Mike Bradsell

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Simon Rose  0:00  
Hello, Mike, thank you very much to the group for agreeing to take part in the history project.

Unknown Speaker  0:05  
My pleasure.

Simon Rose  0:08  
I'd like to start simply with when and where were you born?

Speaker 1  0:12  
I was born in 1933, in Westcliff on sea on the Essex coast.

Simon Rose  0:23  
And tell me a little bit about your childhood, your family and your schooling.

Speaker 1  0:32  
Well, for the first six years, it was the sort of idyllic life because living right by the seaside in a primary school in the summer, particularly, my mother would collect me after school and if it was a nice day, we'd go and have a picnic tea on the beach, and I would just put some swing Trump's swimming trunks on him and go paddling there was there's quite a tide out there in the south end area. So when, when it's out, there's a huge expanse of mud. In fact, it was often nicknamed Southend on mud. But there was a little wooden area that that captured the tide when it came in, which never got more than about three feet of non magma me two feet deep, but the the theoretically deep end, which young kids could splash about in and it was I love the the fact that it wasn't just an ordinary town or a suburb or anything was very colourful, even particularly South End itself, even though it was a bit brash, I love the places like the the Kursaal on there called the curse or amusement park. And the there were some Dodgems and things by by the pier. And some in the summer. They were on the what they call the cliff. So they really are you're sort of slow, right that not like big head. They had illuminated gardens at night, and there was a big floral clock, which made me about 12 feet in diameter. So there was colour everywhere. When the when the war broke out, we we were advised to move from the area if we could. But it wasn't easy. We didn't know where to go. And in any case, the what was called the phoney war was there for several months. It was a case of well, perhaps war isn't so bad. But then my father, who was an insurance official working in the City of London, went to work one day and there was no office there just a pile of rubble. So that he had to find somewhere at least temporarily to to live near their temporary accommodation for work, which was in a palatial building owned by a lady Crossfield in Highgate, so he found some temporary accommodation in Potters Bar. And as soon as possible. We my mother and I found were a flat in Potters Bar too, we could join, join forces again. And I found apologies to the current residents of potter's bar I found it a very drab, dull place. I think my yardstick was it didn't even have a wall was or a Marks and Spencers. I mean, you can't have a shopping street with those. And although my I went to a primary school, important spa, and it people used to laugh and cheer because it had a big sign up in the front garden that said Potters Bar High School for Girls, and then in small letters and preparatory for boys. And of course people ignore the error you go to a girls school, but in retrospect, I got a very good sort of grammar style education from there and I went to a bigger Grammar School in St. Albans when I was 11. When then when the war ended, my parents were keen to get back to the south end area, which is something I was very much in favour of, and in 1946 at And oh, incidentally, the irony of being told to move from the south end area, if we could, was that I think only one bomb fell in that area throughout the war. And that was under a pub when it was wasn't open. And we, we were right in the middle of the Blitz in Potters Bar, because it was, the loafer would come in maybe to bomb the docks. And if they met a lot of anti aircraft, fire, they, they drop, drop some of their bombs, and then make a wide sweep to get back to Germany as soon as possible, and unload the rest on any target that they could find in residential. So we often heard sort of bombs screaming overhead and hope it doesn't land here. And it was, I wouldn't say that we're really in the thick of the Brits, a lot of people went through far more than we did. But we did have some scary nights. The government had installed a Morrison shelter, which is a bit like a sheet metal dining table with a wire grill on the side, you can sleep in it, and you put the wire mesh up to avoid being cut right in flying glass if you get a hit nearby. So it was used as a dining table. And we would we would use if there was no warning at bedtime, we would go to sleep in the usual way. But I had this mixture of excitement as well as fear sometimes I think the sound of the the warning, moaning mini as we used to call it was used to, I used to get really frightened about that. But there was the excitement of oh, we're actually allowed to get up in the middle of the night and go and have a cup of tea or something. Let's can't do that normally. Anyway, we went back to the south and

Simon Rose  7:14  
then use the Morrison shelter sometimes to do Sorry, if there was a warning, did you use the Morrison shelter?

Speaker 1  7:21  
We did some of the time except that as it was a relatively large house. We have some relatives, aunts and uncles who would perhaps suffered a worse fate than we had been bombed out. They'd come and stay with us for a few months while they found somewhere else to live. And it was convenient for them to use the shelter. And we would just if it was a warning, we would just crouch underneath the stairwell and hope that there wasn't a direct hit. But yes, we did use it sometimes.

Simon Rose  8:13  
Sorry, I interrupted you. So did you. Do you have any brothers or sisters? No. And what was your first inclinations of feeling you're interested in film?

Speaker 1  8:31  
Well, I was first interested in presenting films at home. When I was about nine or 10 I hadn't got any thought of actually making films at that time. But one of the uncles who had been visited on us for a while he had before the war he'd been a cinema projectionist. And although he would, had been sort of drifted into unison's work, he had managed to get permission to leave that and become one of the projection czar at our local cinema and even managed to get me access to the projection box on one of the Saturday morning kid shows and it was very exciting because I was allowed to use a lever which opened and close the tabs Oh bliss, and my father bought me what what was actually a lethal weapon. A hand cranked 35 millimetre projector which will only say rolls over 100 feet at a time. And of course everything was on nitrates stock in those days, and my parents smoked like chimneys were surprised the house didn't go up in flames every time I ran something, and there was no no shutter in it. So there was a ghost all white things, any text or white shirts or ghost images flying northwards from from every flame with a frame. But it was exciting just having something at home. When I was about 11, I discovered that it was actually possible to fairly cheaply make your own films. My father probably winced a bit at the thought of more, more outlaying. But he did find the a fairly cheap 9.5 millimetre camera made by the British brands of branch of pathway brothers. School, the path is scope. And I had no idea about editing or anything, I just liked the idea of shooting things and looking at them on the screen. The cassettes that you used with this camera, only, they're only about 30 feet long. So you had just over a minute, I think 16 frames a second. And although I was extremely unadventurous, so just shoot something like relatives who've been staying with us or just visited just, I'd shoot them walking down the road to the station when they left, and things like that. But it was, it was a very exciting thing to do. I still have no no idea of turning it into a profession. But as the years went on, I got a bit more sophisticated. By by about 1949, when I was about to leave school, I did a kind of promotional film for a local Yacht Club. I was a member of the club, not because I had did much in the way of sailing, but there were lots of attractive girls who were members of the club as well. So I was interested in social side. I, I shot this film of some of their activities, some of the races, they did some of their social gatherings and so forth. And because it was in the first place too expensive, and I think not very easy to get duplicate copies. I any editing, I was doing had to be on my reversal master. So very reluctant to make a single cut until I was absolutely sure. That was right. Wasn't like the the more recent days of film, Oops, oh, that shouldn't have made the cut that puts put some taper have written cut it somewhere else. But I did some rudimentary editing just to get it all in the right order. And I began to sort of get to get hooked on it. And when it was time to leave school, I just matriculated which was the equivalent of somewhere between the current GCSE C O level and a level is just a little bit higher than Oh, the headmaster at school. Say, Brad, so what are you going to do when you leave school? And I said, Well, I really want to make films. Yes, but what are you going to do for a living? What? So that's what I wanted. But nobody does that. And I thought nobody does that. I go with my parents to the cinema twice a week. Somebody's making these films, and a lot of them are British. So how do I get into it? But it was I was always been told. It's not what you know, but who you know, I don't know anybody. I'll never get into this. So I had to set once I'd left school, I had to do some kind of a job. I didn't go to university because I hadn't got the slightest idea what subject I should study. I had vague thoughts of perhaps becoming a schoolmaster but that doesn't seem right somehow. I I loved languages. I wish I was good at English and French and hated mathematics. But so I went straight into an office job that my father recommended to me But it was a rather Dickensian office in in Fenchurch Street in the City of London. And I was just checking the motor insurance policies to make sure that the the cover that was asked for by the insured person was right off the agenda, half a dozen of those, you feel really tired. And when there's a pretty great pile like this to go through, I couldn't stand it. So after I was I was only 16. My thought, maybe at least I couldn't stand it until I'm 18. I did. They still had two years of conscription for 18 year olds at that time, even though the war was over. I didn't fancy the idea of that at all. But what I thought, there's no point in me sort of settling for something better until I've got that out of the way. But for various reasons have, I had some, I didn't realise I had some sort of slight psychological nervous problems, which could have manifest themselves as being rather dangerous. I don't think the I was dangerous, but he could be dangerous to my health, to actually joining the forces. So I was rejected, with a mixture of extreme relief and extreme shame, because I didn't want to be different, I want to be like everybody else. Anyway, I then decided, well, I better try to look for something else. So I first of all thought, well, if you can't beat them, join them properly. Let's do some home study to get to get some of the insurance exams done. But I found that it wasn't like an exam in English or French or something where you're asked to be creative and write a little composition. It was just a lots of lots of facts and figures that you had to learn by rote. I was actually getting very thin because it was wearing me down. I'd I'd also had this sort of parallel enthusiasm for classical music and recording. So I applied to DECA to see whether they had anything that they could offer me. And they very kindly invited me to spend a day at their LP factory in Fulton Heath.

Speaker 1  17:44  
Just because I was so enthusiastic is the way we feel. You're the sort of person that we would like to employ. I think you're probably too ambitious for the kinds of jobs that we have on offer. And I said, Well, yes, I really would like to be attached to the classical recording team in some capacity or other even even if it's just editing the usable sections of tape together or something like that. And they said, well, the head of that department really wants people to have a degree in electronics. Oh, God, I can't do that. So that was a pleasant day out but didn't come to anything. And then I was I was really getting desperate. And that in those days, there were no film schools that I'm talking about 1953 54 Some of the photographic colleges had previously had some documentary, school, sort of sub schools attached to the photographic department, but they got cameras, growing cobwebs in cupboards. Any grant from the government to go on pursuing that had long since been withdrawn. So I thought well, photography isn't really my my first choice, but it's a damn sight better than putting a patronage and insurance company. So having made the decision and been accepted at the, what is now popularly called the University of Westminster will present just the Regent Street Pauline, I have been accepted now Governor a year before having to take up the position. So I saved up what I could from my rather modest earnings insurance. My parents were quite happy to have me as a non paid guest again And for for a couple of years, and after that, purely by chance, I had gone through the final exams and everything went. And of course, you the excitement, or the anxiety of of taking exams keep keeps you from thinking about the future, but in the last couple of weeks have returned, oh, I've got to find a job now. What am I do? And a lot of us would be sitting perhaps rather glumly in the common room envious of those who were going to open their own business, or they've been offered a poster as an assistant to some famous photographer or something, and there'd be things on the notice board. And oh, no, don't go for that. Oh, what about that? Oh, no, somebody else has taken it. And one day, the, the while we were sitting there rather, gloomily, the head of the school just poked her head around the corner. And asked sort of a rhetorical question. There's nobody interested in doing odd jobs for a film company, and shut the door and say, Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, give me the details. So it was it was literally a very small commercial film company. So small, I shouldn't say this within the words of the walls of bedroom. But it was so small that ACTT didn't bother, wasn't interested in whether the staff were members or not. And they made commercial films, and they had a dubbing theatre, and editing facilities for industrial companies that wanted to make films of for promotional purposes, but really didn't know much about it. So we, we did sometimes make our own documentaries. And a lot of the time we were servicing other people's films. And it, it didn't matter what we did, because we weren't bothered by the union. If I was initially employed as a dubbing theatre, projectionists, which is something you'd be very familiar with. And it was eye bliss. When I was at the insurance company, if, if it got to about five o'clock, it was half an hour to go, that seems age of it's half past five at loss, okay. Sometimes we'd be working late. Because it was a particularly if they were doing the voiceover for a documentary, and the, the actor or member of staff of the company would sponsor that who's doing the narration was fluffing all the time, or, or drying up and so forth. And I think, oh, good heavens, it's, it's nearly 11 o'clock. I didn't realise we were so late. I'll have to go now, because otherwise I won't catch the last train home. So it was so different. I was doing something which was theoretically not very exciting, but I've managed to make it exciting in my own little world. And when there wasn't anything going on in the dubbing theatre, some of the editors would ask me to help file their trims, which is usually just emptying the big bin of stuff that has been thrown there and try to wind it up carefully and catalogue it. Because of my photographic training, I think I had said at one stage, if you need a second cameraman on this particular shoot, yes, I can do that. And it was, for all of us. It was the question of if there's nobody else available, yes, I think I've been doing that. And in a way, over the seven years that I was there, that was like my film school, with the difference being that I was actually being paid for any mistakes I made. And somewhere, if I'm going to make a mistake, oh, I don't make a simple one. A Deuce would do something like sending the the cut master film and the sound of the optical soundtrack for printing. Having marked it up about one minute 35 seconds out of sync, just a couple of frames. Ultimately, it wasn't my fault because we found that the people who made the film had a separate title sequence which was one minute 35 seconds long, which had been cut by somebody Elson they hadn't told me, they should have pass it over to me to stick on the front. But at least for a few days of oh my god, I've really made a horrible mistake, I'll get fired.

Simon Rose  25:11  
And I guess this company was united motion picture. Yes, that's right. It wasn't quite as grand as it is it sounds about how many people that is employ

Speaker 1  25:22  
about a dozen. And it was so

Simon Rose  25:25  
it But within that, doesn't they you had a camera department, a sound department and an editing department. Yes,

Speaker 1  25:31  
except that the borders a bit like the border between the two islands was a bit of a flexible thing that I would sometimes I can remember, towards the end of my time there I was the principal camera on a fairly major industrial shoot, the director was going to cut it himself. But then found he was urgently required to to shoot or maybe cut something else. So with some reluctance, he allowed me to cut it in so so both cameraman and editor on that film, and there was some I think can began to be a fairly big fish in what was really a very little pool. And if I had written the CV of my time there, it would look very impressive. Cameraman, editor, writer director, in terms of direction it was I did a couple of films for the asphalt roads Association, just showing how they lay hot rolled asphalt and how important it is because it's the the best way of laying a smooth surface which will last longer than concrete or, or something like that. But I began to get a bit worried. Some some of my colleagues who would actually left to go to other companies, we'd often meet up or chat or something. And I found that there were certain sort of industry wide professional practices which we didn't adopt at UMP. The first one seems pretty obvious in retrospect, was to put a proper leader on the beginning of the film. So you, you had proper start marks, they will think 15 feet long, and count count down to three and then three feet of black to give the projections time to switch the light on. Yes, we got a proper seat mark and, but just a stretch of black that so they got not going to focus on nothing too wrapped or anything. Also, we were editing with a stripped down projectors for 60 millimetre. The the the sort of take up mechanism wasn't used. We ran the the picture and the track, which would be synced together after the bottom sprocket and run them into two bins with clean white bin liners. It's amazing. Nothing really got scratched. It worked. But I then realised that if we, if we use it before we synchronizer one picture and three tracks. It was much more precise and rock solid. And if you use something like a movie Yoda, we had, we had some of the the British version of the Act made which we call the scratch Miata, because I've seen him do much more of that and actually give you a decent picture. It sounded like a lawn mower. And the picture wasn't all that steady. It was reminded me of my old 35 mil projector at home when I was younger. But what once we either rented or acquired a movie. I thought, well, this in conjunction with the sink bench is the way to go. And

Simon Rose  29:34  
that of course is the way people in this sort of industry outside. We're working on the whole. Yes,

Speaker 1  29:44  
it came the knowledge of that came in handy when I finally decided that I ought to leave. I chose the day that we had an in a sort of in Industrial industry screening of this, one of these asphalt roads films, which went down very well. And afterwards, I just told the managing director at UN PA, I think it's time for me to move on. So we get, he was a bit shocked and gave us sort of wry smile. Just when things are going well, you want to leave. And he was, he'd been so worried about people leaving that a couple of years earlier, he'd asked us to sign a six month contract. So I'd got I had to sort of serve my time for another six months before looking for alternative. And of course, rather like being at the poly when five months are up. I really wanted to do something about my future now. I'll be leaving in a month what I do

Simon Rose  30:52  
before you move on, can we just backtrack a bit? So your MP was generally shooting 16 mil? Some 35? Yes, yes.

Speaker 1  31:02  
Occasionally 35 which then would you rather excited about? Although the most of the stuff we shot on 35 was with a Newman Sinclair silent camera. It was really a big amateur camera box.

Simon Rose  31:23  
And I guess most of it was so it's probably short sighted and because this was this would have been before the days of easily having shooting things out there was pre sort of crystal seen can loggers and things, I guess, well,

Speaker 1  31:36  
it was before now loggers, but they did I think they used some PMI tape recorders which had a sync output but they had to check it on a scope. Watch. Watch carefully for one cycle and keep keep that manually in the middle if it wondered that they had to make sure they got it back again. It did

Simon Rose  32:05  
to keep the magnetic tape recorder in sync with with the camera

Speaker 1  32:09  
know that it was shot just with the means trying to hold him in sync with unsafe rocketed tape is subject to slip. So when they transferred it onto 35 and will nag they had to keep it in sync manually. Once it was in of course it was okay. But we did occasionally rent an Aeroflex a blimp TeraFlex for some anything a bit posture and they've got the company got its own 60 millimetre limit airy. In those I mean, not like you've got in the 60s and 70s what looks like an unlinked camera but it's so soundproof that you don't need to downgrade. And, of course, I can't remember particularly but I think there was a physical line link between the camera and the recorder to keep sink. digressing slightly I couldn't remember when I was cutting Peter Watkins wargame there was a very impressive shot near near the front of the film, where Peter Bartlett the cameraman was sitting on the pillion behind a police motorcyclist. And the record is was sitting in a sidecar outer shot and they had a link a physical line link between them and the cycle the motorcycle had to draw up at the steps of a town hall. The driver would get off cameraman and record it would get off follow him into the building. Handheld tracking shot up the stairs and into a big conference room before cutting cutting the shot and it physically I mean these days of course, it will be no problem but a very lightweight camera sync. Maybe this sink is the that the sound is recorded at the same almost a medium usually so you haven't even got to have a physical link to a separate recorder. But this was done so smoothly. That it looks as if it had been from a feature film and taken several rehearsals to do in fact it was just a one Oh,

Simon Rose  35:02  
yeah, so they were sort of umbilically linked with, uh, with the pulse thing. I think it probably worked at that time. Yes. Presumably earlier when you're talking about, it was must have been some sort of physical thing that actually mechanically linked to the drive? I'm not sure. Because I think, yeah, because policies, I don't know when the sound poles came in, but I think it was in the six sometime in the 60s

Speaker 1  35:32  
when it was beginning to come in, because I left the company in 1962. So I think by about 1960, it was it wasn't a sort of a top department that really concerned me very much that I had done. Even before I even thought of moving on. I thought to myself the, well, I've sort of got a finger in all these pies. Is there anything that I prefer above the others? Well, I found that although I enjoyed the chance to do a bit of direction, just my, my temperament was such that I did even a fairly simple shoot, I did find it a bit of a strain. I got very nervous about it, even though I didn't panic and run away. I've managed to get the thing done. But I was quite exhausting. Yes, I like the camera work. But unless I had the opportunity to cut my own material, it was a bit frustrating handing it all over to somebody else. But I enjoyed editing, whether it was something I'd shot or somebody else had shot, and it seemed to everything sort of came into focus. Yeah, that's what I want to concentrate on that. So when I've made this decision to leave the company. After about five months, I started shopping around and this was in the summer of 1962, I saw an advert in the newspaper for a BBC film department at Ealing was taking on temporary staff for the editing department. So I ran the number to find out what it was all about. And a former editor named ALF Chapman who was one of the film operations managers had quite a long helpful chat with me over the phone. And who said, Well, I better tell you, even though you may have quite a lot of experience as an editor, they, the management don't really like to take on outsiders, they like to have been trained from scratch, here on the premises. But they take on a lot of freelance people as assistants if you're on a rolling contractor, two months at a time. So I thought, well, let's at least two months work. Let's see how it goes. And once I got there, I'd never never been an assistant as such as I always had to assist myself. And again, but ump, I didn't necessarily have the standard method of filing everything or anything like that. So

Simon Rose  38:40  
it was an insert of log logging key numbers, forerunning, etc itself, it was there was a fairly set way of doing these things, wasn't we,

Speaker 1  38:48  
the only time that we bothered with key numbers was if we were now doing a bit of a net cutting job for another company. And then of course, we had to be very, very accurate. Make sure it was so many frames after the last digit or whatever. Which I understood perfectly and I was quite happy to conform to. But the once I got to Ealing. I was talking to other people on the same level and say, well, I could well be only here for two months. And I will forget that's just just to cover themselves in case you're absolutely used and so renew it on a rolling basis, you can stay up to retirement age. Well, my usefulness as an as an assistant editor was extremely variable. I did make some mistakes. By the way, I would if things were a bit out of the ordinary I often rise to the occasion. I can remember there was a but a documentary, sort of fly on the wall documentary about how the Savoy Hotel works. And this was shot in 35. And it was, it was very well covered by, I think was Dick Bush, who was one of the star cameraman at the beaver that time. And the I prepared as much as I could for the editor, who was actually very tolerant, he respected the fact that I was, in some sense on the same level as him having been an editor at ump, but he needed somebody who was going to have the, the all the material that he needed for the next scene available, and so on the bench of which, which I wouldn't do. But there came a time when he got everything for that to last him for the next couple of days. So I started looking through some of the paperwork and found that the record is actually shorter, a lot of wild tracks of, of certain actions. So it's a, one of the most distinctive, for example was there was a scene showing us the setting up of a special conference room. And they'd got some huge circular tables. And they were they were on edge, and they were rolling them across the floor into the room. And it made a very distinctive sort of rumbling sound. So I thought, well, the sharpness, I wonder if it'll sync up with the picture. So I took that particular reader of the editors cut. And I found that that worked. And there were several other sounds they'd actually shot. And when we got into the kitchens, again, lots of wild tracts of activity. But there was one shot of a chef doing some kind of flung bait, there was a great Fizz, you can see on picture, a great sort of fizzing noise, when flame shot up and so forth. But it hadn't gotten anything like that. So I thought, well, it's not really my department. But I'm going to see what I can do in the kitchen at home, I nearly set fire to the kitchen, but I got the result on the quarter inch tape and took it in the next day to the transfer department and they put it on 35 for me. And when it was when we went into the dubbing theatre, the director was absolutely delighted. He said, At last, I always get the recorders to shoot all this stuff, and nobody ever uses it. And that he actually had the grace to send a memo to the head of film department about what I had done was production. So that offset some of the careless mistakes from time to time,

Simon Rose  43:07  
apart from the technical stuff. I mean, how about editing? How did you in a way you you must have been a sort of self taught editor and just found a way of doing things I guess you you watched you watched films and could sort of see how they were edited. But when you started working as an assistant then was that did? Did you learn anything off the editors you worked with?

Speaker 1  43:36  
It was procedures mainly because most of the stuff for the editor I was first assigned to again, you didn't necessarily have a permanent team. If if the beginning of production, the editor hadn't gotten assistant, whoever was maybe some of the temporaries like myself, who's free okay, you can go and work with Keith Latham. So, anyway, I was with this guy Keith Latham, probity nearly a year. And I most of the stuff was compilation documentaries, some specialty shop talking heads and a lot of library material. Which is that it was that area that I was sometimes get a bit unstuck I perhaps order a dupe from library material, a winding and sort of be winding so everything was Mirror fashion, and we'd have to send it back again and get it done again. But the it was, how to how to plan something when when you're starting from very little to do to make it grow. That is mainly what I learned when I was at U NP But it was learning by instinct, mainly, but most of the stuff was silent. So, of course, you move fairly quickly learn how to do matching action or whatever. And I discovered that a lot of people will spend a lot of time trying to match a sort of a bounce in from a wide shot to a mid shot or a mid shot to a close up, which may not be in terms of time, that the place you really want to make a cut. But if you cut to something irrelevant, but totally neutral, for a few seconds, when you come back from the wide shot to the close up of the first set up, it can move quite quite a bit and there won't be a junk cut. So that was one trick alerted them, then we started doing some sync sound, it took me quite a long time to realise that when you're into cutting dialogue, you want to make the make the cut, leaving as much as face as possible. And within reason, on the incoming shot, don't I think I'd start originally by running the picture to up to a couple of frames in for the next person speaks and then cutting. And it always felt late as a wrap do the other way cut to the incoming shot. As soon as comfortably you can a few frames after the outgoing going shot, the dialogue has ended. And that was something that I stuck to fairly rigidly unless I wanted to get some special rather edgy feel to it right through all the documentaries and features that I got subsequently. And it was really learning that some of these basic things just by trial and error, or some kind of instinct that stood me in good stead when I was actually given the chance to cut at the beam. Again, I was an assistant for about 11 months. And I thought I was it was recommended by various people that if I wanted to get promotion, I shouldn't get on the staff. So I took a chance and applied and got accepted as a staff member. And I've really done it now, I might be stuck at this until I'm 60. And after about nearly a year as an assistant, I was telling other colleagues, I may have made the wrong decision. I think I'll see if I can move on even back to a company like UMP at least I have a whole lot more technique at my disposal now. And there was one guy particularly particularly who just looked me looked at me very, very sort of soulful and said, No stay. So I stayed. And shortly afterwards, this is a must have been well, shortly after was BBC Two was about to open and panic panic. We need a lot more programmes. We need not small cameras, and we need lots more editors to cut them. Where do we go? And we'll have to start making up assistance. So my chance came on a fairly modest series about it was called power in British politics. It was mainly talking heads. They assigned me to this six part half hour programme, always saying Don't forget, we were only made up temporarily. And I was thinking yeah, I've got my foot in the door. I'm never taking it out and purely by chance. It really was a case of sort of coffee dealing with the venue's I, when I was still in the system. I was working on a film by the direction. Steven Hearst, about President Tito of Yugoslavia. And Hearst had a an assistant producer who was virtually a trainee he come from commercial films, a young man named Peter Watkins. And the editor Brian keen, was probably very keen to do some something elaborate with all the library material we'd got about the the The way that the Yugoslavs, repelled the Nazis during the war, and he was spending several days to do it, right. I've been to the fifth offensive today. And Peter Watkins and I were sort of sitting twiddling our thumbs. And Peter had the idea of making something like a one and a half minute news reel of the, the rapid rise of fascism. And he just worked out some sort of headlines. It was interesting. He always, his scripts consisted of little index cards in a tray, handwritten, just just sort of headlines. So they they could be shuffled easily to get some sort of running order. And he gave me a tray full of these. And it was a lot of library material, Hitler ranting at speeches and British pacifist, saying there's no no problem and so forth. And then the invasion of Poland. And we found the first movement of Shostakovich. His fifth symphony had his own montage in the middle of it very minut, militant sort of thing, which had laid against it. And we sort of made of, we are a little production unit in the same room as the main editing was going on. And we dubbed it separately. And then the just the, the dub was incorporated as a copy into the main dub within the film itself. And that was something that Peter never forgot. Because once I was made up to editor, although I was doing defence of modest stuff, he called me one day in cutting rooms and said, I'm setting up a dramatised documentary about the Battle of Culloden. Would you like to cut it? I thought, I said, What a silly question. Yes, of course, I did have to cut it. And there was all the strength of how well we got on with the sequence from the Yugoslav film. And I think that was the that was the first film that a BBC which I cut, which got really not the one to say, but it got me sort of noticed the day after it was transmitted. directors from other films, including some I've just done some short sequences for where we're coming up to me in the in the canteen, and saying, that was a terrific film last night, well done for your contribution to it. And so and I began just purely by luck. Once we finish that Peter was planning the war game one well, it was made to be shot immediately. Ken Russell, who had been working mainly on short and long films for the monitor arts programme with their regular editor Alan Tyra was doing some films which weren't under the monitor umbrella, including a 40 minute film which which is based on the

Speaker 1  53:31  
humorous book by Jordan Whedon grossmith, the, the diary of a nobody. And he needed to find an editor that he felt was compatible. The front office didn't like these little groups of technicians who got together, they felt they hadn't got any control over them. But they there. Ken was already making a good name for himself with things like the old guard biography film, which was really missed, it still is very popular. And my name sounded familiar to him because he felt that we had worked together. And he asked to see me and said, Have we met before? I said, Yes. When when I was at ump, you had a film you you'd been making, which was financed by the Catholic Film Institute about the annual pilgrimage to Lord and you would you've got permission to use some of Benjamin Britten's ballet that the principal pagodas you you're getting into a bit of a muddle with it. Because he's had it transferred onto an optical track and he on magnetic for dubbing. And I'd been assigned he'd come to you and pee to see if anyone could help. And I've been assigned to him because I was always boasts not boasting, but almost going on about my enjoyment of classical music to make. Take a magnetic copy from the master was just a clean LP to match it. So mod for mod with the material edited on optical. And we got on very well, we were both a bit shy, so we didn't speak very much. There was obviously, mutual respect. And he remembered that. And he said, Oh, yes, sir. Well, I'd like him to cut this film. So it was agreed that I could cut directly, nobody said,

Simon Rose  55:41  
can I interrupt? So you, you got on? Well, apparently with with both Watkins and Ken Russell, I mean, quite different characters. And also something that in common between all three of you, you don't you'd all made amateur film. So is that was that coincidental? Or did that? Did that sort of give you a common outlook? Do you think?

Speaker 1  56:02  
I hadn't thought of that it may be because as an amateur, you usually have to do everything, yourself. So it gives you the responsibility of making sure that anything you shoot is editable. And anything you edit is of interest to whatever audience you want to show, even if it's only family and friends. And you in a way, you have to backtrack on that a bit. In your organisation like the beat or even as a freelance, you have to acknowledge and accept that you've got other people doing the things that you would normally have done for yourself. But as you know what they're doing, and why they're doing and how they're doing you. You have a kind of empathy with them. They're not just a bunch of people who retire suddenly not doing what you want. So I hadn't actually thought of that.

Simon Rose  57:10  
As an emulator, you do have to improvise very often, you don't have the means just to sort of fix things by throwing money at it, you have to sometimes think of ingenious ways to achieve something, which I think probably Russell and Watkins had that quality.

Speaker 1  57:27  
Oh, yes, yes. I will from Watkins, particularly when he could make a very respectable looking suburban street like, look like a Hungarian war torn a bomb site. With careful makeup, and costume and choosing, he always said that it was important to choose people with the right faces, because in both of the films he did for the beam, Culloden and the war game, all the actors were amateurs. And, of course, there's a bit of a fuss about that in the front office, because what's equity going to think about this will later they didn't have a lot to say about it, but they they managed to placate their, their worries. Peter had obviously based his films on a lot of European examples. And he was always impressed by that, kind of out of the ordinary close up faces. They didn't have to speak maybe didn't even have to do it and except look pained or Soulfly, either at camera or just off camera. And he would work wonders by getting a few close ups of people who looked not not just like somebody from central casting that look very different. And Ken, who also started off with one well, first of all, he started with no actors at all. And when he wanted to make the Elgol film, Hugh Weldon, who was head of documentaries at the time. So we can't have any actors sort of merging to genre, and he can persuade you to Well, it isn't really because what's wrong with presenting to people something they know that that this is not some old film featuring Sir Edward Elgar. They know it's somebody impersonating him, but it gets him into the field of the the idea of it too Oh, more when He's got to be a long shot. And another film that he did about Bartok. Again, he wanted to professional actor, not a speaking part, but just to occasionally appear in the in the scene as a representation of Bartok. And he's no close ups. And if you want, if you want a close up, he must be stand, it must be a reflection in a lake, and it must be a muddy sort of Lake. So it took a lot of persuading. On the part, not so much on the part of Peter Watkins, because that was really a documentary. Even though it was dramatised it was so hard edged to a journalistic kinds of documentary, Ken was always a kind of lyricist, he would produce a poetic image for you to look at. And people like you welcome. We're always a bit suspicious of, of drama department somehow muscling in on on the documentary scene. But ultimately, of course it in both cases, their instincts were right. And you were saying earlier about improvisation? Well, this is something that I particularly in terms of editing that I had to do a lot when I was at ump, because if I was actually cutting somebody else's film, maybe it was something like a common manufacturing company. They wanted a promotional film. So they they asked the staff photographer, make a film. Yeah, but I don't know anything. Get your photography, you know what to do. And of course, he hadn't got enough idea of film technique and basic things like cutaways, and you don't get junk cuts would get forgotten or everything or not would be shot in long shot. With no close cut cover, we often had to try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. And because we had to, we managed to find a way to do it. And although things were far more professional in a television context, there was still occasions where you needed to break the rules to cover something that wasn't there. When I first started, as an editor at the beam, the it wasn't common for the editor bit to be assigned on the production at the start of the shoot. In fact, it may have been weeks, maybe months after they'd finished shooting, that you you get around to editing. And you had to spend a week in the viewing theatre, probably a week on a full length shoot assessing everything with or without the director of defence and whether he was available. Or she. And time and time again, you'd get you'd be looking at a day's work and the best good as far as it goes, I hope they they've done an insert on that, or a close up of somebody reacting Oh, it's gonna be the end of a real will maybe it's on the next real next real is another shoot another date. Oh my god, they haven't got that. And of course if you've been assigned to it while it was still shooting, even if they were moving around a lot and they might have left a location where they shot the offending scene which had something missing. You can get in touch with them by phone or telegram or something saying you really do need this can you find a way of shooting it? So we in what was otherwise a very well covered and interesting set of rushes. You'd find these little holes that you have to try to fill somehow.

Simon Rose  1:04:19  
I think one of the first films according to IMDb you did BBC was for my wrestling. Remember that film? Oh,

Speaker 1  1:04:29  
yes, that was that was when I was at UMP.

Simon Rose  1:04:35  
It was a globe BBC did show it I think today saying I think the BBC did.

Speaker 1  1:04:40  
It was sponsored by them. They paid for it and everything. It was called lols and Little Egypt and it was about the gipsies in, I think the south of France. She directed it and her husband was Just a sort of assistant to her sort of general dog's body, he would drive around and take notes and things. And it was, it was, I thought it was quite good. And yes, it was transmitted. And it was quite well thought of. I thought that was going to be useful to me when I applied for the job as a temporary editor. I was really rather affronted when they said, well, outside work doesn't count as an even though it was for the BBC and was transmitted by the BBC. No, no, no, no.

Simon Rose  1:05:44  
And she she was known as sort of quite a glamorous actress during the war, I think that this must have been one of her first things she actually directed.

Speaker 1  1:05:52  
I think she should directly one film before, I can't remember what it was. It may or may not have been a British production, it might have been the Swedish dialogue. But she'd been anxious to concentrate on that rather than acting for a long time. She used to tell me things about the sort of non direction she would get in drama, making feature films. Forever every take, whether whether she felt it had gone well or badly, the director said, my that was a peach. It wasn't a peach at all. Why just give me some idea of what which way it should go. And there was just one. She said the only direction I remember getting was somebody who said to me before, take my do the nose trick. The nose trick? What's that? Hello. Somebody that Margaret Lockwood always does when when she's anxious. She sort of fears her nostrils. Whether miserly really did it or not, I don't know. But she felt lost somebody, at least saying something about what I should do. Which in a way, leads me to some of the early Ken Russell films that I wasn't working on the biography of Bartok, that I mentioned earlier. Barry Gavin, who was at that time, a director and producer for music and arts department he did, he would shoot a lot of concerts. And while documentaries about musicians, he was at that time, assigned short for a short period of time to Ken Russell as a PA. And there was a scene showing Botox incred incredible sensitivity to sound he would. At night, he would walk around forests with a torch looking for insects and birds and listening to them. And so Barry was dressed up with an overcoat and a big Homburg hat. So you couldn't really see his face because he didn't look anything like Bartok really. And Barry said that they shot this in a wood near Crystal Palace, and it went, it was a coal bitterly cold night, and he got a stinking cold afterwards. And Ken would say things like, right, let's go again, but do it differently. And he said, Well, how do you want me to do it? Oh, again, we get irritated and say, Oh, I don't know. Just Just don't do what you did before that Pepsi. At that time, that was the extent of Ken Russell's direction. Of course, with by the time he got on to features. He was much more articulate about what he wanted.

Simon Rose  1:09:09  
Yesterday, you seem to go along with them? Well, I mean, some people who don't know them might have thought that Ken Russell might be a rather scary person, you know, very sort of forceful character and, and Peter Watkins, an angry young man do is get on well with it with everybody you would

Speaker 1  1:09:34  
not fly today. And it's interesting that Peter was if you just met him, he was sort of quietly spoken, very polite, gentle sort of person. All all the anger and the frustration politically that was inside him, was directed Surely at the project, I don't think he ever got angry with anybody when they were shooting. And he didn't get angry at me because there was no need to we were both pulling in the same direction. Can I was a bit worried about to begin with because I heard the stories of his short temper when he was on the set. When when we were editing the diary of a nobody. First of all, he got used to being around during all the editing and I've even if he didn't do anything will say anything. I was felt incredibly nervous about this big hulk of a man sitting behind me watching everything I was doing. So as quickly as I could, I engineered a way to get him out of the room for a while what I got on with it. So when he when he came back, he confirmed he could trust me. Also, if you did get a little bit stroppy, I'm afraid the Irish in me would fight back gets choppy with him. Going forward on the boyfriend, I really thought that this was the end of a beautiful professional relationship because there was a scene. There was a day they they've been shooting in a disused Theatre in Portsmouth. I was I would visit them occasionally, but was mostly working at Elstree Studios during the cut. And I got a message on a Thursday, saying, Can isn't shooting this weekend and so he'd like you to organise a screening at the studios for Sunday afternoon. Everything that you can possibly add the you that we've shot since you lost it a cut. So that was working away. Very fast. And then we got another message on Friday afternoon, Ken's now busy on Sunday, can you make it Saturday, so we've broken it forwards harder, work harder. And I was a bit edgy when he got into the theatre, and about 10 minutes in, there was one, one shot that was not to Ken's taste. Why don't people do what I say? So I just stood up? Well, if you think you can, that way you can do it. You love yourself. And I stormed out of the theatre. And when I sat down in reception, that's it now. So I just I could hear the film playing. How, listen carefully, because that's the last time you hear or see anything to do with his production. And as soon as the lights went off, and he came out into reception, and I stood up, say, Ken and wolfies. And he was like, no, no, no, I'm sorry. I get nervous, you know that it's not your fault. And I said, well, I shouldn't react that way. And we will always say, How dare you apologise. I'm trying to apologise to you. And we just realised that times, you do get really tense and it's got to come out. It's nothing personal. And it never was personal to me. Even the people that he read really gave her a real shattered shouting match to he would it would be over and done with he'd let off steam. He may not have apologise to anyone but the next day. It was a good working relationship again. And both Peter and and can particularly can because I did many more pictures for him. Obviously, if Peter had remained at the beam, I think I would have been asked by him to do a lot more. In fact, I saw him recently what he was over here for a short visit. And he said it was he'd always regretted that we hadn't had the opportunity to work together more often. But with Ken having done the three television films for him. By the time I got on to doing the features. Editing was almost like a process of osmosis with view the rushes together and select the best takes, but he felt he could trust me to do at least generally, maybe some polishing to do but I I knew how his mind worked, how he wanted the film to look Look, and they didn't need any further instruction. And it even got to the stage. Sorry, I'm jumping around forwards and backwards fine. On on savage Messiah. We're shooting at the grandly named Lee International Film Studios, which was a disused biscuit factory and off cancel road. The they were shooting mainly in in the sort of makeshift studio about but he was going on two weeks location fairly soon after we started. And he'd all always been a bit reluctant to see rushes, sometimes, obviously, the most convenient time would be at lunchtime. But then he'd say, well, I need some lunch, I need a break, let's run them in the evening, then the evening will come, oh, I'm too tired, do it tomorrow. And there came a point where I say, Can, the cans are like this. I don't want to see it. You know what I want. Just cut it only, only contact me if you think there's something wrong that shouldn't be dealt with. Because in any case, up to now, you've often been doing the first cut without me being around. So when I see it, it's like looking at somebody else's work. I can be objective if you do the whole film. And I'll see that the first cut at the end. So I felt very, it was a great compliment I was very proud to I'm very pleased to go on working without any I wouldn't say interference, but for any input from him until we got it to a stage where it was really workable. Didn't have to do Wayne through each individual scene, but maybe run it through and so let's have a look at that scene again. Maybe we can do a little bit of twiddling or something.

Simon Rose  1:17:12  
Okay, so yeah, so the cuts were very much your work. You say you kind of understood by them what he what he wanted, you could do you think you had a new work with lots of different directors? Do you think you developed a style? Or do you think you always adapt to the style to the project or to the director you are working with?

Speaker 1  1:17:39  
Well, mainly to the the project was that would apply to somebody like Ken anyway, because he was the director that I'd actually worked most for three television films and seven features. I sometimes think back and a bit disconcerted to realise that very few of the other directors I worked with, I did more than one film, I hope it wasn't because I blotted my copy book. so badly, they never asked me again, but quite often it was the case of a project would come up, but it would be delayed. So, I did something else and when they were ready, I was not free or whatever. But even with even with Ken I would adapt what I was doing to suit the material rather than suit the directors. Personality shall we say? It some people have said that they they like my style. And this always sort of puzzled me because I wasn't conscious of having a particular style. I had a few basic rules which even though is I was quite happy to break if it looks sensible to do. I mean most drama is about 80% people talking to each other I've found and there are if I had established a good to me a good starting point of how to tackle the talking head scene to to keep it flowing properly and to be on the right character at the right time. Sometimes in the middle cut in the middle of a sentence because they get a surprise reaction or whatever rather than certainly not. Character A is speaking so use that short character B is speaking so use that shone on him but some people have Good to have felt I hope not that I'm so repetitive that I do the same thing every bloody time but they seem to notice some sort of stylistic continuity which I'm not not really aware of

Simon Rose  0:00  
He talked a bit about style and he was saying how the subject matter was the influential style I was wondering when the camera style influenced it as well because some of your some stuff you've cut has been sort of handheld and others tripod with that will that affect the way you edit

Speaker 1  0:23  
possibly. I think if I mentioned the work of Peter Bartlett, it might help to illustrate that he was the cameraman on the war game. And later on Richard costumes, big to our royal family film. And a lot of that he used the the beam favoured ra flex cameras, he he used an eclair because it was shoulder mounted. And he was the tripod. So it particularly if you've chosen a fairly wide angle lens, he could stand still without shaking around much all he could do a tracking shot. As I mentioned at the beginning of the war game, did the smooth tracking shot up the stairs. But if required, which was sometimes quite necessary on the war game, he would have some fairly quite violent handheld camera movements. He, we had a sort of kind of good natured, running battle. He, his aim was to try to do a whole scene in one smooth developing shot. And my aim was to cut it up as much as possible. There was one scene where he said they are Mike. Isn't that good? I said Yes, very good. I can't wait to cut it up. I didn't do so, once once or twice if there were scenes where there was a such a variety of movement that the first part could be regarded as a different angle from the second part and the middle bit was actually not necessary, it would make quite a smooth cut one part of it facing that way and the other part facing the other way. But with any any handheld work, I always tried to favour material which the hand held nature of it was masked by the subject movement. I mean, sometimes you can only follow really rapid and suddenly direction changing camera movement, subject movement, if you have a handheld camera, perhaps Sorry, I'm saying this in front of a camera man, he'll probably deny this but I get the impression that it's sometimes almost physically impossible to turn wheels or move a pan handle as quickly as things are going on. And there it works because you're not aware that it's handheld but when it is a case of pretending to look a bit wobbly because you're standing and it's just a close up a static close up of somebody. So sometimes it has to be used but I try to avoid it because I've got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about that. I think it is totally incorrect to say that are a realistic looking documentary which is full of wobbly, handheld stuff is reflecting the true situation of us all of us footage. I think a cameraman will instinctively try to keep as steady as possible in those circumstances. He certainly when deliberately start waving the camera about just for the sake of it. Perhaps at the very least, he'll find something to lean on that well a wall or or something that the top of a pillar box so he put his elbow on to hold it steady. They don't they're not in the business of saying, Look, I'm a document. I'm a newsgathering camera man that's why I'm making it so wobbly. So when it when it appears in television drama, or feature films in a situation where it is obviously not not appropriate or necessary for the camera to be well mumbling about, I tend to avoid it as much as I can or alleviate it as much as I can. Because it is even exaggerated if you've got pairs of shots, some of which are on a tripod, and the others aren't, because every time you'll come to the static shot, it is back to the wobbly one. The wobbliness is even exaggerated. But I haven't really had a situation where it's been so extreme that I've had to really do anything very difficult to try to alleviate it.

Simon Rose  5:44  
Yes, I understand. But Peter Watkins did deliberately kick the tripod, according to Dec. Bush now and again, he in order to create the feeling of being in a battle, the deal of depth to that didn't

Speaker 1  5:57  
react at all. The more wobbly it was, under those circumstances, the better because for a start to come, dig Bush was such a good cameraman that he would still be able to give you the the important image in the frame. And it again, when it is a process is sort of cancelling out what I said earlier, but when every shot in the battle sequence is similar. Moving nature, you soon forget that it is actually wobbly because it is there's a continuity of wobble from one shot to the next. And if it is suddenly exaggerated, because it's a point where a cannonball has been fired or has landed somewhere very close to the camera. That's all all to the good. And it was the same in the war game. Maybe Peter Bartlett was more used to doing than deck bush but they were both good. And and Peter only reserved extreme camera movement for the moments when a nuclear explosion had just taken place. So there was a tremendous shock wave which would affect the the characters on screen.

Simon Rose  7:32  
You're welcome to say. You say Oh, yes. You said Peter bought it used in a clever generally the BBC didn't didn't use the clothes did that. I think that was a belt bulk bought in Murray flats PLC. How did he get away with it?

Speaker 1  7:48  
I think by the quality of his work. I

Simon Rose  7:52  
mean, he didn't even have to buy his own camera on its own. No, no, I

Speaker 1  7:55  
don't think so. I'd say that. I don't really know. But no, I think that they either had an eclair or two which they weren't. They simply weren't using but he wanted to. There was another advantage he made use of. There was an advertising film director Mike Kevin Billington called Madison Avenue. And he was granted permission to just do one magazine of shooting on some advertising executives who reckoned they were far too busy to give a longer interview. So he said, Okay, when it runs out, I'll stop. But you can apparently you can actually unlock the magazine on a nuclear and put a new one on while it's still either running or looks as if it's still running. So he was so long as they weren't, well, they wouldn't be looking directly at him anyway because they'd be having like us it'd be it'd be a conversation with the director and the characters. So he actually ran through about three magazines before stopping say, okay, the magazines run out loud I got three times as much footage, as it would be feed had to fiddle around loading an array. And when when I did some stuff as an amateur, when video eight first came in, I'd previously done some material just to home movies on an eight mil film, camera, clock motor and all that. But I liked the idea of having somebody who's got sync sound and can possibly be edited. So I invested in an early Sony camcorder which was The same sort of rough design, as an eclair had it had this curved middle that you could sit on your shoulder. And I realised, although it was about a decade or so later, why Peter Bartlett liked that type so much, because you can actually study it with one hand, if you want to do a walking shot, and maybe it's rough ground or something, and there's a fence so you can sort of shuffle along the fence with it being a true obtrusive. And you can actually look in two places at once you can sort of keep an eye on what's coming up next, and then look back in the viewfinder. I think ergonomically, it was probably a very good design or camera.

Simon Rose  10:48  
Also, if you were being observational, or try not to be obtrusive in a scene, most of the cameras behind you is only the lens that shows Yes.

So we were getting towards the end of Well, you were starting to think about leaving the BBC I think are getting a bit fed up with it. And you and that was lucky that camera saw that same time decided to move on to feature films.

Speaker 1  11:22  
Because he had he'd done two previous feature films, a French style comedy called French dressing, which is very much influenced by Jacques Tati. And he was. At the time, he was hoping to do this film about the Jin ski and the ballet rousse, which was going to be produced by the the bond team of Harry Saltzman and Cubby broccoli. That fell through Oh, actually, I think what had happened was, they would finance it, if he would be prepared to do one of eight Harry Palmer series of espionage films, the billion dollar brain. Well, he agreed to do that. But then the jetski fell through. So he stuck with a doing a feature that he didn't really want to although when I saw it, I very made quite a remarkable job of it. And he had actually turned it into almost a left wing protest film, although he was pretty indifferent to politics. And I was very amused to find that the the big climax was all not exactly shot for shot, but very, very similar to Eisenstein's battle on the ice in Alexander Nevsky. And so he made a virtue out of something that was he had to do that. And it was it was around about that time that he had to tell me that if I was thinking of leaving. Actually, two or two things happened both in the same breath almost. Sorry, I've got some bad news. They've reneged on the digital ski picture. Harry Saltzman wasn't really interested anyway, he thought an agency kid was a racehorse. But I've been asked by United Artists to cut a film director film about DH Lawrence's women in love. Would you prepare, be prepared to cut it as well? Yes. I don't know whether I can get out of my contract with the bee. But I'll try. First of all, I went to Jack Muir, the head of the film's and said I've had this offer. I've got some leave owing and some overtime that hasn't been paid for. I think it would amount to the length of time that I would need to cut a feature film. If so, could I have a sabbatical? I will then come back to the BBC with a whole new range of experiences which I could put at the corporation's disposal, and you wouldn't have that. So perhaps in a fit of anger as an RN, I resign anyway, all that overtime that I've accumulated. I won't be required to give more than about two or three weeks notice. So I had to accept that. In the meantime, Richard Causton, who I got on very well with a document entery he was shooting called The Story of the Queen Mary, which was, in general terms about a compilation documentary about the period of luxury liner travel across the Atlantic in the 30s. And specifically, shooting on board the, the how to be the Queen Elizabeth because Queen Mary was in Los Angeles by then a document, a sort of a fly on the wall documentary about what it's like, going on a luxury trip. And he was telling me about all this a secret project that's coming up. Nobody must know Don't tell anybody. But I got permission to do a sort of lid off the royal family when you cut that. So yes, if I'm allowed to, well, he got hopping mad that Jack nude had refused to allow me to remain on the staff. And there was I didn't realise I was creating a kind of route. But I was sort of passively in the centre of two factions. It's a bit like remain or leave the European Union. And it was ultimately agreed as they weren't shooting it anyway. And if my estimate of the time it would take on women and love was accurate. They could wait for me to come back as a freelance but working on BBC premises to do this this documentary.

Simon Rose  16:34  
How long did you estimate women in love with tape

Speaker 1  16:37  
six months. It was almost accurate. In fact, it was accurate. I finished cutting about the they had a preview while he was still in cutting a copy form with a rough dub. And they wanted a couple of scenes altered slightly, and did course and was quite happy about me taking a couple of afternoons off, to go to work in an independent cutting room somewhere in Soho, just to tidy these two scenes up and the assistant I'd had on that production was still around an EQ just integrated into the the main cup. So I made a sort of slow departure from the BBC over a period of about a year, then, then I thought that I would still be doing a lot of documentaries. That's what I'd been got used to doing and maybe the occasional documentary, the occasional feature film or drama, as it happened. After I'd finished the royal family film, Ken's next feature. The music lovers was ready. So I worked on that then there was a gap before the devils during which time, I was able to do a music documentary for Humphrey Burton, who I worked with when he was one of the executives on the BBC musical arts, and then left to be head of music and arts at London Weekend Television. And this was a big two hour film celebrating the Bible. I can never remember what it is Bicentenario or bicentenary the 200 years of Beethoven's death in 1970. And I cut that it was it was very well thought of it. It won an Emmy, which of course, does not specifically for the editor, but as it goes to the production as a whole Humphrey and the principal, participant Williams, Leonard Bernstein, they both said that it was as much my nvss So I was proud of that. Then the devils but then the boyfriend actually overlapped with the devil. So they'd started shooting that while I was still checking prints of the music lovers. So it was nearly all features back to back with just the occasional documentary From then on until almost the turn of the century.

Simon Rose  19:45  
With like, leave us sort of test on a bit so have we haven't mentioned is a door attitude.

Speaker 1  19:55  
That's, I think, that's probably if not the favourite A film of those cut for Ken was one of the one of the top favourites. It was the second film, there was quite a gap between Diary of a nobody and that when I was with, I think I was actually, I think I've been working on the war game just before that. So it was rather, although was very much in sympathy with the war game because it was so realistically shot. Day by day I was having my metaphorical nose rubbed in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. I realised that it was probably a bit debilitating because a friend of mine who wasn't in the film industry came into the cutting room. So on Saturday, we were going out to lunch together. And I said, I just wanted to have a look at this cut before we go. It's only about this seems only about 10 minutes long. And he saw it with me and was profoundly shocked and moved and said, I don't know how you manage to cope with this sort of day after day. And I think I said something like, well, until you mentioned it, I didn't realise so I that it has affected me obviously has. But I thought the next production is another Ken Russell picture, which I'll be much happier with. And already we were getting towards the osmosis stage because he was very happy with what I did with him on Dyer of a nobody. And because it was lots of classical music and dance in this film. I really felt that it was something that came from Ken's heart, like most pictures didn't make came from mine as well. And when it was transmitted, a lot of my colleagues not only in film department, but other maybe other directors I've worked with. So we didn't realise that you could work on lyrical material, because they were only used to Culloden, the war game and some other sort of relative nondescript documentaries. They thought that I would was permanently the hard edge. No nonsense. tell it like it is editor. But in fact, something like us the door was much closer to my my personal taste. And it was it. There was one other picture I did almost immediately after was last television, one for Ken, the Dante's Inferno. The pre-raphaelite painter movement with Oliver Reed as Dante Gabriel Rossetti that was feature length, which was probably good practice for me going on into features but it turns out, I've always found that efficient, but it's a little bit cold, a bit cynical, compared to Isidora, which I've always found very moving. I think if I had not done you done anything else we can, I was very pleased to have done that one.

Simon Rose  23:33  
And talk about getting ready for features. I mean, can use 35 mil didn t most of the time. Yeah,

Speaker 1  23:39  
yes, except he's against his own wishes. He was told to shoot Dante's Inferno on 16 millimetre. And in a way, he was delighted that after a couple of weeks shooting, they were having a lot of technical problems. The rushes weren't coming out as well as they should do. Not not because of a badly shot or live I gather he had a pretty tense time with Nat Crosby. The who said, I'm not doing any more of this work from next Monday was shooting on 35 and we have all the usable takes on 16 blown up, and no more nonsense. I think because I didn't work on the dance of the seven veils, but I think that was 16

Simon Rose  24:43  
Why did he prefer 35? Males so much? Sorry, why did he like 35 over 16

Speaker 1  24:49  
the image? I know that television transmission particularly as in those days, people rarely had On larger screens and about 21 inch, the resolution of 16 was good enough and the image of God is steady and sharp enough to not stand out like a sore thumb. He was he liked to think big the, obviously you even in one of the healing screening rooms, then the image quality was noticeably different than it did the detail. The subtlety of different shades of grey were immediately apparent. And here, he just wanted to use it as much as possible. He's one of the few people who will allow to continue doing so.

Simon Rose  25:47  
He also I heard a little story about how he used to when he was dubbing he used to bring bring extra instruments into the W theatre to add to the music.

Speaker 1  26:01  
Yeah, that was a although I didn't meet him, that's the first time I saw him. It was at UMP shortly before the Lord picture that I helped him with he he was doing this delightful documentary called Amelia and the angel, which is one of the Philips on I think it's on the the BFI as devils compilation of the compilation but the longest cut that Warner Brothers would allow them to use. He's got the media and the angel as well. And he wanted a music track didn't quite understand him. He didn't like any of the sort of rather anodyne pre recorded cheap copyright stuff that's in the music libraries. And he had a large collection of Victoriana one way or another, including some very elaborate music boxes. Some of them were like a 12 inch gramophone. These are revolving discs with with spikes in, which would it's like, like a huge music box, it would, this spikes would coincide with with different prongs underneath which were tuned to different pitches and give you a very musical sound. Sometimes it was, we might say, polyphonic, they give you chords, so it was quite a rich sound. But they were they were big and heavy. And he brought them in and into the dubbing theatre at UNLV. And I think I was one occasion where I needed to go and talk to the mixer about something, I hope the red light had been up and when it wandered off, I walked in, and the sort of auditorium area all these things were laid out as though it was a garage sale. And Ken was standing there holding this great big thing on on his knee. And, and sort of practising with it and made the one of the engineers who got the microphone near finding the best position and so forth. And I realised what they were doing. And I was very keen to see the finished film and of course it does they do feature very prominently in that. I don't think he used his collection certainly not very much if at all in any event, I just tell us

Simon Rose  28:44  
remember Alan died so as a W mix us telling me how he got a drummer in to the booth. So add a bit more of to the prereq to the music, you know, to the recorded music he was using I don't know which which film that was.

Speaker 1  29:02  
Unless you did it on more than one occasion. Though not not in television, but on the devil's there was a score by Peter maximal Davis and on a one of the cues during a particularly harrowing exorcism. Max himself had engaged on a well known Japanese solo percussionist Istanbul ViewMaster, to do an improvisation to the picture independently from the rest of the band. And Ken was sort of directing that he was also watching the screen and was if he wants to do that Have you wanted something more frenetic and quiet let down a bit just as it was running. But maybe he did something similar? Well, it must have been a BBC film. Alan dikes was the loving mixer. So you must have done it more than once.

Simon Rose  30:20  
Going back to Peter Watkins for a bit longer, you were saying how it was, you found it be harrowing to be working on the war game? Did you realise early on that it was going to be very controversial? And

Speaker 1  30:39  
I don't think so. I knew it was I knew it was going to be harrowing. And we often used to sort of joke about things in the cutting room. In fact, because he used to be amateur actors. He'd sometimes asked me, you see him, what do you think he does for a living? And on one occasion, we were doing the scene where there was a fire storm out of control. And there was this very Harris fire chief standing around his brows helmet wondering how the hell are we going to stop this fire? And I said, Why don't I give up? What does he do for a living? So he's the managing director of fireworks company. We had a bit of a laugh about that. But we thought that as Culloden, had had no problems in spite of the fact that it was there was no holds barred about the gruesome nature of the battle itself. I think from memory, there was actually a short of a severed leg in on the ground. Peters narration just sent in some very cool matter of fact, manner. What happens if you get hit by one? One of these things? I think it was change shot. They were firing to, to kind of bolt chained together. And if you get struck by that you take your leg off. And so there was this artificial I hope leg lying on the ground. We thought that there would there might be some sort of artistic, I don't but interference but some pressure from the the upper echelons of the beam for us perhaps to tone it down a bit or, or something we didn't expect this out and out. The government says we cannot transmit it. So we were both very disappointed. And of course Peter resign immediately.

Simon Rose  32:52  
That wasn't stated at the time was they weren't they weren't saying the government wanted out. They were saying things like we just decided that didn't quite meet our expectations and sort of things like things like

Speaker 1  33:03  
that. Yeah, it's it was really very recently, I think that that probably as a result of the Freedom of Information Act. The be all the way up to Hugh green, the TG of the time, appeared to be having to say, we're very much in favour of this film, but our hands are tied, the government won't let this transmitted. In fact, they were in collusion with the government too, because they felt embarrassed by it somehow. The was a half reasonable excuse. They were saying this is so realistic, that the effect could be like the notorious War of the Worlds, the radio show that Orson Welles produced and people were committing suicide because they were actually Martians coming down there Main Street. Obviously were more for them. But the if some elderly or susceptible people turned the television on in the middle of this programme, not knowing that it was a reconstruction of something that could happen, but thought it might be a news report. Maybe somebody could have a heart attack? I don't know. But I think you have to take a certain amount of risk in that area. And it was not a really very strong case. Then I think the government particularly were extremely embarrassed by the truth of how ill prepared we would be if there was a nuclear attack on Britain, even though it was it was stated quite categorically that this was a fairly small attack. Like an atom bomb is an atom bomb caused great destruction but it would it was not as bad as an H bomb attack would have been. It wouldn't have been as bad as what resulted in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but bad enough to disrupt the entire country. They just said it's too embarrassing for us to they didn't say this. But what they thought was, it's just too embarrassing for us to have to risk any questions asked in the house or elsewhere.

Simon Rose  35:33  
But as we were editing it, well, they're sort of four warnings. Did you have rough cut viewings with executives, you know, with higher ups?

Speaker 1  35:40  
No, we didn't. Hugh Weldon had, where he knew roughly what it was going to be like. And I mean, some people used to think it was a bit of a figure of fun, private, I will always lampooning him as a sort of a pseudo intellectual as the frontman on monitor, which is quite unjust, because he had a brilliant mind and was very, very brave in the kind of films that he would agree to be made. And the same it was with the Wargaming. I think, maybe he was aware of the dangers more than we would have been, but felt that Peters, growing reputation and integrity would be strong enough with his backing, to see it through. But he had, even before we'd finished cutting, I think he was kicked upstairs to head of television. So at least theoretically, he had no close contact with the production anymore. And Richard Causton, who took over I mean, he had many qualities, I was quite had great respect for the two films that he directed, which I cut, but he, he was really, I don't think he was an executive. He was in a way too interested in what was happening to his own films too. To, to want to wave a flag for somebody else's. Now that may be a bit of a harsh judgement, but he certainly didn't dig his heels in, like you Weldon would have done to try to reverse the government's decision.

Simon Rose  37:43  
And I, but then you did start having problems with beautify and modify it to keep to keep people happy. Or was it just, that was just it was it?

Speaker 1  37:54  
It was? That's the way Peter and I wanted it. And that's the way it had to be the only the only when I threw out all this. I was thinking it is extremely disappointing. But at least it has been made it was allowed to be made without any interference. So alerts, no consolation to Peter, because he feels so passionately about them that the anti war message that this film conveys, he wants as many millions of people to see it as possible. But posterity will will be able to judge it. later generations will still be able to see it, which is of course what happens. And there was this fairly lengthy run of a 35 mil blow up at a cinema in Tottenham Court Road, ran for several months, obviously, even with full houses, a fraction of the size of a television audience would would be the result. But at least it got out there.

Simon Rose  39:10  
won an Oscar and Oscar on me.

Speaker 1  39:13  
I don't know I maybe deserved it. But I think it did best

Simon Rose  39:17  
documentary, which is, you know, ironic considering the BBC banda. But I mean, they banned it from worldwide television, but it did get some other people had other ways of seeing it on.

Speaker 1  39:32  
Sometimes, that led to some unfortunate results. In the early 80s. I was working on an American picture in Los Angeles. And a cinema near the hotel wire where I was staying was actually screening the war game. So my assistants who'd heard so much about it, oh, should we go and see it? I said yeah, I but it was actually part of a kind of hippie festival. And in a way that the film was really just an incidental. There was lots of incense burning and handbell, rigging and so forth and making a great thing about all this was totally banned, etc. I was getting quite annoyed, I knew they looked up and said, well, first of all, please treat this film with the proper respect that it demands. And there wasn't a total ban because it ran for several months at selected cinemas. But I kept quiet I didn't say anything. The what? Sorry, what Keynes

Simon Rose  40:41  
himself must have been very upset. Did he feel let down by the BBC? Yes, he did.

Speaker 1  40:48  
He even if he got into a lift, and did cost in Brasilia, he turned his back on him and wouldn't speak to him don't have nothing to do with him was glad when it reached the floor. He wanted to get out if he felt he felt that although it was a sort of a poison chalice. Causton has nothing to do with the production it was sort of cut and dried. Before he was appointed head of the documentary department he Peter felt that he should because of his position, have done something to champion it and sort of just let the the government run roughshod over it.

Simon Rose  41:38  
Yes, and and as I said at the time, the BBC really denied that they were being influenced by the government and I think they said that while they gave the reason you said that people might commit suicide that was the sort of best reason they could come up with anything. Yes. Did you Did you follow Peters career any more after that?

Speaker 1  42:06  
Yes, I I saw one of his feature films, outbuilding I went to the cinema. It was a punishment Park. I saw it on television. I found it a bit disappointing because it was almost like a rerun of Culloden, but rather, the premise was rather manufactured, maybe unjust, naive, maybe, maybe that there are some kind of correction facilities in the United States, which would would go through these rather jungle lengths of foot of putting prisoners in a dangerous situation. And if they can get out of it, they're free. And if they don't, they're hard, like they probably dead. I thought this is, is making, making up a situation which is not necessarily true to life, so that he can get some of the sort of protests message across. But I was much, much happier when I saw his documentary about Edvard monk, three hours long and not a frame too long. And I'm always very suspicious of any film that is more than 100 minutes long. But it I could have sat through something twice as long because it was so well made. So interesting. And it was nice to see him able wholeheartedly to, to do a film, which had didn't have to have any sort of political agenda to it. And on a few occasions, I've met him recently. I'd said, Why haven't you done more of that? And he said, well, because nobody would finance anything i I can't. I haven't got any savings that I can dip into to finance my own production. So we'll get we'll get it independent backing or anything. They allow this Swedish television allowed it to be made. And I was very lucky. But and I haven't seen any other of his post BBC work at all.

Simon Rose  44:34  
Yes, I mean, Watkins has, throughout his life has had big sort of struggles to make every film and I'm sure there's been many more that he's wanted to make and haven't been made. Ken Russell somehow seems to manage to to keep going. How C managed that.

Speaker 1  44:54  
It was a bit of a struggle, after the devils actually do I'm used very much the flavour of the month from after his most famous television films right through women in love with the music lovers, and then the devils but after that he found it difficult to get finance. Well, I think it lasted long enough for MGM to finance the boyfriend, but they weren't too happy with what they bought. It's it's interesting that towards the end of the devil's can sort of confine it to me that although this was his brainchild here, he's very glad to deliver it because he's had enough violence. He's worked on enough violence on the screen to last a lifetime. And God's got this nice little musical comedy to follow. But it wasn't at all the devil was the shooting and the cutting went through like clockwork, on the boyfriend. There were problems from the start. In the the we're going to be some elaborate studio sets at Elstree Studios. But while they were being built him spent several weeks at a disused Theatre in Portsmouth. And because it was disused, there were things that didn't work properly. The cast didn't like being away from home for too long. He didn't say who were there was one member of cast who threatened to commit suicide. thought that they were all saying, oh, it'd be great when we get to El Street. And then all these elaborate sets would give him the trouble. There was a little moment too, in a sort of an international number. It was the salt the titles on the boyfriend. There was a little international sequence of boyfriends of different nationalities. And Marie Melvin dresses as a friend Sean Don, was doing a little dance in front of a huge tricolour which was, I think, mercifully, it was balsa wood and tracing paper. But in the middle of it, it came adrift and fell on him. And even one of the bolts were battens, hitting, it could have been a bit injurious. And there were other things that there was a scene I think some the number of showed up Plash. They, they shot a lot of background plates of the sea side and waves and things to use this front projection, and it wouldn't work. So you had to elaborate or other de elaborated to, to be shot on the stage at Portsmouth instead. And all in all, we were very glad when it was finished. And then when MGM saw it, they appeared to be happy. But when they got their hands on it, they left it alone for their roadshow except for putting an interview in the middle, which is fair enough. Because it was rather long. They decided to cut 25 minutes out of it, which didn't make any sense. So that was a that was in a way that not exactly the beginning of the end, but it was a bit of a downturn. Who's next. Oh, Tommy, was apparently a great success. But then the other British films he made a list of mania. Valentino didn't quite work. Some films you shot in America like altered states. That was back on fall. I really enjoyed that. I thought it was I'm not surprised that the writer Paddy Chayefsky nearly had a heart attack when he saw what Ken was doing because he felt every every letter and punctuation mark of the script was sacrosanct. And here was Ken ripping up whole pages or rewriting them all the plot advancing stuff, all the technical stuff between the scientists who would get it get them to act almost as fast as possible on one master taken and sort of say, we'll ask got the that boring stuff out of out of the way lit. That's how another hallucinations and although I didn't work I was I was very pleased with that one. But Some others did. We're not really very successful.

Unknown Speaker  50:06  
There's something for sure.

Simon Rose  50:15  
Okay. Yeah. You mentioned that kind of Esther was the leaves to move on to the boyfriend. Some people have accused him of sort of deliberately being provocative and stirring up feelings in order to be box office. I mean, you know, just going for controversial subjects for the sake of controversy is what do you think of that?

Speaker 1  50:50  
Having spent so long with the BBC, I will sit typical beep employee sit on the fence and say yes and no. I think the any subjects that he tackled, which were controversial, it could be that even if he didn't feel all that strongly, he probably felt that the subject demanded some kind of emphasis. Maybe even because his own life was fairly comfortable and straightforward. It was about outside his own experience, to have to deal with characters who might be sort of tortured inside. The he felt was important to really, if not exaggerated, at least emphasise it strongly. Rather than just because he enjoyed doing that field, it was only honest if he did it. I suppose as that element of perhaps the executive producers were prepared to finance that kind of production rather than something good, but less controversial. I mean, he, some of his best films, were actually pretty simple and laid back. The two that come to mind when I cut them when I didn't do the one I didn't cut, which I think is one of his best films in any medium song of summer, the biography of the last days of Frederick Delius. I've seen that fairly recently. And I find it extremely moving. That it's, it's basically the story of a man house bounded through paralysis, living in his house and garden. Still got this passion to write music. only do so if he's got a good amanuensis the other film, when which I did cut savage Messiah, which came immediately after his biography of Mala. Mala was a film, which I think got many virtues, very imaginative at time, so he couldn't resist doing these sort of cockiness. Snoke at the audience. scene where Marla has had a mild heart attack on a train. It's already really established that his wife was much younger than he was. He was always suspicious of the witch. She was having affairs with younger people in while he is unconscious during this heart attack, course it's an excuse to have a large chunk of music. The there's no dialogue in this, he imagines that he is dead, but alive in the coffin and has to put up with seeing through a glass window in this coffin, his wife, taunting him by embracing her lover and making lewd gestures and things. Lots of people dressed in something very, very close to Nazi uniform. Oh, here we go again as pallbearers and so forth. There wasn't much of that but enough for me to think. Well, he's he's treading on all ground again. But On savage Messiah. Actually, I've gotten this wrong way round. Yes, no, I haven't. No anyway, on savage Messiah, he, he'd seem to have abandoned any attempt to know what a naughty school by making rude gestures only got a COVID maturity to the fantasies and the characterization, he was able to indirect actors very sensitively and get good performances out of them and several members of the crew, along with me felt well, he's left kindergarten, he's he's, he's grown up. Now, if this is the direction he's going in, that's going to be great because he will develop a whole new range of, of mature films. But that film was that was the option to run it in the States was taken out by MGM, who in the first place, felt a bit guilty about what they'd done to the boyfriend. And in the second place, they thought his name was big enough for them not to not only not to interfere, but it would publicise itself, and it didn't, and it took very, very little money. And I think, Ken, after that, this is pure conjecture. If he's looking down at me from above, he's probably shaking his fist. That's not true. That's not true. But he, I think he felt, well, if I can't be a good filmmaker, I can be an editorial one. And maybe that's responsible of his choice of subjects.

Simon Rose  56:59  
Did you ever think or say he was, you know, a bit going a bit too far? Do you ever say to Kevin so around can isn't that a bit over the top?

Speaker 1  57:12  
I didn't, because I knew him well enough to to know that he would immediately dig his heels in and just what we need on the boyfriend. And I have to say, subsequent to the boyfriend, he said that he had not been well during the production, and some medication that a doctor had recommended, had had some effect on his mental processes. And he felt that the boyfriend was too nice. It needed a bit of some dirt sprinkled on it. So he devised a sort of secret lesbian relationship between two members of the cast and some other similar slightly sordid scenes which he shot and I cut them in and I had to sort of bite my tongue ever. So how's it going? Well, yes, it sort of works. Okay. Trying to look into CST no can No no, no, and wait for him to wake up, which he did. And they all came out. And as I said, subsequently, he written to this medication. He was on a clouded his judgement. It has happened on the music lovers as well. He'd felt that as scripted and shot. When you looked at some of the early part of the film, it didn't emphasise enough the pressure that Tchaikovsky was under he had no home of his own he was living in a spare room. In Rubinstein's apartment Rubenstein was the head of the the music school. Tchaikovsky was a professor of music he had there were always parties which were close to orgies going on in the room next to his private room where he was trying to write. What do you saw enough of God a sense of that? In the original version of the film, every time that the doors opened you, you could see some Misty images, people laughing and joking and some of the positions that were in were, obviously something rather sexual, but the doors shut again. And at one point I think chucked a glass of wine on the floor I can Don't work under these conditions. And that's all you needed. But no, he can decide he'd got to have an extra scene with Tchaikovsky had just been ticked off very severely by Rubinstein after the premiere of his piano concerto, saying it's all rubbish. So he wasn't happy about Rubinstein or any of his associates, had to come home to his single room through this room where this orgy was going on. And you saw all his details covering couples having it off on the piano, and yes, can Yeah, that's fine. How long will it take him to realise? Because if I had said, Kenny's over the top, he knows not nope, sorry. It's just what we need. And just what we need was to take it out which he did. So it never, never really came to a conflict.

Simon Rose  1:00:59  
So your patience paid off? If you have you ever regretted not saying anything? Won't you've seen a finished film on the screen? You think I should have insisted on this? So?

Unknown Speaker  1:01:14  
I don't think I did it in a sort of negative way. On the devil's I mean, I was, I was quite happy with the director's cut.

Speaker 1  1:01:29  
I was annoyed in principle that we were asked to remove quite a lot of data, the nuns frenzy. But I felt that what was left was suggestive enough of what was going on, I'm getting quite often, you hint at something and the audience's imagination, maybe even more lurid than what we believe in. So I, I didn't mind particularly I never said to Ken, but I didn't mind the longest of the cut down version. Some of the shorter ones were horrendous. But we had no control over that. When it was restored, I was happy for Ken. I thought, well, it. Yes, it's nice to have the Director's Cut. But I don't know that has really made that much of an improvement. But of course, I'm very much on Ken's side about the fact that Warner's are still refusing to release the complete Director's Cut. But other cases, possibly not not for any kind of sensational reason for those, perhaps there are some scenes, which I got the near the nearest I got to conflict with Ken was some sometimes I would cut some thing where I felt which we had enough, but he wanted to be a bit longer. So I'd make it a bit longer. He said a bit more, a bit more, a bit more. And maybe I'd get persuaded to shave a bit of the bit more. But in retrospect, perhaps felt that the Yes, I wish I'd been in a position to stand my ground because that particular thing does hold proceedings up, even though it's only by about 30 seconds. 30 seconds can seem like an eternity if it's in the wrong place. But it's not in any of the films that have really sort of caught the interest in, in imagination of the public. So I thought, well, I'm probably being a bit over fussy about this then.

Simon Rose  1:03:57  
How about other directors have your view sometimes be more confrontational with different directors? Ah.

Speaker 1  1:04:11  
Very rarely, if ever been extremely confrontational. Maybe I'm just a really too much of a cow to want to provoke around. Well, I did provoke a short lived Rao with Ken at one point where I thought I was I've been too rude and outspoken and would probably be dismissed from the production immediately. But it turned out that we were both nervous and under strain and lengths to apologise to each other. But there were some directors that I hadn't got a great deal of respect for because I thought they were perhaps way too close to their material and a bit, shall we say narcissistic about it. They, they loved a particular shot or a particular scene. So they want it to be as long as possible, whereas the audience would obviously much preferred it to be something you wouldn't have to say. Yeah, yeah, come on, let's get on with the plot. It, I was lucky enough. Again, sort of by accident, to fall under the influence of David Putnam. I don't know quite why I was approached, but he was setting up a film called That'll be the day, which, starring David Essex, as a fictitious typical school leaver of the 1950s, who really wanted to get into the pop world. And it charts is not exactly his rise to fame. But he managed to get into that sort of aura, mixing with rock bands and things. And he'd been a bit of a womaniser earlier in the in the plot, and people advise him not to get married because he won't change. But he does get married and it seems to be a Dilek. He hasn't. They have a child, but he's still yearning for independence, and getting into music. And so he leaves his wife, and the last scene is him going to buy a guitar in a music shop? gets a bit of preliminary instruction. And the shopkeeper says, Do you think you can handle it? And he takes that to mean, what he wants to do in the future is Yeah, I can handle it. All right. It was mainly a vehicle for the the release of a double album of tracks from the 50s by standard artists, the Everly Brothers and people like that, which were were sort of fed as source music into the film. quite legitimately. It worked very well. But what I held it was original question.

Simon Rose  1:07:36  
I didn't know we were talking about conflict when you mentioned David Puttnam, and he was supportive of you Sorry.

Speaker 1  1:07:43  
David was, he was the producer, and the director was Claude Watham, who was his first feature film, he done a lot of quite distinguished television work. And I think David was a bit suspicious that this television director would not be able to have what it takes to do a feature film so we often hovering around like a hawk. At one point, after we've seen some rushes of a scene. It was meant to be sort of two incidents which are intercut just before the central character gets married. His fiancee and his her best friend are having an argument the best friend is saying, you're doing the wrong thing here. He's he's still a womaniser. No, no, no, he's changed completely. And that was intercut with this guy having it off in the back of a van with another woman. And David Patton was saying, Get your assistants to order two sets of rashes, I want to see that as two separate scenes. So, David, we can, let's do it as a scripted first, if it requires it, I can unpick it and do it as to scenes, but I don't think it's necessary. And when he saw it, he was quite happy with my decision on that. Also, there was a moment towards the end, where I did have to improvise a bit to make a bit of a climax, visually and musically, which would spark off his sudden decided decision to leave the family. And I did it. The director was busy on other scenes. He didn't know until I've done it, but what I was doing, I told him what the sort of thing I was going to do. And I chose a particularly aggressive sounding pop track to go along with it. It's just that the character was sitting in a suburban park on a bench looking at some kid is floating model yachts on the lake and going through his mind, snippets of conversation pulling in this way or that they'd been in earlier in the film. And suddenly, it comes to a calamity. Grateful, Wow, big percussion cord, and then cut straight to him walking out of the house, and his wife and his mother say, What are you doing? Come back, come back. And David Putnam was very taken by that. And, and he was so responsible for me getting on to several other subsequent films, by by his company good times, enterprises. I mean, it was a sequel to that anyway, the women which the character does cold start us in which the character does actually rather than like the Beatles make a sudden rise to fame. But unlike the Beatles, either, he then disintegrates into suicide. But the because David was sort of my champion. Any problem that might have been with the directors, if they, it was, because I wouldn't be privy to any of this, but imagining that they'd said, Well, I don't know this, this editor. And he seems to want to sort of start cutting before I'm available. And David would would say, look, he's got a distinguished track record in television, he's done a couple films I was producing, and they worked out very well. And he likes to get as, as much put as much thought into it and try to get a respectable cut of as much as possible, just to show the director for the first time. So I'd like you to trust that. And for any of the directors, mostly, I got on very well with any that were inclined. To be about it bit unhappy, potentially, with what I was doing are mainly usually ended up happy with what I am the two of us together, at the end, actually polished and come up with. David was very supportive and always like my agent.

Simon Rose  1:12:43  
Yeah, he he produced? Didn't he produce Marla? Yes. There was an interview with him actually, on the History Project website, where and it sounds like he didn't actually get on with Ken Russell, but that well. Did you were you aware of that? No, I wasn't, he seemed to think that Ken didn't care much about him. I think

Speaker 1  1:13:12  
that's possible. But I don't think David would ever let personal matters, cloud his professional judgement. And this isn't really quite the same, but there was a problem. It was just about fully financed a pretty low budget anyway, when they started shooting. And within a few days, they were up up to sort of Ken's favourite location in the Lake District for a week or two. And, as is the nature of things, if there's a crisis, it's always on shoot, but once you're away from home, you can't deal with it. The one of the financial backers, I think it was the BFI. They, late in the day, had read the script, and decided that there wasn't enough material there to make a feature film and they wanted to pull out. In fact, they did pull out. You can't stretch. This is only a few pages long. I mean, it wasn't it was about 78 pages when the average script is about a minute per page. And, of course, they didn't know Ken or the way he worked. And sometimes it'd be seen so and so. Music sequence and it names the, the piece of music that's going to be used. And just a two lines synopsis of the action takes that much script but it's going to take about five minutes of screen time. As always, can I The highlights of the film's as far as he was concerned, were the big musical set pieces, whether classical or any other kind of music. And David hastily arranged, I think it was some people from Rothschilds who have used them as backups in the past, they came to see what had been cut so far. Chemist, I think, actually at this stage can receive none aware, I mean, like a good producer that he was, David didn't bother Ken with it wasn't going to mention it at all, unless it really got ugly. And so he persuaded them that it would be worth their while to fill the gap that had been left by the vfio. It wasn't that they were, they were very pleased with what they saw. In fact, they they're obviously not used to film work, because they were sort of surprised at the the quality of the camera work and the the general standard of action. And so for instance, it was something we took for granted, particularly with a Ken picture. So whatever may have actually passed between David and Ken, something of course, I wouldn't have known. David was really well behind. Ken Marlowe is going to be one of six films about typical music biography, algorithm films only only for Pete. As for the cinema, instead of television, there was going to be one on Charles Ives one on George Gershwin. I can't remember the other three, but they didn't actually manage to get the finance for. So David wouldn't have suggested entering that kind of commitment. If he wasn't happy with Ken, in fact, I can remember the very first day of shooting in the studio. David, and I think his PA, was sort of peeking through the opening door to get a glimpse of Ken to see how does the great master work? What does he say to the artists and so forth? Like fans would be hovering at the edge of the stage. So he, he was very much on one cannons wave.

Simon Rose  1:17:41  
Let's backtrack a bit. So during the 60s You were kind of swapping backwards and forwards a bit between documentaries and features. What's the difference? What's the is there a different sort of culture and an outlook between documentary makers and feature filmmakers?

Speaker 1  1:18:04  
I suppose there there is. Because unless you've got some somebody like Peter Watkins, or Ken for that matter, who live the subject may be documentary. They want it to be told in a dramatised way. documentary makers don't usually have the to deal with actors are not used to dealing with actors. And so their concentration. Often, if they don't, they know roughly what they want to shoot, but they don't know exactly what is going to be possible to shoot until they get to the situation. I think they, they have to help keep a very cool head about improvising, what they're going to do because it's not actually scripted. Whereas in features I mean, the director may have written all part written the screenplay him himself or herself. And they, they are following it, even if they depart from it that they're starting off by following a sort of a pre arranged plan in their head. But otherwise, if see, there may be a temperamental difference. When I can think of Michael Apted, and I only worked with once on stardust. We were going to work together on subsequent films. Our timing wasn't right. He had started off for doing television documentaries. The whole series of shooting ordinary people

Simon Rose  1:20:06  
at the age of seven yeah the seven hour series which is still coming, just just continuing so 63 now

Speaker 1  1:20:16  
and yet he did television drama started us was complete drama. He he really had a foot in both camps and was quite happy in either. Actually, the reason we didn't work again was because of a project that actually failed after 10 weeks of shooting called trickle treat as the first acting pileup for and Bianca Jagger actually, I don't know whether she's still around I think I don't know

Simon Rose  1:20:53  
whether we should use the specification talk about it. Now as I was wondering more about what they're what they're trying to achieve. I mean, I suppose documentary makers are more interested in real life but even drama is another way of reflecting on real life isn't very much documentary makers and maybe more political maybe more left wing as I've heard it.

Speaker 1  1:21:21  
Well, however, how much more left wing can you get when Ken Loach something like I Daniel, again,

Simon Rose  1:21:35  
I suppose I think of him more as a documentary maker, although he does, obviously ever they will, dramas, but he seemed to gain to come from that background of being very much with the nitty gritty of real life

Speaker 1  1:21:57  
somebody like Ken Russell, would probably never feel really at home with something really nitty gritty, because that's a I wouldn't say that he shuts his mind to it. He I think he's he was probably fairly left wing, in his personal political views. But it wasn't something that he wanted to make films about, particularly that he felt perhaps other people were better qualified, with the, their temperament, and their, their makeup than he was who would prefer to make work on this sort of fantastic poetic side of life. He always said that the devils was the only political film he made, and the only one that he could make, because they say a week is a long time in politics and added attitudes. of the people who make films, and the people who see them couldn't change totally during the span of time that the film took to shoot and cut it, but he said he was able to make the devil's because the the political conflict in it was as as relevant today, as it was in 1635, or whatever. But because it was an actual series of events that were finite, they really happened. And this was the outcome. There was no no two ways about it. He felt he was able to make it but if it was a contemporary subject, he wouldn't even attempt it.

Simon Rose  1:23:51  
How about his religious views and beliefs? Did you talk about that much with him? Only

Speaker 1  1:24:04  
in the last years of his life often there wasn't really much. I mean, I knew that he was at least theoretically a Catholic. But his faith in that direction seemed to swing a lot when he was living for 10 years in the Lake District. In in a documentary about him, I can remember him saying quite categorically that he didn't actually denounce Catholicism but he said the My religion is all around me. The the mountains there, my altar and even the lakes was something else to do with the Something ecclesiastical. So here's sort of had a kind of humanist attitude. But then a bit later, certainly when he came back to London, he, he sort of renewed his Catholicism in a general sense. It's, I've often reflected on the fact that we were very close professionally. But we very rarely, if at all, met for purely social occasions, I was often rounded his house in Kensington to see him and his wife, Shirley, but it was nearly always some kind of informal production meeting, even though I stayed to dinner. And Sheree was a very good cook, and have been lots of wine flowing, it would always be to discuss something that we're in the middle of, or something that was coming up. Not a particularly intense discussion, but we'd listen to a few LPs and things, sometimes just for the pleasure of it. We've just got this have you heard it all, sometimes a case of I'm thinking, this scene we're going to shoot in a couple of weeks, I'm thinking of using this, can you get it transferred, and do what you think is right with it, and so forth. It's only in his really, later years when he wasn't getting any work at all. Because he was in the best sense of the word of an alcoholic, a workaholic, certainly not an alcoholic drink plenty but not that, to that extent. He was, he had to do something on film. So he made what he and his then wife called the Garage films because the first couple of literally shot in the garage, they moved the car out into the, into the drive and made a little set in the space. With just themselves as actors. If she was on screen, he'd shoot it. If if he was on screen, he'd set it up and get her to press the button and so forth. They were a variable, artistic quality, but as good technically as possible. After a couple of them that he done, had no idea whether they would make any sort of commercial headway. He just wanted to make something he wrote all the scripts himself. When I went down to his cottage, in the New Forest, on the day that he was being interviewed in the garden, about the the restoration of the missing bits from the devils. Paul Joyce, the director of the documentary, had asked me, I had made a VHS copy of the section with quite a bit of footage either side, which had been reinserted, which wasn't straightforward. It wasn't a question of pulling it apart and sticking this in. There were bits which were common, because we when we knew we had to lose something we use perhaps some of the less controversial but interesting shots in what was left. So they had to come out of the main body of the film and be something be substituted. I've done a temporary track of some odds and ends of Max's music which matched it and everything. And Paul Joseph said, We won't tell Ken you're coming that can be a sort of surprise reunion. And it went very well the the we've filmed off embrace when I turned up in the garden unexpectedly when we went into the house into the spare room, which was called the cutting room. I just happened to notice that he he got to Casablanca editing machine and I just said, Oh, I've got one of those. And later he called me up to say you got to Casablanca, haven't you? That's right, well, could you come down and give me some tutorials because I really can't do anything other assemble sections of picture and track. I don't know how to overlap the picture or or overlap the cell wanted to phase and dissolve or anything elaborate how to add music while keeping the dialogue running. So I went down and spent a day with him. And after a couple of hours, he looked very thoughtful. And he was halfway through one of these garage films. And he said, Would I'll never remember all that. And if I do remember, I'll never know how to do it. Could you cut the rest of this for me? So we, I haven't gotten any nightclub nightclubs, anything with me, so I couldn't do it. And the time has come down for a few days a bit later. And this setup sort of process where I think he made another four garage type films, and I would come down for about four days at a time. And in the evenings, is the first time we were really socialising. As always, there's plenty of red wine flowing. And he'd learned since he divorced his first wife. He was determined to cook for himself, because I think she'd said something. Now you're going who's going to cook for you. And so who was he to do some good delicacies? Homemade pate on toast or something like that. And we'd sit down to watch a feature film which was being transmitted live on television that particular night, and we chat. His wife would vacate her usual comfortable seat on the sofa. So I got somewhere to sit with Ken and she'd kneel at his feet and watch from there. Or if we were having dinner separately from the television, anecdotes and things and we, I told him roundabout that time that I was interested in the branch of Christianity known as anthroposophy. And he was interested all told me more about it. And he was telling me about certain Catholic experiences. Although he, he wasn't anything like as intense or Catholic as he had been in his younger days, he still went to Mass occasionally. And we had much more of a kind of intimate, friendly relationship than we had when we were really working hard at it professionally, possibly, because it was a simpler sort of genre that we're working on, we had the time to, to socialise. But I always thought it was a bit odd that it wasn't until we were both well into our 70s we really became firm friends.

Simon Rose  1:32:56  
And your own beliefs, political or religious, etc. Have you ever turned down a job? Because you didn't like? Like, the treatment? And the script?

Speaker 1  1:33:12  
Yes. Not for religious reasons. I was. I was invited to cut a film about a well known punk rock star. I didn't actually know what the subject was, I was invited to the production office and told terribly sorry, the director is at a meeting that he can't get out of, he'll be away for about an hour or half. Is that do you mind waiting? Would you like some tea or coffee? Or a stronger drink? We can give you a copy of the script to read. And it was way long enough for me to actually read the whole script through before he came back. And when he did, as politely as I could. And I said, well, thank you very much for asking me I feel very flattered that you would like me to cut your film, but honestly, I don't think this is for me. However professional, I would try to be I'm really not in sympathy with this subject or the characters and I know they're real people. But I didn't think I could do it. So I saw we turned a picture down. We've already been started

Simon Rose  1:34:44  
talking about how that's Let's feed on to Jabberwocky. Ah, sounds interesting. Very games first. First feature

Speaker 1  1:34:59  
Yeah. I think it was yes. I think on the my Monty Python series, most of them, that there was officially a director, but they, I think each of the principal characters would direct a bit themselves. And I think he had a free hand with all the cartoons that he produced for the, for the series. But yeah, this is certainly his first big drama production. In a way. He didn't really want an editor and he said to me, sort of quite good naturedly. I'm sure you enjoy what you're doing, it would I would enjoy doing it as well. I wish I didn't have to have a good year, I wish I didn't have to have somebody else to do it for me. But apart from a momentary lack of tempo for me, I didn't really blow up, I discovered a little bit. So hey, come on it. Let's be a bit disciplined about this. I can see, I tried to do something. And he already wanted to show me some something else or to do something else. And I'm no good at multitasking at since I'm a very good serial mono Tasker, I wouldn't get this bit finished before I get on to the next bit, not start looking at that while I'm still trying to do this. But we ended up very good friends on that. And I think he wanted to use me on the Life of Brian, but it wasn't possible. We did. There was an unfortunate thing, towards the end of it. I mean, I've been very lucky that any painful illness I may have had during my life has never actually occurred during the working day. But I started to get excruciating, groyne pain as I was trying to pass kidney stones. But the doctors could find nothing there. But it would happen for about two hours and then go away. And you wouldn't know when it came back again. And it just so happened that I got a bad attack during the working day while they were trying to dub. And I was really required in the dubbing theatre, but I was sort of sitting squirming uncomfortably on the chair in the cutting room. And every time I went into the dubbing theatre, I was a bit irritable, I went home, I had to go home. And of course, as soon as I got home, I felt much better. But I went I in the interest of time I had to go to a go privately to a consultant who couldn't again, couldn't find anything wrong just gave me some advice as to what to do if it recurred. But it didn't. And that was in a morning and I decided to go into the cartoons in the afternoon. Although I was I've been anticipating trouble, I was afraid you might say I got something seriously wrong and I was shaking a bit. And I got into the dubbing theatre. And I didn't like what I heard, I felt that there was too much mushy, general effects which weren't contributing to anything and some of the carefully selected music because we didn't have a composer we use the what we could find it was any good from the DeWolfe library. It wasn't making its impact. And I think I'd probably said something like Oh, why bother to have music that pledges things not going to be heard. And he also turned on me a bit and said Well alright, be temperamental, and plenty of occasions when I could throw a tantrum, you know, this production pudica seed that sort of hurt me a bit so he's put his hand up ruffled my hair a bit, but that was the end of it. But we did get on very well. It was it's one of my favourite pictures. I think a lot of people still like it was years old now.

Simon Rose  1:39:37  
And then, oh, well, couple years after that. scam. Yes, another banned film, although it wasn't I think it was banned. You weren't you didn't do it. The BBC version, which was

Speaker 1  1:39:49  
the BBC version that was banned. Yes. I think most of us who are going to work on the future version, were allowed to see the BBC version. And I thought apart from the fact that it was banned, it seemed to have been a very good picture, I can't see that this will be any better. In some ways it was it was a little bit different. Alan Clark had, perhaps had time to, to think about what he would do differently. And it was, again, is a case of rather like Peter Watkins of a very mild, polite man, tackling an extremely violent subject. Although I was told by some people that he, he could be not exactly violent, but he would sometimes drink too much and get embarrassing. I was one throw down to the BBC club for trying to dance naked on the on the table or something. But that doesn't sound like the Alan Clark. I know. But the fruit presumably, presumably several aspects to Alan Clark with the again, he was one of those I got on very well with. He got he contracted glandular fever during post production, and very wisely kept apart from us as much as possible, because it's quite contagious. And we'd done most of the cut. We would we would just sort of find cutting a few scenes by telephone, because he, he went to stay with a friend in the west country somewhere, I think. Because one of the the principal symptoms was extreme tiredness. So he spent a lot of time during the day on the sofa, just lying down and be as a roof, maybe a 10 minute conversation each day. Hi, how's it going? Did you try that scene before the other one? Yes, I did. What do you think? I said, Yeah, I think it's better that way. But the other one you suggested should go after another one that was better before it's oh, I'll try it like that.

Simon Rose  1:42:19  
So what So you were sending him cups to rush it?

Speaker 1  1:42:21  
was in those days? It wasn't easy? Well, first of all, it was it was time consuming. And it wasn't always the facility it because it had to be on VHS. That would be it'd be time consuming to extract those scenes from the cut and put them on VHS. And then it's going to go down by post. And as he was living so far away, you can't bike it across London to him. Because these days, I haven't I understand the principle and applaud it very much. But I haven't really grasped the the technicality of how you magically send your cut through cyberspace in an instant, as really great that there was a director I was working with was shooting in Mexico. And his producers were not happy with what he was doing. And if we'd been able to do that, I could send him a cut of a scene I done which the executives were worried about. And perhaps within half an hour of him ringing me up and saying, Can you get me this as soon as possible, which would have actually several days sending a VHS all that way? They could see on their own television set, whether it worked or not. And yes, it did work. And they backed off a bit, let him get on with it. But it's in those in the 70s. And probably 80s as well. It was so there wasn't enough sort of instant technology available to do something like that. I thought it was remarkable enough that as I was actually editing on Avid if he rang up and said can you have a look at see number seven. So I want to know whether we need a particular shot. I didn't have to take everything off the horse, take that scene off of its can and wind it down. I could just a click of the mouse. Just hide what I was doing and leave it to its own devices. Well bring up the new one. Scroll through it quickly to the bit he talked about and said no, no, it's fine. Trust me that you don't need any more Let me bring off another click. And there I was back to what was I doing when I was so rudely interrupted. There were other occasions where I've, I've actually spent a couple of days totally re cutting a particular area of the film, because the director felt that it would be better that way. And when we saw it together, decided, we both decided, no, we write the first time. So got her then unpick the unpicking and try to make it back where it was. Whereas with a digital system, all you have to do is make a copy of the project and do a different one. So here's one I prepared earlier. You don't like it? Okay, forget it, we'll go back to the other one. Technically, there have been vast strides in the direction of being able to work almost almost as fast as you can think. Or sometimes, in my case, it means not very fast, but it's at least you. If you do have a sudden idea. Yeah, it'd be better if we start at the end and work back to the beginning. Let's try it. You can try it without altering a single frame with a cut you'd already done if you don't want to. Yes.

Simon Rose  1:46:28  
In a way, it sort of maybe takes away a little bit of your power, you can't now you used to be able to say, Well, I tried it, but it doesn't really work. And they say, Oh, don't worry. And now they say well, just show me show me. So, you know, I mean, generally, hopefully they can see your rights. But it does take a bit of the editors power away, I

Speaker 1  1:46:47  
feel. Well, I've never maybe once or twice with Ken, I may have said that. Knowing that he wouldn't he would know. Because I knew what more or less what he wanted. If I said it doesn't work for them doesn't work. But generally, I don't say that, because I think the director has it if he feels fairly strongly about how it should go. I think he has a right to be able to see it. Having gone that way. And as soon as you say it's so simple, you just create another version of the project, preferably dating them and timing and so right. Well, let's go back to the one we had. Was that yesterday? Was it the day before? Was it last week?

Simon Rose  1:47:38  
Yeah, it does in a way. I know. I know. You're new. Another editor who just didn't do that was he said, Well, we would. He said, Well, we're just making it better all the time. I would I want to keep an older version. It does. It does open up the possibility of filmmaking by committee where you sort of have oh, let's have a bit of this version of the bit of that version. Do you sort of me?

Speaker 1  1:48:04  
Yes. When I agree with that totally. And what I should have said is, it can be done if required, I didn't say I was do that if I never really got into the habit of keeping multiple versions. More recently, when I've been working at home. I've sometimes independently of the director, if I just wanted to try something from my own curiosity and satisfaction, I'll create a different version. And keep it to show the director of I think it's worth bothering with otherwise junkets and I don't have a great long list of alternative versions. In fact, there was one, one production where somebody else had cut it. But I was asked to put a fresh eye to it. And I found that the assistant who'd been on on the first cut was my assistant on this as well, because I needed some sort of continuity of information. He was rather put out by the fact that I wasn't keeping versions. So as he pointed out, that direction wasn't present. I think that the director refused to be involved in re cutting because it was thought to be good enough as it was. The previous director sort of kept every cut. So he felt that they should respect the directors, ideas, and so I was doing that role. I knew I wasn't going to refer to it again and nobody else was likely to but it was it was there just in case available for reference. But I agree, if you if you do that a lot There is a danger of never making a decision. I'm in another thing. I've never understood the the process of assembly editing. I see no point it not going for what you think it's going to be at the end. First time, you make some mistakes maybe but why? Why cut it loosely or over simply, when you know that it's got to be in to cut more elaborately, this scene has got a really fast moving, go for it doesn't matter these, particularly since wet splicing was abandoned. And you just got tape joints. If you've really overdone it, just extend it and put the tape over. And in digitally, of course, you don't even see the join. So I've never understood what the need or even the how you do an assembly cut it by just go for a fine. What I feel is a fine cut. First time I'm usually wrong, I would usually find that it needs to be much finer still. But at least it's going in the right direction without an unnecessary intermediate process.

Simon Rose  1:51:26  
So you've been through quite a few technical changes fixed 1635 resume lead probably more or less skipped tape, but we've done some tape. Editing may be and and on media. Digital. Did you find those changes heart?

Speaker 1  1:51:46  
Oh, no. But what I did find hard was a kind of catch 22. When digital, also they can't remember the fixed version and not non linear digital got going, which is rather like reinventing the wheel because the process is very similar to the way you should cut on film in my opinion. It would I was being asked would you cut this film for us? Yes, I'd be delighted to is we're using Avid. So I'm afraid I haven't got any experience on it. Oh, well. And I'm afraid we can't have somebody who is an experienced? Well, how do I get some experience or by cutting on average? If I can't cut on average, I can't get any experience. So rather a bit futile. But I went on a three day crash course at Bekins field. In nonlinear editing. I was almost that time computer illiterate. I couldn't even open it up and write a letter. I still can't actually I've sort of sort of mastered the difficult end of film editing. But I have to ask my wife to tell me what I pressed to, to change the font size in this letter I'm writing or something like that. When

Simon Rose  1:53:28  
did you go on this course? Was that in the 80s?

Speaker 1  1:53:34  
Yeah, I can't remember what it wasn't quite a long time ago. It was certainly fairly soon after that the the system came into operation. But that three days of pretty useless because I had nothing to practice on. It's rather like taking some expensive driving lessons. And having neither a car nor an experienced driver who's allowed to sit with you. So you can drive around and practice what you've been told. And eventually has sort of a dream conversation. I could hardly believe my ears. Somebody I thought it was going to go the wrong way. Somebody called me and said there's a film has been cut, but the director feels it needs. We certainly need a couple of new scenes. We're going to shoot and some tidying up. So okay. I'll do that. But it's um it was cut on film, but since the edited editor has gone on to other things, the director had it transferred onto a Have a system whereby he could use avid to play around with it. And he's got really rather use to that. So we'd like him to work on it. But in all honesty, I would love to, but I haven't got enough experience and my assistant who is more computer literate than I also has got enough experience. We do. We be sort of learning how to do it and been making experience making mistakes at your expense. And okay. Okay. Anyway, I was just that, that they took both me and my assistant on. And we, they paid for, actually, it wasn't having it was Lightworks. And there was a representative from Lightworks was at our disposal for about three days. And he just sort of sat there waiting for how do we do this? And what's the alternative that that is a faster way to censor? And the end of the third day, we were both asking him questions, which you didn't know the answers to, because it was a bit beyond the basic. And yes, it was a bit slow moving back. But I was then actually in the in with it the process over and day by day, I was still not not that not having time to forget anything, because I've only dealt with something similar on the day before or something like that. But it was that was only sort of half a film. And when we were making local hero, after we got, what we recommend is the cut. Bill Forsyth and the producer took that cut to the states to get some reactions to it. And I said to the director, do you think the they would go to the expense of running off a digital copy of it before they take it away? So that we were not sitting twiddling our thumbs for three weeks? We can try some things out. So we move on? Yes, I think so. So we we were doing what you might call a non destructive cut on Avid. And when we'd finished bill in the producer came back the producer saying, Well, guys, it went great. But we thought there's that scene that we don't really know. Yeah, we take that out. And this needs shortening and shortening and turning around the other way. Yes, we've done everything he said we'd already done. So it was certainly a question of kind of conforming the film to what we had done on the on the habit. But it was it was quite a time. It was actually not until the turn of the century. That sounds very ominous, that I actually cut a complete film on a digital system.

Simon Rose  1:58:23  
Okay, briefly, what was it like working with Kenneth Branagh on the fifth?

Unknown Speaker  1:58:29  
Sorry, what what what was it

Speaker 2  1:58:31  
like working on Henry the Fifth with Kenneth? Oh,

Speaker 1  1:58:35  
that was great. Henry the Fifth was? I would, first of all, when I first heard about it, I was a bit concerned as to whether it could actually do anything to top the famous Laurence Olivier version. When I was showing the script, there were several scenes which quite understandably had been deleted from the version that Olivia shot that one about spies and traitors and British soldiers. Looting and parenting in in France was obviously not the done thing in 1415. But I, I met Ken Bran up. And I was I was sort of reassured by his just general manner that he was likely to attempt to make not a film which is different for the sake of it, but something which would perhaps stand up as a viable alternative. I knew it wouldn't have His sense of pageantry or extravagance of colour and anything but to go, there would be much more documentary in feel. And we had a conversation about sort of precedence. I asked him, if he said that he wanted it to look a bit a bit sort of documentary. And I asked him if he knew Orson Welles is Chimes at Midnight, and we said he didn't, but he would have a look. And there were some scenes in the backlog to be thought should be shot entirely in slow motion. And I assume, well, if the budget will run to it, perhaps you'd have a second camera running at 25 frames a second, just in case because sometimes when you double up the speed, you're trying to get back to normal, it doesn't or may be faster than that, if you shot at 100 frames or something. It doesn't quite work technically. Anyway, here we go. Again, we we called him extremely well, he he did something which is obviously something which is common in the theatrical world, something which I was very pleased about, he arranged a read through, he booked a room, just like this conference room here. And the actors were all assembled, which was a good opportunity to meet them, and they knew who I was, who this strange bearded character was, why was he always hanging around, and I get a sense of them and some of the other principal members of the crew as well. And the it was interesting to, to get to know, although it was more or less treated as a kind of radio play, what kind of performance we'd get from each of the the actors and the characters they were portraying. And Ken was obviously very familiar with them all. They're all good friends, because they were all in there in a sauce Theatre Company. But I, I was sort of welcomed. I wasn't just a bystander. I was made to feel like part of the company. And when they, they were shooting at Shepperton Studios, most of the location work was usually in the the studio garden, old or nearby. So apart from a couple of scenes, on the south coast, with the White Cliffs, it was all sort of confined to a studio area, which meant that can although he was pretty assured with film technique already hadn't shot man before. During the first couple of days in the studio. There was one shot him directly which jarred a bit. It was, it was several minutes before you actually saw Henry the Fifth you he was a shadow passing on the wall, or he was seen in back view or in silhouette. And there was a subjective point of view. He was coming into the throne room. And he was looking to the left and seeing no one then going past him that way, and no will going past in that way. And then suddenly, it's like a kind of visual shriek of breaks. Because suddenly got a static shot of the throne. And he turns and sits into it. And I said, if you're still on that set, can you please move into the empty throne at the same speed as you're tracking shots? Because you might argue, theoretically, that is no longer a subjective shot. So why are you tracking but visually, it's the action of the King coming in and sitting down which means bring it to a stop, not the cut, which they willingly did. And I thought this must be what it was like in the old days in Hollywood when they The editor was always kept fairly close at hand. And any any problems that could be dealt with almost immediately. But that's such a minor thing we we got on extremely well. And, in fact, can say to me afterwards If he did any more films, and he had got a couple lined up, he would like me to cut them. But, of course, in the theatre world, the timing is not quite the same as in the film world, you may have run for several months, and then a long gap before the next project theatre project comes up and says I was in films, even when there are gaps, you can't guarantee that you're going to be available the day they start. And I very much wanted to do his next film, which was an American phone call. Dead Again, I'd read the script, and I liked it very much, involving two sets of characters into timescales. And it just, it didn't work out, I'd already been asked to do something else and agreed to it when he was due to shoot. So nevermind, next one. But then, I was still on this other film, when he was ready to do that. So I had to turn him down again, I had to turn him down three times before I was actually free, by which time he, as often is the case. And quite rightly, he was getting on quite well with the editor who, who had done the, the previous film, who wanted to be with him on the next one. So I lost out, I never worked with him again, which is a shame because I really, certainly the first three or four films he directed, I was pretty pleased with now that I'd like to recut any one of them.

Simon Rose  2:06:51  
And jumping right on to requite. Recently, almost playing up to date. Postcards from the 40%. Yeah, a documentary and sounds a bit political. Yes.

Speaker 1  2:07:09  
Very political, but rather gentle. It was, as the 48% in the title implies, it was the director wanted to make it not necessarily as any kind of propaganda for an English audience, but to show the Europeans that we are not all a bunch of Brexit us. A hell of a lot of us, in fact, at least 48% desperately want to remain part of Europe. And I, I put my services forward, because I felt it was I've been thinking ever ever since the the awful referendum, I'd felt I want to do something to try to contribute to getting out of this wrong judgement is everything seems to be going the wrong way, what could I do, and to be able to offer my professional experience to a film, which is going to put exactly my point of view, I thought, well, this is a golden opportunity. But technicality at last sort of got in the way. They were going to prepared it for sure. And for editing on Avid, and they've got a whatever everybody was contributing, either for expenses or just for nothing. I've certainly worked for nothing because I think it's very important. The they had a an editor who was fairly busy, but had some spare time. So he set up all the parameters. And when I came on board, the I had to rely on him a lot to help me get back to any kind of familiarity with Avid. When people were saying, Oh, you've been working on Final Cut Pro and avid is superior to that is exactly the same as a doddle who's like driving a car you get a different make and model in his executive. So I thought well, even that isn't so if you're used to a particular vehicle, you might in an emergency, go for the break or in order to change gear and it's just not where you're used to finding it and you make a mistake because of hesitation or so forth. And so it proved to be because I think in Over the years since I used avid before, to my surprise, it seems to have grown away from film thinking in much more into computer thinking. The first basic thing is that they don't necessarily call certain processes that you want to do by any kind of title that would be familiar to a filmmaker. And I was constantly bringing up this other editor, or even getting him around to my place. And saying, Look, this is I've only managed to cut about 30 seconds since I spoke to you last because I want to, I want to do certain things. For example, I want to crop and resize a shot, which is okay, but it's they've got half a policeman's head on the right hand side, which is distracting other sort of a larger divot and recenter it on Final Cut Pro, or I'm going to do is drag it and lay it in, and but very good natured and helped me a lot. But I wasn't able to contribute as much as I wanted to the film because I felt that I was like a beginner all over again, I could not forget, just let all the technique take care of itself. I want to do this process. I want to add this to that and take that away. And not think about it just do it. I started off with a scene which was at the very beginning of the film, a kind of prologue of that. The big March they had it, they call it the March March, I think it was took place in in March of 2016. And I treated it like almost like an Eisenstein documentary. And it was only five minutes long. And I've only spoken to the director on the phone up to that point, and not very often. I was a bit nervous about getting him around to see it. But he seemed very happy. He asked if you can see it again. And then I took my wife and I out to a snack lunch locally. seen walking, just to talk about is like an interview. He seen my CV by that time. And he wanted to ask me lots of gossipy questions about people I knew would work with and so forth. And I found out later that when I had to leave the production because I thought I couldn't work quickly enough. And the I problems I have worked exaggerated by having to spend longer looking at the screen each day than I really wanted to. Look I'm sorry, to bail out such an early stage. Without her reading, it really contributed to anything you say is when I saw that opening scene, I know it is all going to change a lot but that's what gave me the heart to continue. I thought yes, we got a real documentary here. So although a lot of that disappeared when before it was finished, but if he really meant that I had sort of given him a kind of limited metaphorical push to get going all right. I've done my job. But I was I was very disappointed that I I didn't quickly master the the latest version of avid to be able to work unaided otherwise I wouldn't be able to I did this sort of long cut of about two thirds of it, but it wasn't actually this was more like the kind of assembly that I was running. There was always

Simon Rose  2:14:27  
we got any time left a little bit. Yeah. Well just tell me what's the best thing about editing

Speaker 1  2:14:40  
broadly speaking, although the current political situation has made, taking control, a really dirty phrase. I like the weather, the air eterna himself or herself is is doing it, or whether it's a collaboration between the editor and the director. This is real filmmaking when I mean, I have a kind of love hate relationship with the, the rest of the process of filmmaking, I like to be around when they're shooting, whether it's officially I visited the set because I've got something I need to discuss with the director, or whether I've just informally joined them on location, because I've got some spare time. But I've I feel that there is obviously a kind of artistic come mechanical process, which is going on with lots of really important but non cinematic things that are involved the role of electrical generators, which had got to be attended to catering trucks, things which you have to try to put out of your mind, because you're trying to concentrate on the pure act of making a film. But as an editor, you don't have to worry about any of that you can use, if you want to you unless you really have to keep well apart from the rest of the crew. So yeah, I don't want to know about the trouble you had. Getting a good tape of that tracking shot. I know you will have done your best. Don't tell me about it, I want to see whether it works in rashes. And then I want to concentrate on nothing but pure filmmaking. That sounds perhaps a bit spoiled. Or I'm talking about living in a kind of ivory tower. But it's not. It's just the director and the editor. Yes, of course, if you hadn't had a really good cameraman to shoot, some of you've got nothing to work with at all. But ultimately, it's it's what's going on in the cutting room, which is bringing life to something which is really just a few zeros and ones on a computer or a couple of bits of sellotape of celluloid that you're joining together with subtlety. But if you put them together at the right length, and in the right order, you can see something organic growing out of it. My main for most of the time, my main task in editing is to make it look as if I've done nothing. The audience should be able to feel that they are not not exactly watching a stage play, but they've watched a dramatic process, which has had no interruption whatsoever, except at certain key points, where you've got something stylized, where the editing is deliberately obtrusive, but some of the most complimentary remarks I've ever had are when people say in that scene, have no idea where the cuts were. That's what it's supposed to be. Good.

Unknown Speaker  2:18:43  
Thank you, I thought was a very good end.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Mike Bradsell (editor) Biography


Mike Bradsell was born in 1933 in Westcliff-on-Sea. When he left school, the teachers asked what career he had in mind and he said 'film' which they dismissed as impossible because he had no contacts in the industry. After a while training to be an accountant he took the opportunity to learn photography at Regent Street Polytechnic, which was not quite film making but closer than accountancy. It was while there that he heard of a job going at 'United Motion Pictures' which he jumped at. UMP was not nearly as grand as it sounded; with about twelve on the staff it was too small for ACTT (the film union) to even notice. During his seven years at the company Mike gained experience in all departments; production, cinematography, sound etc. but he realised that it was editing that suited him most. UMP mainly produced and serviced industrial documentaries, but while there Mike edited a documentary about gypsies called 'Lords of Little Egypt' directed by Mai Zetterling, which got transmitted on the BBC.


In !962 (at the age of 29) Mike managed to join the BBC, but he had to reduce his grade to assistant editor, and it was only a temporary position. It was in1964 that Mike got his big chance; he was working as an assistant on a documentary about Marshal Tito, produced by Stephen Hearst and there was a young Assistant Producer on the film who had just joined the BBC called Peter Watkins. Mike and Peter worked well together and later that year when Peter Watkins persuaded Huw Wheldon to let him make a dramatised documentary about the Battle of Culloden, he asked Mike to edit it. The film was a television landmark with a revolutionary dramatic use of news-like realism. They continued together on 'The War Game', another brilliant drama/documentary which the BBC banned from television transmission anywhere in the world, although it did go on to win an Oscar for best documentary in 1967.


Meanwhile many director/producers at the BBC started contacting Mike Bradsell; among them was Ken Russell who realised that he remembered Mike from UMP when he had helped Russell sort out the music for a film about Lourdes. They went on to work together on many television and feature films. The first was 'Diary of a Nobody' in 1964. Others included 'Isadora', 'Women in Love', 'The Music Lovers', 'The Devils', 'The Boy Friend', 'Savage Messiah' and 'Mahler'. Although Russell could be difficult to work with at times Bradsell found a way to handle him and shared his love of music and creative approach to film.


Altogether Mike Bradsell edited about 50 feature films for different directors, including 'That'll be the day' 'Swallows and Amazons', 'Scum', 'Local Hero', 'Wilde', 'Absolute Beginners' and 'Henry the Fifth'. Several of these were produced by David Puttnam who put a lot trust in Mike and realised that at the start of the edit he was best left alone to explore the material in his own way. David would urge directors to let Mike produce the first cut on his own before viewing it. Mike liked it best when the audience were not aware of the editing. Apart from occasional shock cuts he thought that the skill was to make his skill invisible. Despite failing eyesight, he was still editing at the age of seventy-five.

Simon Rose