Interview Number: 380 Interviewee: Julie Cave
Interviewers: Norman Swallow, Alan Lawson
Transcriber: Alexis Poole
Norman Swallow: Copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. Julia Cave, television director and producer. Interviewer Norman Swallow. Recorded on the 10th of May, 1996. Side 1.
0:32 Norman Swallow: Right. So, Julia Cave, Television Producer for a long, long time and brilliantly. Ok Julia lets go back to square one. Born when and where and education and your family, father, mother.
Julia Cave: Fine, alright. I was born on the 01June 1937. In the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire. And my father was a mining engineer [pause] and 1:01 there was a colliery nearby my mother had been in early films. In fact, she played parts in early films and her name was Magarey Lorring, for those films.
Norman Swallow: Is that Loring?
Julia Cave: Lorring and we left there when I was about two. My father then… [um] war broke out shortly, well when I was three I guess and my father joined the admiralty. So, we… from then on, for the rest of my life, for most of my childhood we moved around frequently, either every second or third year. So, we started off in Scotland my first school was
in Scotland at a place called Beith, about sixteen miles outside of Glasgow. 02:01 I learned to read very early because my mother taught me, she believed in that. But after that my education was pretty checkered having attended 10 different schools. Shortly… immediately after the war we moved… my father was sent out to India, where he was in charge of the Bombay Dockyard, and we went out on the first ship the Cape Town Castle which went through the Suez Canal and it was the very first time I had seen a banana because of course I had been a wartime baby, and never seen anything like that before, so quite thrilled. At that stage I was reading Agatha Christie, I was really on to sort of [laughter] grown up books fairly young I think and I really enjoyed those thrillers on the boat out.
Anyway, we arrived in Bombay and I spent the next three years of my life
03:02 there. Starting off at the Bombay High School, where I think I was probably the only European which was kind of interesting because it was the time of the Royal Indian Navy mutiny and the time of all the riots before partition and it was quite dangerous, we were in buses which were turned over and burnt on various occasions, and quite often we ended up sort of with guns around and my father had a gun… Anyway, so I was in the Bombay High School and my parents decided that I shouldn’t stay there in view of the unrest and possible racial tensions. I felt none of that, I must say, as a child, I didn’t find that I was being victimized at all. So however, I was moved then to the sort of army school which was a much rougher place
04:00 [laugher] all together as it contained both sexes and also it was the time when there were a lot of intermarriage between the Indians and British service people, and there were a lot of Anglo-Indian children at this school and they were very disturbed because if they happen to have come out rather darker than some of the whites, they were victimized quite definitely by the army kids and I remember being in a playground and having to fight the battle on behalf of a rather darker child who claimed to be Welsh. These kids obviously wanted to come back to England and be accepted as British and so it was a time very early on in my life that I think huge racial tensions which I really had to come to understand. I don’t know if that kind of thing is at all interesting
Norman Swallow: Very interesting
Alan Lawson: Because it follows on
Norman Swallow: I mean did you ever refer to it in your work, television work?
Julia Cave: Probably not, only in an indirect way I suppose. But I think having been brought up in India was very formative and I always, liked very much working in the Far East and in the East. Once written up on the board in the manager’s office was “Julia Cave gone East” I’d been back for quite a while but I think they’d failed to notice. [laughter]
Norman Swallow: Gone back home
Julia Cave: Gone back home
Alan Lawson: [laughter]
Norman Swallow: Yeh, sorry. Continue chronologically now.
Alan Lawson: After the army school,
Norman Swallow: Then what?
Julia Cave: After the army school, we came back and we went to Northern Ireland [long pause] where I was the only Protestant [laughter] in a Catholic convent, because the convent happened to be dead opposite to where we lived in a little place called Ballynahinch about twelve miles outside Belfast and that was very interesting too.
06:01 It was a terribly good school, and I really enjoyed that but I was saying the rosary by the end of that stint, and almost became a Catholic. Then we went to Portsmouth and another school. I’m skipping some of the schools, it gets really rather boring… and after that to Bath, where I went to the Bath, City of Bath Girls School it was. A really boring place which made you walk down one side of the corridor and you weren’t allowed to speak, and so [laughter], anyway at that stage I particularly wanted to read English at Cambridge, and that was really the way I was intending to go but my father didn’t really believe very strongly in education for girls, I think. So, he rather vetoed this idea. My mother because she cared very much about the theatre and films and so on, had given me elocution lessons
07:01 so I did rather well at those and got a few gold medals and things and thought that I wanted to be an actress, but there was clearly no way that was going to happen immediately, so anyway I said to my parents I really wanted to go and get a job and so I went to do secretarial course, so I actually got trained in shorthand and typing, which I still do rather badly, and book-keeping, which I do even worst.
Norman Swallow: Oh, I was going to say we should do very well.
Julia Cave: [laughter]
Norman Swallow: [laughter]
Alan Lawson: [laughter]
Julia Cave: At that time, my mother who’d worked for Eleanor Glynn, at the Tiger Skin, which is how she ended up in films. Her daughter was Juliet Rhys-Williams who was in fact a Liberal Member of Parliament and she was the governor of the BBC at the time, and I went to see her at the time and 8:01 she gave me one of those rather wonderful white five-pound notes [laughter] which have disappeared and asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and I said I quite keen on being an actress, I was quite keen on this and that, I like literature and so on. She said “My dear you should join the BBC.” So, I said “Oh alright.” “Well that seems to be reasonably close to the kind of ideas I have.” And she said “Well I’m a governor of the BBC, you get a form and I’ll fill it in as a recommendation.” So, she did and I went for my interview wearing a hat [pause and laughter] because those were the days in which you wore hats for these interviews
Norman Swallow: For the BBC especially?
Julia Cave: For the BBC especially?
Alan Lawson: Do you remember who you saw?
Julia Cave: I don’t remember but I remember it was somewhere like Egton House, I think is was somewhere around Broadcasting House.
Alan Lawson: Is it one of the ‘dragons’
Julia Cave: It was a dragon person certainly, but I wouldn’t remember the name. You’ve come across these before?
9:02 Alan Lawson: Yes. Yvonne Littlewood.
Julia Cave: She would have been to say one very likely, very likely, anyway it was a dragon type with our hats. Anyway, I got in and they sent me off to an engineering department in radio and of course I was pretty flummoxed.
Norman Swallow: Was that at Broadcasting House?
Julia Cave: It was; no, it was Egton or somewhere, it was one of those…
Norman Swallow: Yes, yes, yes, it was just around the corner.
Julia Cave: It was one of those beside…
Norman Swallow: Yes, it was just around the corner.
Julia Cave: Yes, it was one of them and I hated it. I didn’t understand what was going on, everything was done by initials and you know “would you please send um over to HEB two something. You thought –who are the talking about? I don’t understand this jargon and then you had to try and touch-type, and touch-typing figures is very difficult, but it was all the engineering stuff you see and I wasn’t, I couldn’t do this very well. And I 10:00 was really quite deeply unhappy. Then I was sent off to another department and I was sending memos to the two men across the desk from each other and I was sitting in the middle and I was sending a memo from this one to that one and I didn’t think it was very sensible, and also you know, I didn’t think that their grammar was very good either, so I corrected one of their memos [laughter]
Alan Lawson: [laughter]
Norman Swallow: [laughter] Oooh! Very brave
Julia Cave: And they didn’t like that either
Alan Lawson: What department, still in engineering was it?
Julia Cave: It was something like engineering and they had terrible yellow carbons you had to do for everything as well. It was pretty fiendish
Alan Lawson: Could I interrupt and ask what year it is?
Julia Cave: Well it must be 55.
Alan Lawson: Ok. It’s always useful to know, year by year.
Julia Cave: Close on 56, because I can tell you why… So anyway I went to whoever the dragon was and I said that really I hadn’t come to the BBC, it 11:00 was pretty arrogant stuff, I hadn’t come to the BBC to be put in a backwater like this. I’d come to do broadcasting, that’s what I was here for. I wasn’t interested in yellow carbons and engineering and people sending memos across desks. Can you imagine? So, she said “Oh, I see, Bolshy are you?” So, I said, well I’m just not enjoying it very much. I’m sure I was extremely polite. And she said “Right I know where we’ll send you. We’ll send you to Arabic music.” She said “There’s a man there that nobody stays with for more than a week. “Lionel Basri. If you want to work in broadcasting, you go and try that.” So, I said thank you very much. And off I went, and this was when the Arabic service was at Oxford Street.
Norman Swallow: Yes, on the north side.
12:00 Julia Cave: Yes [pause] And I think we were on the second floor, and the rooms all had partitions; so it didn’t go up to the ceiling, so if you had a row or anything it was very, very, public and Lionel Basri was very volatile Iraqi Jew who played the oud. Which is an Arab guitar. And he was a wonderful man, I liked him at once. Extremely temperamental, he shouted a me, quite immediately, but then I managed to shout back. So, we did alright, but what happened was, there was an absolutely enchanting who tried… who wanted to be a doctor and had left Iraq. Iraq wasn’t a very nice place to be for intellectuals, even then, and he was running the Arabic music bit, which had all the cards filed in alphabetical order, written in Arabic with phonetically in English, on the right-hand side. So, you had people like: Abdul Wahab; Oncol Thoum?? and Farid al-Atrash and Firuze and Asmahan 13:00 and so on, and the names of the songs in phonetic English. And there was a woman called Miss Skelton, who actually had the records [um] in their cases in the little music library. Anyway, I think I didn’t do very well to start with, but, because I was frequently late in the morning and that used to drive Mr Basri mad, because he was frequently early and we used to have terrible rows, and he threw a typewriter at me once and I threw a bottle of ink at him. But then Miss Skelton left and they asked me if I’d like to take over actually dishing out the records, so I said, yes please and I learned some of these names by heart and I knew the records numbers Ciraphone-HBC13 would have something like Farid al-Altrash singing ‘Al Rabeih’ which means ‘The Heart’. And by this time because I’d been brought up in India, was quite conversant with quarter-tones and the music, I really enjoyed the 14:00 music. So, I’d been there about three months, when came the crisis at the Suez Canal 1956. And so most of the Arabic service actually had to leave and go home to Gamal Abdel Nasser. Because otherwise they would have been considered to be traitors. So, at this point, at the same point as that, the BBC decided to step up their Arabic service broadcasts because it was really important to get as much news across to the Arab world as possible, so they tripled the hours at the time when most of the staff had left. So, it ended up with Lionel Basri myself and Niem, not Niem the um the other music section man, I’ll remember his name anyway in a moment, and 15:00 one or two others who’d stayed on, trying to run the whole Arabic service, so we were up night and day; and I learned a lot very quickly because I learned… I mean at that stage we were having to copy actual discs. We were actually using big discs for sound, and I had to learn the technical side of this very quickly, and Lionel Basri was very good at teaching me. He was absolutely wonderful, we became great friends and he taught me everything, and started me off in this way, taught me all the technical side of it, taught me about microphones, taught me how to do everything, taught me what was going on, taught me about the music, he was the most amazing and wonderful benefactor really.
Norman Swallow: Did the programmes come from Bush House at this time?
Julia Cave: By this time, no, for the Suez crisis were still in Oxford Street. I thing we were. We could check that, but as I recall, we were still in Oxford 16:00 Street and shortly after that we moved to Bush House. So that’s what really gave me a start, because I was thrown in at the deep end during this time, and I really had to learn quite quickly what to do.
Norman Swallow: On a personal level, where did you live at this time? Which area of London?
Julia Cave: Oh, yes I was living in Highgate. With three other girls in a flat.
Norman Swallow: Not BBC girls?
Julia Cave: Well one turned out to be a BBC girl, and she’s now living in Chicago, we’ve remained friends all out lives. She’s a musician. We had a pretty wild time in this flat but… [laughter]
Norman Swallow: [laughter] No comment!
Julia Cave: An extremely untidy and wild time but good fun.
Alan Lawson: Miss Lennard was the, was the…
Julia Cave: Do you know, that does ring a bell. I think it was Miss Lennard
Alan Lawson: She was the dragon.
17: 00 Julia Cave: That sounds right to me, definitely sounds right. Yes.
Norman Swallow: After the Suez crisis you were still there.
Julia Cave: After the Suez crisis we were still there, and then we moved to, I think, Bush House and the service expanded a bit more and then it seemed to me that it should be time to kind of move on a bit; and I think what I thought that what I wanted to be was a studio manager because I’d been doing all this… I mean in the studio and handing them discs and fiddling around with microphones and levels and things. So I applied and I was given an interview in which in those days you had to, if you were going to be a studio manager in the overseas service, you had to read weather forecasts and megacycles and all those at endless lengths, so they gave me reading test and I don’t think I did very well. Anyway, I didn’t get it, to cut a 18:00 long story short [long pause] and about that time a met a man, and he… I was doing extra work to make some extra money, in the News Room at Bush House. You could go in in the evenings, because I was only paid £6 a week you know, for this and I’d forgotten about all that. I started off at the beginning of this, I was in a flat in Moore Street, behind Peter Jones, in a basement flat with an old friend of my Ants’ who was a deb and she always had lots of money and I was trying to live on £6.12s and sixpence a week, and the rent was £2.10s and it really counted if you walked a bus stop because you could save a penny. And I never had any money for lunch so I used to go to the Lyons Corner House for something which cost nine-pence, 19:00 and I remember fainting once coming down the stairs carrying some records, because I really was very short of food, I mean it was boiled eggs and the odd meat pie, I think it was I ate at Lyons Corner House. Very, very short of money indeed, so I went to earn some extra money in the News Room and there I met a guy named Brian Robbins, who later went into television and he encouraged me… said this was the up and coming thing.
Norman Swallow: What was his job at the time?
Julia Cave: Well I’m trying to remember what Brian was doing then. He ended up at Alexander Palace. I think you may have known him.
Norman Swallow: I know the name.
Julia Cave: In News
Norman Swallow: Ah! Yes, yes. Right.
Julia Cave: Anyway, what happened about a year after the Suez Crisis, I went to live with Brian in Camden Town, having moved out of the Highgate 20:00 place, and he encouraged me to go into television, and so I applied for a job in television. And I got a job as, what was then, production secretary, it was called and my first job, this was working on ‘This Is Your Life’ with T. Leslie Jackson; who died about six months ago, I think. A lovely man. And we worked in Hammersmith Grove… [long pause] and Jacko always had chips for lunch, he always had chips on his desk for lunch.
Norman Swallow: Lucky to have lived so long.
Julia Cave: Yes. [laughter] Anyway we did ‘This Is Your Life’ with
21:00 Eamonn Andrews at the television theatre, and of course I was completely ignorant of everything, but I was very lucky again because I was thrown in the deep end in the gallery and so on. But once I was asked to order on the prop-list... Leslie Jackson always had jokes with me, and he explained to me that on a prop-list, if you had something that was practical, it meant really that it looked like it; if it was fully practical, it was usable and looked like it, and if it was fully, fully practical, it was the real thing. So he asked me to provide a fully, fully practical camel. And I said, “Do you 22:00 really mean this?” And he said yes. So, I got a fully, fully practical camel. I rang the London Zoo and after a great deal of fiddling around, we ended up leading a camel into the television theatre [laughter]
Norman Swallow: This Is Your Life. Who’s life was it?
Julia Cave: It was one of the Goons
Norman Swallow: Ah! That explains the camel.
Julia Cave: I think it was Spike Milligan.
Norman Swallow: Sorry, can I go again and say what year are we in?
Julia Cave: Well, you see, I’m very bad at years, so we’re going to have to work this out. I should think…
Norman Swallow: We’re in the late ‘50s are we?
Julia Cave: We’re in the late ‘50s.
Norman Swallow: It was the Light Entertainment Department presumably?
Julia Cave: It was the Light Entertainment Department, absolutely.
So, after the ‘This Is Your Life’ experience, then I went to work for Barry Lupino in Light Entertainment, which was big musical things, with Eric 23:00 Robinson’s Orchestra and the Tiller Girls. And we did… the last George Formby show ever. We did two huge ones, I can’t remember what they were, but they were live you see, and of course in those days you see, the camera scripts were very perfunctory; if indeed there were any. And I was doing the gallery, and the way it was done, that you just had pages for camera scripts which you mark down your four cameras, but you… the way I did it was that when Barry chose a camera, in the final camera rehearsal, I wrote it down so that became the camera script. Do you remember that?
Norman Swallow: Yeah. The timing must have been quite difficult.
Julia Cave: It was quite nerve wracking.
24:00 Norman Swallow: I was going to ask you now, because you’ve obviously got a schedule. I mean you’ve got to… I mean you start at such a time at night and you finish at such a time…
Julia Cave: Absolutely.
Norman Swallow: And with all these, you know, ad hoc aspects, very difficult to get it right, mustn’t it.
Julia Cave: It was very, very nerve wracking.
Norman Swallow: Why didn’t you over-run ten minutes every night? Or whenever you were on air?
Julia Cave: Well of course, you know, this was another problem. But the first thing was they… Barry Lupino expected to know everything and he was pretty vague about things. So he said “Book the orchestra.” And I said well how many and he said “Oh, the same as usual.” So, I rang up the booking clerk and said well what should I do and what was the same as usual. How many violins and so on you see. Anyway I booked the same as usual, but I hadn’t realised I had booked them for the whole day, and I hadn’t realised you only had, on the rehearsal day you only had a band call in the morning and Eric Robinson came up to me in the gallery and said “Look darling, do you really mean us to be here all day?” And I said well I 25:00 just did the same as usual [laugher] and he said “we don’t normally do this you know and you’ve booked us for the whole day.” So I felt really appalled that I’d made this mistake. I didn’t do it again, it was a rather expensive mistake.
Norman Swallow: Did you get a screen credit? In those days? No, not
Julia Cave: Oh no. Oh god no. Absolutely out of the question
Norman Swallow: You would now
Julia Cave: Oh, you would now. Oh definitely not. You were definitely a minion. It was a very good way of learning
Alan Lawson: The best one to learn in really
Norman Swallow: Very practical wasn’t it.
Julia Cave: Oh yes. And it was great fun really because although it was nerve wracking you met a lot of stars, it was quite glamorous in its way, and yes, I enjoyed it immensely.
So then what happened to me? How did I end up? I ended up working on 26:00 ‘What’s My Line’ in this department.
Norman Swallow: Light Entertainment?
Julia Cave: Yes it was it came under Light Entertainment, Quiz’s must have done. There was something I did before that. ‘Ask Me Another’ I think it was ‘Ask Me Another’. Anyway, just before the ‘What’s My Line’ and I mean ‘What’s My Line’ was also quite glamorous, all done in the television theatre and with Barbra Kelly and Gilbert Harding and Isabell Barnet and Cyril Fletcher at that stage.
Anyway about that time I met Willy Cave and the story of my marriage to Willy Cave, it was something else and I don’t know if you really want to go into that
Alan Lawson: No, not really.
Julia Cave: I wouldn’t have thought so. So, anyway I married him and I decided at that time that I would leave the BBC and go to drama school, so I 27:04 went to Central School of Speech and Drama. [long pause]
Alan Lawson: Good? Did you like it? 27:22
Julia Cave: Well I went as a mature student you see, I was twenty-one and I’d been through quite a lot. And although some of the others were almost my age, I was sort of the oldest, and the most… so it was kind of a slightly tricky situation, but it worked out fine in the end, yes, I did enjoy it immensely. And when I came out having meant to work in the theatre, I did the stage management course, I didn’t do… What I did was, because I was a mature student, I did a bit of everything. I did a bit of acting. I did a bit of the teaching course. I did a bit of stage management. So they did a course specially for me, which was really very, very good of them, and it was very good indeed.
Alan Lawson: How long were you there? A couple of years?
28:00 Julia Cave: Yes, a couple of years [long pause] And I sort of planned to work in the theatre when I came out, but it wasn’t, there wasn’t much work around and at about that time, John Warrington, who I’d worked with on ‘What’s My Line’ came to me and said what we really is somebody like you on ‘What’s My Line’ who’ll do research. Can you find the challengers for the jobs, can you find the celebrities for us? So, I thought ok, I’ll go and do this. [long pause] So back I came and I think at that stage we were in Woodstock Grove; pretty sure we were in Woodstock Grove. Yes, because Television Centre was in the process of being built. Absolutely, and don’t ask me the year, it must have been 60, golly…
29:00 Norman Swallow: It was completed by 60, wasn’t it Alan?
Alan Lawson: Yes ’60, ‘61
Julia Cave: Well I moved there fairly quickly into Scenery Block
Norman Swallow: I first had an office there myself in the 1950s, but that was only an office, there were no studios there, they came later.
Julia Cave: There was the Scenery Block done and the ‘round’ bit wasn’t. If I remember rightly.
Norman Swallow: Yes, that’s right.
Julia Cave: Anyway, I think it was Woodstock Grove and we were… Anyway so ‘What’s My Line’ so I started finding the challengers and the celebrities.
Norman Swallow: You must tell us about that. I mean I wouldn’t know how the hell to start finding them.
Julia Cave: Well I was rather
Norman Swallow: You had a few contacts.
Julia Cave: I had a few contacts. Of course you were inundated by calls from all the public relations people, you know Colgate toothpaste for instance, “can you get a toothpaste squeezer on, or it was endless. You know every company from toys to car makers. You know this man puts a 30:00 gasket into a… Anything for publicity, and of course I fell into this trap to begin with…
Norman Swallow: Who wouldn’t?
Julia Cave: …of me meeting the public relations and being taken to really, really expensive lunches. You know, the Savoy and, you know, do have a gin and tonic before and a brandy after. Those were the days when you were allowed to drink at lunch time. You soon learn you couldn’t though. I mean did… I went through that for a bit but then I found that it wasn’t really working out. And of course, what I had was Maurice Winnick. Now Maurice Winnick was a great entrepreneur. He owned the rights to ‘This Is Your Life’ and ‘What’s My Line’. And Maurice Winnick used to take me out to these very expensive lunches and try and find out what was going on. [laughter]. Actually I rather liked Maurice, he was a great character.
Alan Lawson: I knew him as a band-leader.
Julia Cave: Did you. Gosh,
Norman Swallow: I never knew him
30:00 Julia Cave: He was a band-leader and he just stopped being a band-leader when he sort of… somehow he got rites to these quiz shows you see. [B]cause they started off in America those shows
Alan Lawson: Goodman
Julia Cave: That’s right.
Norman Swallow: Bound to be.
Julia Cave: I’m sure it was Goodman
Norman Swallow: What wasn’t [laughter]
Julia Cave: Anyway, so there was Winnick on the side, he always used to ring me and try and glean who the challengers were this week, to see if he approved who the celebrity was you see.
Part of this came about because John Warrington, it has to be said, spent a lot of time sailing around the Isle of Wight, not a great deal of time in the office. So I did end up virtually having to run the show, and at that time John Warrington was directing it, but I was finding all the challengers and the celebrities. And ok so. Then we got a director and I was doing all the 32:00 finding of the challengers. Gilbert Harding died and we his obituary film. That was the time of course when there was all this rather huge Ampex tape. I think it was two inch for cement joins, and so I learnt about that and joined all that, took ages editing things then. My goodness. So we did his obituary and carried on with ‘What’s My Line’ for a bit.
Alan Lawson: Just to stop you a second. On the Ampex bit, was it difficult to start learning that? Because there was nothing to see.
Julia Cave: Oh no, there wasn’t…
Alan Lawson: They did try…
Julia Cave: I’m trying to remember what I’d done you see
Alan Lawson: Didn’t they have a powder, where you could put some powder on or something?
33:00 Julia Cave: Yes. Just hang about, [long pause]. They marked the cut with something and then played it through but very often it would jump. [long pause]. I’m just trying to remember what we can have been doing. [long pause]. Yes, I just remember sitting for hours in the big Ampex thing looking at these, always they had to back over the cuts to see if they had worked. There may have been powder, somebody technical could tell you that. I can’t remember exactly. But any way we did all that on tape, Gilbert Harding obituary, it was kind of sad. We were very fond of him.
Norman Swallow: Certainly, a character, wasn’t he?
Julia Cave: He was certainly a character. I remember once doing a terrible 34:00 thing to poor Gilbert, who liked to have a tot of whisky before going on. And there was always hospitality in the dressing-rooms at the television theatre, and I had to open a bottle of whisky and, unfortunately, I opened it by the cork and the whisky smashed onto the floor and went absolutely in rivers round Gilbert’s feet and he was very, very cross indeed; so we had to send a call-boy round to buy another bottle quickly from the Bush Pub. [laughter]. But Gilbert was interesting.
Norman Swallow: You did this for how long?
Julia Cave: Oh, then, I hadn’t quite finished with that… Then the director, his name was Richard Evans,
Alan Lawson: Oh yes, I remember Richard
Julia Cave: He did a lot of things with Disney. He did all the Disney programmes for Christmas. Was ill, so they asked me to… John said “Go 35:00 and direct it.” And I said “I can’t, I wouldn’t have enough nerve.” And he said “This is your opportunity, if you don’t take it, I’ll never forgive you.” So I did direct it and didn’t make too much of a mess of it, and from then on I directed ‘What’s My Line’ and that was my first studio direction – studio directing job.
Norman Swallow: Hope you got paid for directing.
Alan Lawson: Noo
Julia Cave: Oh, I don’t think so at all.
Norman Swallow: Not much even now?
Julia Cave: I was paid as a researcher.
Norman Swallow: Not paid as an ‘acting’ director?
Julia Cave: I don’t think I was.
Norman Swallow: Dear me!
Julia Cave: No, but you did mind because it was all good experience you know.
Alan Lawson: You might have got a slight increase in your annual increment.
Julia Cave: I might have done, but I was on contract. You see, from leaving the BBC, when I went to Drama School, I came back on contract. 36:01 So I was freelance. So anyway I directed that and then I was offered a job by Brian Robbins, the man that I’d lived with for a couple of years, who was then working for Children’s Programmes at Thresholds House, and he was working, he was producing a series for older children called “What’s New’. And ‘What’s New’ was a weekly half-hour magazine programme done from the studio with David Dimbleby and Polly Toynbee introducing it. And I think it was one of David Bimbleby’s first jobs. Polly was married to Peter Dimmock then, and why I wanted to do that, was that I thought I could get some film directing experience. Because that’s what I hadn’t 37:00 done, I’d done all studio stuff up till now, and on the principle that you should only stay 2 years in whatever you’re doing really at that stage, and move on and learn something new. I joined ‘What’s New’. And it was jolly interesting [b]cause the had the new Ford Cortina coming off the production line; they were new scientific things mostly, but they could be almost anything. So I learnt a lot then and I started to use film for the first time, 35mm film it was.
Norman Swallow: Of course. Quite short reels Alan
Alan Lawson: Well it depends…
Norman Swallow: How long?
Julia Cave: 10 minutes
Julia Cave: I’m trying to remember now…
Norman Swallow: Was it really 10 minutes.
Alan Lawson: No, no, no [coughs]. Yes, it would be 10 minutes, yes.
Julia Cave: They were 10 minutes.
Alan Lawson: Yes, I’m sorry yes
Julia Cave: Yeah. Curiously enough the year before last I worked with 38:00 35mm again, because I was about the only person who knew how to do it. And we were allowed, I remember making the most frightful mistakes, needless to say. We were allowed… Brian Robbins said go and film the chef at the Carlton Towers Hotel, making a Christmas cake. Hugh, because he’d made the biggest Christmas cake in England, or something, or something. And “I want a 10-minute item and you’ve got two reels of film.”
Well, you can imagine, that wasn’t very easy, because the continuity keeps changing when you’re mix Christmas cake and there’s lots of ingredients to go in. Any way I went to see Mr Eels. His name was Mr Eels and he worked in the kitchens there, and I said I was coming on Wednesday, which was the day… What day do you mix your cake? And he said Wednesday.
39:00 So, Ok, we’ll come in at 9 ‘o’ clock in the morning, and we’ll film you between 9 and 12 when you mix and that’ll be fine; and I want to know what you do so I think how to do this because I haven’t got very much film to do it on. So, he showed me roughly what he was going to do.
So, I arrived with the camera crew on the Wednesday morning at 9 ‘o’clock, with the lights and the camera and the two rolls of film and everything. And I said “Right Mr Eels, get ready to film this.” and he said “Oh, I mixed the cake yesterday.” So, I said “Well. Oh dear. We’d better… We’d better simulate mixing another one. You’d better get all the ingredients out again and we’ll make a smaller one, and then I’ll show the big one in that vat over there where it is and then you can bake that, you see.” All with two reels of film, two rolls of film I should say.
40:00 Anyway, finally he did put out all these little dishes of currants and sultanas and orange peel and all the things that go into a Christmas cake. He did it, it became extremely erratic because at about this point he opened his cabinet where all the little liqueurs and handed round little glasses of liqueur [laughter] to the camera crew, and tipped a few back himself, and I tried to stop this happening, all to no avail. Things got slightly wild in there and trying to get the continuity right was very difficult and by 12 ‘o’ clock Mr Eels said, “I’ve got to stop now because I got to serve the Rib Room it’s puddings and deserts.” So, I said “You can’t. You can’t stop now in the middle of this.” I said, “I’ll delegate the lighting man to serve the Rib Room.” [laughter from all three]. So, the Rib Room were getting their puddings served up by the lighting man form the BBC camera crew. Anyway, finally we got all that and managed to get home and I edited this 41:00 really very difficult thing, so it had massive jump cuts in it, which I suppose in those days we would notice rather less than now. But it was a pretty fair lesson on how not to make films. Anyway…
Norman Swallow: It’s the best way to learn.
Julia Cave: What… Well I suppose so, yes.
Alan Lawson: Do you remember who the crew were?
Julia Cave: I’m afraid I don’t.
41:25 Alan Lawson: Anyway, I’m going to stop you there…
End of Side 1
Interview Number: 380 Interviewee: Julie Cave
Interviewers: Norman Swallow, Alan Lawson
Transcriber: Alexis Poole
00:00 Alan Lawson: Julia Cave, Side 2
Julia Cave: Ok, so, I did about a year of working on ‘What’s New’, and thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot about film; which is what I set out to do, and about studios and scientist and so on. And about that time Tony Essex, came and asked me if I would work on a series about the First World War, and my job would be finding the veterans who fought in that war, for interview. There were to be 26 parts and I said why did he want me to do that, and he said he thought that I was probably good with people because I 01:00 had worked on ‘What’s My Line”, which had been all sorts of different kinds of people, from all over the place. So, he thought perhaps I could find these First World Veterans. So, I thought that sounded like a very exciting project, and agreed, yes, I would, so I left ‘What’s New’ to do that.
Norman Swallow: Is it the same department or was it ‘Talks.’
Julia Cave: It was ‘Talks’ under Graceland and Goldie.
Norman Swallow: Who he? [laughter]
Julia Cave: And this was to be a ‘Tonight’ production, so it was Gordon Watkins was in charge of it, and… No! Gordon Watkins and Tony Essex were in charge of the Great War bit, and Alastair Millen was at that stage head of those sort of projects. And Graceland and Goldie the head of Department. I think you must have been there Norman at that time.
Norman Swallow: Yes
Julia Cave: However, this coincided with the breakup of my marriage to 02:00 Willie Cave, so I was in a fairly distressed state of mind, and I started out in this fairly destressed state of mind reading the letters from these world war veterans so the combination of this wasn’t very good for me, but what had happened was that Tony Essex had advertised, or Tony and Gordon had advertised for men and women who had had to do with the First World War, for any veterans to write in. So, by the time I came on board, there were 3 huge sacks of mail, and this was again back in Hammersmith Grove. My old stomping ground from ‘This I Your Life’. So I opened the door on the first floor and saw these huge sacks of mail. Nobody had read them, nobody had unpacked these sacks, they’d come directly there. Now the awful thing was 03:00 that all these old boys had sent in their medals, they’d sent in their diaries, they’d sent in little things… little tobacco tins that had been given by… they’d sent in everything with these letters. And it was with absolute horror that I saw this, and thought, what are we going to do. And the first thing I did was, I said, “Ok, we put a notice ‘Do Not Enter This Room’ and we sort this out.” And we try and sort it out. It was all jumbled up you see. We sorted out alphabetically and who’s got everything, at least we acknowledge them and send back these things to begin with, and it was a huge job, let-a-lone reading them and finding out who was compos-mentis and so on, and whether they should interviewed. And I mean at this stage all I’d read was a couple of books on the first world war. Anyway, Barbara Tuckman’s Guns of August, I think was one of the books I’d read and I’m 04:00 not an historian. And I was terrified. Absolutely terrified.
Anyway we just sorted these out, we sat there and sorted, and I got an assistant, and the assistant was, and has since become famous in television too, Ann Paul. She’s called Ann Paul now but she was Ann Broadway. And together we managed to sort all these out and send back things and then I decided the only one way… I couldn’t possibly find out how to interview these people unless I spoke to them on the telephone first because you couldn’t find out how they were going to be. It was pointless dragging them all the way up to London. So, we sorted out the fields of war, whether it was the Somme or Ypres, or Gallipoli or Passion Dale, whatever it was; whichever theatre of war it was.
And went by, to some extent, the best handwriting and comprehensive
05:00 accounts we could think of, and I picked out a batch of those on a fairly wide range of ranks, and theatres of war and experience, and sent them all letters asking them to telephone. So, I could speak to each one on the phone, to see how they sounded, before bringing them up for an interview. So, we did that and it was fairly chaotic to talk to all these people on the telephone.
Norman Swallow: Did you have a sort of transmission date in advance? Or not?
Julia Cave: I think then we know we were going to be the programme to open BBC2. Because we were.
Norman Swallow: So you had a date therefore.
Julia Cave: Yes. We had 18 months, I think, from start to finish to make these 26 films, which wasn’t very long, so we all worked really, very, very hard indeed. And I think Tony Essex would say to me at about at 9 ‘o’ clock at night, “Taking the day off” if I went home then. And we worked all the weekends as well. Of course [laughter] we were never paid overtime in 06:00 those days either. But you never begrudged that, but we all felt we had a mission on that programme, and that, you know, it wasn’t about the hours you worked, it was about trying to represent what happened there as best as we could and as accurately as we could. So, you know we weren’t there for the money. We were very committed.
And anyway, I had my first batch of people up to interview them in S8, at Lime Grove, and I attempted to interview something like 15 a day. Tony Essex said I could do 1 every half-hour. And I said in the end, “You’d better try this, because I can’t. I really can’t do it.” And I had Generals, and I had 07:00 other ranks; then you know, some of them were very old and didn’t know how to get here and didn’t know how to get back again and it was a mammoth job, it really was and quite destressing. I mean, I had people chase me round the room with imaginary bayonets and all kinds of very curious things went on. Anyway, Tony finally agreed that it was impossible. He tried it and couldn’t manage it either, so we cut it down to 8 a day.
Alan Lawson: Would you talk a little bit about Tony.
Norman Swallow: Tony Essex.
Julia Cave: Tony Essex. Yes of course.
Alan Lawson: He was not an easy man.
Julia Cave: He was a ‘driven’ man. He was a brilliant film editor on the ‘Tonight’ programme I think, and I learnt a very great deal from him in the cutting room, later when I got to that stage I can talk more about Tony Essex than I can here. At this point Tony Essex didn’t know what he wanted from 08:00 these interviews and he planned to interview them himself on film. I was doing the research and I was the bit in the interview room before it got onto the filmed interviews, you see. So, I was just finding them for him. It was…Tony was a very driven man, he was a very strong Roman Catholic and I think this showed in his work too. It was Tony Essex, I have to say, really, who, who drove that series through. Because he understood about the film side of it. Gordon Watkins was in charge of the scripts. Gordon really never comprehended the film side of what was going on there at all. He dealt with the writers. And thereby hangs a lot of tales, there was a lot of 09:00 unrest and nobody quite knew what they were doing, and nervous [laughter] breakdowns every 5 minutes. Yes, Gordon always meant extremely well, but ended up sometimes confusing issues, I think. I hope I’m not being cruel to Gordon.
Norman Swallow: No, not at all.
Julia Cave: And I loved Gordon.
Norman Swallow: It’s understandable. Yes exactly. A very difficult assignment.
Julia Cave: A very difficult assignment.
Norman Swallow: In fact the whole series was difficult
Julia Cave: Yes, it was.
Norman Swallow: Not just your part
Julia Cave: Oh No. No. Oh, no, the whole thing, and I don’t think… I mean the BBC had never made a major series of this kind before anyway, had they. I mean, I think it was the first of its kind of series ever made for television. So, it was, you know, a first, so everybody was finding their way on it. And it was hugely difficult to do. I respect Tony immensely pushing 10:00 that series out, and I respect Gordon as well, but I think it was Tony that drove it to its ultimate conclusion.
Norman Swallow: Which was a good one wasn’t it.
Julia Cave: Which was a good one. Highly acclaimed
Alan Lawson: He wouldn’t take no.
Julia Cave: No. Anyway, I continued interviewing these old boys, and then Tony did a session interviewing them in the studio for a bit. Oh, what we did is we had a stage at Ealing and I was to interview… Tony started off doing it and then sort of gave up on it and handed it to me, interview on film, 8 a day, for two weeks. [long pause]. So, we had a stage at Ealing and we 11:00 had back projection, in which we blew up a big photo of wherever it was, be it Gallipoli, or be the Somme, or Passion Dale or whatever it was an appropriate picture behind the interviewee. And I sat in complete darkness and asked the questions. And we filmed that on 16mm and blew it up to 35, so it would have that grainy look that the rest of the films would have. That all the archive, being on 35mm, that it would fit in better. And we lit it very much from the front, there was very little back lighting, so that it would stand out less from the rest of the archive footage.
Norman Swallow: Very important breakthrough
Julia Cave: Yes
Norman Swallow: Really in many ways.
Alan Lawson: Yes, yes.
Julia Cave: Well of course, you realise that the 35mm footage then because it had been filmed on ‘clock-work’ camera, was running at all sorts of
12:00 different speeds.
Alan Lawson: And some of it wasn’t even ‘clock-work’
Julia Cave: And some of it wasn’t even ‘clock-work’, so I mean it had to go to Kays. It was Kays labs who had to step print it. You know, every second frame again, or whatever it was, and of course it was erratic, so I mean it still came out but by trying to slow it down, it was also a very excellent thing. And I think there’s no excuse now when I see archive footage running at the wrong speed. It’s lazy.
Alan Lawson: Yes, yes.
Julia Cave: Because all you’ve got to do now is to put it on to variable speed telecine and put it onto tape, and it’s a piece of cake.
Alan Lawson: Yes, that’s right, yes.
Julia Cave: But what we had to do then was really difficult.
Alan Lawson: Yes, yes that right, it was a film job.
Julia Cave: A major film job. So, anyway the interviews were done on 16 and blown up to fit in as best it could be, and we did 8 a day, and then I had to meet, in the evening, the 8 that were being filmed the next day. To work 13:00 out their questions. So, it was quite tough.
Alan Lawson: Did you have someone to… Did you have a secretary to work with you on that? Or did you have to do all your own notes.
Julia Cave: I did all my own notes. Yeah, I did my own questions, the night before, after I’d done the dinner with them and then got up early and went in and did 4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.
Norman Swallow: From that point of view, the fewer people from the BBC they meet and talk with, the less worried they’d be, wouldn’t they. More relaxed.
Julia Cave: I’ll tell it was very interesting, I used… Then I worked out that it was very good to have say… If, if you were doing your 8 for dinner at night, I would get a very big variety of people, but definitely a couple of officers. And it was all, generally the generals who sorted things out over the 14:00 dinner. I mean it was very funny. But they took command of dinner usually. Which suited me just fine, because I had other things to do. And actually, it was a wonderful time, it really was a traffic time and it was extremely interesting and they enchanting people. They were just lovely with wonderful manners and they were very nice to me.
Alan Lawson: Where’d you have the dinner?
Julia Cave: We had the dinner in this hotel opposite the studios at Ealing.
Alan Lawson: What the Red Lion?
Julia Cave: No, not the Red Lion, that was a pub you see. There was a hotel on the green.
Alan Lawson: Oh yes, I know it. Yes.
Julia Cave: Now what was it called?
Alan Lawson: Oh, I’ve forgotten.
Julia Cave: It’s still a hotel, it’s expanded hugely; at that stage, it was only a tiny hotel. We used to put them up there for the night, have dinner with them and then it was easy to get then across to the studios in the morning. So mostly, the stayed there overnight.
Norman Swallow: Very good, fascinating and then, as we say
Julia Cave: And then? Next after The Great War?
15:00 Norman Swallow: Well yes.
Julia Cave: Or do you want me to go on a bit about The Great War?
Norman Swallow: Well, as you wish.
Julia Cave: Well I didn’t just film in England for The Great War, it was Germany and America, France. All these old boys.
Norman Swallow: First time you’d filmed abroad? Probably.
Julia Cave: I think it was yes.
Alan Lawson: Did you take a BBC crew, or were you picking up crews?
Julia Cave: No picked up crews, had a German crew in Germany, a French in France, an American in New York, yes.
So, by The Great War, I mean, I’m sure there are other people who can tell you… There’s probably Mat… I don’t know, probably a lot of people are dead but…
Alan Lawson: I think they probably are.
Julia Cave: [laughter] Well of course various things happened in ‘The Great 16:00 War’, I mean things got to be a panic stations to me, because we were editing, right up to the last minute. And of course when you were dubbing, there was no rock-n-roll, so you had to get through ten minutes without a mistake.
Alan Lawson: Or go back to the top again.
Julia Cave: Or go back to the top, so it got very nerve-wracking and you got near to the end of your ten minutes. And if you look at ‘The Great War’ now, you will see that the effects became less and less towards the end of the series, because things were getting backed-up in such a way that there was hardly any time to lay effects, so you’ll find there’s rather more music towards the end because there wasn’t time for the effects. That definitely happened and we couldn’t just keep up with it very much. Well then, I actually wrote and produced episode, I think it was 23, which was about Mesopotamia, and Palestine, or I was more involved in that one. I did the 17:00 research for the film and I virtually produced that particular episode of ‘The Great War’. Which was to have repercussions later because I got very interested in T. Lawrence, then, and although he played a very small part in that film, I eventually did an hour-and-a-half documentary for ‘Omnibus’ on him and co-author of a book with Malcom Brown on T. Lawrence. So, that’s when my interest started there.
Anyway ‘The Great War’ was my sort of seminal experience, because I learnt a great deal in the Cutting Room, from Tony Essex and from everybody there and from the excellent editors and the whole, whole thing was a great experience for me. And of course, we won, as a team the BAFTA award.
Norman Swallow: Which year? Sorry the usual question.
Julia Cave: Well I can’t do years you see. It’s whatever year BBC2
18:00 opened. ’64 – ’65? Was it ’65?
Norman Swallow: I think it was ’65.
Alan Lawson: Well it’s easily found.
Julia Cave: Well it’s ’64 – ’65 I think. Ok, so after the end of ‘The Great War’ series, I wanted to continue in Talks Department, so I had to go for a board for a production… for a PA. [long pause]
Norman Swallow: PA, Yes.
Julia Cave: [long pause] which I did get the job.
19:00 Alan Lawson: So, I should bloody well think!
Norman Swallow: I should thing so too, after what you’d already done.
[laughter from all three]
Norman Swallow: It’s sort of a de-motion isn’t it.
Julia Cave: So that’s really when I started doing other things, and one of the other things was that Paul Johnston…
Alan Lawson: Did you go onto establishment then? Did you become BBC Norman Swallow: Staff?
Julia Cave: No I was still…
Norman Swallow: Freelance.
Julia Cave: Freelance, [long pause] yes, I was.
Norman Swallow: Even though, sorry, even though you went through the procedure of BBC Board… for what looks like a permanent job.
Julia Cave: Well that’s what’s confusing me mildly now because I think I came on the staff when I got pregnant, thinking I’d better do something about this. I think I must still have been on contract. But it does sound curious if I was a PA…
Norman Swallow: To have a board like that and then be on contract is surprising.
20:00 Julia Cave: I was certainly on contract all through ‘The Great War.’
Norman Swallow: Oh yes, but after that I mean
Alan Lawson: Then to go onto a Board which was going to be a permanent job.
Norman Swallow: I would have thought that one of the conditions of, would be, if you won, you’d be put on the staff.
Julia Cave: Anyway, I think I must have been. Anyway, various things, to go through this reasonably quickly, is that Paul… Oh! Good Lord no! All those things I did with Paul Bonner was ‘The Great.. [long pause] Great Studio things with Paul Bonner and… Who edited the Daily Mail for a while, whose daughter is in radio?
Alan Lawson: Hardcastle.
21:00 Julia Cave: Yes, absolutely, well done! Hardcastle. We did some sort of issue programmes with Hardcastle. I directed, studio directed.
Alan Lawson: This is before you did the board?
Julia Cave: No. It’s after I did the Board. So, I worked with Paul Bonner and I can’t remember what the series was called now, there were about 8 of them, and Dennis Potter did one of them. I think it was one of the first television things he did. He wrote a script for one, and the subject for that one was satellite broadcasting or something. It was to do… the time when we were taking things from Telstar and stuff. But none of that stuff on here because it’s you know…
Anyway, I worked with Dennis Potter, then we were told to “water it down” because he was very critical of how that kind of international television 22:00 would be used and were we really doing it for the story or because it was there, all sorts of things. And I remember it went up to the Controllers and they asked us to “water it down.” Anyway, that was my meeting with Dennis Potter. Who was about to, to… about the time he was writing vote, vote, vote for Nigel Barton, because he was trying to be a Labour MP for Ealing, and he was living in Ealing.
So I did studio direction and anything else that cropped up on those. Then Paul Johnston came into my life and that was very good and I worked on ‘The Sky At Night’ with Patrick Moore, I directed ‘The Sky At Night’, the 23:00 studio and generally handled Patrick. I don’t know if you want any stories about that?
Alan Lawson: Well it’s an interesting period.
Norman Swallow: On the whole you’d have enjoyed it, did you?
Julia Cave: Oh yes of course…
Norman Swallow: Oh well of course.
Alan Lawson: Nobody else has talked about it.
Norman Swallow: No, tell us something.
Julia Cave: Well Patrick is an extreme eccentric. So, we had some very, very funny times with Patrick, and one of the funnier ones was [erm] he was living in Selsey and ‘The Sky At Night’ was live at this time, which was… I mean inconceivable today because of the things that could go wrong. And we used to have a rehearsal with Patrick, and this was at Lime Grove, and Patrick would… you know it was very difficult because, unless you know what you’re doing with astronomy, you don’t recognize exactly which way up a galaxy might be; until Patrick comes in – Oh, you might have arrows on 24:00 the caption, so sometimes we’d have them the wrong way up, and Patrick would come in and say: “You’ve got that the wrong way up.” And he’d put it the right way up and so on. Anyway, on this particular occasion, we hadn’t had a rehearsal with Patrick, because he was late and we couldn’t find him anywhere, and so it was getting pretty nerve-wracking. We’d one ‘line-up’ and everything else and about half-an-hour before transmission, Patrick with his hair standing on end and his eyebrows twitching, roared into the studio, and said: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said, “I’m terribly sorry.” And I said: “Ok Patrick what happened?” He said: “My compass broke.” I said: “Patrick what do you mean, your compass broke.” He said: “I couldn’t find my way, my compass broke.” I said: “But you’ve been driving from Selsey to Lime Grove for years!” He said: “I’ve always come by compass.”
Norman Swallow: [laughter] Oh, no! Marvellous! Anyway, he made it.
Julia Cave: He made it.
Norman Swallow: Very good.
25:00 Julia Cave: So, we had a few adventures, we really did with Patrick. And scripts from Patrick were always immensely long. And once he sent a particularly long one and I said: “Patrick, you’re really going to have to cut this down.” And he said: “Don’t worry, there’s no need. I’ll speak twice as fast.” And I said: “Patrick, you already speak twice as fast as anybody else. You’ve really got to cut this down.”
Alan Lawson: [laughter]
Norman Swallow: [laughter] Very good.
Julia Cave: After Patrick, Paul Johnston was asked by David Attenborough to start an archaeological programme called ‘Chronicle’ and I was around at the time…
Norman Swallow: David Attenborough was Controller 2?
Julia Cave: David Attenborough was Controller 2 by then. And, of course Paul Johnston had done some archaeological programmes ‘Animal,
26:00 Vegetable, Mineral’ with Mortimer Wheeler and Glyn Daniel, and so Paul was asked to start these chronicle programmes and he asked me if I would like to work on them. And I said I’d be delighted, but I knew absolutely nothing about archaeology. And he said: “Don’t worry, that’s probably a good thing.” So, I worked on the very first of these and Glyn Daniels as the advisor and the first one was about the Vikings and the Vinland Map in fact. And it was a studio based programme with Glyn Daniels, and Magnus Magnusson was one of the contributors to that. And I directed that in the studio, and I did some filming for it. Paul and I went off to Scandinavia and did something to do with Vinland Map and hence started the ‘Archaeological Programmes’.
27:00 Norman Swallow: Was that the first chronical ever?
Julia Cave: Yes. It was.
Norman Swallow: Sa, pioneering thing. You can say… tell us a lot about ‘Chronicle’ but you may want to do it bit-by-bit, as you go along.
Julia Cave: Well I worked on ‘Chronicle’ then…
Norman Swallow: I know you did for a long time…
Julia Cave: for the next 10 years, really…
Norman Swallow: well, absolutely.
Julia Cave: So, you know… I mean if you want things on ‘Chronicle’ there, probably quite a lot to be said. I’ve just briefly listed them there, but I’ve goth another note… but I’ve got some more here.
Alan Lawson: Again, nobody’s talked very much about Paul Johnston.
Julia Cave: Ah! Ok. Right. [long pause]
Norman Swallow: So? You tell us.
Julia Cave: Well, Paul Johnston… I’ve… I think I’ve had two real mentors in my life. One was Lionel Basri in the Arabic Section and the other was Paul Johnston actually I had John Warrington on ‘What’s My Line’ as well, 28:00 so I’ve been very lucky. I mean one of these… One of the things I would like to say that the… that kind of bringing people on and encouragement that is…and, and teaching people what to do and letting you follow in their footsteps, was something that was incredibly important in those days. And that I really don’t think happens now. And I think people are thrown into the deep end without any training what-so-ever. And I’ve been extremely lucky with the people I’ve worked for; they’ve always encouraged and helped me on. I do kind of try and do that now myself, but it’s been a great loss. Anyway, Paul taught me a great deal and was very patient with me. He was extremely sound and totally honest man and after all, he was very important to television. He discovered some of these amazing characters and invented so many things. He started ‘Sky At Night’ 29:00 and discovered Patrick Moore. He started archaeology on television with ‘Animal, Mineral and Vegetable’. He discovered Mortimer Wheeler and Glyn Daniel and all those great names that we now think about. Paul was a very, very important figure in early ‘Talks’ programmes. And it was sad that he died so young. But he was a great figure in that. I’m a huge admirer of Paul Johnston’s.
Alan Lawson: He was a dear.
Norman Swallow: Well, especially ‘Chronical’ of course
Julia Cave: And especially ‘Chronicle’
Norman Swallow: We associate the word chronicle with Paul Johnston and vice versa, don’t we?
Julia Cave: Yes. Of course.
Alan Lawson: Really?
Julia Cave: Absolutely, yes. We do. So about… I don’t know how much you’d like me to talk about ‘Chronicle’ but I can talk about some of the early days.
Norman Swallow: It’s an important series in the history of television, isn’t it?
Alan Lawson: It is an important series.
Norman Swallow: Well you’ve got a list of here
Of 30:00 of places: Egypt, Greece, Italy, Jordon, Far East.
Julia Cave: Well the early ‘Chronicles’ started off as being rather magazine-y because none of us were sort of qualified as fifty-minute film makers really, I think. And gradually it came down to being more of a one subject programme. And of course, those were the days of black and white. The first complete documentary, I think, 50-minute documentary in the ‘Chronical’ series was one I did, with great trepidation and it was about Henrik Schliemann and the treasure of Troy, and what had happened to it 31:00 because it disappeared in 1945 when the Russians entered Berlin. And I did this with Magnus Magnusson. And it was very interesting, it was done on a very low budget, so I had a Greek camera-man in Greece, Basil Moros, recommended by Stephen Hurst.
Norman Swallow: Who? I think we know him probably.
Alan Lawson: I don’t but you might.
Norman Swallow: Yes.
Julia Cave: Basil Maros?
Norman Swallow: Yes. Basil Maros, M-A-R-O-S.
Julia Cave: Yes.
Norman Swallow: Correct.
Julia Cave: And I filmed in Berlin with Magnus and we tried to find out what had happened to the treasure, and we got quite a long way down that line. In fact we were right all the way along because, it’s just emerged in fact that it was taken by the Russians and has been hidden in the Pushkin museum in Moscow since then. It just emerged again. So, we did a sort of detective story on that and we filmed in Greece, and it was rather a success. 32:00 Although I didn’t really understand very much about film making. I didn’t understand about ‘neg’ cutting at all, and I remember we were night and day editing in Soho and then the editor said: “We’ve got to get this ‘neg’ cut.” And I said: “What’s that?” And we were working on an old Moviola. You know, those upright things…Chunta, Chunta. ????
Norman Swallow: That would be right near here wouldn’t it?
Julia Cave: It was, it was just across the road.
Alan Lawson: Who was your editor, do you remember?
Norman Swallow: Yes, just across the road.
Julia Cave: No.
Norman Swallow: Your mean Wardour Street
Julia Cave: It was across the road in Wardour Street where I edited, yes. Done a lot of editing off Wardour Street. Anyway, so we ‘brushed’??? it to ‘neg’ cutting and somehow, we somehow got it to the air and I remember, it was just finished and I carried it in my hand to Telecinè like carrying a baby. [interviewers’ laughter] And it did rather well, it, it got written up in the 33:00 ‘Mirror’; which was a major achievement for a sort of documentary.
Norman Swallow: I think ‘Chronicle’ was a marvellous series.
Julia Cave: I think it was a marvellous series. And we had a lot of freedom you see, a lot of freedom to do what we wanted if we came up with ideas. It wasn’t nearly so restrictive as it is now. I mean by the time it’s been through about 10 different people, to get permission to do something, the story’s over.
Norman Swallow: And who did you work to, or rather, who did Paul work to?
Julia Cave: David Attenborough
Norman Swallow: Directly?
Alan Lawson: Direct, yes.
Julia Cave: Directly to David Attenborough
Norman Swallow: Good.
Julia Cave: And that worked very well because there was a lot of support from David Attenborough.
Alan Lawson: They had a lot in common, those two.
Julia Cave: Absolutely! Yes. Then we started doing single subject ones, and then very shortly after ‘Chronicles’ came on the air, we went into colour. And we did a major… we were given a major colour exercise to do, 34:00 which I directed the studio on at Lime Grove and we had Judith Chalmers presenting that. We had to have eye tests to see if we were colour-blind or anything. [interviewers’ laughter]
Norman Swallow: Really?
Julia Cave: Yes. We did. And then, of course when we started to work in colour, we were only allowed to print 10% of it in colour, so it was quite difficult to edit it then because, of course you were meant to leave…sort of tried to put the colour shots in, which was wrong because you judge things wrongly, you know but you know it was quite interesting. We had… By this time we had got Ken Shepherd making films, particularly history films and he was working with John Julius Norwich [long pause]
Norman Swallow: Two great names again.
Julia Cave: Yes, Absolutely! And I’ve got a feeling that their very first one… Well amongst their films they did… They did one in South America. Ken did one in South America about the Mayans, I think. They did films in Sicily, they did quite a few in Italy and they did Constantinople.
Alan Lawson: Did you [produce ?] even in the studio side of it or was it boring?
Julia Cave: Well at that stage I did most, whenever there was a magazine one I generally directed it until David Collison came along, and then he did some directing.
Norman Swallow: Another name.
Julia Cave: Another name but I was the studio director and film maker at that point, and there was Ray Sutcliff on the series then. Anyway, so I did about 10 years of making films and Oh! And one of the major series we did, 36:00 just after we’d gone into colour was Tutankhamun’s Egypt, to co-inside with the exhibition. The Tutankhamun Exhibition at the British Museum, and we did 13 twenty-minute films on that; of which I did 4, Paul Jordon did quite a lot of the others. And so, I spent a lot of time in Egypt one way and another, which was terrific, great, and in the end, I’ve made 13 films in Egypt all together.
So “Chronicle’ over the years, well there’s such a lot to say about it, I don’t really know where to begin and we worked a lot… We did quite a few story-breaking ones, including one I did with Magnus, called ‘The Legend of Atlantis’ which was about… and I did also the last days of Minus of Crete 37:00 and the civilization on Crete and how it was probably destroyed by a tidal wave. Once we discovered this new excavation on Santorini; that was a really interesting one. But we did a lot of ground-breaking stories on ‘Chronicle’ and there’s still a lot of people who could tell you about ‘Chronicle’, because there’s David Collison of course, is still around, and Ray Sutcliff, who I think will be jolly interesting to talk to and Paul Jordon.
Norman Swallow: Why not.
Julia Cave: And unfortunately Paul Johnston died, [pause] had a heart attack, just at the time when I was actually moving over to work on ‘Omnibus’ although I did go back later to do some other ‘Chronicles’ for the subsequent editor, Bruce Norman.
Norman Swallow: Yes, well I was in the department at that time of course.
38:00 Julia Cave: You were. So, you can remember all this for me now.
Norman Swallow: Arts Features.
Julia Cave: It was Arts Features.
Norman Swallow: Well yes, I ran ‘Omnibus’ for 3 years and then became head of the department for 2-and-a-half.
Julia Cave: That’s right. [long pause]
Alan Lawson: Right, ok
Julia Cave: Ok.
Norman Swallow: On Magnus Magnusson then.
Julia Cave: Well it’s about Magnus and the film we were making about the legend of Atlantis, and we were on the island of Santorini, which is a remote island in the Cyclades. I was 3 months pregnant by this time, and the only way up the to the town at the top, the town called Fira, at the top of the hill, is by donkey and steps, so went up on that. Anyhow we had a fairly hectic shooting schedule, and we had to get off to Crete because we had to do some 39:00 shooting there and Magnus had to get back to London. Well, sorry, to wherever he was going, to do a live edition of ‘Mastermind’. So, we were desperately trying to get a ship that would get us off. It was long before there was, any aeroplanes going to Santorini, and we tried everything including the local Greek millionaire and asked if we could borrow his yacht. What we didn’t know was that his yacht was a minor liner and when it came in the next day, we were kind of ashamed, when we saw this 3-funneld job in the harbour. So we gave up on that… Anyway, so we decided we had to take the Ferry, which was to come in at midnight. So, Magnus and I went down on to the on to the jetty at the front to wait for the Ferry to come in. And It arrived very late, there was a Greek wedding going on, taking place at the time, and we were invited in at the time to have a few Ouzos. And everything got a bit wild, and we had a few Ouzos. I didn’t 40:00 have very many because I was in fact pregnant, and… Anyway, the Ferry comes along side and 3 rather elderly ladies come off on a boat and were supposed to get on to their boat. Magnus, feeling a bit happy at this stage, takes their hats off their heads and throws them into the sea. And they’re not frightfully amused by this. However, we managed to get Magnus on-board this boat and the camera-crew say: “But we don’t want to sleep with Magnus. Because he’s obviously going to snore all night.” And I say: “Well you’ve got to sleep with Magnus. I’m terribly sorry because there’s no other cabins. And I’ll try and get Magnus a cup of coffee.” And Magnus said: “Yes” he wanted a cup of coffee. Well everybody had gone to bed on the ship, so I thought the only person to try to get this from is the Captain. So, I knocked on the Captain’s cabin door, and I said: “Can I… hate to bother you, is there any chance of a cup of coffee?” And he said: 41:00 “Yes. I’ll make you one.” And he did a wonderful Greek coffee.
And I went back to Magnus with this wonderful Greek coffee and Magnus said: “I only drink Nescafe.” I could have killed him. So, anyway we got him into his cabin and into his bunk and I went to mine and we got up at… in the morning at Crete and got him off and into a small car and drove off to Heraklion, by which time Magnus looked pretty crumpled. But he only had one suit. And what we had to do that night, was, we had to film in the throne room at Knossos, and Magnus had to sit on the throne. And we had to run cables all the way from the street to this throne room. And so finally I managed to extract Magnus’ only clothes from him to get them ironed. [laughter] “Great God.” I said, “You cannot sit on King Minos’ throne in a 42:00 crushed suit Magnus.” [laughter]
Norman Swallow: Very good.
Alan Lawson: I think we’ll stop there.
42:27 End of Side 2
Interview Number: 380 Interviewee: Julie Cave
Interviewers: Norman Swallow, Alan Lawson
Transcriber: Alexis Poole
Norman Swallow: Copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. Julia Cave, television director and producer. Interviewer Norman Swallow. Recorded on the 10th of May, 1996. Side 3.
Side 3 Pages 1 - 24
00:03 Alan Lawson: Julia Cave side 3
Norman Swallow: And carry on chronologically
Julia Cave: Right ho.
Norman Swallow: Roughly.
Julia Cave: Roughly. So that was quite a successful film as it had some jolly exciting stories in it and Magnus was on peak form really. I mean Magnus was always extremely professional, he always did turn in a very good performance and always wrote very interestingly about what he was doing. Ah! There was one occasion when Magnus and I fell out very badly, and this was in Egypt. None of us had ever been to Egypt before and we were to do the opening of the Abu Symbol Temples, which had just been saved from the waters that had flooded the valleys when the Aswan Dam was built, and Magnus I set off for 01:00 Egypt. We sent the camera crew on ahead because this was an UNESCO project and there was only one small aeroplane that could go up the Nile and wouldn’t have been able to carry the heavy camera gear. So, the camera crew set off earlier with firm instructions that they were not to go into Cairo, but they were to stay overnight in the hotel at the airport and then they had to fly to Aswan, and they had to take a boat the next morning which would get them to Abu Simbel with their gear. So, they were supposed to get there ahead of us. Magnus and I flew in and we were met by the UNESCO man off the plane at Cairo airport, and he said, “I’m very sorry to have to tell you, but your crew is still here.” And I said “Oh dear! What happened.” And he said “Well your camera crew did not remain at the airport hotel, but went into Cairo.” “They left their gear at the airport, having taken it through ‘Customs’ and the next 02:02 morning when they came back, there was no ‘Customs’ officer to check it back into Egypt again, so they missed their flight to Aswan and consequently missed the boat. There is no other boat therefore they can’t get to Abu Simbel.”
Now we were hurrying to do this Abu Simbel film because we only had, to bring it back, edit it very quickly and get it on the air very quickly.
Norman Swallow: You had a transmission date.
Julia Cave: We had a transmission date. So, this was kind of nerve-wracking. So, we checked out if there was anything else that could get the camera crew to Abu Simbel in time. And there was one sort of cattle boat. It was a camel boat really that was going up the river. So, we managed to see them off onto the plane… No, sorry, we all flew to Aswan. I saw them off on this frightful thing, with one cabin, quite literally for every passenger, and everything had to take 03:01 place in this one cabin, and they were going to be on it for 48 hours. We’re not very conversant with the kind of heat in that part of the world. Bought them… Asked me to buy them bars of chocolate, and I didn’t think this was incredibly wise, however I did and lots of water and off they set. So, Magnus and I waited for the small UNESCO plane, which was a one-seat in front and a one behind and the pilot of that looked at us with our luggage and said, “No chance.” He said, “Tooth-brushes and change of clothing and that’s it.” That’s all we can take.
So, we set off for Abu Simbel. At that time, sort of it wasn’t quite finished and this Egyptian pilot thought it would be amusing to me… Magnus was in the back. Magnus always manages to sleep through absolutely everything, so he was sitting in the back, asleep, the pilot decided to show off to me and he flew 04:00 very low down the camel train to Waddy Haf and shrieked up into the air again and I was quite frightened but had learnt quite quickly that the only way to combat this was a) not to react and b) was to look straight along the nose of the plane, which looked higher than the tips of the wings, which were [laughter] so close to the ground, that it was tiresome. Anyway, we arrived at Abu Simbel, he turned sharply left round it missing the edge of the temple by about an inch I should think, and said: “My brakes are pulling to the left, don’t worry about it.” And landed in the sand. So, we got out, slightly shaken, to find where we were going to sleep for the night; which in my case was an archaeologist’s hut and in Magnus’ case, another archaeologist’s hut, where they put five beds, the camera crew would be coming eventually.
Magnus and I had to, sort of write the script for what was going on. It was incredibly hot, 120 in the shade. And, anyway, to cut a long story short, the 05:00 crew arrived very weary, very cross, very hot. We tried to get them a drip of water to wash themselves in and we managed to get a little bit and we got something to eat, and then we had to film very early the next morning. Magnus and I were fairly fraught by this time, because we were hot, it was very uncomfortable, we had very little water and so on. We set off at 5’o’clock the next morning, stood in front of the temple to do out piece to camera and so on. The noise was horrendous because they had every drill going, they had tractors, the had everything going because they hadn’t finished. They were behind schedule. We couldn’t do pieces to camera with this racket going on, so every time we were going to do a piece to camera, I had to run round everyone, trying to stop them, in Arabic. Which was an absolute nightmare because they were behind as well. Anyway, in the middle of all this, we’d done a couple of bits to camera and we’d done some shooting, and it was getting hotter and hotter, and I 06:00 was in quite distress, because I had camera-tape over my nose and it was no good trying to wear a hat because there was a breeze off the river and it just… you know it just blew in every direction as well. [erm], in the middle of all this the UNESCO people came to us and said: “You’ve only got until 2’o’ clock this afternoon. This is the last UNESCO flight to leave and if you’re not on it, you won’t get out.” So, we had to finish by 2, we thought we had another night there, so we really had to belt on. The camera got so hot, we had a little white umbrella but the sand just blew up, so we couldn’t do any more sync-shooting, so we had to do a post-sync idea and put Magnus so you couldn’t see where he was speaking from. At this stage, Magnus blew his top and had a row with me about what he was supposed to say, and I had a row with him, so we finished this, somehow or another, professionally, not speaking to each other; 07:00 got into this small aircraft, still not speaking to each other, burnt to a frazzle, pealing and everything else, swollen legs, ankles, blisters in every direction. Got to Aswan, still not speaking to each other. I have a huge nose bleed, come back dripping blood, Magnus is still not going to speak to me [laughter]. Get to Cairo, where of course we haven’t got anywhere to stay because we weren’t expecting to be back that night and Cairo’s always full, at least it was then. So, finally I decide the only possible thing to do was to apologise to Magnus. I said, “Magnus, I’m terribly sorry, I shouldn’t have shouted at you.” Wreathed in smiles- “It’s perfectly alright darling.” [Laughter from all 3] Anyway we did manage to find somewhere to stay, and we did manage to get back with a film, by the skin-of-our-teeth, literally. And the crew had to wait for another slow boat to Aswan.
08:01 Norman Swallow: Who was the crew by the way?
Julia Cave: He was an ex-RAF pilot by the name of Macmillan, not, no, no
Alan Lawson: Not that one
Julia Cave: Not that one. Old school, white gloves.
Alan Lawson: Sounds like Dave Prosser actually
Julia Cave: Well it wasn’t, very similar to Prosser. I can remember Dave Prosser, filmed with him in Corsica, wonderful, loved Dave really. “Bread curls up in the Med you know, can’t have a picnic here.” [Laughter from all 3]
Norman Swallow: I mean looking back as a viewer, the quality of the photography etcetera and those programmes was really excellent.
Julia Cave: Oh yes. It was very good. Absolutely.
Norman Swallow: Probably still is if you look at it now.
Alan Lawson: On the whole I think it is. Yes.
Alan Lawson: That was 16, was it? Or 35.
Julia Cave: Oh no! That was 16 by then. It was colour 16. Oh! We’d have had 09:00 hell’s own trying to take a 35mm camera up the Nile in that. You couldn’t have done it. Actually, you could not have done it. With sound and everything, no.
Norman Swallow: No. So where do we go from here?
Alan Lawson: Omnibus now
Norman Swallow: Is it?
Alan Lawson: Yes. Isn’t it Julia?
Norman Swallow: Sorry, always asking this question, what year are we?
Julia Cave: I think the Abu Simbel was ’67 or ’69, but that’s going… I mean I can look those up for you.
Norman Swallow: No, No. It doesn’t matter.
Alan Lawson: No, it doesn’t matter, because those are findable.
Norman Swallow: Oh yes.
Julia Cave: Well I think I’d done about 10 years on ‘Chronicle’ so, I‘d seen a large amount of the world.
Norman Swallow: Presumably you’re on the ‘Staff’ by now?
Julia Cave: I am on the ‘Staff’. Oh! Good lord! My personal life in the mean 10:01 time while I was on ‘Chronical’ I married a doctor of medicine, David Cooper and had two children, during the course of all this. And so, I was on the ‘Staff’ then certainly. I was a ‘Staff’ Producer. I became a ‘Staff’ Producer at the age of 29. But, you see that’s why I didn’t think I was on the ‘Staff’, because when I became pregnant with my eldest child, Miranda, I was 29 and I applied for my own job as a producer then and got taken on. I’d been producing ‘Chronicle’ for… Oh! Thereby hangs a tale, I’d quite forgotten, and that is, I wanted to come on the ‘Staff’ then, so I wasn’t on the ‘Staff’, right. I wanted to come on the ‘Staff’, I thought it was safer when I was going to have a child and so on and I’d been producing ‘Chronicles’ for a number of years, quite
11:00 successfully but I had to apply for my own job. So, I did. And I wrote the usual blurb about what I’d been doing and so on and so on. Gordon Watkins was head of department then, and other people applied, naturally. It was advertised as it has to be, in the newspapers and so on and I applied. Nothing happened and nothing happened and eventually Gordon Watkins came to me and said, “I’m calling in to tell you, you haven’t got a ‘board’ because this memo has come to me and it says, “A Mr. J. Cave also applied for this job, but we did not think his qualifications were not adequate.” [long pause.] Now, I think that’s actually quite important in this story. They hadn’t recognised:
a) that I was a woman, or
b) that I’d been doing this for a length of time. [Pause.]
So, actually Gordon vetoed that and said “She has to have a board.” I had a
12:03 ‘Board’ and I got the job and that’s how I came on the ‘Staff’ and I was 29 years old when I was made a ‘Staff’ Producer.
So, sorry about the confusion earlier, I was trying to think how I had a PA ‘Board’ and not for the ‘Staff”. Somehow or other it was so.
Alan Lawson: Interesting. Yes.
Norman Swallow: Anyway, back to programme making.
Julia Cave: Back to programme making, so I’d been on the ‘Staff’ and I’d worked on ‘Chronicle’ for about 10 years when I thought I should really get some kind of a change. And in fact, what I was working on at that time was a film with Kenneth Griffith and I can tell you when this was, it was 1976, because it was about the War of Independence and it was the 200th anniversary 1776, and I was doing a film with Kenneth Griffith, the famous Griffith who
13:00 plays all the parts himself. And I was filming with the famous cameraman…
Alan Lawson: Tubby Englander
Julia Cave: No. Tubby was pretty well retired by then. Tubby had done ‘Civilization’ a bit before that.
Alan Lawson: Wouldn’t have been Ken …? No, he would have been in ‘Features’ by then.
Julia Cave: Philip Bonham-Carter, and we did that together and it was a sort of a drama-doc. [Long pause.] And that gave me another kind of interest, and it was very disciplined, that, completely scripted and it was very good for me, because we had to think of every shot. I mean, if he turned right at the end of a shot and you had to get him turning left, they all had to edit together. He
14:00 walked out of one in one and into another one, so, it was really disciplined film directing in a which has been most useful for me afterwards.
Alan Lawson: Do you remember what it was called? The title of the film?
Julia Cave: I think it was ‘1776’ No it wasn’t. It was called… It was a quote from the Declaration of Independence. It was… Give me a…It was ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’
Norman Swallow: Why not? Ok, and then?
Julia Cave: Well on the back of that film, we ended up in New York for some
15:00 filming with Kenneth Griffith, and Philip Bonham-Carter and I were walking through Central Park and we looked at each other and we thought, there’s a film here. And so, these were the days when you had an awful lot more freedom, and we decided that we’d do a couple of week-ends shooting what was going on, all the amazing events that took place there; just off the cuff and see what happened with it. It was in our free-time, so we made this film ‘Central Park’ which was a huge success on ‘Omnibus’ Barry Gavin was the editor of ‘Omnibus’ then and it was just one of those no-commentary, letting things happen, which I then eventually did a number of. Sort of, the days before Molly Dineen really.
16:00 We did ‘Central Park’, and we did ‘Watching My Name Go By’, which was graffiti on the sub-way trains. And we just ran around everywhere with the camera and I interviewed everybody and we used that as voice-over you see. These little interviews.
Norman Swallow: Off screen?
Julia Cave: Oh! Sometimes on and sometimes off, yes. And, then I started to do quite a lot of those little films, which were great fun, and I did them directly for ‘Controller 1’. I did ‘Buskers’ in this country, and ‘Fairground’…
Alan Lawson: Who was ‘Controller 1’ then? Do you remember?
Julia Cave: Yes it was the time of the guy who was in ‘Sports’ department
Norman Swallow: Brian Whenam???
Julia Cave: No, after him or before him. Before him. He was only there briefly. Very briefly. Anyway, I started off doing those for ‘Omnibus’ and I
17:00 did several of those little films for ‘Omnibus’ which were quite good fun, and I was doing them directly for the ‘Controller’ as well as doing other things, because they were ones you knocked off cheaply really, but were fun.
Alan Lawson: Fillers.
Julia Cave: They were a bit better than ‘fillers’, but [erm]… Yes, but I can’t remember his name, I’m so sorry.
Norman Swallow: Doesn’t matter. I wasn’t at the BBC at that time, so I wouldn’t know.
Alan Lawson: Oh yes, I know, red haired…
Julia Cave: It wasn’t Ginger. [Laughter.] You were thinking of Ginger?
Alan Lawson: Yes, I was. Anyway, sorry.
Julia Cave: So I was doing all sorts of different things by now but mostly it was ‘Omnibus’ by now I suppose. And of course, Paul Johnston had died and [erm] Oh god, I’m having a hell of a day for forgetting names now aren’t I.
18:01 Norman Swallow: I mean, who took over from him?
Julia Cave: Bruce Norman. It was Bruce Norman, took over from Paul Johnston to continue with ‘Chronicle’ and I did the odd one for him.
I did Mahindra Duro with Colin Renfrew for instance in Pakistan and I did various things for him. I did ‘Om Seti in Her Egypt’, which was very popular, which was the old lady who believed that she was reincarnated from the time of Seti the first and lived in a temple up the Nile. I did various things like that, then another ‘Omnibus’ I did was ‘Figaro in Peking’ which was two members of Glyndebourne who went to teach the Chinese to sing Figaro, to sing Mozart. That was 1984, and that was incredibly interesting just the time when China
19:01 was just beginning to open up.
Norman Swallow: That was good you enjoyed that?
Julia Cave: Figaro in Peking? That was terrific. A month in Peking…
Norman Swallow: I remember seeing it and wondered if you liked doing it I mean.
Julia Cave: Oh! It was terrific, yes. Well it was so interesting in China then. I mean it was Peking in January and it was freezing cold. But there were absolutely no tourists there in those days and we stayed in the Hotel Peking or Beijing as it now is, and we had two camera crews and lights and we were working in the Chinese Opera School, and the kids were so wonderful, they had such concentration with what they were doing and it was a terrifically exciting project that. And of course, we were allowed to go into the Forbidden City when it was closed to the public and film there. It was completely empty so that was very exciting. That was really good.
Alan Lawson: Was it an English camera crew?
20:00 Julia Cave: Oh yes, no, we took two English crews from Ealing. Actually one- and-a-half really, in a sense. We had two crews, one lighting man, two sound recordists. Because it was music and it’s impossible to edit music if you’ve only got one camera you see; so, we had a Chinese orchestra to do and then of course we had two people teaching in different directions, so we sometimes had two crews running at the same time in different rooms as well. And I was running between them.
Alan Lawson: How long was the programme in the end?
Julia Cave: It was an hour I think.
Norman Swallow: Aha! So, we’re in ’92 you said? 1992ish.
21:02 Julia Cave: No, that was 1984.
Norman Swallow: Oh! Sorry
Julia Cave: The Peking one
Norman Swallow: Ah! Oh! Sorry, as long ago as that.
Julia Cave: I’m afraid so. [Laughter.] We’ve got some way to go yet.
Norman Swallow: No. No. I’m sorry I just, my memory is what made me think it was nearer than that. I’m not worried about how far you’ve got to go.
Julia Cave: That was ’84 for the Peking one. Later on… Oh! There’s masses of things in-between, which I’ve forgotten of course, but you probably don’t… I’m very sorry I get very bored talking about these things, it has to be said. I’m not very good at going through my career.
Norman Swallow: Of course you are.
Julia Cave: Right, so, ’84 was the Figaro in Peking. And then I did some more work with Bruce Norman. He wanted… He was doing a series of… No that’s not right. I must have carried on with ‘Omnibus’, I was very keen on
22:00 doing a film about T. Lawrence. Because, as I said earlier, I was interested in him because of working on the ‘Great War’ series, earlier and I had been out in Jordan making a film for ‘Chronicle’ about the Roman archaeological site at Jerash. And while I was working on that some of the embassy people took me out on a picnic into the desert, and they… We went from Amman Railway Station, and we went in a very old train, which was laying around in the sidings. And they said: “Do you realise this is the same rolling-stock that T. Lawrence used when he was fighting against the Turks, in the First War?” And I said: “Good heavens, is it?” As we rolled out into the desert for our picnic, and stopped in the middle of nowhere and ate our food. And I suddenly thought, here I am sitting on this train and imagining the Turks
23:00 coming over the hill, just as in David Lean’s film and, I think… I bet there’s an anniversary of T. Lawrence coming up, and why don’t I put up this idea to do Lawrence to ‘Omnibus.’ So, I came back and put it up, and nobody’s is actually, I have to say, terribly interested. Then I found there was an anniversary, and I jumped up and down for ages about it and finally, Alan Yentob was head of our department by this time, and finally Alan agreed, providing I could money for a co-production out of the Arabs in Jordan. Now I was in a very good way with the Arabs because they loved the Jerash film and they’d shown it and the Queen had visited Jordan and they had shown it there, and so they were really rather well disposed to me. This was a very innocent film about their archaeological past, and they were very happy with that, they were never very keen on doing T. Lawrence, because his place in the Arab
24:00 world is ambiguous. I mean you know, he, in their eyes had taken the credit for the Arab Revolt and so on. So, however, I talked Jordan Television into giving us… allowing us to:
a) make the film and
b) giving us some help with it.
Not in terms of cash, but in terms of providing us with free hotels and transport facilities, and Jordan Airlines would fly us there and we’d get transport, we’d get an interpreter, a fixer and we’d get our hotels free, which was absolutely fine, that suited us down to the ground…
Norman Swallow: Saves a bit of money!
Julia Cave: …providing we presented the Arab view; which was fine because we had to do an interview with an excellent historian, Mr Mousa, who’d written a book about the Arab Revolt from the Arab view. And so, we were going to do, in any case, a long interview with him, and we were looking for archive footage
25:00 and photos from them, so it was great. So, we set off to make this film and it was very exciting because we were in Aqaba, we were in Wadi Rum, which is the great area that T describes in ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ and we drove through that. I had ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ on my knee, with passages annotated, checking all his descriptions so we could manage to film them to match the quotes from the book. And that was terrific, and we had some real adventures and Abu Tie, who is the Arab Chieftain who appears in Seven Pillars… It’s not Abu Tie, it’s [erm] the chap played in the David Lean film by Omar Sharif.
Norman Swallow: Oh! Yes. I remember the film and the part but I can’t remember the name.
26:01 Julia Cave: You will, this wonderful leader, you see, of the revolt…
Norman Swallow: Yes. I know who you mean, I just can’t get the name right. Anyway…
Julia Cave: Anyway, his son was still alive and we managed to achieve an interview with him and we went to his Bedouin tent in the desert, which was really more, still shaped completely as a tent with these huge throne-like chairs around it. I had a wonderful time with a real Arab feast there, sheep’s eyes and everything, and got this really excellent interview with him. So, we had a very interesting time in the desert, making that film. But I did come to the conclusion, on the way through this, that Lawrence had, had rather more to do with the Arab Revolt and the organization than perhaps the Arabs thought, or
27:00 wished to believe. So, it became a rather difficult situation as how in fact one was to present Lawrence in the end. And I think both sides of the case are true really; that both the Arabs and T. Lawrence, had a fairly equal standing in this. But T was definitely extremely influential in what went on.
So, I had enlisted Malcolm Brown’s help making this film, because he’d made an earlier film about T.E. Lawrence, which was mostly, not the time in the desert, but the at home at Clouds Hill. So, Malcolm came along to hold my hand and was really brilliant help. Then we were both asked by J.M. Dent if we would write a short, illustrated biography of T.E. Lawrence, so we did.
28:00 So, then we co-operated on this little book ‘A Touch of Genius’.
Norman Swallow: A very enjoyable book, if I dare say so.
Julia Cave: Have you read it?
Norman Swallow: Uhum
Julia Cave: Oh! Good.
Norman Swallow: It selling well? Or was, I mean?
Julia Cave: It did terribly well, it sold 10 thousand in hard-back and then it went into paper-back. So, that did pretty well.
Norman Swallow: However, continue your television career.
Julia Cave: Ah, well television career, after that, I think probably the next thing I did was Underwater Discoveries which Bruce Norman was doing as a kind of archaeological series as an off-shoot of ‘Chronical’. ‘Discoveries Underwater’ it was called and there were 8 of those I think. And I did the one which was the
29:01 ‘Treasure Salvors’ in Key West in Florida. An excavation of a Spanish Galleon, which was 30 miles out to sea and [erm] which contained gold and emeralds, that had been sunk in a hurricane when it was on its way back to Spain from Colombia. And the treasure salvors were kind of pirates who were excavating all this gold and silver, and it was quite an adventure story. And that was great fun, we were 30 miles out to sea on bumpy roads and I managed to dive, did some underwater swimming and diving and came back with that story.
So, after that I had a really interesting time doing an ‘Omnibus’ in Moscow;
30:00 which was avant-garde artists. It was just about the time of the…of Glasnost, and the avant-garde artists were just about being allowed an exhibition, so I went off to Moscow to make film with them. That was extremely interesting, they were wonderful because they asked us to their homes and I learned a lot about that and it was just really just before the real sort of freedom started. It was very hard work and very difficult because there was practically no food. You’ve been to Russia and it was at the time when…
Norman Swallow: Late ‘80s or 1990 maybe? Glasnost
Julia Cave: It must have been… ’90 I think
Norman Swallow: Yes, about ’90. I last was there in ’88 and it hadn’t started then.
31:01 Julia Cave: Right! So, it was the beginnings of it really, so it was neither one thing or the other quite, and the artists didn’t quite know which way they were going to be going at all. And I had an interpreter who was really kind of unhelpful because she thought these people were really dirty and didn’t really want to find them for me, so I had to kind of go out and do that.
Can I stop for a minute, I think…I’m sure there are other people who can do that…
Norman Swallow: Alright well…
Alan Lawson: Right you’re going back to ‘Chronicle’
Julia Cave: I’m back to ‘Chronicle’ because during the time I was making these films, all over the world, like in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt in particular, I became aware that there were a lot of under current things going on in the archaeological world. There was a lot of smuggling and faking and so on,
32:02 and I decided, at least Paul Johnston encouraged me really, to try and do some films about that; some sort of undercover films. And so, I was really looking at the art market and at how things got bought and sold and faked and smuggled and stolen and illegally excavated; and this became something I continued doing throughout several years of working on ‘Chronicle’ because whenever I was in Egypt, I may have been doing a different story, but I would always manage to get an undercover story done on something else. And so, I was always doing two things at the same time, or almost everywhere. They were not things that you could have gone openly into that country and done, but because you were there anyway under the auspices of UNESCO maybe, or whatever it was, you could manage to pick up another story that was going on
33:00 and film that story on the way. And this, I think is perhaps what I’ve enjoyed doing most because I’ve done quite a lot of that later in life. Quite a lot of art-market stories and so on, and later I did two ‘Omnibus’s’ called ‘For Love or Money’ which grew directly out of these. So, I was filming in Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Italy and the Far East for these undercover plunderers things at the same time as I was doing the others, and I came across all kinds of extraordinary stories.
One of them was the Euphronios Vase which had illegally excavated in Italy, smuggled out of the country, it was bought by the Metropolitan Museum in New York and was put on display. And we did I think manage to find out where it had come from, which was presently being used as a wild boar farm
34:01 and filmed pieces there. But during the whole of that time I was doing these rather interesting stories with archaeologists and tomb robbers and going to salerooms and finding out what was going on, and doing real expose´ stories and they were called ‘The Plunderers’.
Norman Swallow: You got away with it to the extent there were no series complaints? Formal complaints? Were there? Was the BBC in trouble?
Julia Cave: Well there was one occasion where Norton Simon, who was a famous collector, he’s recently died, millionaire collector in Los Angles, did an injunction about a story we were doing about the Natarajar, which was an Indian statue, which had been smuggled from a temple in India and he Norton
35:00 Simon had bought. I think, knowing that it had been illegally smuggled out. And [erm] we couldn’t use that story. And it later came out that it was illegally, but it was sub judice that one, and I had followed it through the courts and I hadn’t quite realized… well Norton Simon’s lawyers were very smart.
And we had one or two very amazing things happen, particularly with a half-Egyptian dealer who I saw two pictures on his mantel piece, and they had indeed been illegally smuggled from a tomb – cut out of a tomb in Egypt, bought by him and he was trying to sell them at Christie’s. And Christie’s discovered they were illegal, anyway, a long story involved, and we had then withdrawn from the sale. There lots of very, quite dangerous things happen to
36:01 us, and we had, for instance 3 break-ins in Italy and tapes were taken, and the most dramatic one really was, we were filming tombs at a place called Cerveteri, North of Rome which has Etruscan tombs, and the Etruscan stuff was being illegally excavated by tomb robbers, and we had talked to the Police around that… Carabinieri into lending us their helicopter, police helicopter to film over the scene and so on. And we were interviewing the police about what went on at Cerveteri and so on, and the police and our camera car and our sound car were all drawn up at a restaurant at a place called Civitavecchia, and when we came out, we found that our camera material had been robbed from the boot
37:00 of the car, both the sound and cameras had been taken. And of course, the police went berserk, because there we were at lunch with the police, with the police car parked in the middle of us, and we’d still been robbed.
And it was perfectly clear to us that they, the tombaroli were disturbed about what we were finding out, because 3 break-ins on this story, was too many. And the thing is, they had taken like the tapes, was too many. In fact, the really major interview was not in the car, it was under my pillow in the hotel, so they didn’t get it. But we still managed… we got more cameras the next day. They were found, thrown in a ditch, by the way, and we got them back. Somebody cycled by and found our cameras, they didn’t want to steal that, they were just looking for the film and the tape.
So, we had a fair few encounters, which were quite adventurous on these
So, the ‘Plunderers’
So, during the course of the ‘Chronicle’ time, I’d done a film with Magnus about the Elgin Marbles and later on, during the time of ‘Omnibus’ in which they were doing magazine programmes again, and the editor of that was Christopher Martin and Melina Mercouri was asking for the Marbles. The Parthenon Marbles as they are called by the Greeks, to go back to Greece. So, Christopher suggested that I go and do an interview with Melina Mercouri, and that was a very amusing time. So, Melina Mercouri is very cautious about how she’s filmed, with diffused light and so on, and of course her husband being
39:02 Jules Dassin, refers everything to him. Anyway, I flew out to Athens. I was invited to dinner by Melina and we had to do the filming the next morning with a cameraman who she had suggested, who knew how to light her I guess.
Norman Swallow: Greek?
Julia Cave: Greek. And I was to just have the one night there and fly back in the next afternoon with the film. So, anyway I arrived in Athens, I was supposed to be met by her secretary; wasn’t at the airport, so I went to the hotel, then there was a frantic phone call from secretary, saying “Where are you?” I said “I’m here.” “Miss Mercouri is expecting you for dinner, I’m sorry I wasn’t there to meet you.” I said “It’s quite fine, I’ll take a taxi to Melina’s place.” I went off there. When I arrived, half the Greek Government was sitting round in this huge apartment overlooking the Lycabettus Hill.
40:00 And Jules Dassin said “Hello, how do you do?” He’s a most charming man. And then Melina Mercouri came down the winding staircase in bare feet and said [Puts on deep voice] “Hello darling, I am Melina Mercouri.” And I said “How do you do, I’m Julia Cave.” And so, we sat down and she said “How are we going to do this?” She said, “My English is not so good.” She wanted to do it in Greek you see, which wasn’t actually going to be much use to ‘Omnibus’ or to me. It’s kind of difficult for me to ask questions Greek. So, first of all I had to persuade her it would be best done in English, and then she wanted to know precisely what the questions were and what the answers were. And she decided we had to write it all down and that we had to completely rehearse the answers, and then she said what she wanted was autocue.
So, I thought, My God, the whole idea of doing this interview in her apartment, if she wants autocue, has gone completely out of the window. So, I said, “That
41:02 causes a little bit of a problem.” “So where do we get autocue?” So, she said “Here, we have, autocue, right here.” And she waved to the girl, it was all set up. And the autocue girl arrived, and the only place we could do it in fact, was in the new studio in the television building. So, it was obvious we were going to have to do the interview there, which wasn’t quite what I’d planned on doing, because I’d planned to do Melina Mercouri talking at home, fairly off the cuff, which was completely blown. So, we had to talk to the Greek Government about exactly what we were going to do. So, then I asked “What is the studio like, that we’re going to do this film in?” So, they punched a button on their TV set, which came up with a black and white picture, saying this is the studio. Which was just the site of the new studio. So, fine, thank you very much, I’m really, really clear on that.
Anyway, half the Greek Government sort of disappeared and Melina and I sat
42:00 down for dinner with Jules Dassin and we decided… and the autocue girl sat in the corner and we quiet literally sat down and wrote the script of what she was going to say about the Parthenon Marbles. Luckily, I knew the story well enough, from having done the film with Magnus Magnusson on the marbles, to be able to correct her, quite literally on things that were inaccurate. Thank God I really knew what the argument was, because I didn’t want her to look wrong either.
42:29 Alan Lawson: Stop
End of Side 3
Interview Number: 380 Interviewee: Julie Cave
Interviewers: Norman Swallow, Alan Lawson
Transcriber: Alexis Poole
Norman Swallow: Copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. Julia Cave, television director and producer. Interviewer Norman Swallow. Recorded on the 10th of May, 1996. Side 3.
Side 4 Pages 25 - 52
00:00 Alan Lawson: Julia Cave side 4
Julia Cave: Side 4 already. Yes, so Melina Mercouri, Jules Dassin and I sat up half the night trying to write the script on the Elgin Marbles, so that it could be put on autocue overnight and that we would film her in the morning at the new studio in Athens. So, rather tired and rather late I went to bed about 5’o’clock in the morning, got up again at 8, went ‘round to the studio, nobody could find the keys, so it was absolute pandemonium. Finally, we find the ????? what’s it got a scratched blue sike??? So, I say to the cameraman, OK! Let’s see if we can find something in your props room. We can’t do her with this behind. We’ve really got to find something. Eventually we find a blow-up of the Parthenon, we find a table, a chair and so we set up the whole thing and she 01:00 finally arrives, but she has to go into make-up for an hour. And we’re all set up with the diffused lighting and all the rest of it, and of course, she smokes like a chimney, so every time a cigarette gets stubbed out… get rid of the smoke in the air and all the rest of it. Jules Dassin was sitting on my right. I mean, can you imagine having to try and deal with an interview with Melina Mercouri, with one of the great film directors in the world sitting on your right-hand side. But he was terribly supportive, he was very good.
Norman Swallow: So, he behaved himself, he didn’t take over from you?
Julia Cave: No, he was really good. He was wonderful, and with the autocue and all the rest of it. So, we managed to get through this and Melina was only allowed to be shot in mid-shop you see, and so on.
In the middle of this interview, a wild Greek woman burst into the studio and said: “I and woman. You are woman. You help me.” And I said, “But I’m just doing an interview with Miss Mercouri.” And she said, “I am news.” So, I said, “Oh good!” She said, “I want you on news.” So, said, “Look, stand in the
02:00 corner over their while I finish this interview with Melina Mercouri and I’ll do an interview with you when I’ve finished here.”
Anyway, we carried on with this interview and Melina was really quite good, but every time she came to a nib, she’d say, [Julia Cave uses deep voice] “How was that Juli?” And I would prod him and say, [Julia Cave in whispered voice] “She’s got to do it again.” “Can you do it again darling?” [Laughter]. So finally, we got to the end of this, and she was very good, and this wild woman came up to me and she said, “You have to go in the studio now and do this interview.” And Melina said to me, “Darling, you can’t go there looking like that. You need make-up, I’ll lend you my make-up man.” [Laughter from all three.] So, I said, “Melina, I haven’t got time for make-up. Just, you know, ok just put some rouge if I look this pale, I’m not surprised I’m pale.” So, I was rushed into the Athens News Studio to do an interview about the Parthenon 03:00 Marbles and what the British felt about. But I only had 5 minutes because I had to get Melina up to the Acropolis before it closed. So, then we rushed off in a car through Athens streets, with Melina being stopped absolutely everywhere, and you know, bowed and her hand kissed and so on and we were rushing up to the Acropolis because I wanted some film of her walking around in her flowing clothes. So, we got up there and she said to Jules, “This is like ‘Never on Sunday.’” [Laughter from all three].
So, that was an ‘Omnibus’ interview which was done in something of a hurry and so I rushed back home and we edited that and it was very good. Because Melina was excellent.
Norman Swallow: I remember enjoying it.
Julia Cave: Well she’s so good.
Norman Swallow: I enjoy it more now after what you’ve just said. [Laughter from Julia Cave]. It looked so relaxed to me. There you are, you see.
Julia Cave: Well, she was relaxed. [Laughter from Alan Lawson]
Norman Swallow: Anyway
Julia Cave: So, that’s the history of the Marbles, by Julia Cave.
04:00 Norman Swallow: And then?
Julia Cave: In the mean time for ‘Omnibus’ of course, I’d done the continuation of the ‘Plunderers’, which was ‘For Love or Money’ which was an expose´ of the old-master paintings market and the contemporary-art market; which I did with John Percival. So, we did a lot of sale-rooms and quite a lot of interesting expose´ stories with Sotheby’s and Christie’s and I think, those… those sort of started me in a sense on many of the ones I’ve done later. Expose´ stories which I did for ‘The Late Show’.
Norman Swallow: What we used to call “Investigative Journalism.”
Julia Cave: Investigative Journalism, which is very difficult to do now. The reason why it was possible to do it then, was that you were able to do two things at the same time. In other words, when I was working on ‘Chronicle’, when I 05:00 was in those countries; I could do those stories at the same time without anybody interfering. Now it would be virtually impossible, by the way the BBC is run, to be running two stories at the same time, and to be given that long to do it in.
Alan Lawson: Because the ‘Chronicle’ was your cover.
Julia Cave: Yes, yes, yes. But I mean if you want to… In fact, I’m in the process of selling an art expose´ story at the moment, and of course they want to know exactly what date, exactly how much money, exactly how earned…
Norman Swallow: What, to the BBC?
Julia Cave: Yes, and I can’t do it that way. I cannot do it that way. They’ve either got to trust you and say ok it’ll be ready when it’s ready because you’re following all sorts of things around the place, or you can’t do it. But if the insist on this kind of behaviour I mean, I think true investigative journalism doesn’t exist anymore.
Alan Lawson: No
Julia Cave: I really don’t think it does, and I think that’s something we could come back to later, about what I now feel about the state of BBC in television.
Norman Swallow: Please.
06:00 Julia Cave: Anyway, we’ll skip that. Then of course, I started doing a lot of architectural films and that was because I did an ‘Arena’ with Richard Rogers; which Alan Yentob asked me to do for ‘Arena’. It was the time when Alan Yentob was editor of ‘Arena’ films, and I got to know Richard Rogers through that and did the… It was called ‘Building for Change’ and it was an early film about contemporary architecture really, which was the fore-runner, I suppose of the one I did later, called ‘One of the Visions of Britain’ which was Richard Rogers’ answer to Prince Charles.
We weren’t to know what Prince Charles said but we had to do it just from 07:00 Richard’s view – the question of modern work as opposed to looking to the past.
Norman Swallow: He was good to work with, Richard?
Julia Cave: Richard is an absolutely enchanting man to work with, he is however dyslexic which makes it kind of difficult. It’s very hard for him and he can’t really string too many words together at the same time. I mean recording commentary with him is very difficult; if you can get to the end of a sentence it’s pretty good.
Norman Swallow: That’s interesting because as a mere viewer, I would never have thought that.
Julia Cave: Well that’s our job isn’t it.
Norman Swallow: You must have conquered it.
Julia Cave: Well we had to do it, yes. But you have to do it quite slowly and edit a great deal
Norman Swallow: Sure yeah.
Julia Cave: But no, he’s a delightful man and a very interesting man to work with altogether. And we went back to Florence, for ‘Visions of Britain’, where 08:00 he was born; he’s got an Italian mother and was very much influenced by Brunelleschi, the Florentine architect. So, it was amazing. He’s a classical architect in the contemporary sense, if you see what I mean.
Norman Swallow: Yes.
Julia Cave: Any questions you want to ask about architecture?
Norman Swallow: I don’t think so.
Julia Cave: Probably not.
Alan Lawson: No not really, I mean it’s difficult for us…
Norman Swallow: Carry on with your epic story- of yourself I mean, of your career.
Julia Cave: Of my career?
Norman Swallow: Of what happened next.
Julia Cave: Could we stop now?
Alan Lawson: Yes
Julia Cave: After doing ‘Visions of Britain’ it came time really for the opening 09:00 of the Liverpool Tate Gallery, and I was asked to choose 5 of 13 Sculptors who were exhibiting there – British Sculptors. And this was very interesting for me because I didn’t know anything at all about what was going on in British Art at that time. I really hadn’t heard of any British Sculptors apart from Henry Moore and so on. Looked at the 13 and chose 5, and curiously enough 4 of those have since won the Turner Prize. So, must have put my pin in the right place.
But it was very interesting and I think in a sense it started me working really in a slightly different direction and away from archaeology and history and architecture and looking more at what was going on it Art at the moment.
10:00 Although I’ve forgotten to tell you that Barry Gavin did a series of films on 7 artists- 7 contemporary artists- we did Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg and so on a bit earlier, so I’d got quite interested. Anyway, I directed 2 of these films the series produced the 5, and we did them quite quickly and the Liverpool Tate opened, and it set me on a slightly different track; which ended up I suppose with me to working on ‘The Late Show’.
Norman Swallow: Could we ask again what year we’re in?
Julia Cave: I cannot do years. I mean it’s a waste of breath on me, dates and years mean nothing. I’m just no use at it. I can just about tell you when I was born, but I cannot tell you when my children were born. Believe it or not, I don’t know their birthdates, I’m slightly dyslexic myself and I cannot do dates. 11:02 So, I’ll have a guess…
Norman Swallow: ish, ish
Julia Cave: ‘9ty…
Norman Swallow: 5?
Julia Cave: Ooh no, early ‘90s…
Alan Lawson: Early ’93, ’94 it is, I think it is.
Julia Cave: No. It’s earlier than that, it’d be about ’92, ’91 something like that.
See I have to look these up... [Pause. Sounds of papers being moved]
So, I don’t know, maybe I should leave ‘The Late Show’ and all the things that happened around ‘The Late Show’ and new technology as far as I was concerned to a bit later. But I did work for a time on ‘Revue’ which was the 12:00 music and arts programme edited by John Archer, whose now in charge of Scotland, Glasgow. And at that time, I hadn’t worked tape, I’d only worked on film and in the studio of course, so Beta… I had done an exercise with Beta and sort of, vaguely knew how it worked and went in the deep end a bit really because of course this was linear editing; so, you have to think completely differently. But that’s, also… you know, that’s gone in 5 years, the linear thinking. I don’t know if you really understand what I’m talking about here?
Alan Lawson: No I don’t. I’m sure a lot of people listening to this won’t know what you’re talking about probably.
Julia Cave: You don’t either? Alright, well I might as well explain this then.
With film, as you know, you divide it up into shots and so on and you put it on a 13:00 shelf, or however you decide to break it down and edit it, so you can join it up in any order. And then you can change that order around exactly as you wish. When you’re filming on tape, you cannot do this because the process of editing it is electronic and it will not edit in a different order. So, short of changing your tape, you can only edit in one order, so you have to think exactly what shot you’re going to put beside exactly which shot and get to the end of it, before you start messing around with the middle. And then in order to mess around with the middle, you have to put it on another tape and start again. Each time you put it on another tape you lose…
Alan Lawson: a grade
Julia Cave: a grade. So, you have to start thinking in a completely different way. Instead of thinking a story is in sequences, you got to change your mind into thinking in why it’s called linear and non-linear is because this is a linear 14:00 thinking and you can’t change that thinking in your mind. So that became a completely different process of thinking and I started doing that on ‘Late Revue’ and it was very interesting and the very first one I did was immensely complex because it was one of my kind of expose´ art story things, and it was the British Rail Pension Fund sale at Sotheby’s.
I did have two cameras but I couldn’t change around what I was doing, I had to get it on the air that night and linear. So, it actually had a major shakeup effect on me. Like, you no longer had any time to think. You actually had to think out ahead of time exactly what you were going to do, and go in there and do it. And I think that linear editing had an absolutely major impact on television.
Major, and lost, through this lost a lot of people who had been rather slow.
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Julia Cave: And I don’t mean slow because I wasn’t good. I mean you had to 15:02 think very fast and very differently into compartments and that if you couldn’t do that you’d lost… you know, it was a watershed actually.
Alan Lawson: I can see that. I can understand that. I mean you make your mind and that’s it. If you don’t make your mind up, you’ve lost it.
Julia Cave: Anyway, that’s certainly almost over now because within 5 years of that they now have different means of editing it. [Erm] Not necessarily digital, that’s another matter and that’s not quite here yet. But you have things called Avid and Lightworks, which are non-linear, so that you can load it in and you can move it around in the way that you do film. But you don’t actually physically come into contact with the film, so it’s a whole different process 16:00 again but you can do it in your thinking way, in the way that you worked with film.
Alan Lawson: You only get the one degradation, really.
Julia Cave: You don’t get any.
Alan Lawson: Well you must have something…
Julia Cave: No! You don’t get any, because if you go back to your original film, you’re not getting a…
Alan Lawson: Oh, I see what you mean
Julia Cave: …a degrade. If your shooting on film and then you’re loading it into your Lightworks, the film remains exactly where it is in the lab. What your loading is a picture that has been copied onto tape, into that. That’s where you make your decisions and then you’ll go back to your original neg., so it shouldn’t have a degrade at all.
Alan Lawson: I see, I’m with you now.
Julia Cave: So, it’s another different structure thing and you can think of it as you think of film. So, all these things happen and they happen so fast as sort of pc’s and computers happen so fast, and the amount of information coming at you is so fast, that either you’re going to be able to handle this in the world of 17:00 television or you weren’t. And I think a lot of people just simply fell by the wayside; including editors, who simply couldn’t keep up with this at all. Because when you’re editing now, you’re not physically touching the film. You’re working with a computer basically, and a lot of people found this deeply distressing.
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Julia Cave: And I still find it quite deeply distressing, because I think that film is quite physical. But you just start to think in a different kind of a way.
Alan Lawson: It’s a different mind actually really…
Julia Cave: Well, the difficulty is, what you want to do is retain the same mind and do it a different way…
Alan Lawson: That’s right, yes
Julia Cave: which is where it becomes a problem because…
Alan Lawson: Schizophrenic
Julia Cave: What you’re trying to do is to achieve the same result in a different way, and the way in which you do it, can sometimes…can be confusing. I’m 18:00 not actually convinced that it’s doing it any better, because what’s actually happening is that films are coming out looking as though they’ve been cut on Lightworks. I mean, I can look on the screen now and I can tell you whether it was cut in the cutting-room or Lightworks.
Alan Lawson: Yes, yes.
Julia Cave: Without a shadow of doubt, I can tell you. So…
Alan Lawson: You can’t get a clean cut. Not really.
Julia Cave: No, it’s not to do with that, if you’ll forgive me
Alan Lawson: I don’t mean a ‘clean’ cut, I mean a proper cut.
Julia Cave: Ah! Not ‘cause it’s changing the rules; its changing the ‘grammar’ of what you’re looking at. It’s much more fundamental. What’s happening is that everything is faster and there are very many more mixes because they’re much easier to do. If you physically have to take out your film and you’re going to edit it in such a way that you want to mix and you count your frames in and out, it takes a while, whereas on a Lightworks machine, you just say- I’ll 19:00 have a mix- and you do it.
So, what’s happening is that people are a good deal quicker in their cuts and lazier in their application. It’s a whole different way of putting films together. Because it’s a non-physical way, so the result is looking different. So, when I say it’s changing it, it’s changing the way you are looking at it. It’s changing the grammar of film, so it’s fundamental to how you would think a film should be. It’s that much of a difference. The technology is changing the product; which I actually think is really important because technology should be made to work for us, not the other way ‘round.
But what it’s doing in television in particular is that, it’s teaching… As your kids learn to work computers and learn to work their video recorder, very, very 20:00 fast, this new generation is looking at the product in a different way and we’re making it in a different way. So, that consequently what we have in the past looks incredibly old fashioned. And they became to look old fashioned very, very, very quickly. So, with the new technology which is really basically been the last 5 years has changed the face of television; monumentally and very fast.
Norman Swallow: What you’re saying…
Julia Cave: I’m saying a total revolution
Norman Swallow: Yes, we might in fact be interpreting it in an old-fashioned way, some of us…
Julia Cave: Yes, yes. I think so.
Norman Swallow: In other words, we can’t really say that’s not really how I would have liked to have done it…
Julia Cave: No.
Norman Swallow: But we should really say this is a revolution, it’s quite different.
Julia Cave: It is a revolution.
Norman Swallow: The way I’m looking at it is, perhaps wrong.
Julia Cave: Well, absolutely, the revolution has taken place, the revolution happened in so many ways. And it happened… It literally has taken place in 5 21:00 years, and I think I was lucky to go to ‘The Late Show’ at the time of this technological change, because I could look at things differently. And one of the first revolutions was in graphics and how it was shot, so all… everything looks different, the way you’re looking at something. I mean if look at something even 7 years ago, you can see. The whole look, the whole image on the box is different now; in that short space of time.
So, it’s been an amazingly interesting time and I think it’s working itself out very well now because I think everybody can sort of handle it now. But it kind of… I think it kind of, got rid of a lot of people who couldn’t handle it. Not that I think I can handle it particularly well, but because I was lucky enough to go to ‘The Late Show’ it happened to me a little more gradually than it did for some.
22:03 Alan Lawson: But it the ultimate product on the screen any better for it?
Julia Cave: I can’t answer that.
Norman Swallow: Who can?
Julia Cave: Probably not. I mean, it depends what you think television should be doing, doesn’t it? Is television for the viewers or for you, as a practitioner in it, you know, I mean my view of this, most of the viewers prefer very old fashioned films because they’ve caught up… in their eyes and we do something that we think “Oh! Wow! It’s just brilliant! And colleagues will think, Ah! That’s just brilliant! - And it’s not very successful as far as the viewers are concerned.
Norman Swallow: Is that so? Is there evidence of that? That means the viewer in other words is…
Julia Cave: Is behind the times, yes. Naturally they are. I mean, don’t you think they’re bound to be?
Norman Swallow: Yeah, I’ll bet.
Alan Lawson: Well yes. I mean…
23:00 Julia Cave: I mean if we’re making these things, it’s like art isn’t it. It’s like anything that’s avant-garde; it’s going to take a hell of a long time to filter down. So, I think in the forefront of modern technology in television, is not necessarily helpful to the viewers, but they will catch up.
Norman Swallow: Maybe!
Alan Lawson: I mean, there’s a new break now, coming on, you know, on ratios and things like this.
Julia Cave: How do you mean ‘ratios’?
Alan Lawson: well, it’s the ‘letterbox’ thing coming.
Julia Cave: Oh! That sort of ratio as opposed to ‘shooting-ratio’ well that’s in, I think there’s no question or shadow of doubt that by the year 2000, everything will be in ‘letterbox’. Because, that’s High-Definition Television, isn’t it? High-Definition can’t be done in any other way. The question is whether it will be done on film or Beta. Now if you read the Sony book on this, Morita Sony, you know, He is completely convinced that by the year 2000, there won’t be any film left. Because, he says, you’re going to be able to project tape, but you 24:00 should speak to somebody else than me on this area.
Alan Lawson: I was just wondering…
Julia Cave: I was just studying something on Japan and I looked at this and I wondered… The ‘letterbox’ is going to be there to stay, for sure.
Norman Swallow: Do you find as a programme maker, this worries you?
Julia Cave: No! Because my eye is already in.
Norman Swallow: Exactly! You’re going along with it
Julia Cave: Yes definitely. I’m already seeing everything in that shape, and…
Alan Lawson: What do you do with the bit at the top and the bit at the bottom?
Julia Cave: Well it’s black isn’t it. But it’s very useful for sub-titles.
Alan Lawson: [Laughter]. Yes.
Julia Cave: That’s serious, sub-titles and captions; perfect there. But you have to think of everything in a different shape. But my mind’s already gone to that so I was consequently very frustrated by having to do American Visions in 16s, that were super-16s. I see it like that now because I go to the cinema and I see 25:00 things that shape, not square you see. I think it’s quite difficult for Art because they don’t always come that shape and so you do have a lot at the sides. It’s not what’s going to be top and bottom, it’s what going to be at the sides that’s a worry I think.
Alan Lawson: Well, it’s also what you’re going to lose on the sides.
Julia Cave: Why you going to lose anything on the sides?
Alan Lawson: Well you either lose at the top… I mean if you go back to the classics and start using the classics what’s going?
Julia Cave: Are we talking about full academy?
Alan Lawson: Yeah! You’re going to lose an awful lot.
Julia Cave: Why? I don’t see why you should lose anything at the top or the bottom. Because if you’re going to put it into that shape, it’s the sides you’re going to lose, isn’t it, because you’re making it longer.
Alan Lawson: Well yes…
Julia Cave: You shouldn’t lose any at the top
Alan Lawson: If you use the academy width, as the width of the ‘letterbox’ what’s happened to the top and the bottom?
Julia Cave: Well, they’re going to be in the frame aren’t they, but you’re gonna 26:02 have a lot at the sides that’s black. Anyway, they fiddle about with this.
[Laughter from both interviewers].
Alan Lawson: This is one of the troubles
Julia Cave: Yeah! But I mean it’s here and so we learn to live with it.
Norman Swallow: We must cope! We gotta cope!
Alan Lawson: Ok! Well, we’ll move on, we’ll argue about this for a long time.
Julia Cave: Well, I don’t think there’s an argument to be had. It’s happened.
Norman Swallow: Yes, it’s happened.
Julia Cave: To be truthful.
Norman Swallow: Is it affecting you work?
Julia Cave: Well no you see…
Norman Swallow: Creatively?
Julia Cave: Right. I haven’t worked in it yet and I would like to work in it, and so the next thing that I do, I plan to use digital-Beta. Digital-Beta is the ‘letterbox’ shape, it’s also very fine quality. Do you want me to talk about tape and film at all?
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Julia Cave: Because it is interesting how it’s changed my view…
Alan Lawson: Yes, yes,
Norman Swallow: Go on then…
Julia Cave: …and in that sense, it’s interesting.
Norman Swallow: Please do.
Alan Lawson: It’s important.
27:01 Julia Cave: Well what I found when I went to ‘The Late Show’ and it was all tape and I was used to working on film, was that I thought, “Oh my God, what am I doing here?” Because it was a linear editing, I found it very difficult to put my mind into that. Also, the cameras wouldn’t do what I wanted them to do because they’re heavier and less well balanced, for hand-holding in particular and they seemed frightfully slow because they’ve got umbilical cord to the sound. So, I found this deeply frustrating. The plusses of that were, if you were doing an interview –where with film- you knew that you had 10 minutes to do this in, and it was costing you £200 every 10 minute, roll of film, and you used to sit there with a time and money clock going round in your head. At least with the Beta, you had 35 minutes on that, so you didn’t have to keep 28:01 changing and interrupting people who were talking; which, as you know, is kind of difficult in an interview, especially in the middle of something and you have to stop. You have the advantage of 35 minutes on there and it wasn’t costing you anything more than 20 quid to do that in. Therefore, you had the benefit of doing interviews which were unrestricted and cost less really.
You had on the minus side, the fact that you had to wade through three times as much material and transcribe three times much more and make more decisions. But it was much cheaper. There was no question about that. So, for interviews, it seemed to me to be a major plus. Without question. The disadvantage was the camera itself and the fact you’re joined to the sound recordist when you want to go and be free and do something else. Now, the cameras are getting smaller and better balanced, that’s going to go away.
29:00 They are going to find a way, and indeed it can be done, if you want, to separate the sound from the camera, so that’s not impossible. Then came the editing problem, the linear problem. That’s now been resolved because you edit your tape now in the same way that you edit your film on a ‘Lightworks’ or an ‘Avid’. So, you’re doing a non-linear process putting that together, so that’s resolved. Right. So, you’re left with why shoot on film? Sorry and all. You’re left with this major dilemma- Ok, it looks different. Yes, it does. But on your television screen there, you’re going through electronic process anyway.
Alan Lawson: That’s right.
Julia Cave: I can find very little argument for film remaining on television. I’m sorry, because [Laugher] I’m a film person that can no longer find an argument to retain that.
Norman Swallow: Sure
Alan Lawson: It looks more or less the same
Norman Swallow: It looks better now
30:00 Julia Cave: You could tell and I could tell but the public certainly couldn’t.
Alan Lawson: That’s right.
Julia Cave: This is snobbism… beyond belief. So, we are learning to work to work with tape and I see very little reason to return to film.
About the ‘letterbox’ I think our eyes will come accustomed to it and I sorry if it doesn’t seem quite right to you. [Laughter from both interviewers]. It certainly didn’t seem quite right to me to begin with either, but I think, you know, digital Beta: the camera’s smaller, and we’re going to have to use it and that’s where we are.
Norman Swallow: We’re “stuck-with-it” as they say.
Julia Cave: That’s what we’re doing.
Alan Lawson: Well here again, this is the manufacturers wagging the dog
Julia Cave: It’s not just that. It’s the money wagging the dog.
Norman Swallow: Humph!
Alan Lawson: Oh, sure that’s right. It’s a lot of money in new sets.
Julia Cave: I don’t think it’s as simple as that. I mean you could say that tape was going to fight the film industry, yes.
31:00 Alan Lawson: Oh no, I wasn’t thinking of that. They need to sell lots more sets, this is the…
Julia Cave: Oh you mean change… Yes.
Alan Lawson: A very good reason.
Julia Cave: With High-Definition and digital is presenting this possibility as well.
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Julia Cave: So you have a double-edge thing here; plus of course, you’re getting rid of a lot of human-beings, I’m afraid. Like you don’t need an assistant cameraman, because nobody’s got to load the camera for you, so you’ve lost one of those. You need, of course, a lot less light. You don’t need the laboratory, so sadly, what you’re actually doing is cutting a huge amount of staff, which is money in another direction. So, on the one hand, you’ve got the manufacturers who are making things and they want to keep changing it, which is making money for them, or on the other hand there is the industry, television 32:00 industry, which is trying to lose people and both are coinciding in the middle.
Norman Swallow: And of course, the budget is cheaper now, isn’t it, presumably?
Julia Cave: We have less money you mean?
Norman Swallow: No, I’m sorry, I mean making programmes the way you’re talking about, tape or whatever, against film, is cheaper.
Julia Cave: Well it will be cheaper, when they’ve really ironed that out, yes of course, because you don’t need to print it, and you don’t need to processes it, and you don’t need to neg. cut it.
Norman Swallow: I remember the first programme I ever made on tape, not the way you’re talking, was in 1964, I remember; with my shooting ratio 100 to 1and of course by the time finished, gone, shooting ratio was almost 1 to 1
Julia Cave: Yeah.
Norman Swallow: I’m going back 32 years. That was for Granada not the BBC.
Alan Lawson: But anyway
Julia Cave: But that revolution has changed the way everybody thinks about everything and what’s actually happening at the moment, is that not only do we 33:00 work with tape, and in a cutting-room, which is all with little screens, if you like, as opposed to… they have much less time to think and much less staff. But we’re about to be asked, in fact it’s coming in, to use our own cameras as well.
Norman Swallow: Ah ha!
Julia Cave: that’s already started. It started a couple of years ago on a couple of new channels, which were the news gathering channels. So, they sent, yes… but you present it, write it, interview it and shoot it yourself. And then you come back and edit it. So, you’re sort of, one-man-band. Rather like being a newspaper writer, that’s it, you present it in the same way. Well that’s beginning to happen also, not just in news gathering, but in documentary film 34:00 making. Two or three in Music and Arts, have been asked to use their own cameras.
Norman Swallow: Really?
Julia Cave: Yeah.
Norman Swallow: Like what? I mean, can you name one or two as historical interest.
Julia Cave: Yes. There’s a series called ‘One Foot in the Past’ which is a sort of magazine programme; one or two of the directors on that are using their own cameras.
Alan Lawson: every man his own…
Julia Cave: Beta cameras, so it’s getting to that point now
Alan Lawson: As I said, every man his own Flaherty
[Laughter from all].
Julia Cave: Would that they were that talented
Alan Lawson: [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: Some maybe.
Julia Cave: Well you can’t tell. But there’s no training for them you see.
Norman Swallow: None?
Julia Cave: No!
Norman Swallow: You mean, if you’re a young up and coming director, you’re thrown into it?
Julia Cave: Yes.
Alan Lawson: Yes, that’s right.
Norman Swallow: Dear me!
Alan Lawson: You’ll be seeing a lot of “hose-piping”
35:01 Julia Cave: Well, you see, various things have happened, one is that on the magazine programmes, which are the ones that sort of train people in any, because the turnover is so fast, that people can go through this. [Erm], it’s like learning to be a film maker on ‘Tonight’ which brought up Kevin Billington and John Schlesinger and Jack Gold for instance. It was the same kind of setup. I mean, you could equate, in a sense, the ‘Tonight’ with the ‘The Late Show’ where they brought people in who were basically journalists, or wherever they came from, they could do a story if you like and they sort of learned the techniques and came up through that. And I think ‘The Late Show’ was rather good at that, and may well turn in some people who are good if you can call them film makers or tape makers or whatever you want to call them, anyway, 36:01 let’s call them documentary makers. So, they came in and were given a camera-man with a camera with tape. Now because it doesn’t cost more than £20 to shoot off 35 minutes of it, there was no discipline. So, they could go out with a camera and they could shoot endless amount of stuff; this endless amount of stuff, ok takes a while to edit in the cutting-room, but you edit electronically and you hope for the best. They had no training and the other thing of course, with tape, you can ‘freeze’ it. You can run it backwards, you can make it longer, you can make it shorter, you can run it at double speed, you can slow it down. So, the discipline of film making, where you had to get the shot right…
Norman Swallow: Has gone.
Julia Cave: Has gone. So, the grammar, consequently has gone. So, why 37:00 you’re looking at different pictures on television now, is because the ‘grammar’ has changed. So that when you find that instead of a shot, starting at the beginning and panning right and ending at the shot, you’ve mixed into the middle of it. That’s partly because, you may have found that it doesn’t fit what you want, so you’ve speeded up the shot and mixed into the middle of it; you can do all this kind of thing. So, it’s changed absolutely immensely.
Norman Swallow: Are you enjoying it?
Julia Cave: [Long pause].
Norman Swallow: Or is that not a fair question?
Julia Cave: [Long pause].
Norman Swallow: You’re learning to enjoy it.
Julia Cave: I want warning of that.
[Laughter from both interviewers].
Norman Swallow: Come back and tell us in a couple years.
Julia Cave: Yes. No, I’ve done enough on it to know where I am on it now. I’m enjoying some of it but I’m not, because I’m a bit classically minded, as far as film-making is concerned, I don’t like the lack of discipline
Alan Lawson: No. It’s wasteful really.
Julia Cave: And it’s lazy, you see
Alan Lawson: It’s wasteful. Not in money, not in money terms…
38:02 Julia Cave: Well it has to be in the end, because the more you shoot, the more you’ve got to edit, so therefore all the more time it takes. In the end, it’s still wasteful.
Alan Lawson: And in human effort it’s wasteful.
Julia Cave: Yes, but it’s inevitable if there’s no training. I mean what you going to do if it doesn’t cost you anything to shoot the extra tape.
Norman Swallow: What it means presumably is that as a director, that you have less in your mind when you’re beginning to shoot than you did before.
Julia Cave: Mmm! It’s less worked out
Norman Swallow: Yes exactly. Yes, shambolic, sort of, maybe, could be.
Julia Cave: Could be. So instead of working out what your interview is going to be, although there are occasions when you desperately want to go on, because you can see the person is going to do better if they could go on longer, and you’ve had to stop long before you’ve got to that. You know, you’re not thinking through what you’re trying to ask you see. It becomes lazy.
Norman Swallow: I wasn’t thinking entirely of interviews either. I was thinking of visual sequences…
39:00 Julia Cave: Absolutely Oh, no well you think “Oh well I can fix that in the end…
Norman Swallow: …use to think of them in advance and obviously, your shooting ratio is not 1 to 1, it would be 100 to 1, like whatever it would be now and you just do it now and think afterwards.
Julia Cave: Yeah
Norman Swallow: Which I’m not sure is a good idea. But then I’m biased.
Julia Cave: Well we were brought up with this kind of discipline, which as I say, doesn’t exist anymore
Alan Lawson: I mean you’ll shoot everything and think, that might be useful, that might be useful.
Julia Cave: And therefore give the cameraman a very hard time, because they’re not disciplined into the hours and there aren’t any unions of course, any more either. And people are so afraid of losing their jobs, that they’ll go on with these young kids, who don’t know what they’re doing. Shoot this, shoot this, shoot the other thing with no kind of discipline involved; and the camera men bitterly resent this. But that’s how it is, I guess…
Norman Swallow: And will be.
Julia Cave: It can only get worse, in the sense that if they’re asking directors 40:00 to be their own cameraman as well. But it’s a question of what you want from television. I mean, if you’re going to end up with a multitude of channels…
Alan Lawson: Anything goes
Julia Cave: Anything will go.
Norman Swallow: True.
40:14 Alan Lawson: I going to stop you on that one.
End of Side 4
Interview Number: 380 Interviewee: Julie Cave
Interviewers: Norman Swallow, Alan Lawson
Transcriber: Alexis Poole
Norman Swallow: Copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. Julia Cave, television director and producer. Interviewer Norman Swallow. Recorded on the 23rd of October, 1996. Side 5
Pages 1 – 28.
Side 5 https://soundcloud.com/thebehp/julia-cave-side-5
Alan Lawson: We’re going, [Erm]. Julia it’s now 5months since we did our last session, this is the 23rd of October, much has happened.
Julia Cave: Well we’ve had summer holidays [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: Apart from that.
Julia Cave: Right, well, just to begin with, there were a couple of names that I had… had slipped my memory on the last occasion. I’d just like to put them down for the record, and one was a cameraman that was filming with Magnus Magnusson and myself at Abu Simbel in 1967 I think it was and his name was Ken Willicombe. I’m sure you’ll remember him Alan.
Alan Lawson: Yeah, I do yeah
Julia Cave: It was Ken anyway. And of course, the Controller of Programmes, the controller of BBC1, whose name I forgot, because he wasn’t on for very, very long, was Alan Hart. And we were all busily searching for that and of course it came to me in the middle of the night, as these things do. [Laughter].
01:04 Right, so, 5 months on, I’ve just completed a series which is to start in November with Robert Hughes, the Australian art critic, who lives in America, whose last major series was ‘Shock of the New’, for BBC in 1980. And so, I’ve been coming and going for about 18 months between the States and the UK and it’s been a very, very interesting time.
Anyway, I’ll just continue for the time being from where I left off really, which is about what’s going on at the moment as I see it in the BBC – in the Documentary Section- I can’t really talk about Drama and Light Entertainment, but…
I finished off talking last time about the fact that some of the PAs, Directors, Researchers, whoever they might be, because what I also omitted to say is that 02:00 they’re definitely using cheap labour; in the sense that if they can get a Researcher and not pay them a Director’s fee to go out and do some work, they’ll happily do so. And since I last spoke about it, this idea of sending out PAs, Producers, whoever they may be, to work with small portable video Sony cameras has increased. And it seems to be relatively normal now. Several programmes are being made Music and Arts departments, magazine-type programmes still yes, with this method. Now, occasionally, if they’ve got a more serious thing to do, they do put a cameraman in and give him this small portable camera.
Alan Lawson: Just a second. What about the sound?
Julia Cave: Ah! The sound is very much in dispute. [Erm]. I’ll just tell you a story of what happened to me and my own simple knowledge of this. This is 03: 00 quite recent, in that I went to go and look round at the Press Show at the Giacometti exhibition at Royal Academy and there were various video cameras no film cameras, of course, there for various people. The smallest one there was a Sony, very small camera, and I can’t remember its name, but it costs about £5,000. And I discovered then it was a BBC camera and it was for the ‘Late Show’ because in their ‘Late Review’ on Thursday nights, they were going to do an item on Giacometti. So, I then said to the director, who’s actually a researcher being used as a director, “Can you tell me all about this?” And the chap who was using the camera at that stage was a BBC trainee. And he told me what he could do with this camera and what he couldn’t do with the camera, it has a shortage of lenses and so on. But instead of dolly and tracks 04:00 they have, to fit this… they have a special ‘steady-cam’ attachment which enables you to walk around with it and steadies up a bit because it’s not a good shoulder camera. It’s not got enough balance to be on a shoulder, so they stick the ‘steady-cam’ bit on and stick in on the shoulder. So, this is obviously normal training now for trainees coming into the BBC.
So, he was doing a rekkie for the next day’s shoot, where they were actually going to use Tony Bragg as a cameraman on this, but with this camera. So, I asked about the sound. Because there used to be a dispute about the sound. Now I said, “Presumably you’re not going to do the sound with the microphone that’s on the camera?” and they said, “Well no, not on this occasion. What they were planning to do, was to have a separate sound recordist who would plug into this, but that Ealing had said that the sound that was on the top of this
05:00 camera… the microphone on top of this camera would be perfectly adequate.”
And I said, “But that’s a very wide-angle microphone.” Which is basically, what it is, you know, everything that’s going on, and that’s what it is designed for…
Alan Lawson: Panoramic-sounds.
Julia Cave: Anyway, so the question in dispute at the moment is: “What is going to happen about the sound?”- basically. And I can’t answer that yet.
Norman Swallow: You will [Laughter]
Julia Cave: [Laughter] I’ll answer it in another 5 months, time. But I’m suspicious about the quality of the sound.
Alan Lawson: But that also follows over on to radio, doesn’t it as well?
Julia Cave: Well, I think that you see, what they’re trying to do is to make one man do all the jobs. And it’s perfectly clear that you can’t actually have a separate sound recordist, a separate cameraman and a separate interviewer if they’ve got 3 separate machines. So basically, we’re going to lose quality; I cannot see a way around this.
Norman Swallow: Well we know that staff is being chopped down isn’t it, in 06:00 numbers…
Julia Cave: Yes!
Norman Swallow: …every week or two, you hear about that.
Julia Cave: Absolutely! I had lunch with a cameraman yesterday, who I’ll be working with next week, and who… we had this very discussion. And yet more people have been asked to leave. Film editors of course, are sitting around not working because with this portable camera situation, it’s also expected that the director will go back and edit on a desktop editing machine. So, we’re now thinking of losing an assistant cameraman, a sound recordist, possibly a cameraman and a film editor. So, for this particular kind of programme, you’re going to have a one-man-band.
I mean, I say this isn’t happening consistently all over the place at the moment 07:00 but it’s obviously happening in news gathering type situations. So, I mean a memo came ‘round, from Will Wyatt about 6 months ago saying that things had to get cheaper and that he was looking for ideas; which wouldn’t of course change the quality or anything of the production but, he was thinking of things being shot in people’s offices. And also, they are trying to use, for drama sets and so on, virtual reality. In other words, instead of building the set, you’re going to use the virtuality studios to do it with. At the moment, that costs as much, I’m told, as building sets but supposing it will get cheaper.
I mean this is a revolution in the sense that it happened so fast, that nobody really understands quite what hit them. And it’s been since the introduction
08: 00 really of video recorders and tape cameras. Everything has moved so incredibly fast, that I think that it’s technology driven now and not ideas driven really.
Alan Lawson: The equipment-manufactures are driving the machine.
Julia Cave: Well to some extent they are, and I hear this particular Sony camera, which only costs 5,000, Sony is very cross because they made a sort of professional one at 15,000. But nobody wants to bother with it as this one is good enough.
In fact, looking at it, the quality is very good; of course, it is a very much smaller screen, but never-the-less… I mean if you don’t take it down too many generations, and anyway it’s digital you see, its digital, which means you don’t take it down generations, in effect, you will get quite a good result from it. And it’s sad to say, but I think a lot of the processes that we were used to in
09: 00 television, film and so on, simply be abandoned, have been abandoned.
Norman Swallow: What ultimately matters of course is the end quality isn’t it?
Julia Cave: What matters end ???
Norman Swallow: I see personally as a mere viewer, no great improvement lately… on the contrary.
Julia Cave: Yes. I think if you look down the evenings viewing on most nights, you won’t find anything that’s too unmissable.
Alan Lawson: [Laughter]
Julia Cave: But then I mean I’m actually afraid that what I have to say… And this may sound pessimistic or it may just mean the world has changed so dramatically in the 10 years as far a technology is concerned that television is no longer of great importance in our lives. That it’s there, that we can tune into it when we want; public service broadcasting, I consider to be dead. I think that it’s very difficult to define what public service broadcasting is or was. But I 10:00 think it went out of the window when video recorders came in because you could change the planned evening’s viewing. It was no longer that you had no sex and swearing until after 9, or any violence until after 11, or whatever the rules were.
But now that you could video tape it, you could put it on any time of the day or night. And you know, you could make your own programming and when that happened to a large extent public service broadcasting was in any case over, I think.
Norman Swallow: It’s also the competition, isn’t it…
Julia Cave: The competition…
Norman Swallow: … the number of channels you could switch on to -a lot of people, not everybody- every night.
Julia Cave: Absolutely, well there will be 5 that everybody can switch on to by the end of March, and there will be something like 3 or 4 hundred by the end of the year if you want to tune into cable or satellite.
Norman Swallow: And this does inevitably effect quality, doesn’t it? Programme quality, should not maybe, but it does.
Julia Cave: I think it’s inevitable that it does, yes.
11:00 Alan Lawson: Isn’t it inevitable, and no matter, if you like, what the quality of the image is like, you cannot find sufficient new material to put out…there’s a saturation point
Julia Cave: Well, you see I think that’s absolutely true Alan and I think that when we started out, we were incredibly lucky because we could do anything because nothing had been done. So, I mean it was a wonderful field, open field for us to absolutely do anything we wanted to in. And now we’ve seen all that before; the trouble is, we have seen it all before. And, I mean, how you make it new… I mean I always think the Natural History programmes, somehow or other, they’re always wonderful because although it may not be new, there are still bits and pieces and ways of doing it better still.
Norman Swallow: And I get the impression there are more and more of them now…
Julia Cave: Yes
Norman Swallow: … on the main channels.
Julia Cave: Yes. But they are absolutely wonderful and the new technology has helped them enormously, hasn’t it? I mean that’s benefitted immensely. 12:00 You know, you have infer-red cameras, you have all kinds of things that can go under water, and tiny little lenses and very long-distance lenses. So, new technology has actually made that part, I think, a whole pile better and easier for everybody. There are plusses as well as minuses in this. I just think our whole white way of life will be changed by the end of the century. And you know, if really actually think that you’re gonna have, in the end one great control-room in which everything will come through…which …
Alan Lawson: It’s already there [Laughter]
Julia Cave: [Laughter]. I guess we have to learn to think differently. As far as the BBC is concerned, I mean there’s valid to recognise that digital television is going to make a huge difference, and that something has to be done about that. If we can’t compete in that era, we might as well be dead. However, I think the difficulty is, how to compete in it. Is it to have more, or is it to have less that 13:00 are of quality, and I don’t know what the answer’s going to be in this in the end.
Norman Swallow: Who does?
Alan Lawson: Well, it’s something to do with cultivating an audience with -for want of a better word- with better values or better taste for programmes. That’s a silly was of putting it but yes…
Julia Cave: Yes, but people are doing other things you see. Their working on their computers, they’re on the net; television isn’t necessarily what a lot of them are doing. And young people don’t watch television the same way they used to. Old people watch television a lot, because they don’t understand the new technology and the computers and so on. And the other things to go on your lav??? The old people are the people watching it. And I greatly suspect the young people go further and further away from it.
Norman Swallow: True.
Julia Cave: Also with the revival of the cinema, people are going out more, I 14:00 think our whole culture is changing, in this sense. That’s actually my view. I don’t think that the BBC will ever have enough money, although it looks like Birt will get the £100 licence fee, to compete with Sky ever again, as far as Sport is concerned. And I think, you know, if we can’t contribute a huge amount of what the majority of what the public want, then I don’t see how we can continue for very much longer in this highly competitive field; although, we are pretty competitive I guess.
Norman Swallow: So far.
Julia Cave: So far. So, I don’t know what the future holds. The thing I think 15:00 that has changed as well as the culture, is the way that… I don’t think I can call them ‘Staff’ any more at the BBC, I’ll say the ‘People who work for the BBC,’ think about it. I think what’s really happened… there’s a great deal of misery and unhappiness and there’s no doubt there was a complete witch-hunt for the last 5 years. So, people who were going to argue with the ‘New’ BBC, would be deliberately targeted and got rid of. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatsoever that this has been very positive thinking. If you didn’t go along with the new ideas, you were thought to be a moaning-mini and you just weren’t given the work. Because you weren’t given the work, your morale declined to such an extent that if you didn’t resign -which of course the ideal 16:00 solution because you wouldn’t have to get paid to leave- and I’m sorry, I do believe this happened very positively, then you know you were persuaded to take redundancy. So, what was left, was a hard-core of people who decided to fight that, and very few did, or those who just disappeared and did other things; a lot of them haven’t worked again, some worked for other companies. There’s deep resentment in the BBC about this.
Norman Swallow: What about the effect of all of this on programme quality?
Julia Cave: Well it’s very difficult for me to judge programme quality, in the sense that some things I think have got better…
Norman Swallow: Like?
Julia Cave: I’ve seen some jolly good documentaries, as well as some jolly bad ones. And I mean, I don’t know if I should be talking across the board or just about the BBC.
Alan Lawson: I general really…
Norman Swallow: Yeah, in general terms.
17:00 Julia Cave: What I really would like to say, apart… I’m not sure I want to talk about quality because I’m not really quite sure what –Quality- means. What I would like to say, is that there’s an encroaching dishonesty and that’s what I don’t like.
I think what is actually happened is a loss of integrity and a loss of what I think is the word honour. I think that the new BBC lacks both those qualities consequently, in the programme making, I’m sometimes worried by what I can see as the cheap and easy way of doing something or a misconstruction of something I can see is wrong. Or a misinterpretation by deliberately mis-
18:00 editing what somebody has said, and I’m afraid I think this is endemic. And I think it’s endemic because people who didn’t come up with the background… -and I believe there was integrity and honesty and honour in the BBC, in the old BBC- have not had that training. They come in, they’ve short term contracts and they have to make their mark fast. They think, that by making their mark fast, they can skate through all those things that I think matter in the integrity of making a programme. They treat people abominably, there’s a shortage of staff so of course nobody writes letters of ‘Thank You’ anymore; nobody bothers to tell anybody anymore when their programme is going to be shown.
Norman Swallow: Really?
Julia Cave: Nobody bothers to tell them if they’ve been left out. This doesn’t happen anymore. So, I think the relationship with the BBC and the public has 19:00 to decline because of this. I also think the honesty, which the BBC used to be able to emanate, if you like, caused a certain kind of belief in politicians and anybody else, that they would be fairly treated. Now I think the BBC is lumped with the rest of the media and nothing special is given to the BBC any more consequently, I think, we’re getting the same old stories that everybody else is, and that were not trusted any more than any other media… any more than the tabloids if you like.
Alan Lawson: But isn’t this loss, kind of political interference, not within the BBC, but without the BBC… from outside the BBC… on the governors, sort of thing…
Julia Cave: I don’t know. I’m not high enough up to answer exactly what goes on with the Board of Governors. There’s always been political interference in a sense hasn’t there…
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Norman Swallow: Yes
20:00 Julia Cave: …because, I mean, Wilson interfered in the same way that [erm]… political appointment is the Chairman to the Board of Governors, yes, and obviously, Hussey was brought in to do Margret Thatcher’s will; which he had managed to do quite neatly, I think [Erm] and that was endemic in the country anyway. It was happening all over the country, wasn’t it, you wanted to break this kind of organization because she thought it was…[Pause]
Alan Lawson: Subversive
Norman Swallow: Sometimes
Julia Cave: Sometimes subversive, but then Wilson would have said the same about ‘Yesterday’s Men’…
Norman Swallow: He did. He did.
Julia Cave: …if you remember, Angela Pope’ film ‘Yesterday’s Men.’ Have you interviewed Angela Pope?
Alan Lawson: No.
Julia Cave: … just a thought. She’s got a feature film just starting at the moment.
Norman Swallow: Oh, lovely. Point taken.
21:00 Julia Cave: Anyway, I mean that kind of accusation has taken place throughout the history of the BBC, I think, and so I don’t think that one can say that’s worst now than it was then, probably. I think what is worse is Birt’s interference probably, although this is not for me to say for the World Service, although I did work for the World Service, so I suppose it is a valid for me to discuss, and that is that he does not… It’s not the BBC licence payer that pays for the World Service, it’s independent, therefore I think what he’s doing to it is, kind of, out of order. His politics in that clearly that wants to achieve the £100 licence, has to look to be saving money by… but saving money isn’t everything. I mean, nobody has yet shown figures where that it does save money to change the World Service in this way, but I think, we’ll keep off that 22:00 and stay with what I feel is the lack of integrity endemic in the BBC; which means it will lose the trust of the people who matter. Lose the trust of the public.
Norman Swallow: Some of the people you and I both know and worked with are still around in high office, aren’t they? I’m thinking for example, of Will Wyatt and Alan Yentob are obvious people, I certainly worked with both of them, and there they are, but so what apparently. Both in positions of extreme high authority and yet dot, dot, dot.
Julia Cave: If you work in a climate of fear, it’s extremely difficult to keep your integrity… it seems to me. I mean, many people have failed to do so, in times of war and all kinds of times, and I really do see this is a situation of war in the BBC. [Pause].
Norman Swallow: You mean a civil war?
23:00 Julia Cave: Well it has been like a kind of civil war. I guess you can say Birt. has won.
Alan Lawson: Yes, yes, The Guardian said the Birt broadcasting service, corporation rather.
Norman Swallow: or company
Julia Cave: And as a man of integrity, you know, he doesn’t stand up very well, does he?
Alan Lawson: Not really.
Norman Swallow: Apparently not.
Alan Lawson: Not really.
Norman Swallow: I knew him years ago as a researcher. He was at Granada, young Birt.
Julia Cave: Yes, but was he… what was he like then?
Norman Swallow: A promising young researcher I would say, yes. I wouldn’t have said necessarily have got all that high… but I was wrong.
Julia Cave: Well you know [Erm]…the nicest people very often don’t get to the top.
Alan Lawson: Yes that’s right.
Julia Cave: [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: The other thing you know…what is obviously important to what we’re talking about is, Julia, is how all this has affected your own creative 24:00 work? Because you’re still working, indirectly perhaps, for the BBC. Your latest epic is going to be shown on the BBC any day now.
Julia Cave: Well, how it has affected me is that I really don’t care too much about… if it’s a transient thing, I will probably give in.
Norman Swallow: Oh!
Julia Cave: Well it’s not worth the fight. [Erm]. I can quite often disagree artistically because I have my particular kind of style and very often, you know, its over-ruled. Well if that happens and it’s a short item, it’s not the end of the world. If it’s something for which my name is going to be some considerable 25:00 time of the shelf-life, I get slightly more positive about it, so I still fight. In fact, I’ve just had a fight so…
Norman Swallow: Did you win?
Julia Cave: I’ve won and lost. I’ve taken my name off it.
Norman Swallow: Oh dear… that’s happened before, mind you. Not necessarily with you, but I can think of many cases; including myself, once or twice.
Julia Cave: Well, [Erm] I’m afraid that’s, that’s what happened. So, it was kind of quite traumatic. But it’s very difficult, you see, when you’re living…as I say it is a climate of fear because everybody is on short-term contracts and if they argue with the boss, they do not get employed again. It’s as simple as that. You have to be nice to everybody, you have to- “Oh yes. Golly good idea” -and do it, because the whole ethos of this is not to have individuals making programmes, it’s to commission what they want, done in their way.
So, if you’re an individual director and you want to do it your way then you’re 26:02 not terribly popular. Your employed if you’re easy to get along with. That’s how it is. So, that’s the effect it’s had. And that’s how it will be. And I think that’s how it will be in the feature. Because you’re making a product now, it’s a product; it has to come in at such-and-such a cost, in such-and-such a time, it has to employ so many hours. And by the way, your expected to work all the hours you’re bought at anyway, that means you can work night and day for the amount of time you’re being paid for.
The Unions have no power any more, as I said earlier, and I don’t see if you’re being asked to deliver a product –and that is what it is- how it can be any different. You make the product the way the person, who commissions it wants it. Also, because you’re, dependant to a large extent, on co-production money, 27:00 it’s how somebody else wants it as well, so you’ve got a lot of fingers in the pie. So, you know, individual programme making is virtually dead.
Norman Swallow: Maybe for some time, I don’t know. You think this is a new development, or what?
Julia Cave: No! It’s been getting worse for a long time, yes.
Norman Swallow: Going back a long time, yes.
Norman Swallow: Speaking personally, I left the BBC a long, long time ago and largely because, the people in command changed and I really lost faith. I mean Paul Fox left BBC1 at that time, David Attenborough was 2 and he left that and so on and round about that time, co-incidentally -and I’d worked with Granada before- Dennis Forman, boss of Granada, and not quite now, asked me if I’d go back and do certain things. And I went back, and I stayed away for many, many years after that and I never felt really the urge to go back to the 28:00 BBC, although I kept in contact with them.
And, you know, as a freelance I did, later on, one or two individual documentaries for the BBC, but I never regretted, to be honest leaving, despite all the years I’d been there. So, it’s terrible… really.
Julia Cave: Well I… you have talked to David Attenborough, haven’t you?
Alan Lawson: Yes, we have.
Julia Cave: And I mean I know what his views are.
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Norman Swallow: We talked to Paul Fox too.
Julia Cave: And his views are similar, aren’t they?
Norman Swallow: Yes.
Julia Cave: But I think the loss of integrity is the most serious matter. I really do deeply feel this. That you can’t trust anybody, and that you can’t blame the kids who come into this; they’ve never known anything different.
Norman Swallow: No.
Julia Cave: And they came from the ‘Me’ generation anyway, and they’re there with no commitment to broadcasting, they’re there, to make their careers. Somehow or other, when we came into it, we believed we were doing
29:00 something important, we believed we were pioneers, we believed that it really mattered that we were honest with the public, didn’t we?
Norman Swallow: Yep!
Julia Cave: I mean, the amount of times on checks facts and all the rest of it. I mean, you know it was just part of how we were brought up. I do honestly… I fear that that is gone.
Alan Lawson: We did also enjoy our work, didn’t we?
Julia Cave: I think we trusted each other, but now everybody at each other’s throats…
Norman Swallow: Yes. What I was going to… I shouldn’t really call it that… you know what I mean, creative atmosphere existed… which is very important, very important.
Julia Cave: And people swopped ideas with each other, not because they thought the ideas would be stolen, because they thought people might be able to contribute something: that you would work together on something, to make it better, for everyone, not because it was your idea. I strongly think that the departments worked together, teams worked together, people worked together for the good of the programme. But now it’s for the good of the individual, 30:00 whose making it, not for the good of the programme itself and for the public who have to watch it and I think that’s a tragedy.
Alan Lawson: I mean on that line, you look back at the way Monitors first started, that was a most wonderful team.
Norman Swallow: Mmm. Absolutely.
Julia Cave: They were committed to popularising the Arts, to making the Arts accessible and I remember the first…when I decided what I really wanted to do was to work in Arts television, was when I saw ‘Monitor’. That’s actually where I came from, in the sense that I watched it every Sunday night religiously and I thought, “This is wonderful, and that’s where I want to be.” And in a sense, that’s where I ended up because I ended up doing ‘Omnibus’ which was the later [Erm]…
Norman Swallow: Successor to ‘Monitor’
Julia Cave: … successor to ‘Monitor’ and that’s what it was, it was pioneering and it was wonderful…
Norman Swallow: And it was on the main channel too.
Julia Cave: And it was on the main channel also…
Norman Swallow: Never on Channel 2- 1.
Julia Cave: Absolutely. But then of course, when ‘Monitor’ started there
31:00 wasn’t a BBC2. ‘Monitor’ was before BBC2…
Norman Swallow: No, no indeed! Your correct, no, no, no, correct, yes, yes, yes.
Julia Cave: …to be fair, there and ‘Omnibus’ is in fact on BBC1, although they’ve put it to Tuesday night and very late, so you can see where it’s going. Going, going, gone!
Alan Lawson: [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: Yes, I remember both personally, I mean going back to the days when, as you know, I was in charge of ‘Omnibus’ for several years. And I remember, again Paul Fox, controller of 1, was very generous towards me and ‘Omnibus’ at that time. And I remember 49 ‘Omnibus’ programmes in a year. 49 out of 52!
Julia Cave: That’s amazing, isn’t it? That’s a real commitment to the Arts, which…
Norman Swallow: Also, if I can say, this is a personal thing; is, Paul Fox used to speak to me personally. Between Paul Fox and myself, there was a hierarchy, Aubrey Singer, was controller of the group, Stephen Hurst and then John
32:00 Culshaw, was music. They were separate at that time, and I remember that Paul Fox got rather fed-up; we had a meeting in his office once, all the people I’ve mentioned, including myself, and Paul got rather fed-up with it, you know, all these little nit-picking around the table. He finally got rid of us, out of the room, got rid of us, all went. And then he rang me the next morning and said, “What I’d like to do in future…’ he says Norman “…about every 3 or 4 weeks, we’ll have a quiet lunch together in a little restaurant down Kensington Church St., if that’s alright” And he said, you know, “Please make sure your secretary doesn’t tell anybody” etc., etc., and that’s actually what happened thereafter for a year or two or more. And that’s what happened, I mean, Paul Fox and I had these lunches regularly, decisions were taken and the people between me and him knew nothing about it. And that’s actually how it worked, and it’s quite interesting really.
33:00 Julia Cave: I suppose one could say that might be a little un-democratic, but…
Norman Swallow: Yes. It works I think. I’m biased
Julia Cave: … I actually think that’s exactly what’s wrong with what happens now. That is, that decisions are made in an arbitrary way and there’s far too many fingers in the pie and everyone wants something different. Only one person can make a programme in the end…
Alan Lawson: Yes.
Norman Swallow: That’s right.
Julia Cave: …and it’s, they’re made by committees and people are so afraid of doing the wrong thing as well. Nobody will take a risk either.
Norman Swallow: I do remember one particular example of what I’ve just been saying. After one of our lunches, Paul Fox and I in this restaurant; one of my problems at that time was, Ken Russell’s film on Richard Strauss, you remember, Dance of the Seven Veils, had been banned by Aubrey Singer and who ever between me and Paul. And on the way back in the taxi –presumably Paul or the BBC paid for the taxi- he used to drop me off, you know, at Kensington House, or nearby and just before we got there, I said, “Paul by the 34:00 way, what about this thing of Ren Russell’s ‘Dance of the Seven Veils’ I think it’s interesting, controversial, but you know, you know Ken, it’s worth showing I think. I don’t quite understand.” He said, “Oh put out the fucking thing!” End of conversation.
Julia Cave: [Laughter]. Perfect!
Norman Swallow: I went straight to my office changed the billing in the Radio Times at once so it couldn’t be altered after that. Went out.
Alan Lawson: [Laughter]
Julia Cave: Very good Norman, I wish it was like that now. But in fact, everything is planned so far ahead, that if you come up with a good story which is recent, it’s impossible to get it on the air except in a magazine programme. So, you know, it’s changed. The structure of everything is built in so far ahead that’s there’s no sense of freedom, or experimentation, or possibility to change things. It’s very formulaic now, I think; basically, it has to be because there no 35:00 sort of… no chance of changing anything. And the money’s, so organized as well and there’s so many forms to fill in. I mean the bureaucracy is unbelievable. I mean the paperwork, in spite of them having thought they’d get rid of paperwork, it’s absolute nonsense.
Norman Swallow: Worse. Is it… worse than ever?
Julia Cave: Yes, you go through 3 people …at least 3 people instead of the 1 you would have before.
Alan Lawson: Yes. You used to have just the organiser, really.
Julia Cave: Well, I mean, there’s all sorts of people from… their all management structure of a kind.
Alan Lawson: Any programme background to them?
Julia Cave: Very likely not. But that’s also deliberate in my view. [Pause]. Because it’s dealt with on an accountancy basis, not on a programme making basis.
Norman Swallow: How are –I’m not an expert on this anymore- but how are appointments now made? I remember the old and ancient I referred to
36:00 obliquely just now, but how do people get jobs now? I mean an important job like creating important programmes, what happens, how do they get there?
Julia Cave: [Long Pause]. [Laughter]. I can’t answer the question!
Norman Swallow: Maybe, nobody can.
Julia Cave: [Erm]. It varies, obviously.
Norman Swallow: Well there are important strands, as we used to call them aren’t there still, and there must be maybe 1 or 2 people in charge of them?
Julia Cave: Yes, there are still Boards for programmes and they’re still advertised outside the BBC., and they have to be because there are so few people in the BBC. At the moment in Music and Art, they’re not taking anybody on, on contract anyway because they’re going to have to lose some more, so I don’t think you would have got a job if had… if you happened to be me on a contract, I’m a freelance. Long-term contracts… they might have taken 37:00 people, but I mean there are so few people on the staff anyway anymore.
Alan Lawson: What’s the length of your contract?
Julia Cave: When I did the ‘American Visions’?
Norman Swallow: Yeah.
Julia Cave: I had a year and then it was renewed again. So, I had them in
6-month batches. But normally its 6 weeks.
Alan Lawson: Oh, really?
Julia Cave: Or something like that; if it was ‘The Late Show’ it was for an item. You’re employed for the story you’re doing. They’re trying to get people to, you know, work just on that particular product… so employed, you’re given enough time to do that product in and the day you finish that product, you go. As for clearing it up, well… [Pause] or writing your thank you letters, or anything like that, you’re not on the books for that.
Alan Lawson: [Laughter]
Julia Cave: I mean this is sheer accountancy. But that’s how it all is now. I 38:00 mean, it’s not just the BBC, it’s ITV… it’s everything.
Alan Lawson: A very depressing thought.
Julia Cave: Well so if you’re given a sort of contract to do that particular job, you tend to feel, or you might feel, that when that job’s over, you go away and wash your hand of it. See we used to have continuity. We used to have contacts and address books and people that we kept in touch with…
Norman Swallow: Absolutely.
Julia Cave: … and knew, and found out what was coming up, from; and treated decently and all those things and we talked to each other about that. Now of course, all that is over, there is no continuity.
Norman Swallow: Arrh. How did your present series, actually what you’re talking about, therefore under the circumstances, get off the ground in the first place. I mean, can you go back to how it began?
Julia Cave: ‘American Visions’?
Norman Swallow: Yes.
39:00 Julia Cave: [Erm]. As far as I can make out, at the end of ‘Shock of the New’ in 1980, the BBC was keen to have Bob do… Robert Hughes do another series, but he felt at that time that he wasn’t too keen to work with the BBC again, because he’d had a quarrel. I think partly through Rhyner Moritz who was the co-producer, had taken some rights, that Bob thought should have belonged to him, therefor he thought he hadn’t made enough money out of it so. This series ‘American Visions’ which is the history of American Art from the time of the Conquistadores and the Puritans through to the present day; had been suggested right back as far as then. But it had been hanging around for a long time because Bob didn’t really want to work with the BBC, and somehow 40:00 or other it got into the hands of Bob Geldof and Planet 24. And he bought some rights on it… I don’t exactly know the history of this, but it ended up with Planet 24 having it and then going… bringing it to the BBC.
Norman Swallow: That way round.
Julia Cave: Yes. And Alan Yentob was very keen to have Bob back working, working for the BBC, and rightly so, because he is a major figure and we need them. We haven’t got many. So, they did a deal with Planet 24, so you’ll see Planet 24 credits on the end of this series. However, Planet 24 then, had absolutely nothing…I think they did a couple of rekkies or something -Bob Geldof- flew over on Concorde to see, you know, the United States, (Bob’s not frightfully polite about this.) and the… then sort of dropped out of it but has got a credit.
41:00 So, about 3 years ago it ended up with Music and Arts department and Nick Rossiter was appointed to be executive producer of it. Nick Rossiter was a… had come in as a history graduate, on the general trainee’s scheme and had worked in News, Current Affairs, Religion and ended up in Music and Arts department. Where he directed some of Prince Charles’ film, ‘Visions of Britain’ which Christopher Martin produced. Anyway, he’d done 2 or 3 other films in the design classic series and so on and he was given this job. So, he spent about a year going around the United States with Bob Hughes and working out how they were going to deal with these 8 hours of prospective 42:00 television. And then came back and put a team together.
I came into the team, towards the end, they’d already shot 4 of the programmes, by the time I was on board. They started off shooting programmes: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 8 and then I came to do 5 and 7. So, there was a team of researchers and various… the copyright was immensely complex. I mean seriously complex. We had one girl who worked on the copyright alone all the way through. And I was employed to direct 2 of the films, including other bits and pieces.
42:46 Alan Lawson: I’ll stop you there.
End of side 5
Interview Number: 380 Interviewee: Julie Cave
Interviewers: Norman Swallow, Alan Lawson
Transcriber: Alexis Poole
Norman Swallow: Copyright of this recording is vested in the BECTU History Project. Julia Cave, television director and producer. Interviewer Norman Swallow. Recorded on the 23rd of October, 1996. Side 6
Pages 29 – 49
Side 6 https://soundcloud.com/thebehp/julia-cave-side-6
00:05 Alan Lawson: Julia Cave, side 6.
Julia Cave: Could I just have a bit more coffee? So, ‘American Visions’ was
big budget, big profile series for Robert Hughes well it was filmed all over America, literally.
Alan Lawson: With a proper crew?
Julia Cave: Absolutely with 16mm, not super-16 because as it’s an American co-production, Americans don’t like wide-screen at the moment; which I think is a shame because I think if you’re going to have a long shelf-life, it’s here to stay. HDTV is here and that shaped screen is here, so we ought to be doing it.
Anyway. [Erm]. Yes, it was definitely shot with proper camera crew, dolly 01:00 tracks, lights. There wasn’t money for that really. There wasn’t enough time, in the schedules for that kind of shooting, but somehow, we did manage to do that. And yes, in principle it was properly shot; proper sound recording, you know DAT sound and [Erm] yep, it was a proper high production, high profile documentary film series, of the kind we used to make. And, you know, I wonder if there will be another. Although there is planned to be another series on the Renaissance Art, which Andrew Graham-Dixon is going to front. So, that maybe of that kind of calibre.
Norman Swallow: Will you be involved in that?
Julia Cave: No, I think not.
Norman Swallow: Oh well. It’ll be nice if it happens anyway.
02:00 Julia Cave: Yes, it would. [Pause] So yes it was a seriously…
Norman Swallow: Mounted.
Julia Cave: … mounted, yes, programme to work on and I think, has very high production values. Bob Hughes is of course an absolute amazingly erudite and outspoken presenter and writes brilliantly so, I mean the force of these programmes comes really from him. I mean the directors, although we had to direct it well and deal with Bob well, I mean, it’s his show. They’re not director’s films, although of course, we had to be able to direct to get them to work, but they are from him. You know, without him there would be nothing quite frankly.
Norman Swallow: And he’s happy?
Julia Cave: He is now.
Norman Swallow: Well I’m talking about the quality of the picture, not, other matters.
03:00 Julia Cave: Yes, I think he is pleased with them, although we’ve been through our ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ and temperaments and problems, and all the rest of it. But that, I suppose, happens on any documentary series
Norman Swallow: Of course. It’s not unusual at all.
Julia Cave: Not unusual at all. [Laughter]. I enjoyed immensely, filming in America. It was nice to be away. But then we edited on Lightworks, which is…
Alan Lawson: Wonderful, yes.
Julia Cave: …very good. Well it does have its pluses and its minuses, in that it takes a very long time to… everything has got to be digitised in, in real-time, so every single shot that you want to use, has got into real-time. So it’s very slow in some ways. It’s quite fast once you’ve got it in. You also don’t have and 04:00 assistant, so it’s done away with the assistant film editor job, and there were times when, my goodness, when we wanted an assistant. For instance, you have to digitise all your music tracks, all your sound tracks in separately. Its plus and minus and as a lot of film editors. It doesn’t take any less time, it doesn’t cost any less.
Alan Lawson: It’s interesting, you say that because my son has worked, and I think this is now the third film he’s worked and he says it’s an absolute Gods send. He says it’s so much quicker because you can transpose anywhere you like and you don’t have to physically cut anything.
Julia Cave: What does your son do?
Alan Lawson: Feature film editor.
Julia Cave: Oh, he’s a feature film editor. But feature films have been cut on that for years.
Alan Lawson: Well he hasn’t been doing it for much, I think it’s his third.
Julia Cave: Oh really, well Avid and Lightworks have been used in the industry for a long time. It probably is from his point of view. But then he’s 05:00 dealing with drama, which is scripted, so therefore you know what tape you’re going to have to digitise in. If you’re dealing with a documentary, you’re in a whole different ball game. But also, I was talking to a drama editor, Clare Douglas the other day, who edited all the Dennis Potter things and she and I had this discussion about Lightworks and Avid. She finds herself no faster either.
Alan Lawson: Oh really?
Julia Cave: There’s pluses and minuses to this and it depends what you’re working on. But with documentaries we’re not very convinced. Anyway, it’s here to stay and seeing as with film, what you do… I think there’s no need to neg-cut any more. Feature films, yes but documentaries no. And when we came to the end of this production, who we edited this was that we copied all our 06:00 ‘rushes’, they were printed… Sorry, they were not printed. They were developed and then they were copied directly onto tape. You never saw a print, and reverse phased through telecine onto Beta, and then you cut on the Beta, ok.
However, you’re never quite sure what the quality you’re looking at, because it’s been through that process. So, what the original exactly looks like, sometimes very problematical. That’s one of the disadvantages, not actually seeing the material you’re working with. You then edit on Lightworks, and you then, if you want to get it neg-cut, it is neg-cut. But it’s not neg-cut in the way it used to be, it’s not joined up like that; it’s taken frame-to-frame. So, it’s 07:00 a whole different ball game, completely different ball game. Telecine and the engineers have got so good now at grading it on Beta, that it’s almost…and for television, in my view, it’s negated the need to go back to the film again, ever and to neg-cut it. In feature film, you’re dealing with different things, it’s projected, which ours isn’t and can never be, because it’s gone through the whole of the process that ends up on tape anyway.
So, it’s cut out another whole piece of film, although I greatly suspect that hardly anything else will be shot on film anyway in the future. Yes, I mean, in a sense I have now quite grown to like Lightworks, but with certain reservations on that, altogether. And of course the sound quality and the visual quality you get while you’re editing, can get abysmal, really horrible and I don’t like that. And it’s very hard on your eyes. And it’s very, very hard on you because
08:00 you’re working in a small, confined space, looking at screens all the time and listening. It’s very concentrated, you never get a break; from a director’s point of view, you have to be in there, because the decisions have to be made instantaneously once it’s in there. So, from the director’s point of view it’s very, very much harder.
It may be easier for a film editor, once he’s got used to using things digitally and being manually dextrous in in a different kind of a way, than film, but from a director’s point of view, you never get a break.
Norman Swallow: Maybe, what it means therefore, sadly, is the word for the director, it means somebody with quite different qualities and experience and so on, than used to. I mean, it’s not just a director in the sense that I’ve used the phrase in the past. You do a lot of other things and all the new technology, so maybe the actual directing seems to be pushed down the list, or not?
Alan Lawson: Are you rationed with the amount of Lightworks you can use?
09:00 Julia Cave: You must be joking [Long Pause]
Norman Swallow: Not exactly.
Julia Cave: It’s extremely expensive. You are rationed absolutely down to 5 minutes.
Norman Swallow: Really?
Julia Cave: I am absolutely serious and what’s more, you’re supposed to do a 10 hour-day at it, 5 days a week, without a break.
Alan Lawson: God
Julia Cave: I tell you, coming at 10 ‘o’ clock in the morning and leaving at 8 at night, on your 10 hour-day, if you get a break, it’s for a sandwich. It’s very tiring, because that whole process is decision making, because your machinery is so expensive that you have to use it all the time. Your manpower is cheap but your machinery is expensive.
Norman Swallow: Where did you actually edit by the way?
Julia Cave: We actually edited in the East Tower of Television Centre. And they’ve converted a lot of cutting-rooms there into Lightworks and Avid
10:00 cutting-rooms. In fact, there only, I believe 3 Steenbeck cutting-rooms left in the BBC. And they’re in Documentaries, and they apparently said they didn’t want to work on this system and there literally about 3 Steenbeck’s left; otherwise everything is turned into Avid or Lightworks and I can’t believe those Steenbeck’s will last much longer.
Norman Swallow: Probably not, no.
Alan Lawson: Spare parts.
Julia Cave: Yes, but you see I’m afraid… well it’s just not done that way anymore.
Alan Lawson: Yes, and maintenance staff, get rid of the Steenbeck’s and you get rid of the mechanical maintenance.
Julia Cave: Yes you do, but you get awful things going wrong with your Lightworks, I can tell you. Also, the other thing is, very often the haven’t got enough memory.
Alan Lawson: Oh, really.
Julia Cave: Oh, well we didn’t have enough memory, so it means you’ve got 11:00 to delete stuff if you’re putting new stuff in. This doesn’t apply to son because he’s got a finite amount of stuff on his drama, but if we get new stuff in and then we have to keep digitising all our archive footage in, and you’ve used up your 15 hours of memory, then you have to go back and take stuff out and put new stuff in. And because they’re saving money, this is always the reason for everything, there wasn’t enough memory and you have to pay another £500 a week for extra memory.
Norman Swallow: Oh dear!
Julia Cave: It’s all very interesting. But there’s no doubt about it, it’s here to stay. There wont be any Steenbeck’s, everything will be edited digitally on either Lightworks or Avid. It will all be on tape, probably be on small cameras, apart from the big drama series, I, suspect, which may still remain of Beta SP, 12:00 or digital Beta, which is the wide-screen which is going to favourite, or super-16 occasionally. But everything else, I think is going to be on this small camera probably and edited digitally. I mean, it’s there, it’s happening and everything is being moved very fast in that direction.
Norman Swallow: Yeah, but you’re not making this, am I right, directly for the BBC, your company etc., etc.
Julia Cave: What I’m working on now?
Norman Swallow: Well no. The thing you’re talking about, about the American thing.
Julia Cave: ‘American Visions’ was made for the BBC, I was employed by the BBC to make this.
Norman Swallow: Ah, by the BBC directly
Julia Cave: Absolutely, but it’s a co-production with Time-Warner.
Norman Swallow: We’ve had many of those of course. In the past.
Julia Cave: We did indeed, absolutely. And of course, Bob is the art critic for Time magazine and it’s to be shown next year in May on PBS. It’s been shown 13:00 already in Australia.
Norman Swallow: Good? Good reviews I mean…response
Julia Cave: Yes, very. This will get very good reviews because there’s nothing like it on television at the moment and so, anything that’s half way decent, you’re so amazed to see it.
Norman Swallow: Any reviews? Has the press seen it yet? Must have done…
Julia Cave: Oh, the press is raving about it.
Norman Swallow: Oh well. You’re sure, are you?
Julia Cave: Oh yes. But if you can’t tell a good thing when you see it…yes, it’s very good.
Alan Lawson: The Guardian had a good piece actually, in the supplement.
Norman Swallow: Sounds marvellous.
Julia Cave: That was written by Bob, but of course, I faxed it to Bob on Sunday and Bob said, “I didn’t write that piece and what the hell is going on.” In fact, what they did was sub it from his scripta filmate?? So he’s quite cross.
Alan Lawson: Really?
Julia Cave: As it happens… it’s the story of the Guardian piece on Saturday
Norman Swallow: As it happened yes.
Julia Cave: I rang him of Sunday and said… [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: I mean going on, you must have other projects in mind and if so, I wont say what they are they might be deep secret but how do you start sell them now…how do you begin?
14:00 Julia Cave: It’s extremely difficult.
Norman Swallow: And where? Very important.
Julia Cave: Yes. Well, you have an idea and you have to know roughly where you can market it. Now first of all, unless you’re going to be employed as a director by the BBC, you can go to them with an idea and they can take you on to do it. But that happens very rarely.
So, I had worked for ‘The Late Show’ and I used to ring them up with ideas, or fax them with ideas, and then they’d employ me for 6 weeks, or 3 months, or whatever it was, to make these things. But as they’re not taking anybody on, on that basis anymore, the answer is, what you have to do is present your idea through an independent company.
So, what I did with my various ideas because I’ve known Deb Colison, who’s one of the directors of Third Eye Productions. And I took my ideas to David 15:02 and I said, “I’ve got these, and I think, where we could put them are the following places. So, then we write a letter, we write a treatment…
Norman Swallow: On his note paper?
Julia Cave: On his note paper and we bang them off to those people, we hope, will be interested. Like Melvyn Bragg, and Channel 4 and I would send to BBC2, ‘The Works’ on Mike Poole’s series which took over from ‘The Late Show’; that’s for arts programmes. And you just do that. It’s a very expensive thing because you’re not earning any money while you’re doing this. It costs you a great deal of money to get all this together, and send it out.
Norman Swallow: Is this Third Eye money?
Julia Cave: Well, yes and no. Third Eye…
16:00 Norman Swallow: Yes. I know Third Eye, I mean, David, he must have decided personally to go ahead on this and therefore he must have agreed to spend a bit of money on it.
Julia Cave: He hasn’t got any money to spend.
Alan Lawson: It’s facilities really is it, facilities?
Julia Cave: Well, until…I don’t think I should discuss Third Eye, because it’s probably not fair. I’ll talk off the record about that afterwards. But a lot of small production companies, who were doing incredibly well before, are now doing incredibly badly; there are masses and masses of them. And what’s tended to happen is that the companies, like the commissioning companies are working more and more with the big companies and not the small. So, a lot to them have very few facilities, they can’t keep their heads above water at all, and they don’t have any facilities. Remember they’re paying out of their own pockets for the office they work from; they can’t afford to employ staff and 17:00 they’re working with a computer by themselves, is what’s really going on. And it’s not easy, it’s really very, very tough. So, you take your idea to the company and, in theory, they say, “Well, I think I can sell that.” Or “I can’t sell that.”
In the case of the one I’ve got, what’s called development-money for I took this to David and I was extremely sure that it’s a very good idea, an arguably good idea. Because it’s an art expose´ story. There are few and far between of this quality, and also I have a good track record of this, because I did ‘For Love or Money’ and ‘The Plunderers’ and all those art exposés series in the ‘70s and I’ve done a lot since. So, I’ve a good record on that and I’m working with Geraldine Norman, who has an absolutely unmatched record on that. So, we 18:01 came in as two quite strong hands on this, and I suggested we went straight to Channel 4, because they have a new commissioning editor, Janey Walker. And I happen to know her and thought she might be looking for new ideas, because she’d only been there 2 weeks. So, we got in very, very quickly; long before other people had sort of caught on, and she liked the idea. And basically, she said, “I’ll give you some money to develop it.” So, that’s what we’re doing. So, with Third Eye and Geraldine, I’m developing this idea, so I going to Paris to do some filming, next week. And we have to present her a whole, you know, a massive treatment for this, including the budget and everything else, by the end of November. And then she says, -Go ahead- or -Don’t go ahead-, if she says –Don’t go ahead- then of course, we’ve wasted 19:00 three months for which we haven’t had any money at all. And have had indeed, considerable expense and we’ve lost everything. So, it’s a very, very hard, nerve-wracking difficult thing.
Norman Swallow: You said that you were filming next week?
Julia Cave: I am, because I have enough development-money to do this bit because it happens to be an exhibition which is coming off, before we would get our commission. So, if we don’t do it now, we’ve lost it; so, I insisted and we wrote in that we needed to do this and she’s just given us enough money to cover that bit of filming. I don’t think they’ll say no at the end of this. I mean… but it is kind of nerve-wracking. And the other thing that is nerve-wracking, is if somebody broke the story before us, then we’ve lost it too. So, we’re sitting on a bit of a hot story. And what Janey has got and I think it shows tremendous commitment to the Arts, and good for her, and why I want to 20:00 go along with what she’s doing on Channel 4, is she’s got Sunday nights at 9 ‘o’ clock, for an hour, which is more commitment than anybody else has got to the Arts at the moment. Because the Melvyn Bragg show is on at 11:15, which is much too late on a Sunday night.
Norman Swallow: It’s sad that.
Julia Cave: ‘Omnibus’ is Tuesday nights, so it’s coped out. So, if ours goes ahead, will be for the new series, for September next year on Channel 4 at 9
Norman Swallow: It’s a one off, is it?
Julia Cave: This one will be a one off, but there will be a series. I think, she’s trying to compete… well I think she will do ‘Omnibus’, they’re to be story-led arts programmes. So, that’s inside information. [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: Fine.
Alan Lawson: So, the future’s well…
Julia Cave: The future is, it’s extremely difficult for directors. You have to 21:00 go…you have to keep abreast of everything on your own time and money. You spend all your own money on doing this; it’s quite disillusioning to be stuck at home, thinking, nobody’s answering and I’m not getting anywhere with this and what shall I turn to next and all the rest of it. It’s also very lonely, you know, where we were always used to coming into the office and talking to people: I mean, I think the fact that I always find difficult, is always battling on my own. And coming up with ideas and constantly going at it and having nobody to talk to about it; it’s quite hard.
Norman Swallow: Now if these does happen and hope and sure it will, where do you operate from in that case and how does it work?
Julia Cave: Ok…
Norman Swallow: In practical terms, what will happen?
22:00 Julia Cave: If we get it, then Third Eye will get a commissioning sum of money, which will allow them to continue with their office and a PA and so on. We have to budget absolutely everything in and then I will work, partially from home, where I’ve got my study, but partially from the Third Eye offices. Basically, that’s what you do. You go into the office, when you need to go into the office.
Norman Swallow: And you edit from where?
Julia Cave: Well you can choose where you edit from. You can choose who your camera crew is, I’ve already chosen mine really; we’ll probably edit on Avid or Lightworks. And there happens to be a very good editing suite, which happens to be in the building where Third Eye operates, which is Canalot at the top end…You know it?
Norman Swallow: Yes
Julia Cave: Well, there’s a good company there, so we’ll probably edit there, is what I would think. So, that’s what will happen.
23:00 I’m also on another story which I’ve sent around, but we may get Arts Council money for it, we may even get Lottery money for it. So I’m fighting for another little one, in a completely different area, which is Patrick Heron and a big work of art, that’s going to be constructed to make a windshield, in Victoria. And it’s going to be the biggest work of art in Europe, and it’s an amazing, amazing construction and so, I hope to be making a film about that. So, Patrick Heron has got a retrospective at the Tate Gallery next year. So, we have to put budgets into the Arts Council and things like that.
So, quite honestly you have to focus on anybody, who you think will give you any money to do what you want to do. So, you have to try and keep up with 24:00 what’s going on really. [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: Are you taking an accountancy course. [Laughter]
Julia Cave: No, but you see, over the last few years, we’ve had to do total costing for the BBC anyway. And I’m quite used to doing budgets, and I can tell you, in my head what a film’s going to cost, if you just tell me where you’re going, roughly, so you have a vague idea of what you’re going to need… Sure.
The answer’s no I’m not taking an accountancy course and we do have an accountant. We have to have an accountant, Third Eye hires in an accountant and you pay that off the budget for doing all these sums, you see. But you have to say what you want and they break it down into…you say 15 days of filming, approximately, camera man costs you… You could look at £600 a day for camera man, gear, and you know how much your sound recordist is £200 etc. 25:00 So, you’ve got a pretty fair rule of thumb what it’s going to cost you for a
15-day shoot and all the rest of it, so, you have to know these kinds of things, but you don’t actually do the adding up. You might have to if you can’t afford the accountant. [Laughter].
You know, it’s swings and roundabouts. If you can’t afford the accountant, you do it yourself because you want an extra day’s shoot. So…
Norman Swallow: But your personal and professional reputation counts for a lot in all this, doesn’t it?
Julia Cave: I think, probably…yes
Norman Swallow: If I can go back for a moment to talking about David Collison, the film that he and I made with Johnny Speight in Canning Town, all about Alf Garnett. We were loaded with bad language, for example, I think we had 2 “Fucks” and 4 “Bloodys” in the thing and between David and me and up the hierarchy, they were all shaking and trembling with fear and pushing it on… 26:00 In those days, Paul Fox was then for the time being, managing director, or whatever it was called. And eventually it went up to him, and I shouldn’t say this, but I know Paul Fox, and I heard this story indirectly. Paul Fox said, “If it’s all right with Norman Swallow, it’s bloody well all right with me.” He said. And that’s the same with you… It went out, you know, with a slight warning at the front- You may find some of this offensive- but, it was shown at peak hour… 8:30, or something like that in the evening.
Julia Cave: Yes, well that kind of trust… I mean there is of… Reputations do matter, but very often it’s not on a person… Well actually a lot of it’s done on a personal basis. Yes, that is true. Yes.
27:00 I mean, the whole thing is incredibly erratic because there are so many different companies and they to advertise at different times for different kinds of directors or PAs, or production managers, or camera men, or something. You just have to keep your eyes on everything, a very fluid kind of situation, which nobody expects to be fully employed. If you get a 6-month contract, you think that’s fantastic…you see.
Alan Lawson: Are the days gone when they come to you and say- this is a programme, we’d like you to do?
Julia Cave: [Long Pause] It happens occasionally.
Alan Lawson: What? Rare?
Julia Cave: Very rare. Because most of the ideas come from the people who are selling them, like me, you see.
Norman Swallow: But there must be sometimes, people who come along with an idea, outside the business if you like. But a very good idea and if this idea catches on and whoever thought it was a good idea, would then think of someone like you or whoever?
Julia Cave: Yes absolutely.
Norman Swallow: To say- do you like this? Does that happen?
28:00 Julia Cave: Yes, it can happen. Yes absolutely. [Long Pause.] But, I mean it’s a kind of whole melting pot people, who are just looking for work. So, it’s a buyers-market too because, you know, because there’s too many people for the jobs. Although I wonder what’ll happen when there are so many more channels. But then if you don’t have to any particular skills for it you see… I mean it’s the skills…I mean, I fear what’s really happening is that the people who are incredibly skilled. Like brilliant camera-men and sound-recordist and film-editors and so on, all those people and the people in the film labs and all the rest of it; life is not going to be at all good for them. Because it’s going to be a one-man-band situation.
29:00 Director/producer/interviewer/camera-man/sound-recordist/editor, all rolled into one. For the run of the mill stuff, that’s how it’s going to be. For the big productions, well, that’s still going to need skilled people, but as they’re going to have to fill an awful lot of air-space; with very little, very cheap ideas. I think that’s how the majority of television will be dealt with. Don’t you?
Norman Swallow: Yes, I’m sure.
Julia Cave: So I think the standards of [Erm]… Not necessarily the technical standards, maybe less important in the end than the actual amount of rubbish that will hit the air.
Norman Swallow: Yeah, I mean, one of the problems I assume with all these channels, and even the way things are now, obviously, a lot tiny little companies starting from scratch, must all say mysteriously, mistakenly, “Oh gosh, it’s all going to be marvellous for us.” “All these opportunities.” And all 30:00 these ideas must be thrown around, millions of them, surely?
Julia Cave: Absolutely. Well what you should do, in fact, if you want in fact if you want another interview is David Collison see he spent… I mean he left the BBC, what, nearly 15 years ago, or something. And he’s watched what’s happened in the independent companies, and he says that when he started, there were something like 20 and now there’s something like 3,000. He talks about this…
Norman Swallow: 3,000!
Julia Cave: I may have my figures wrong, don’t quote me on this, but it’s something a mammoth as that. See I could set up my own company, but I didn’t want to, and then I’d be an independent production company.
Alan Lawson: Well you’ve only to look the Stage and Screen to see the numbers being blanked
Norman Swallow: I know
Alan Lawson: You never even heard of a lot of them.
Julia Cave: But these companies have a terribly difficult time, because they have to think ahead. I mean if the pay… decide to take a lease on an office 31:01 place or space, for how long? I mean, think about it. It’d incredibly tough. But I think talking to David would be a jolly good idea, on the independent companies front, because he’s seen all sides of it.
Norman Swallow: Will do.
Alan Lawson: If you could start again, would you prefer to have done something completely different?
Julia Cave: No [Laughter]
Norman Swallow: Ah! But if you were to start again now, as against then…
Julia Cave: If… I would not regret ever having worked for the BBC. I’ve had the most amazing time, I’ve travelled all over the world. I’ve met the most 32:00 fascinating people. I’ve been given opportunities I could never have had anywhere else. I think it’s been absolutely wonderful and the people I’ve met, it’s been like a university, the whole of my life, and I cannot say how good it has been; however, I don’t think that I would like to be working for the BBC now. I don’t like the atmosphere there, I don’t like the lack of integrity, and I don’t really think I want to work in what television has become. Which is a kind of massive free for all, where the products count, the people don’t count. It’s got a lack of humanity about it. I can’t see myself…maybe I’m being an
old-fogie, maybe I’m just being sad about the past. I think I had a wonderful 33:00 time. I can’t imagine having had a better life, stressful as it was on times, and there’s always been ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ but no I wouldn’t like to work in television now and I don’t think it’s because of my age. I think it’s actually because I don’t like the atmosphere there anymore and I don’t really like what’s going on, I think it’s just another product. It’s nothing special anymore. I think we were lucky to work through the special years of television.
Norman Swallow: Depressing.
Alan Lawson: Great! Thankyou
Julia Cave: It’s just being honest… I mean…
Norman Swallow: Yes, absolutely. Quite right too.
Alan Lawson: Many thanks.
Julia Cave: Great pleasure
33:40 Alan Lawson: Lovely.
End of side 6.