhere. Did they really? You? I mean, I I could have moved over as a camera man into television, but that was considered a down the road.

Glyn Jones  28:52  
The technical standards of television

John Wiles  28:54  
were lower than the one. That's right. Yes, exactly. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And if it wasn't, but in retrospect, one might have taken that course. And you might have found yourself

Glyn Jones  29:05  
in think you filled up some recycling unit work?

John Wiles  29:08  
Yeah, that was made me on things later on. But when I was going back to saying the course of your career, such as it is, it was really in the early days when I had a chance to go off because there was a shortage of basically a shortage of people, you know, you couldn't get people and the guy was working as it were, come on again due to George Formby films or something. I was a great fan, George for me. I thought oh, this would be great, you know, and no good and a lot of money and but I thought, Well, wait a minute, I'm now I'm thinking to go in the Navy. I'm gonna or I'm going into services and I'm going to be coming back and I was anxious that I'd have a job to go to, because it was such an insecure deployment really, wasn't it? I mean, those days and we'll just after the war, it was

Glyn Jones  29:51  
I think it changed from then to now in those days. That if you had as you were a regular job in films, that was it. Something can be aimed for and appreciated. Yeah. Whereas nowadays almost everybody is freelance. That's right. Yes, exactly. Yeah. Is because the industry has changed.

John Wiles  30:09  
Yeah, totally. I mean, certainly in documentaries, there were a lot of permanent jobs when semi permanent, but we did have the old clear out. I mean, because when certainly they reemployed a lot of people after the war, because they thought they couldn't get people and then they were stuck, and they'd leave them as do and of course, come Christmas, or it's always Christmas, Christmas Eve. Everyone got the chop? Not everyone, but you know, the unlucky ones got the chop on Christmas Eve. But I think then it's sorted itself out. But I mean, it's funny to think that that we needed all our own equipment and we're all our own. Facilities mean if you'd like Samuelson they hadn't started you know, they were. It was in the early days when Samuelson set up and hired a camera. This was quite novel never happened.

Glyn Jones  30:55  
I can recall taking a camera back to Samuelson's which was a house in hand kingdom. That's right. And where it was kept in a cupboard underneath the slab that's

John Wiles  31:03  
right. That's right. Yep. And then Don long was another one who started up along Yes, yes, a very good friend of mine who's unfortunately now gone. But I met him because I actually owned a new one Sinclair at one time. This was because people had their own cameras you know, and I had this Newman Sinclair and I advertised and sailing it shot of it, because I'd been ripped off by somebody mentioned taking it off me and never picked up. So I advise sale that's how I met Don Weaver became firm friends to this day, but she has it now he of course, he's gone. And

Glyn Jones  31:44  
when you start off with films of today, how much do you have there in the way of permanent staff and payment equipment,

John Wiles  31:50  
we had our own camera, we had a 16 mil Aeroflex. We had some lighting equipment, you know, portable lighting equipment. We had a vehicle car, we had editing. In fact, we had almost all we needed. And we and in those days, we started using the lead brothers very first in the very early days. Benny and John Lee were great mates of mine, you know, and I think we gave them their first job. And we because we finished with the Merton Park, electricians, and the MO Richardson's all these dreadful people in here with the lead Sorry, I shouldn't say that. Billy's came along the breath of fresh air, marvellous work like blacks. Marvellous. And we did endless films of them and I knew them right up till Well, Benny's dead now isn't the Benny John is? I don't think

Glyn Jones  32:39  
I I have a different times. I had both Benny and John and my shooters fall.

John Wiles  32:45  
That's right. Yes. And and also, who was the other guy? Um, Nolan. There was a third one very nice guy not only get his name. I can't remember his name now. Very nice guy, actually. But I mean. I don't know. I should note as well, as you know, I guess no, but I mean, we use them. And we tended then to use more and more outflows facilities, which of course, then upset guild as it were, you know, we had better control over the situation. You know, it was much, much better.

Glyn Jones  33:19  
For example, two, W filmed on the gills. Oh,

John Wiles  33:22  
no. No, we were I mean, it was silly, really. But I mean, we didn't, we had that we were given complete freedom, really, although I think probably mistake because they didn't understand what was happening. But with the people we used, we didn't have to use the staff camera man. We didn't have to use, you know, we use we employed our own people. And it worked very well. Actually. It was good. It worked. It worked very well. But that was the ammonia after that. Of course, then facilities became generally hireable, didn't they? I mean, you hide in everything after that. Cameras always sort of thing.

Glyn Jones  33:59  
And what time did you begin to have a switch for money getting on film to begin at on video? No, not till not only within British films, not

John Wiles  34:11  
British bills. Yeah. And then we had certain problems because we used to originate on 16 mil and go through the video. Which was troublesome in the early days. I don't remember why. Exactly. But we got very poor results. And we had a lot of problems

Glyn Jones  34:29  
there. Yeah. Ditto. He

John Wiles  34:30  
said he was a bit. Yes. Whatever it was, I don't remember how the technical technicalities, I don't remember, but it certainly wasn't good. And then we started originating on video and it got much better, of course, I mean, you know, up to present day standards, really. And then, of course, all the editing change and everything which I didn't really understand. Got out of it.

Glyn Jones  34:54  
Well, yeah, it changed enormously once you start to get some of the newer kind of offline equipment. No, you're no longer editing in a linear kind of mess right

John Wiles  35:05  
now. I mean, I, I couldn't follow it really it was it was too tricky for me

Glyn Jones  35:11  
to work off the following Well, we used to do it another way we stuck with holes on the side.

John Wiles  35:16  
Right? Yeah, I like to see it.

Glyn Jones  35:20  
I was wanting to do with the take it away as they that's the stuff.

John Wiles  35:23  
That's right. Yeah. Have a look at it. Otherwise I couldn't find it on the video, by the way. It was yes. But so I mean, generally techniques advance so much as you say in the last few years. But it left me behind

Glyn Jones  35:35  
between between films today in British old. You have two editors in particular probably sort of, well, fee Simon sound doesn't pet so as we go along time films today. Yeah. It was Mike plainly

John Wiles  35:50  
crane. Mostly British films. Yes. But he didn't actually work for British films like crane. My train was a freelance, always. But he did work for you know, long term. Fat and Simon actually worked for some films that day. And when I left there, they they were left with it, actually. I mean, they went on running it as far as they could. And then they left of course, because it folded up. And they started up their Routing Service in Varick Street, which was very successful. And they've only Well, they've been out for a year or two now. Yeah, yeah. But I mean, I'm still in contact with them all the time, often, you know? Yeah. So but other than that, I can't I mean, a lot of a lot of incidents happen over the years, but I can't actually remember them all. I can look through my stills you see, to remind me what they were

Glyn Jones  36:44  
in a break before, involved in the Warriors, film, we got Carol Reed involved. Yes,

John Wiles  36:50  
that's right. Yes. Well, they are but I mean, in this was at the time and all these little things were going on. And he was doing this film, I think it's the mystery information or something like that, which was shot by George Paranal. It was a great camera man at the time, and had first class actors and things like that. And we did a lot of things. All sorts in we did the, the screen tests for Henry the Fifth, I remember Rennie ashes. And then I didn't ever these people were all little things like that. And in fact, after the war, I shot some interesting screen tests for Disney and he came down Disney and for he was doing these films. I can't remember what they were called now, but he made sort of them. Not cartoons, but feature films. I can't remember what they were called. But I do remember we had Sean Connery was one of the people. We sort of get he got the thought. Oh, I don't know what the film was called. And have a look in your book and see Don't be Oh, Gil. Yes. Darby again, little people. Yes, with Yes. With that lovely lady. Janet Monroe. Beautiful girl. Yes. So I shuffled. I started lasers reading screen test for those. It's great fun, actually lovely. And Disney was down at Mountain Park. And, you know, he's really great and charming had a very nice time there. And all these lovely girls who didn't get the pass and you know, but Janet Monroe she then went off with my friend Jerry Ohara. Who was a he was a writer and production manager. Do you ever come across Jerry

Glyn Jones  38:25  
was on the production side to direct a few films That's right. It's quite clicking.

John Wiles  38:33  
That's right. And anyway, I I thought I was saying to him I said oh my god, I said these these girls this Janet Monroe, beautiful. You know, some you put lights on people you like them, photograph them, and if they've got the right face, they just look great. I was saying to Jerry, I'll tell you something. He said I've moved in with her which made me very jealous. Delete that one. But I think they will I don't know Jerry's around as he still now I probably not. Janet isn't she's she's. But no, all those were the sorts of things that made it very interesting. Actually. The little things we did there, you know?

Glyn Jones  39:14  
Yes. And even before you did some second you work on features. Yes. Well, that was on. Yeah, on the criminal. That was one good. Very good. Would that

John Wiles  39:23  
go Lucy? Phil? Yes. jlocc and Bob Kraske shot it. And I was on the locations out there. He was a bit tricky because he didn't want me to use all the lights, which is a bit tiresome. But I did some on my own away from them. Maybe do I think we shot a sequence on a race course and things like that? But it was all good fun. Yes. Yes. enjoyable. I didn't Yes, it was journalist. He directed that. Yeah. Not a bad film. Stanley Baker, wasn't it? Yes. Did he go? Yes. Yeah, not bad. Not bad. Yeah. But as I say it's long time ago, so I don't really remember. do much about some of those millions of documentaries 1000s of

Glyn Jones  40:09  
1000s of any particularly stick in your mind as ones you take. Well, we made a nice one by proud of that one really? The only one you might say I'm quite proud of that one really?

John Wiles  40:19  
Well, I liked doing this in the motor car series. That was good, but it lasts a long time. But that was that was worthwhile because it's, you know, what's shown on television is still used in the archives. It's sort of, I think that sort of thing is something could go on forever. Because it'll always be around, you know, I mean, somebody the other day actually came to me and said, I was in Paris, I saw your name on a film, you know, and I said, What was that this dude made a car soon, you know, all over the world. And I think that's a sign that lost most of the others. We've done. Don't last Do they really stereos gone. But

Glyn Jones  40:56  
like butterflies fly off.

John Wiles  40:58  
That's right. They're gone. Yes, yes. But I mean, it's funny to see the things turning off on television, I say this does I find this extraordinary, because we did this film. And it wasn't long ago about about the history of lavatories.

Glyn Jones  41:15  
The convenience,

John Wiles  41:16  
the inconvenience, inconvenience, coupon,

Glyn Jones  41:19  
I thought it was very good day wise.

John Wiles  41:21  
How is it that was made for shires the people who make the sanitary fittings? And now how is it possible this can turn up on television, a sync sequence with the actors? I don't know. But I saw it. I look at a programme and they taken about a couple of minutes of it with all the things sequence out of it, you know, and shown it on TV. I don't know how they got it. I don't know where it is, you know, where would they get it? I don't know.

Glyn Jones  41:47  
I don't know. I mean, I know that some films that I was involved in, made at the same time, not a decent copies left. No, that's right. Because I know that various researchers have tried to find one. But I

John Wiles  42:00  
mean, a lot of them were taken into the National Film Archives, weren't they? We used to always give a copy or something that when you found a chair, and that that was a bit of a classic actually that was made, directed by this guide, David, that that was it. Now he wrote it, I think, I think Jeff directs it actually, Jeff Busby. But David Villiers and that was another tragedy. We used to do a enormous amount of work for the steel companies in Wales, the steel company Wales and Richard Thomas Baldwins. Well, a steel company in Wales. David was down there with the unit and there was this dreadful accident I mean, terrible error. And the damn thing exploded. They were tipping tipping the hot molten stuff in and it exploded. And the camera systems name I can't remember. He was a terrible I mean, he was sort of 80% burns. He was skin was right off him, you know. And damage was was That's right. David villas. He jumped over to get away from it landed on a massive old iron and he died not on the spot. He died later on. Freddie Gammage got his feet burnt. He was there and Benny Lee was also there. He was he was burnt to he had scars and Benny Lee and the other guy was with him whatever his name was. They were all

Glyn Jones  43:26  
bad when I had found Fred and also from Lindley.

John Wiles  43:29  
Yes, that's right. Director who?

Glyn Jones  43:33  
Fortuitously wasn't there. He was not actually quite at the senior location. He was on his way back. Yeah.

John Wiles  43:41  
Yes, yes. Yeah, he

Glyn Jones  43:42  
was the he was the lucky one.

John Wiles  43:44  
But we did make. I mean, nothing to do with that. But I mean, we did a whole series of things for Richard Thomas and Baldwins, which was a sort of three months the newsreel which was shown in all the cinemas in South Wales and this was called England pictorial ugly name and it covered social events and all sorts of things mining reviewing and then more limited exactly exactly what my review and we used to go down there you know, every regularly it was quite fun actually enjoyed it, doing all these various things and that was made up that was quite interesting. I don't know what's happened to that now that may be in the archive somewhere. It may not be I don't know. But

Glyn Jones  44:28  
I don't know I lasted the film to British Steel in the early 70s. When they were still making films that at that time they would have they would have had it 30 Add Ons narrowed it hard to say.

John Wiles  44:43  
The other one I enjoyed was doing the enjoyed I enjoyed it. The big only because I saw something on television the other day about the DC three Dakota aircraft. And I don't know if you knew this but we will you wouldn't know we did a film called Pegasus about the airborne forces. And part of this scene was the horse of gliders that were used in Arnhem and you know, if they landed in a field they the only way they had to get them out was to tow them out. And they rigged the goalpost, or as a horse or glider had a cable going out and they rigged goalpost and the Dakota came in with a hook and a winch right down to about literally the height of this house and hooked the glider and whipped it into the air. Unfortunately, I was one had to travel in the glider

so you know we had this thing and I got it. This glider was only made of wood Canvas glider. And of course the thing is the aircraft comes down so low is terrified or noise and when it hooks on if it catches goalpost the hook, it whips you into the air mica, you know, and we had a Mitchell camera mounted in this and of course, it was absolutely terrifying. Right, right. I won't do that once more. And I said well, I bloody well won't who said you

End of Side 2




John Wiles  was a film and television cinematographer, director and producer. He worked   on many black-and-white crime movies that became a staple of British cinema in the 1950s.These include Man With A Gun (1958),  The Witness (1959) ,The Headless Ghost (1959) and  Urge To Kill (1960).