Michael Houldey

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Interview Date(s): 
7 Jul 2020
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Unknown Speaker  0:06  
Hi, Michael. So would you like to introduce yourself, tell me about where you were born, and your career and how everything came about.

Unknown Speaker  0:15  
On Michael holding on British are more exactly English with a bit of Irish learning.

Unknown Speaker  0:23  
I've been a television programme maker for the past 50 years, always freelance. And of course, being freelance has advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, you don't have security. But on the other hand, you do have up to a point, the freedom of choice. So that's I think it's really important if you go into this business to feel that you can do what you want to do if you struggle if you work hard enough towards it. And what I've done, my works included drama, Documentary, Music, Arts, medical, and waternsw. So I've had quite a broad spectrum when when, and I've also worked for major companies for BBC for all the most of the ITV companies before that when they were still in existence, channel for independence. And that's, that's, that's who I am. I was born in 1940. So I'm a war baby.

Unknown Speaker  1:23  
We moved around because my, my father was obviously enlisted, but he wasn't actually sent abroad. And we ended up in a village called Eversley, which is in North Hampshire. And then my parents ran a market garden, because after the war, my father didn't have a job, and he needed to retrain. So he retrained and the market garden produced the sort of income. And I had a pretty conventional white, middle class, English education. And the time came at my, at the end of my teens when, what do I do next? Or go to university? Or what do I do? My father wanted me to go to university because he'd been, but I had other ideas.

Unknown Speaker  2:04  
I liked the idea of being a foreign correspondent. I like the idea of knowing three or four languages, and cultures really, really well so that you could move around in Europe, I was thinking like, like Spain, like Germany, Italy, France. I got as far as Paris and I went on a short course, at the Sorbonne.

Unknown Speaker  2:28  
It turned out to be a life changing time for me, because when I got the France,

Unknown Speaker  2:35  
at least not France, Paris was lively. There was new music, there was new art. And there was essentially new cinema. That's to say, the new wave. And that had a huge impact on me. And I decided there and then this is what I want to do. I want to make films. But how do I make films? Well, to start with, I was sort of lucky in a way because I went to the American centre where that where there was a drama group, and I joined the drawing group, because I've always enjoyed acting at school. And I worked with them. And then I met some students, students, film students, and they acted in their film. So I've got that little experience behind me. And the time came for me to eventually to leave. I didn't go on to Italy. I didn't go on to Spain. I left saying, I want to be a film director. I want to be Francois Truffaut, which is slightly ambitious. But nevermind, you have to aim high. And I thought, How do I do this? Well, I've been looking at directors and how they tend to be directors. And one struck one interest in me. And that was brand Forbes, who at that time was a leading member of leader, I should say, of a young British film Mater's. And he'd been an actor for a long, long time. So I thought maybe that's what I need to do to try and make it as an actor, and then move over into directing. So I wrote to brown Forbes. And to my surprise, he replied, and he replied, very warmly, and giving me lots of advice. And what's more, he actually gave me a pot in one of his films. Unfortunately, it ended on the classroom floor, which is probably just for the best.

Unknown Speaker  4:21  
But it at least had given me the experience of seeing a director at work and working to a director.

Unknown Speaker  4:29  
I carried on trying to make it as an actor, but actually, if I haven't, I wasn't really very good.

Unknown Speaker  4:35  
And so I cut this short.

Unknown Speaker  4:38  
A friend said, why don't you go and into the BBC, and try and get into directing through editing? Well, I hadn't thought of that. And I had no idea how I got into the BBC. But it turned out that there was an advertisement for trainee assistant film editors. So

Unknown Speaker  5:00  
I thought well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And I logged in an application, not thinking for one moment I get it. And it was really surprised that I was chosen up believe there was something like 12 chosen out of over 2000.

Unknown Speaker  5:16  
And I was one of them

Unknown Speaker  5:19  
on that application,

Unknown Speaker  5:22  
what did I write? Well, that's a good point, what did I write because I couldn't boast university degrees, I couldn't boast that had been to film school in front, when I went when I joined the course, and really felt the odd person out because some of them had worked in the industry already as runners or as, as assistants, or this or that, or the other. Others have got good university degrees. Others have already been to film school. And this is now the opportunity to actually work in the industry via the BBC. So I didn't, I felt I've got a lot to prove here somehow, I'm not sure I was chosen and all saying that was so small, honestly, I really don't know what to say. I was obviously a bit different. But

Unknown Speaker  6:01  
there we are. So I started off as a trainee in the cutting rooms. And that meant in those days, you were really a bit of a dog's body, you filed, the trims, you've made the drawings, you've cleaned the editing equipment, and so on, and you've tear returns everywhere. And to a large degree, it was sort of a bit like a factory until you had the good luck to be assigned to a film editor called Alan Tyra. Now, throughout my working life, there have been a number of people who have been a huge influence on me, used to call them mentors. But it's it's something more than that. It's it's something of their personality, something of their taste, something of their achievement has rubbed off. And with Alan, he was working with Ken Russell. He was doing Tim Russert he was editing 10 Russell's music biographies.

Unknown Speaker  6:58  
So I had the real privilege of seeing these 210 Russell and Alan Tara, working together, bouncing ideas off each other really enthusiasts, and it was sort of really uplifting somehow. And they were generous to me, they asked me what I thought they asked me for my opinion.

Unknown Speaker  7:17  
And the next thing after working with Antara was that I went to another touching room where it's working for a producer called Brian Lewis. And Brian Lewis is the second of my people of my people have really influenced me, he come up from Southern Television to make documentary series for BBC. And I worked with him as his assistant for a while. And then that series finished, but I was still under a short contract. So I was assigned to work with somebody who I will never forget. And that is Jill Prady. Now, Jill crazy, is possibly not widely known. But she was a hugely important figure. She was the first woman really to direct films in this country. She made some very good documentaries joined the war, the source, wartime filmmaker, she was a woman. That's pretty interesting for a start in those days, she was a socialist, she was married to Michael Foote for 50 years. So she she was a woman of considerable accomplishment, who had come to the BBC, at the invitation of the BBC to make a documentary film. But of course, she hadn't worked in television before. And she she didn't know the ropes. I'm not saying I knew the ropes. Because my experience is really limited as well. But nevertheless, we got on really well. And her film was called who are the vandals? And it was actually about housing on a housing estate in Regent's Park. The question there was a lot of vandalism going on on the estates. And the her question, who are the vandals? Is it actually the kids running wild? And doing graffiti and breaking into apartment flats and all the rest of it? Or does it go beyond that? Does it start before that? Does it actually start with the term planners? Does it start with the architects, does it start with the politicians, and that was her investigation. And it was a very worthwhile subject. And it got quite a lot of attention at the time.

Unknown Speaker  9:19  
I was getting to know her well. And I was a value of what she taught me and told me about a life I knew very little about, which was, which was her life. And her life included, prevail, which was the constituency of her husband, Michael foot, also the constituency of an Aryan Bevan, founder of the National Health Service. She said, Why don't you make your first film in Abba Vale? And I listened to what she said and I thought, well, maybe, maybe I could, maybe I could. The story of the film. It was actually

Unknown Speaker  9:54  
three parts. It was two teenagers who were leaving school and going on

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
It's University and had a gap year. And they put ads in the paper saying, teenager wants work anything legal considered. So it was called anything we will consider. And I persuaded my boss who was again, Brian Lewis, who had already been incredibly generous spiritual to me and gave me confidence, I guess, to go off on my own and make film, I went to a prevail and I spent a long, long time there during which time I saw a side of life completely. unlike anything I'd known in a fairly secluded white middle class background education.

Unknown Speaker  10:39  
It was dominated by the steelworks I prevail. It was a valley and the steelworks were it a great monster belching smoke all the time. And

Unknown Speaker  10:50  
nearly everybody who lived in Upper Vale, worked in the steelworks. So I went into the steelworks with the manager. And I saw sites I've never seen before, especially places like the blast furnace. And the manager said, Oh, because we didn't get you closer, we had somebody totally over there, and they fell in what was the end of them. So I

Unknown Speaker  11:11  
didn't need telling twice about that. But I had to find out what I was going to do the film about and with whom. And in the end, I found a family with a Down Syndrome child, and I thought the girl would be good living with them for a period of the film, which is about three weeks, I suppose. And for the boy, I met one of the steel workers who had a small holding lot of the steel workers tried to get away from all the Sound and the Fury and the noise and all the rest of it and, and live on the hillside and really have chickens and vegetables and just to get away from it. So he lived with them and worked in the blast furnace.

Unknown Speaker  11:55  
When we were filming the blast furnace, that again was something I can always remember because we were quite young, you know, we were a young crew, we were all in our 20s.

Unknown Speaker  12:08  
And for the for the lighting of the blast furnace, it needed a crew of eight, electricians eight and they 10 down from mo Richardson and a huge truck and they jumped out in tracksuits virtually, I think David Whitson, the cameraman, we looked at each other, and we said, what do we do? What do we do? But they were very kind. And I think I was learning all the time, because I learned there's no point in trying to persuade everybody you know exactly what you're doing. A simple thing and that is best thing is say, look, to be honest, I've never done this before. I've never worked with eight electricians. So if you've got ideas, or if you think you wouldn't have told me Don't hesitate, please. Anyhow, we got through the filming. And it was an experience which which changed everything for me really, because living in that community. I met an hour in Bevan, Sr. and now we're in Devon Sr, for goodness sake. So the question was, what do I do next? Well, this is illustrates the, the plus side of being freelance. The next thing I did was not far away from the blast furnace in FL steelworks. It was filmed with Bridget Daffodil in Paris. There was a short series, it was again for BBC, and I was one of two or three directors and I did three films out there. And we had to find our own subjects. And I came across the border film, by reading about in an just

Unknown Speaker  13:42  
weekly newspaper, think about this young director called Edie maternal who had made a film about border without border, because this border was absolutely in her prime and utter peach in those days. And he had compiled a film of bado lookalikes bought a press cuttings. And he put good music to it. And he showed it to BARDA. And she was very taken with it and taken with him. And he was she was about to make a musical, which was a sort of musical journey through Paris with with various guest guest artists on Route. And he got the job. So I read about that. And I thought, I've got a tract on Eddie Moto, which I did. And I told him what I wanted to do. And I said, What about BARDA? And he said, Well, we can't do too much because she's she's very targeted. She's very private person, but we can at least do something. So we did and we made the film, and I became friendly with maternal. I made five films in a series called a year in the life, which was quite a big break away for BBC Two, which was just really only getting going until I was only getting going. And the films took a year tomates so

Unknown Speaker  14:57  
I did in different parts.

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
For the country, but the one that will always linger in my mind is the film made in Craighead, which is a mining village in County Durham. Again, a new experience like the blast furnace, and I've never been to a mining village in my life. And these are George's and these are proud men. And these are self protective men as you have to be if you're working underground, you know, you're working in a potential death pit to be honest.

Unknown Speaker  15:27  
We, we got going, and I asked the manager to take me underground, which he did. And he gave me protective clothing, he gave me sort of mid pads for my old bus pads for my knees, and a helmet. And off we went.

Unknown Speaker  15:47  
And it wasn't easy, because if I raise my head, I hit my head, my helmet against the ceiling of the coat coal seam, and that my elbows, my elbow pad slipped, and I couldn't do anything other than lift my head, bang my head and think, Oh, God, how the hell do I get out of this? And how much longer is it going? He of course, was a man who probably about his mid 30s. He was fit and he was the manager. And in a way he had a point just as a point to show me. Look, you may be the BBC, but come on, you do this and show me what you can do. So and I got to the end, I was scarred. I think I was actually bleeding on my knee wound.

Unknown Speaker  16:27  
But the lesson that taught me is that I must never asked crews to do things I wouldn't do myself.

Unknown Speaker  16:37  
There was an accident.

Unknown Speaker  16:41  
And we heard the alarm. And we went up to the pithead. And we I said to somebody one of them guys, or one of the miners. Can we film do you think? Oh yeah, you film film film. So we filmed an appt came a structure, and unstructured was a man who was clearly in pain. Up came an ambulance,

Unknown Speaker  17:04  
the man put onto the ambulance ambulance zooms off. Well, hopefully it'd be alright, a man died and died on route to the hospital. And I was left on your own. So bear in mind that these were decisions faced by young people. And we didn't have a huge amount of experience. We wanted to do the best. And we were there for a while. They were there was tomorrow as well as today to think about.

Unknown Speaker  17:31  

Unknown Speaker  17:33  
they said what you're going to do. And some said you've got to shut down. You can't show it having a show that that's that would be awful. What about the widow?

Unknown Speaker  17:41  
So we let the dust settled. And I talked with people, the miners up there and their social club and that kind of thing. And eventually, we I don't know, decided that

Unknown Speaker  17:54  
we had to meet this head on. So I went to see with her. And I said to her

Unknown Speaker  18:02  
I am deeply sorry. I can't tell you how sad I am. Especially as I know what it's like.

Unknown Speaker  18:11  
But I have a problem. And I explained what it was I said I don't want to upset the community. I don't want to Los Altos upset you? And she said, you show it. It's the price of coal.

Unknown Speaker  18:25  
No, I mentioned that. And she I mean, she was right. And it was a brave thing to say. And I think it was the right decision. But you are faced with difficult decisions and a quite a tender, inexperienced age. When it's easy to say of course we're church. But you're you have to be aware of those decisions and the effect that they have on the community that you leave behind lessons learned from crackhead. And also lessons learned about the politics of things we filmed at the Durham miners gala or Gala.

Unknown Speaker  19:00  
And the decimation was Harold Wilson's Prime Minister.

Unknown Speaker  19:04  
And I was approached by a man who I didn't know he was he said, Why are you not filming? The prime minister in his speech, said Well, we know what the Prime Minister looks like. But what we don't know is what the people that he's talking about look like. So that's why I'm filming the crowd. He said, Well, I hope you're not trying to make a political point. I said, Sorry, who are you? My name is Gerald Kaufman, I'm the payments and Special Advisor. In other words that Dominic Cummings of our day, or that day, I should say, we'll be watching you. And he left at that. And I felt uneasy. Actually, I thought Have I done something wrong? Have I upset somebody? Will this be a black market answer? I never heard anything more about it, but it made me aware of the fact that you are watching people do come to conclusions about what you're doing and how you're doing it and what's in it for them or not in it for them. Anyway, we'll move on that was

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
Craighead went on to make a film about it purif Which again, was another landmark for me. I didn't know Pf Pf was dead. But I did sort of know PF better than almost anybody. I set up because I had met her through so many people. I've met her through her loved ones. I've met her through her colleagues, her friends, I've met her through her doctor, I've met her through her nurse, I've met her through both her husband's I've met her through her long lost half brother, I've met her through the woman who used to sing in the streets with so had this sort of composite picture. And I realised that this is a responsibility, you know, because each of these people, and they were well known, people shall ask me who made a terrific contribution to the film, for instance. And another French actor, called Padma visa was probably the top of his profession as a theatre actor. So we've got some good people. And on the one hand, I had to get the best out of them. So they were engaging and interesting. On the other hand, I had to keep my balance on what kind of person PF was emerging as being because some people had anecdotes and some people

Unknown Speaker  21:19  
told sad stories you know, about her drinking, and about her drug habit, no holds barred, they were very open very honest, because they felt to get if you're going to really understand Piaf, you've got to understand the kind of love she led. Everybody loved her. But on the other hand, she was self destructive. So that's a responsibility for a young filmmaker to

Unknown Speaker  21:40  
be sure that you've got the message interesting, and make it the right balance to say nothing of the fact that POF had a legion of followers all over the world.

Unknown Speaker  21:50  
And you don't want them to turn away from it thinking that it's it's a hatchet job or anything like that. Anyhow, the long the short of it is that the film did well, it got a BAFTA nomination.

Unknown Speaker  22:04  
Alongside oddly enough 10 rasa with whom I've worked as

Unknown Speaker  22:09  
a system. And the other great thing for me was that the film was cut by Alan Tara. And I've set it up and Tara was my my first influence. And in fact, throughout my journey in filmmaking, these people pop up, and they have worked with people more than once, whenever it's right for them, and right for me, and the subjects, right, sometimes it's very difficult to do that. Because you've come in as an outsider to an organisation out with the BBC, and the BBC have got to balance their books, they've got people on staff, they've got people on contract, and they have to give them jobs. And it's not that easy for me to come in and say, I want this person I want that person, particularly in the case of pF, when I was testing, bringing in a French assistant, for obvious reasons. Because she was very good with French people. And my French is not that brilliant anyway, so it was, so I managed to pull it off. And you have to be quite dogged. If you're freelance, and if you're trying to get your own team, it was something that was going to recur a lot, especially later on when it came to going to faraway places, and was in somewhat heavy. So

Unknown Speaker  23:20  
the PIR film,

Unknown Speaker  23:23  
it was important for two other in two other ways as well. First of all, another person who has to put on a huge influence on me, was my executive producer, a man called Norman swallow, who was legendary, really, to a lot of people of my generation. He had made very, very good films, he made a series called this England for Granada. And he championed me really, I was 28.

Unknown Speaker  23:49  
And he gave me my chance, and he was supportive. Another thing I learned from Norman is that if you wanted to see him, he would meet you the most important thing in his life at that time. And he had a lot of responsibilities. He is responsible to his bosses and is responsible to all sorts of other people. But if you're not a normal store, he would close the door, and he would make you feel more important than anybody else.

Unknown Speaker  24:16  
So anyhow, that that was that. And it was also a time when I met another person who was a huge influence in my life. And that was an agent of French agent, Alan Burnham. And he was to be instrumental in other films that I did, because he helped me get to the people I needed to get to, again, survival is what being Freelancer is all about and gathering, gathering ideas, gathering relationships, so that you can actually pursue your own way of thinking but you need help. You can't do it alone. You're going to ruffle too many feathers you need Allah. Allah has was a great ally to me throughout my life. The pure film was shot

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
Christmas, I got a massive audience. Don't ask me how but he got about 12 million over Christmas. This is a single film. And obviously, if it only been done about four or five years, something like that, and it touched a nerve, it got very good press that help people want to watch it. And the BBC, Norman swallow again

Unknown Speaker  25:22  
suggested I should do a Christmas special for three consecutive years. And the next one that he suggested or we suggest worked on together was Humphrey Bogart.

Unknown Speaker  25:33  
Getting Humphrey Bogart meant getting Lauren Bacall and Lauren Bacall had not talked about before, there have been all sorts of approaches to her, but she'd always turn them away. I was able to get to Lauren because through again through Alan Burnham who had new hair or new manager one way or another and was able to give me credentials, that's what you need.

Unknown Speaker  25:56  
And eventually, I got my meeting with Ron because it didn't go quite as planned.

Unknown Speaker  26:01  
I was told to go to the lift at the elevator, I should say, at the back of the courtyard, went along paths and rather elegant doors.

Unknown Speaker  26:11  
No sign of a lift. Until I found I did come to a lift at the back end of the courtyard. And I thought this is very strange way to go up to meet Lauren Bacall because it was one of those lips, you open open the gates and it's only one person.

Unknown Speaker  26:28  
I didn't know what buttons to press or anything was only one button. So I pressed the button. Up. I went thinking, I feel very nervous about this. Open the gate. And that was on a sort of gantry.

Unknown Speaker  26:41  
I looked through the window. And there was somebody cooking there. It was a kitchen.

Unknown Speaker  26:49  
I tapped on the window med waived. And a woman came to the door and said, Why have you come up this way? I said, Well, I'm sorry. This is where I was scheduled to come back. I'm coming to see Miss McCall.

Unknown Speaker  27:03  
Does she know you're coming? Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. Wait a minute that me standing in the kitchen. And she came back? She said yes. No, that's fine. You can go just go through there in terms of left. So I went in to that room. And I found Lauren to call draped on the shares long looking elegant, beyond words. And I was hot and bothered. I'm nervous and unsure of myself having come in through the kitchen. Why did you come in that way? She said,

Unknown Speaker  27:31  
I said

Unknown Speaker  27:32  
I didn't realise it the wrong way. And she said, Well sit down, sit down. She's very brisk. Wonderful. So I moved around a glass table, and I'm paying money against it. And when I banged my knee against it, there was a photo of of Humphrey Bogart on the glass table, and the photo fell down on the glass table. And she was watching mine. Oh, you go. That's bogey.

Unknown Speaker  27:59  
Oh, God, I can't do anything. What's not going to do? So I took a deep breath. And I said, every so I'm so clumsy.

Unknown Speaker  28:07  
Anyhow, so we started talking. And she said,

Unknown Speaker  28:12  
Do you want to drink? Would you get me a drink?

Unknown Speaker  28:16  
I said, Well, of course. Would you like me to book the drinks over there in the cabinet over? Fun.

Unknown Speaker  28:23  
She said to me when he wants to drink. And I thought well having after my start so far. Bogey being a drinking man, I'd better go for a scotch. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker  28:36  
He's she said,

Unknown Speaker  28:40  
how do you want her? Do you want your Scotch? Then? On the rocks? I said, Well,

Unknown Speaker  28:46  
actually, have you gotten the ice? I

Unknown Speaker  28:49  
said, What are you talking about? I said, What? Whiskey nice. Have you not heard the expression Scotch on the rocks? And you can make a film on bogey.

Unknown Speaker  28:59  
So I said, Well, okay, sorry. I thought I'd turn myself into a clown. And I thought that maybe the most best way of getting her confidence was to be sort of complete idiots.

Unknown Speaker  29:11  
But anyhow, the long the short of it was she did it. And that was a great relief. And it was another experience for me which which I had not expected. So the next one after that was next Christmas, which was Judy Garland. Same problem. You've got to get nice. I'm nearly Liza Minnelli had never talked about her mother. She turned down all sorts of offers. And I had to I had to be the one who, who got her to take part in a film for the BBC. So once again, I turned to Alan Burnham who was a friend of a film that reticle Alan Pakula and Alan Bakula had made

Unknown Speaker  29:50  
last minute his first feature film called pootie. And I was introduced to Alan Pakula. And actually we got a really it was incredibly nice, man.

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
I said I needed to somehow get to Liza. And he said he'd helped me he put in a word for me and after smart Michael holding and he's okay. That's what you need in all of this because I'm going back to his Bogart from the fact that when I approached anybody, whether it's a film critic of writer, another actor, whatever it would be, the first thing I said, is Betty doing it, meaning Lauren Bacall likewise, all the groundwork I could do. As long as you're doing it came to nothing unless Liza were doing it because that gave it credentials.

Unknown Speaker  30:31  
Anyhow, I eventually got to Liza Minnelli.

Unknown Speaker  30:37  
It was a strange day because she was rehearsing in her apartment with a band, because they were going on a gig that evening. And I was invited just sit in, I felt very self conscious again, I think I wore the wrong clothes every time actually, I always did. I always overdressed that. I turned up sort of in trying to look elegant, casual in a suit. And I don't know what almost these guys were seeing holes in a T shirt smoking this that the other side filled very much the opposite. And they were very generous. And Liza said, why don't you come with us for gig

Unknown Speaker  31:18  
so wrong, the car should be renting a car. So we all went downstairs and they all got in. And I thought there's not going to be room in this car for me. It really isn't. So I said Don't Don't Don't worry. Thank you for the offer. But don't worry. Shouldn't Come on, squeeze up, squeeze up, she said to the band. And they opened the door. And I said, Okay, well, thanks very much again, sweating profusely in my suit.

Unknown Speaker  31:40  
And I shut the door, and I shut the door onto my finger.

Unknown Speaker  31:45  
And I couldn't help yelling because it really hurts. Are you more about what happened?

Unknown Speaker  31:53  
Sorry, I would have been a bit clumsy. I managed to sputter out. Anyhow, off we went and my finger was throbbing, throbbing, throbbing, and I was trying to hold on to it to stop throwing and trying to keep a conversation going with Liza Minnelli for God's sake. What else he had going, Michael, what else have you done? Who are you hoping to get in the film? Well,

Unknown Speaker  32:14  

Unknown Speaker  32:17  
actually, I've forgotten the fact that the suit that I was wearing, it wasn't white as such but it was light coloured.

Unknown Speaker  32:25  
We arrived at the gig and got hurt. And I was the first to get out was I was lost get in. And to my horror, I got blood all the way down the front of my jacket and all the way down my trousers. And they said one after the what I had this happen to you. And I was actually feeling quite faint Believe it or not. Anyhow, that I was I was bundled into lies as dressing room where have resistant, looked after me. And I was calm down. I was given aspirin I was given paracetamol. But in a way I think I paid my dues because just as with

Unknown Speaker  33:03  
Lauren Bacall, I've been a bit of a clown. With Liza Minnelli I've been even more of a clown.

Unknown Speaker  33:09  
But she she did it. And with her came a lot of really unusual and interesting people. I didn't get all the family because there were so many political waves going on. One of her husbands wanted to make a film about her. And in fact, he and I had a sort of relationship on the phone. Because I wanted to spin it. His name was Sid Luft. And he was thought to be the strongest of her five husbands and the person who guarded her memory more jealously than anybody else who's got a wardrobe full of her costumes. And I said, you know, I'd really love to meet you. And he wanted to know whether or not he could collaborate with me, much of the BBC. And with with what you're doing for the BBC, and what I can offer, we could make a great film.

Unknown Speaker  33:57  
This went on, I was living in a very cheap motel, and on Sunset Boulevard, which was lots of people that stayed in.

Unknown Speaker  34:07  
And I used to get phone calls from Sid Luft at about two in the morning. Well, have you thought any more about it? Ends getting set left or sit left off my back some strange things on the one hand, you want them on the other hand, you want to just please please leave me alone. So anyhow, we've got it all the way I got mostly people I'd hoped to have in the film, I've got the Scarecrow from Wizard of Oz. Oh, and a lot of other directors.

Unknown Speaker  34:37  
And a

Unknown Speaker  34:39  
young day die because Judy Garland had a tremendous gay following. And when you do this kind of film, it's not gonna say something that you've touched on, but it's part of it all. And I had to find a way of dealing with that. And this is a young director who's doing film off Broadway and film Show Off Broadway and he

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
Oh touchy very movingly about what Judy Garland did for him. And those guys who responded to her, she lifted their spirits. She made them feel better.

Unknown Speaker  35:13  
Alongside, you know, well known people at peace was offered and all the other people they had and that it was refreshing to tell that, but the one person who will never forget, and The Judy Garland film is Mickey Rooney. Now to tell you this as briefly as I can. We had a very tight budget as he was to. And we've knew that Mickey Rooney was living in Fort Lauderdale. So we got a flight from Dallas, I think it was.

Unknown Speaker  35:40  
But it was a day return. So we had to leave at a certain time, and we had to return at a certain time. And I think we even had an ongoing flight from Fort Lauderdale. So we get out to find Mickey Rooney who's living in a, in a bungalow,

Unknown Speaker  35:54  
elaborate bungalow for the bungalow, nevertheless, not a Hollywood mansion.

Unknown Speaker  35:58  

Unknown Speaker  36:00  

Unknown Speaker  36:02  
he's this sort of bundle of energy that one is used to seeing from his early films of Judy Garland. And although he's portly, bald, he's still boisterous, and pugnacious, and energetic and enthusiastic. They said, I've come in coming coming out. So here we go. You can do movie about God. But I'm going to move out like to tell you about. And what Mickey Rooney then did with me watching, looking at my watch all the time. And the crew waiting was he talked us through a screenplay he'd written. And then she, she she says, Listen, he comes up and said, No, please don't do that. And I thought, my God is HuffPost, too. And he stopped the interview. And I said, Look, I'm really sorry, Mr. Mickey, I don't know where to call him, actually. But I think we need to move on to go to Florida to catch up. It's a great idea. I'll take it away and give it some thought. And I'll get back to you and said, Do you want to swim? So thanks

Unknown Speaker  36:58  
for swinging costume, but tight on time anyway. And he said, it doesn't matter. Doesn't matter. Where we where's this turkey is he thought his lady friend, by the way.

Unknown Speaker  37:08  
And he said, Come on. Let's get in the pool. We'll talk about it in the pool, talk about where you went during the pool. So he took stripped off down to his underpants, I stripped off down to my underpants, much to the mirth of the crew, I can tell you who thought this is the best processing they've ever seen. And Mickey Rooney and I jumped into the swimming pool. And we were at the end of swimming pool with robots on the run. And he said, I'll tell you about Judy, Judy. I said, Well, I do but I think I've really wondered about Judy.

Unknown Speaker  37:41  
She turned mine. Okay, we'll get out swimming pool. You'll get your guys going. We'll do it right here. I said, Don't you want to change or dry? No, come on, we'll do it. The important thing is to do it. So we had the crew fully dressed with the camera, and the sound on the boom and Horus. And Mickey Rooney stripped to the waist and pouring with water. And me and my underpants tearing up one of the tea interviews and The Judy Garland film, which was with Mickey Rooney, that who but nobody ever saw anything beyond that of Mickey Rooney. And every time I saw anything in me, so it had all these films had there. There was another one actually I remember which is, which is a good film story. Don't bow God worked with Judy Garland. And I was very keen to get to him. I had to see him in Paris because he was living in a hotel with his manager. And I went to see them. And they were very simple and very, very, very charming and very polite. And

Unknown Speaker  38:45  
we arranged to do it at the BBC office. And on the day we were doing it because there was a gap between missing him and then doing it. He said, What's it like this office? Is it just an ordinary office? I said, well knows the room there. We can use it said what's what's the Depo? Like? I said, Well, this is pretty ordinary, I think I said I think we should buy some flowers. So we we go off me Dabigatran his manager, and we go to florist all and he buys some flowers. We get the lift up to the BBC office, ring the doorbell and they open it to find Duckburg are tearing a bunch of flowers, which is not quite what the BBC had expected.

Unknown Speaker  39:27  
But we do really put the flowers in a vase and we put the fires on the table. And we stopped the interview. And he came up with something I never expected him to say. He said not many people know this. But I was in love with Judy.

Unknown Speaker  39:44  
I said yes. Yes. It's not something I talk about. But I loved her. I was in love with her. I said well, that's that's I'd have tried not say anything actually. I didn't want to say Oh good. Oh, great. I just let that hang says

Unknown Speaker  40:00  

Unknown Speaker  40:02  
So it was the end of a roll to we were on film and on stage. And as usual, you check the hair in the gate. And obviously, you can't have an interview if it's got a little squiggly piece of celluloid. And that is what had happened. I honestly wanted to cry. I've got what was something of a two to have dirt burger with him when doesn't didn't associate that kind of relationship saying he was in love with Judy gone, and we've got a hair and they get it said, Oh, don't worry, I'll do it again.

Unknown Speaker  40:37  
So he did it. And he performed it exactly the same way. Now, not many people know this. But I was in love with God. It's not something I talked about. And it was almost paced precisely. He said, There's nothing right.

Unknown Speaker  40:51  
Yes, thank you very much. Mr. Picard. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker  40:55  
So that was that was another little aside, I feel like from from The Judy Garland film, there was to have been another one with Marilyn Monroe. But that was too difficult with copyright and everything else. We never made that one.

Unknown Speaker  41:09  
Where did we get all these films for the BBC? Yeah, they were all for DC. But they were all short term contracts. They were film contract as opposed to turn contract. So I had a film, I had a contract with omnibus was it called omnibus, it was called

Unknown Speaker  41:26  
to make a film. If, if I've made from up here, fine, but if you can't, that's a shame. Now, Norman swallow who had spoken, I think very warmly of as one of the guiding lights of my life.

Unknown Speaker  41:42  
He took me to Granada. Next, he was producing a series called The Christians which was a hugely ambitious series with 13 parts all over the world, presented by Bamba Gaskell and University Challenge. And I was the first director in there, I had to do the pilots, which I was very nervous about, because first of all, I've never worked with a project presented before. And secondly, it wasn't as historical Christianity was not a subject that I was that ofay with or that comfortable with come to that. But I did it. And it I went to as a result of that, but it didn't hinder us getting on with the rest of the series. And I was incredibly fortunate to go to all sorts of places like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cyprus, often by myself, which is the best way to do it. I learned that very early on, if you don't have distractions, if you really are driven to get the best out of something, and then the centre prevail, really, I was on my own, I was a fish out of water. But what I was taking in was the kind of thing that you don't get if you helicopter in and what I looked at when I looked at filmmaking nowadays, so much of this is precisely that parachute in parachute out. And without any real time for the director, the person who's making the decisions about what we film, the questions we asked, they haven't really established a relationship with the person who they're talking to. So the person who they're talking to doesn't feel easy about saying anything profound, or anything heartfelt. I see this a lot. And as I go on, and after inquiry, give examples, that kind of thing. It's something I think it's very sad. And I think I was very fortunate to be on my own. I didn't enjoy it. I felt very lonely a lot of the time. I was desperate, you know, have family at home. And there was ice stranded in somewhere in East Africa, wondering if I was ever gonna get back. So it wasn't that easy to do. But nevertheless, it was important thing to have done. So I've gone to a lot of different countries, which is, again, a real eye opener. And I was a member Norman swallow when we were going to share the film to Norman's boss who was a legend in in the British cinema, really Dennis foreman. And it was he who had decided Grenada, his company, Managing Director of his company was going to do the questions and needed to have a proper serious series to go alongside Weldon action on all the things chronometer was best known for. And as a little aside, my cameraman was called George Jesse Turner, and he was the leading cameraman on World in Action. So we had both of us doing something entirely new. Fortunately, we clicked we had a good relationship, which I'm happy to say exists to this day. In fact, he came to see me

Unknown Speaker  44:49  
to us three months ago,

Unknown Speaker  44:51  
and that's, again, one of the benefits of freelance I guess, you move around, you know, you have a fresh set of relationships wherever you go.

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
Oh, this is my Grenada relationship. Anyhow,

Unknown Speaker  45:04  
I was told by Norman that we all went to watch the screening with Dennis fun. He said, if Dennis says, got a shoulder, then we're alright. So we watched the film, Dennis says, yes. Well, he said it very slowly. What can we say? And we will nervously looking Tito, he said, Well, gotta show the

Unknown Speaker  45:29  
palpable relief, but we couldn't show the relief was otherwise.

Unknown Speaker  45:35  
Nothing like that. So you have to play the game a little bit. But of course, Dennis could pull in big names that Richard Rodney Bennett to do the music and that sort of thing. So the questions was, was a very interesting experience. And then I went back to the BBC, again on short contracts to do four films on a series called one pair of eyes. And that was, that was of its time, and I'm talking about the 70s. An excellent series because the BBC, or the directors of the BBC, the people making the films and the people editing the films, I mean, series editor, brought in various people who had various things to say, and the BBC as a publisher could hide behind that. It's not us saying that the BBC, it's this man saying it it's, it's a loose description, but nevertheless, it enabled you to make fairly personal films and sometimes outspoken films. And I did one with a sports writer and novelist Brian Glanville. did one with Dan Salento who was an actor and novelist as well. He's been at Sean Connery. And I did one with Tom Stoppard,

Unknown Speaker  46:46  
who at that stage was still I mean, he was a big name, but not part of the MCS now. And the one that I'm going to remember most for different reasons is I did one with a Hungarian writer humorist who wrote funny books called George Mitesh. He wrote a book called How to be an alien, which is a sort of gentle, poking fun at the British. And we went off to Hungary. Now you have to bear in mind that this is travel was not easy. Access. It's not easy. We're talking about the uncertain, we're talking about East Europe, not comfortable with the West. So the had to be quite a lot. Again, we had the intermediary George Mitesh. Could, because he's a big name in Hungary big name. And he knew lots of very well known people.

Unknown Speaker  47:36  
And nevertheless, the authorities that to say state television, were very wary of what we're up to. And they assigned a fixer to us who was to follow us and monitor what we were doing. And when we went to the cemetery, the terapii Cemetery, where I wanted to film, the freedom fighters, graves, which were all the same, slightly

Unknown Speaker  48:04  
falling to pieces, and they all have said the same legend saying he died a hero stuff. And alongside that was a beautifully tapped cemetery, which was for the Soviet fighters who had quelled the Hungarian Revolution, immaculate carnations, beautiful stones, elegant not a Whedon site. And, of course, I was interested in the freedom fighters version. But I think that this they were concerned that I was doing that or not giving due respect to the AVO to the Soviet fighters. I also wanted to film

Unknown Speaker  48:47  
with a pop group.

Unknown Speaker  48:50  
I'd learned about a pop group who played in Samizdat, as I say underground, in in silos, not advertising it, but they were really, really good. There was never going to be any question, am I filming that openly with my fixer breathing down my neck while you're doing this writing. So we invented of reason to send him to get something for us. And during that time, we

Unknown Speaker  49:19  
sang it in bytes, but we'd actually planned with the leader of the band, to go on a boat, with guests and audience and so on to perform on the boat. And so we had to get rid of the fixer and send him to get some permissions or get some permissions. That's where it was. So we quickly bundled onto the, onto the boat. And the question is what we're gonna sing. And what was chosen was the Beatles back in the USSR. So that was a sort of slightly bizarre scene of Hungarian group singing a Beatle song on a boat in Budapest.

Unknown Speaker  50:01  
And that was not the end of it because we then got arrested after that, for filming in in forbidden area. It was extraordinary because we're actually filming an idyllic scene of haymaking harvesting, and that kind of thing. And I wanted to show the value of cooperative farming and how the commit brings the community together. And they'll, you know, there was like some, some of those German propaganda films like they're almost the best best at singing, you know.

Unknown Speaker  50:31  
And that didn't save any setting, the reason why we shouldn't film it, we didn't have the fixture with us at the time. We were travelling, we just stopped the car and filmed. And then we moved on to the town, that the closest term is called cashed in it. And I'll fix it turned up. And he said, you should never do that you're in trouble. Now. You should not film in a forbidden area. I said, I don't understand.

Unknown Speaker  50:58  
You should you should have seen the signs. I said, I didn't see any signs.

Unknown Speaker  51:03  
And George me said, I think I know what's happened.

Unknown Speaker  51:08  
And he said, we wish to see the signs.

Unknown Speaker  51:12  
So fixer said, is as the name is Tomasz, instead of I will take you to the signs. And lo and behold, there were the two signs. But as Josh Murphy has pointed out, the soil around the signs was extremely fresh. I II, science had been put in after we had filmed there. And the truth of the matter is they wanted to get rid of us because they were furious about the boat trip on, on the

Unknown Speaker  51:44  
on the Danube, and they were pretty upset about the cemetery, I think we were looked upon as being dangerous, which we weren't. I mean, George Mitesh is an avuncular generous, funny, a good man in every respect.

Unknown Speaker  52:00  
He's not somebody who's subversive things. We were doing things very, very well, I suppose that was a bits of us. But it shouldn't have needed to be a QA we were told we had to leave. The whole team had to leave the country. And we went back to the hotel, and we packed up our things. And George said, we're in a three tasks crew, and the two of us, and he said, on the way out, you have to destroy anything that's valuable or anything that's incriminating. He said, You tear it up and throw it out the window. Well, there wasn't much time to sort out what fell into that category. But until it I tore up the budget,

Unknown Speaker  52:42  
the shedule or have like kind of stuff, and that the window, bits of paper fly. And we got to the border with Austria. And George said, we could be in for a difficult time here.

Unknown Speaker  52:58  
So brace myself and our team, the guards. And the only thing that the guard said, I think was it in English or Hungarian. I think it was in Hungarian to George was any souvenirs. And

Unknown Speaker  53:14  
George said he's just to me in English. He just asked if we had any souvenirs. Do we have any souvenirs? He wrote a book about it called any souvenirs, which is on my bookshelf.

Unknown Speaker  53:26  
So anyhow, that was that little incidents

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Unknown Speaker  0:01  
all along. I was passionate about getting into drama. And I had my chance through Brian Lewis. Again, the names come back, the names come back, Norman solo brown Lewis, like Mike Willow. And Brian had now gone to central from the BBC. And he was running documentaries up there. And he asked me if I had the same sort of thing as her with Mike Miller actually had a deal of three or four films. And

Unknown Speaker  0:31  
I wanted to do film about truancy.

Unknown Speaker  0:35  
And I had a writer who had met before, called John Foster, who wanted to do it with me. Why did you want to do what about Gen Z?

Unknown Speaker  0:44  
That's a question I find really hard to answer. Actually, I'm not even sure No, I'm trying to think what what age my own son was at that time.

Unknown Speaker  0:54  
Whether that that had some bearing on it, or I'm actually going to be generous, I'll say, John Foster brought me the idea. But obviously, any decision does have your own

Unknown Speaker  1:04  
inclinations inputs a minute. It's a good question, because I could say that about an awful lot of the things why did you want to film the South Bronx? Why did you want to make a film about money coming in, and so on. So you just do when you do when you do for some reason, and then you move on? So anyhow,

Unknown Speaker  1:22  
I sold the idea of doing a drama, and a documentary

Unknown Speaker  1:28  
about the same subject. On the same night. On other side of the news, unheard of nowadays. We did a documentary about troublesome kids in a special school in Birmingham called Newlands and featured very much the headmaster, and we saw a lot of the behaviour of the kids. They weren't pixelate again, things have changed a huge amount. You know, you only had to ask the parents and the parents said, Yes, it'd be good for him. Yes, he might learn something from the say. Yeah, sure. There were other flattered that that truanting misbehaving son or daughter was going to be on will they be on television. So was nowadays and rightly so. Things are much more stringent than than they were then. And so it's odd looking at it now, which I did for various reasons, two or three years ago, to see how open it always. So we've seen that and then we took a fictitious story of a truanting schoolgirl to tutoring school girls, which is written by John Foster. And that was cast from schools. And we had very good cars had Brenda fritter David colder, lead it as the parents, and as a social worker and parents. And believe it or not, they had a documentary on one side of the news. And the drama on the other side of the news is amazing. And let's say that that gave me the confidence, working with experienced actors. And by working with complete novices who had never acted in their life. It gave me the confidence to feel I really have to do this. Now I have to move forward. And I've come across a stock. I had a sort of base in north Wales because my my sister used to live there and my family and I used to go and stay there. And sometimes if I've been away for a long time, it was a sort of retreat for me and bolthole. And I came across an article in a local newspaper about a modern Romeo modern day Romeo and Juliet. And this is a story of an English woman in her early 20s, I think who'd come to Wales with a one ambition and that was to be a Welsh Hill farmer. She fell in love with Wales, she learnt the language. She wanted to be Wilson farmer. And she fell in love with a Welsh Hill farmer. But that divided the community because the Welsh Hill farmers father was one of the last bastions of Methodism and of the stable society and all the rest of it and here was his son who was married, going off with the English woman. And I saw this and then to leap to the end.

Unknown Speaker  4:17  
He killed himself.

Unknown Speaker  4:21  

Unknown Speaker  4:23  
he was to be buried

Unknown Speaker  4:25  
locally, and she came up in her car and said to the grave digger make it big enough for two. And she disappeared. And she taken straightening. And she went down to the local church. And she was dying, but she managed to get to the altar and to the visitors booked and she said,

Unknown Speaker  4:51  
Jennifer, that was a real name, lover or a love and emotion was Whew, I saw that. Oh, I didn't see her dying. So

Unknown Speaker  5:00  
So but I went to the church and I saw that handwriting and a photograph that handwriting which is chilling to say the least. And they are very next to each other because I've seen the words. And that was the premise for the film, I was going to do it with Granada.

Unknown Speaker  5:14  
But for one reason or another, it never took off. But I took it to a producer at the BBC,

Unknown Speaker  5:21  
a legendary producer of his Caleb, who was known for giving people the documentary background, a chance to do a drama if they produce the right credentials, or the work they've done before or the idea. And she took it on board. And it was written by a very established writer called Tom Clark. And it starred Juliet Stevenson, who was wonderful, and such a demanding professional in the best possible sense. She really pushed me No, I needed to know. I needed to have answers to her questions. How do I feel what do I wear? Where did she go? Did she do this? Did she do that? It was exciting time. And I think that very warmly to, to that experience.

Unknown Speaker  6:12  
Out of that, well, not out of that came another step away to Channel Four. This was a big independent production, I said big because of the scope and scale of it. There was a musical on in Russia in Moscow, called Juno and a vos. It was extremely controversial because it told the story of a Russian count in the 19th century, who went on a trade mission to San Francisco, attempting to open up trade deals between Moscow and the West and Western America while he was there, and that San Francisco was, of course, Spanish, and there's those two an ostomy. While he was there, he fell in love with a daughter who was 16 of the Spanish count, who ran the area. And the falling in love was consumated, what's more, and then he left and on the way back, he got a cold on the boat, and he died. And so the whole thing is so slightly comical. And away he goes, Fulton's off his beautiful young 16 year old GO, GO BACK dies not have a sword and a heartbeat of a cold. And of course, the young Moscow audience absolutely loved us, it's impossible to get tickets. And

Unknown Speaker  7:31  
the people who who, in the end took me on to do it, they'd come across it in Time magazine, a story about it, and they solid to Channel Four, which was good for them. And

Unknown Speaker  7:44  
the interesting about that is when when you're trying to make your own film about something which exists in its own terms,

Unknown Speaker  7:52  
you have to play the game pretty damn well, because the producer, the director of the show, he jealously guarded his work.

Unknown Speaker  8:01  
It wasn't gonna be made by Russia, because Russia was literally banning it, you know, it's certainly not an if it's gonna be made by England or America, he wanted to make sure that it was done the way he would wish it had he been doing it himself. So that was a considerable bridge to cross because we weren't necessarily seeing things in the same way. He might say there's a subtlety going on between those two, I might say, yes, that may be true to the naked eye. But on the other hand, if we're telling the story once and once only, it's not so much that misogyny is what's happening to the account that you need to see things of that nature.

Unknown Speaker  8:35  
And the cast were wary to,

Unknown Speaker  8:38  
but not in the end. And it was the most stunning postproduction part of my life. It was touching beyond words. And I'm going to run this off by the fact that my daughter who was aged nine or 10, at the time, she fell in love with the actor playing the talent. And there was a poster of the actor playing account, cradling in his arms, a 16 year old girl and Gemma, my daughter identified with a 16 year old girl, and she drew that picture say Jr. and DeVos. To Nikolai from Gemma.

Unknown Speaker  9:14  
I had to go back to Moscow because I was going to do a film which didn't take off a button to transfer be enrolling. And I was going to go on the transplant and railway journey. And with my Moscow contacts, I left this picture and they were touched. Sweet. I said when I come back, I really, really, really want to give this to Nicola. So we got back and went to the hotel. I said, you know something about Nico. Where's my picture? He said, Oh, we'll be revealed.

Unknown Speaker  9:45  
What happened was Nicola was making a film. And he was he came over in stage costume and meet up in his little car with a Flagon of vodka to my hotel. I showed him the picture. We took the picture out outside

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
I've got a couple of people to photograph this for my daughter and Nikolai, looking at the picture. After she sent it all that way, which is, in the end, there are things that you remember

Unknown Speaker  10:12  
peripheral things that you remember every bit as much if not more than the actual film.

Unknown Speaker  10:20  
So my right my Russian sort of not roots, my Russian

Unknown Speaker  10:26  
my Russian experience, I suppose, is continuing, because I next thing I did was an independent production

Unknown Speaker  10:34  
by for a company called flitters, in in CO production of the BBC. And then I met another person with whom else to make six films as my producer. His name's Martin proctor. And we went on, we got on really well. And we did the film about the Bolshoi Ballet, which in the end was two hours long. And that was breaking new ground as well, of on a kind of fixed length and also on account of the fact that it's difficult to get into that kind of institution and to get close to people we will. We weren't lucky when we made this happen. There was an English dancer called Richard Collins, who had gone over to dance with the Bolshoi and he was a fluent Russian speaker.

Unknown Speaker  11:20  
And one of us, I can't remember who somebody knew him when we met him, and

Unknown Speaker  11:27  
persuaded the BBC that the best way to make the film is to use Richard Collins, because he knows them all and even opened doors. And

Unknown Speaker  11:35  
now he's got a font of information.

Unknown Speaker  11:38  
The only thing that was fun he was Richard was on board.

Unknown Speaker  11:42  
But the just like the gentlemen of us, producer, the

Unknown Speaker  11:49  
boss of the Bolshoi Ballet, man, COVID, rawicz.

Unknown Speaker  11:54  
Didn't want the film made. He had to be persuaded, but he's only one in a level of authority. The government runs the Bolshoi. And then there's the Department of Culture, and then there's this and then there's that, and then the scraper, which they are upsetting, but on the other hand, he's not the ultimate decision maker. So he had to be charmed in and I went over to Moscow, with my then boss at the bottom of the other side of coproduction, Alan Yentob, and we talked with veteran rich and eventually agreed to do it. And we made the film and

Unknown Speaker  12:34  
then they tend to London, the Bolshoi, and we wanted to round it off in London somehow, and there was a very charismatic and extremely delightful dancer called erect Maka made off who was the lead and he was a Tata, and he was handsome. And it was strong. He was astounding to watch he later tend to England. And he lived he worked with Royal Ballet for many years, his but 16 hours or something.

Unknown Speaker  13:00  

Unknown Speaker  13:01  
the opening was a royal occasion, because Princess Diana was to meet the cast. And it was for them a gala performance. And we were allowed to film we had to wear a bowtie and all the rest of it.

Unknown Speaker  13:16  
And when they went down when she went down the line, she was getting close to book a made off. And if there was ever an electricity that I've seen in my life, it was between those two.

Unknown Speaker  13:30  
They looked at each other, and they could barely take their eyes off each other. She had to move on, but just for that moment when thought the ballet dancer and the Princess

Unknown Speaker  13:42  
The next thing was again for BBC which was Stephen Sondheim's follies, and that was a chaotic, but very exhilarating time. We have four days of rehearsal of Stephen Sondheim's musical follies, which was appearing in concert at the Lincoln centre with obviously some time and attendance but with an unbelievable cast Lee remet Elaine Stritch, Mandy Patinkin and so on I could go on a scene there wasn't one who, whose name would have meant nothing in that world anyway. But I mentioned above record which I mentioned those ones for start.

Unknown Speaker  14:22  
Four days in which for us to come in travelling somewhere what was happening, try and understand what the musical all about. We've got the score and everything and try and decide what we're going to film and at the same time and at the same time when the confidence of the cast to do individual pieces with virtually all of them because then we're all Carol Burnett is on our set. Yeah. But we did it. And again, it was a fantastic experience. A million miles from a coal mine.

Unknown Speaker  14:54  
And that that did well, but actually both Bolshoi and Follies. They both got buffed and almond

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
nations and as this one must have been one of the few times when of the four nominations one person gets two of the four nominations but doesn't win it.

Unknown Speaker  15:14  
Again, complete contrast. The next thing was to go far, far away from the, to Gaza and to Lebanon. There had been a story about a British surgeon, a woman, young woman surgery called Pauline cutting, who had very bravely and very inexperienced in her 20s stayed on in one of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. And it eventually left she had operated with electricity. She had operated with art, even the skill set to do some of the relations. Some of the operations she did. She was going to Dr. Nasir surgeon, and eventually she left and there was she was a big figure for a while. And we had the idea of taking her by the dust settles a little bit. But then letter got on very well with her.

Unknown Speaker  16:06  
And Martin proctor who had been with me on the Bolshoi, as my producer, came with me as my producer on the two films we did with Polly cutting, and

Unknown Speaker  16:19  
it was talking one film but we got so much material by by festival from Lebanon that made a film in itself, the the temps and the access that we had. And there's a little story aside on that. When we were filming in Shatila, which is one of the most Oh, rabbit warren of a place you know, either the roads that wide or the touch roads parts is to touch both walls.

Unknown Speaker  16:46  
There was a girl playing in the rubble, a Cockshutt dish of little girl of about 12 that I guess, the dark hair and wearing a t shirt,

Unknown Speaker  16:57  
say America out of a photograph of her. And she put on a little smile. American I thought

Unknown Speaker  17:05  
poignant This is in this horrible mess. And I've held on to the photograph. And then some years later, I went back to Lebanon, but I'm gonna move that to when I reached that in Florida things.

Unknown Speaker  17:21  

Unknown Speaker  17:23  
Pauline wanted to go back to Gaza.

Unknown Speaker  17:27  
It is a very intense political time. Gaza was city was under the control of the Israeli defence force. And there was all sorts of unrest, burning tars shootings

Unknown Speaker  17:42  
young boys with rubber bullets.

Unknown Speaker  17:46  
And that's the first time I've witnessed anything like that. I've seen dust before, but unseen, that kind of thing.

Unknown Speaker  17:54  
And we we had to do to try and record this and we were holed up in

Unknown Speaker  18:01  
a tall building to get a vantage point of the way in which the Israeli troops were boys. They were were running around with their guns and firing at things and what have you. And I was with a cameraman who I worked with on several occasions who have done quite a lot of warzone and other things he went, he came with me to

Unknown Speaker  18:21  
North Dakota to Bosnia, John Davey,

Unknown Speaker  18:24  
who's had a distinguished career his friend, Fred Wiseman's government,

Unknown Speaker  18:29  
and he was used to the situations we were up on the top floor and we had to film we got there, we needed to record what was happening. So we put the camera on a ledge. And John said, Everybody's got to keep down and I'll switch on when I need to switch on because if I put my head above the parapet, then if they if they just see something black, high up on a ledge, they're not. They're not gonna think twice about it. If one of them by that block high up unless they see somebody moving. They're very definitely going to react. So we will, we will crouch down, and eventually we got shots and they're very good too. So that that was a big experience for me, too. I've never seen a country out of occupation, manifestation of it too.

Unknown Speaker  19:18  
So the one when mother, my

Unknown Speaker  19:22  
mother, to start with virginal innocence was getting sort of quite seasoned and experienced and weary, but not too.

Unknown Speaker  19:33  
I did two great journey films, one with a photographer called Philip Jones Griffiths, we went to Vietnam, and we recreated the whole Chi Minh Trail. Now when I say that, that's something again, I feel

Unknown Speaker  19:49  
I'm not talking about film. I feel quite proud of the achievement. We had to persuade the EU, the Vietnamese officials to let us have

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
under supervision under their supervision.

Unknown Speaker  20:03  
Group, I can't remember how many of Vietnamese soldiers

Unknown Speaker  20:09  
and Vietnamese soldiers for our filming requirements

Unknown Speaker  20:14  
blasted an area of a forest to make the track. They camouflaged a truck to take a truck on a float, which they'd melt, built across a stream. They camouflage bicycles, which they rode, taking down provisions from Hanoi, down to the south. They did all of those things. They walked across rivers with provisions on their heads, trying to think what else

Unknown Speaker  20:42  
but one way or another.

Unknown Speaker  20:44  
Of course, they're proud that they're not ashamed of the human trail. You have to remember, when we talk about Vietnam, we are talking about a nation of rice farmers, who actually when all sudden got defeated, all the weaponry, all the bombs, all the poison gas, all the rest of it, of the West, they want it. So why should they be ashamed of the human trail, they want to boast it and

Unknown Speaker  21:12  
it was a film riddled with experiences. As I'd grown up with Vietnam. It was my generation, and utterly fascinating for me to see the realities of it. And the other one, or two or three, but another one, which was which was

Unknown Speaker  21:27  
groundbreaking was we were going to do a film with Billy Bragg. And

Unknown Speaker  21:32  
he then went to China on a date and we lost touch with him. And we've still got the facilities, we've got the budget, we've got the crew, etc. So somebody had the thought it wasn't my original idea of doing it with Andy Kershaw instead, because allocation was an authority on world music. And we could do it as a sort of musical journey across Bolivia into Chile,

Unknown Speaker  21:58  
called Silver trucks, which was the route taken by the silver mind from a town called policy in Bolivia, and taken across the Andes to the coast and then off to Spain. So that was the premise. And then just as Andy Kershaw was agreeing to it, Billy Bragg turns up.

Unknown Speaker  22:20  
Problem dilemma. So we said, I said, I don't know who said, Let's do a two hander for ones. That's never been done before. Let's do braggin Kershel. Now, in fact, it was a clever idea, because the Kershel had been Billy Bragg's roadie before he became before either than became famous, in fact, and Billy Bragg is an intellectual is an extraordinarily intelligent and well read man, highly articulate. And he he sort of as a pop musician, and protests, call him much well, on the way up, he was quite envious of Kershel. You never got a microphone and a platform and went all over the world doing broadcasts about music. And having been Billy Bragg's roadie anteater show said that to be really brag actually had quite a lot to do that. So we had this sort of love hate relationship where they were fiercely competitive. They each wanted to win whenever there was anything which whether it was hurling a quoit, or catching a ball or whatever. So we stumbled our way through that.

Unknown Speaker  23:30  
Great journey. Films are never easy, never easy have to think on your feet of return. But I was I was fortunate to have Martin again. I asked Martin Proctor, my producer,

Unknown Speaker  23:42  
I set him just as a casual conversation, or maybe wasn't me, maybe somebody else. What does a producer actually do when you're on vacation? And he said, Call me said well, if you're doing your job, if you give the director time and space to think. And actually it's a very good answer, because nowadays,

Unknown Speaker  24:07  
if you are called a producer, director,

Unknown Speaker  24:11  
that means that you're in effect taking on everything in notation. If there's if there's any problem, you have to solve it. If there's anything to do peripheral like permissions like this like that, like going to see the boss man or boss woman you have to do it was especially in the Tesla Bolshoy. Martin dealt with that. And I can get on with making the film. I don't know how I would have made those films not much. I really don't. Unfortunately, I mentioned persuade the BBC that we were a package. And it worked very well for us. It worked very well. And

Unknown Speaker  24:45  
we're still very much in touch with each other.

Unknown Speaker  24:48  
So that was that broken cache? Oh, yeah, one.

Unknown Speaker  24:52  
One final thing about delivery. We were in

Unknown Speaker  24:56  
a very, very cold place with a campfire.

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
And and Bolivian Indians, and they wanted to have a sing song. Now our driver played the guitar. And so they've been singing songs anyway. And Billy Bragg, they said, sing a song in English. So Billy Bragg thought it's a camphor, and he sang the Old Boy Scout song, King Gangu literally walked jerking Gangu and he got the Indian sang Gayndah to go go. So it was a miserable little moment of bizarre to say the least.

Unknown Speaker  25:34  
I'd started an independent company, modestly. I myself, and a production manager, Monica Lee, who had been for a long, long time, who used to been in film and stripper gave it up to raise a family and Rosanna can come back and work with me.

Unknown Speaker  25:49  
And we made a few films together.

Unknown Speaker  25:52  
One of which was

Unknown Speaker  25:55  
filmed by Victoria coach station.

Unknown Speaker  25:59  
And I'm going to talk about this because it's quite, it's quite painful. But nevertheless, if we're doing this, we're doing this.

Unknown Speaker  26:05  
I wanted to make a film about Victoria couch session for cutting edge. And so I went to, I wrote a proposal based on what I seen, obviously, out of the blue, I spent weekend, talk to some of the supervisors talk some of the drivers, passengers, etc, etc. And I wrote it up, and I went to see the commissioner, and he commissioned it.

Unknown Speaker  26:30  

Unknown Speaker  26:32  
you can never tell him these films, what's going to happen, we needed to have two or three crews for stock, because we were doing it over Easter weekend, which is the busiest in the calendar year. Everybody said, things are bound to happen, not just the drunks, not just the rowdies, but genuine stores will emerge every so they always do. So fun off, we do do that. Now, we have some top cameraman on that. And the film that emerged was a good film in its own terms, which was very different from what had been offered to the commissioner of cutting edge. And when he came to see the cut, he was arraigned in raged. And he said I can't show that.

Unknown Speaker  27:21  
I said, Well, I'll tell you, what are you got to do then? He said, Well, I don't know. I've got somebody else to work on. Why was it so different? Because I think that the word head on collisions with people.

Unknown Speaker  27:35  
That wasn't perhaps enough Jeopardy, which was a great word of the year.

Unknown Speaker  27:42  

Unknown Speaker  27:45  
Well, I have to finish the story, actually, because I was heartbroken. I was really seriously heartbroken. Because as soon as I set up a company and the first thing that I've done crushes on the rocks, and the seemed to be no recourse. But I fought my corner I wrote to Michael grey to rich John Lewis. And I demanded an inquiry I was challenging the taste of the commissioning editor. What happened was that in the end, it was cut down from 50 minutes, I suppose to about 35 minutes, something like that.

Unknown Speaker  28:17  
Channel Four, took it on, showed it. It got amazing.

Unknown Speaker  28:25  
It was poetry it was this it was that it was inside all sorts of long lost words. And then they shared it again. And I think again.

Unknown Speaker  28:35  
But for a while. I saw I saw my whole future disappear. So sorry to interrupt the flow. It's a few days later, but there's something that you mentioned you had forgotten to talk about. So do you want to tell me now? Yes, it's about ideas are one of our dear in particular, ideas can come when you least expect it. I went to a football match. Queens Park Rangers is Hutton's around the corner and I bought the match programme. Now in the match programme. Every time that they publish it, they have an interview with a player and usually the player talks about his favourite food his way let's go on holiday, favourite car, etc, etc. It's not actually actually terribly deep. However, on this particular occasion. It was interesting because the programme here was this featured a footballer called Ian Holloway. Not where he was unusual is that he lived in Bristol so he had to commute all the way to West London to work to play football. But also he had a young family of four children all edge four or under. He was married to his childhood sweetheart, and they were very happy little family unit. However, three of the four children were poor

Unknown Speaker  30:00  
Fundly deaf, one of them was normal hearing, the oldest, the other three, all girls with deaf children with twins never been twins in either family, or deafness in the family. So I thought that was interesting. And I had to try and get meet Ian Holloway and see whether or not he'd be prepared to do what most footballers are not prepared to do, which is let me become a part of his family life. Normally, they guard their privacy footballers and can't blame them. They're in the public eye. And they used to being interviewed on television, about matches, but they're not used to having a film crew in their home and being part of the life. Anyhow, they accepted us. And I was happy to find out that, that what I thought had potential had a reality as well, I could see that there could be a really interesting film here. So we set about making it and in the end, we've we finished it happily, it was an uplifting experience. And it was shown on BBC, and the title of it was, we believe, one family, two languages.

Unknown Speaker  31:09  
Thank you.

Unknown Speaker  31:11  
I made another film through our company, which was made in Bosnia with the war artist His name is Peter house. And, and

Unknown Speaker  31:20  
when we travel back from making the film about which I'm not talking in a minute or two,

Unknown Speaker  31:27  
the sound man did not take his rushes with him. On board, he had just put them were different paces. If I seen it, I said something. He just checked them on as luggage. I don't want to I don't want to carry the rushes.

Unknown Speaker  31:47  
When we got to, we had gone to Rome. And I wanted to go back to London from Croatia.

Unknown Speaker  31:56  
There were no rushes.

Unknown Speaker  31:58  
And they'd all gone on leaving me with the entire gear because they'd all got jobs to go to.

Unknown Speaker  32:07  
And I was left with all the gear in Rome airport, except for the sun rushes. And I think that is probably the lowest moment of my working life. By far actually, I had no one to share the experience with I wasn't even sure about the protocol of dealing with the gear because that's not something when it was gear in boxes, it's not something directors normally have done anyway.

Unknown Speaker  32:31  
So eventually got us to London, or minuses sound. And still no sign of the sound I found the cameraman said this is got to be resolved. And

Unknown Speaker  32:44  
there seems to be no sign of it coming. And I just broke down. You know, I thought I just can't believe this is happening to me.

Unknown Speaker  32:52  
We've got some good material there all of a sudden was lost, lost, lost, lost, lost. And people said how could you How could that happen? How could you not have taken it? Anyway, it was found in Rome airport at the end. But my goodness, did that not ring me out? Wow.

Unknown Speaker  33:12  

Unknown Speaker  33:13  
suffered from it. But anyhow, it's like my whole investment has just gotten blown up.

Unknown Speaker  33:21  
So we're artists I was mentioning. So there's not much to say about war artists. But again, I'm not meaning this to be a session of horror, and more bitterness and so on. But we had to work closely with the army.

Unknown Speaker  33:39  
And we were taken out with the army. Both.

Unknown Speaker  33:44  
Peter had to live with the army. He was sponsored by the Sunday Times as war artists. But he was very unhappy though. And he moved out to where we will, which was in a Croatian village where we were sharing rooms and a farmer who cited that he can make a bit of money by renting out rooms. But it was quite dangerous aerials across fire going on. So you had to be careful what you did. And he came down and joined us. And one day we went out together with one of the officers. And we were going to a scene at a at a bus station where a bus had been shot out by now which way around was it we've got the Muslims we've got the service the Croatians, I've gotten the Witcher was winning. There was a bus that bus in a sorry state. We got the we filmed started filming and

Unknown Speaker  34:37  
Peter looked down on something on the ground. And he said what's that? And the officer said, what's the man's brains? And Peter and I just looked at each other. And neither of us knew what to say or do because both of us were thinking the same thing. I'm a human being don't assume a buck on this

Unknown Speaker  35:00  
Because I don't want to watch, it's gonna make me ill. And I don't want to think about it.

Unknown Speaker  35:07  

Unknown Speaker  35:09  
do I continue to be the cold, calm, professional, this is life. This is death. This is what happens when you have civil war. This is how people die. This is what the world needs to see, I'm here, I have to broadcast it. So he said,

Unknown Speaker  35:26  
Peter said, I can't crawl up a controller.

Unknown Speaker  35:30  
So again, we we did show it, we showed it

Unknown Speaker  35:36  

Unknown Speaker  35:40  
After that, we went to Moscow. Again, it's another independent production.

Unknown Speaker  35:47  
This is a strange film, because

Unknown Speaker  35:51  
this is a tonne of debt taunt with the West and opportunities for British businessmen to do everything from fast food to fashion to insurance, a group of big British businessmen went to Moscow, a company by ourselves to sell their wares. And they were characters in their own right, doing what their job was. But at that time, the White House in Moscow was under siege from the rebel factions in, in Moscow. And it had been surrounded by armed patrol vehicles. And we were aware of that, but we thought, that's obviously guarding it, whatever. And then, after about a couple of days, I woke in the morning, and I heard gunfire, and it was thought it was gunfire out the window, what I could say, and the vehicles are moving. And I thought maybe there's something we ought to be aware of. And I went to wake up John, David Cameron. And we gathered, and I think they'd put an alarm on her to all the members exactly, but one way or another, people in the hotel joined together. And we were with our businessman. And we went up to

Unknown Speaker  37:11  
find a suitable vantage point from which to film. And I let John do that, because he's more experienced than I am, and that kind of situation. And

Unknown Speaker  37:24  
there was considerable bombardment, very considerable moment. And we were in a prime spot for this, we were in a better spot than the news people. We were immediately across the river, it was over happening in front of us. And we were filming it, it was important material, which was used a lot.

Unknown Speaker  37:44  
What I remember is that two of the two of the businessmen I wanted to ask them, first of all, what do you think? pretty stupid question. Secondly, what can you see? And they both took on the role of being war correspondents. And one of them who was a close of fashion salesman,

Unknown Speaker  38:07  
said, Well, from my vantage points here, when I looked down, I can see one, no, maybe it's two bodies, and there's another APV coming around the corner, I think it's going too far.

Unknown Speaker  38:20  
It's amazing how you check on a roll all of a sudden.

Unknown Speaker  38:26  
Right? So that was that we're near the end of this now, because the only other thing film I need to talk about is my last film that I made in this capacity. And that was a film with a sports commentator called Helen Rollason, who, at that time was was much light. She was a very bright, chirpy Lady with an engaging smile.

Unknown Speaker  38:52  
But she was also suffering from cancer. And I can't remember how it came to me, but it did through the BBC.

Unknown Speaker  39:01  

Unknown Speaker  39:02  
we needed to establish a racial relationship beyond the making of the film. In other words, I had to be seen her filming or not filming, just so that I was I was a stranger on a train rarely, you know, every now and then you need somebody with whom you're not immediately involved just to talk and she tried everything. She just fighter, remembering the people in the in the people we talked to, and this was her doctors or surgeons or consultants, people who did Chinese medicine people who did herbalism people who did this that now that she stopped at nothing that lady and one of the people went fevers, Peter systems, the news, town news, written news, Costa Rica, not read.

Unknown Speaker  39:52  

Unknown Speaker  39:53  
he thought about it a lot. And he said Helen

Unknown Speaker  40:00  
courage and determination of a prizefighter?

Unknown Speaker  40:07  
A few words, but I thought

Unknown Speaker  40:10  
that's pretty damn good. That is that is pretty good.

Unknown Speaker  40:15  
Shut up, we've kept I went to a funeral. And I have

Unknown Speaker  40:21  
fond memories that was that

Unknown Speaker  40:23  
it was an intimate time we went we went off to

Unknown Speaker  40:29  
France for the World Cup was it Francis it was an England we're playing to playing

Unknown Speaker  40:35  
Tamil, I forget who they play. But this was the time of a very young David Beckham and the time of other people who are well known local and sheer when they were playing for England. And Helen and her daughter, Nikki, they put on makeup with England and everything. So she really entered into the spirit of it. And then all the people, all the sports people knew her they all they all thought the world of her so it's a lovely for me being a football freak. It was lovely for me to get that sort of insight and travel around. Oh my god, I was in the car with Trevor Brooking. Not anyone else gonna be that impressed with I was impressed anyway.

Unknown Speaker  41:13  
So that was that. And Her funeral was, as you might imagine, extremely well attended.

Unknown Speaker  41:20  
And then I'd made a big career move. Not deliberately, I can't remember exactly the circumstances that led up to it. But I find myself being a serious producer. But I wanted to do that.

Unknown Speaker  41:33  
Keeping Monica with me as my production manager, just as Martin Proctor, as my producer, had been such a massive support to me, so to Monica, as my production manager, and partner in, in unicorn productions. Again, I wanted to do that and I was able to do it, I'm glad to say so we went to old a hospital. And in the end, we did 40 programmes

Unknown Speaker  42:02  
over a long period of time. And I was delighted to work with a fantastic Narrator called Andrew sacks, who was of course in Fawlty Towers,

Unknown Speaker  42:14  
who was a delightful man, but also meticulous professional. And I think the great pleasure I've had out of that. And all the series producing I did is seen what's happened to the people I work with. And I take great pleasure out of the fact that they were young. Well, we were all younger than me. But I had Nick Murphy, who's gone on to make some very successful feature films and did a Christmas carol for BBC, which was widely praised. Michael Samuels does lots of big drums. Todd Austin is Award is an independent, he's won awards. Sally Evans has gone on to get a very good job in ITV. And, you know, that's, that's nice. That's good to know, that kind of thing. So we did Children's Hospital. And then after that, we went to the zoo. The zoo was an unusual experience because we were family in the zoo. And we're partly family because to his great credit, the production manager decided that it would be better to have everybody working at the zoo, rather than going to cutting rooms and going on a tube and this than the other. So he arranged for a fully fledged prefab HUD, complete with Lou water and everything else. And that was our production office and that we were a family there we stayed. People had their desks, we had editing suites, their wealth suites, I don't consider sweets, we had Eddie who spaces there. And that was that was it was a long series again, that was about 20 films or something like that. But I look upon each of these things as what I got out of it beyond the actual pleasure of creating a series. And there are a number of things

Unknown Speaker  44:01  
utterly delighted to work with Debbie Wiseman, the composer whose music appreciated before and who I think is she brought a lot to it, which with an understanding of the visuals or understanding mood understanding music.

Unknown Speaker  44:18  
And also it gave me the opportunity of working for the first time with two people who went on to work three people who I went on to work with make sure I get this right now. That is to say, Sarah Hardy, Sophia Robinson and James thunder pool. And that has given me a continuing sense of pressure because we're talking about 20 years ago, and I'm still very close to all three of them. I'm very fond of them and I take huge, huge delight in the giant strides all three of them made in their own way. Sarah Hart is won a BAFTA.

Unknown Speaker  44:55  
Sophie Robinson has has had Emmy nomination and also one other

Unknown Speaker  45:00  
woods, and James Vanderpool has soared in the BBC to very high rank, but at the same time keeping his own integrity and his own standards as a filmmaker. So that's been the pleasure of doing that. I did airport for a long time. And Sarah Hardy came with me to the airport.

Unknown Speaker  45:19  
And then I think the next thing we did after that was a short series about addictions, and about how people can overcome problems of drinking and smoking. And that was three films as a recall, with sort of two handers. So I brought with me from that experience, Sarah Neal, who had worked with me in an older hospital. So that was another relationship continuing over the years. Sophie Robinson came with me.

Unknown Speaker  45:54  
And James Vanderpool, Tim, with me,

Unknown Speaker  45:58  
I think that was it.

Unknown Speaker  46:02  

Unknown Speaker  46:04  
the point about this is that it's not always easy to get the people you want, because

Unknown Speaker  46:12  
they have contracts, they want to work, the BBC wants to get a return for the contracts that are paying. And it's, you can't just walk in and say, I want this person, that person, the other person. So I sort of try and do it in such a way as to impress upon the people that I'm trying to get released, the value that it will be to what the product is, in the end, it will, I will put myself up at the state and if it doesn't come off, then it's, it's my fault for asking for the people. It's as simple as that. But I would rather do that and have the people I want the not of the people. Sometimes one sometimes I lost on balance, I think, on balance, I think I came out on top with one or two exceptions. I got the people I wanted for most of the series I did.

Unknown Speaker  47:03  
I did a series for ITV, about her school.

Unknown Speaker  47:10  
Again, a quite a tempting subject, but not not easy. Because what you did, you will be in watch what you did, and you had to run it past people to let you do it and so on. And I wanted to run in so we were given an office by her school for ourselves. And I think we brought a whiteboard, because I've always liked working off a whiteboard, because it has been overview vision on bit eccentric in that sense, but I'm old fashioned, but it works for me anyway. And so we had a whiteboard without shedule on with our list of possibles, etc. And I walked in one morning to find that the headmaster had walked in and started putting comments saying, why this? What about that? What about the other? And I thought, come on. So as I'd say, I'd be very polite, of course. So I said, Excuse me, I'm sort of sipping over a quick word. You know, I don't want you to think that this board is what it's going to be in the end. It's my little notepad, and I have to keep it to myself, you know, into my team, because otherwise you'll get the wrong idea.

Unknown Speaker  48:20  
So I had to put up with that. And that I was quite amused by there was a master there who was a well known football referee. And luckily, I know it's Arabic, though. And he'd been, he'd been on television quite a lot. And in the early days, when I was introducing myself to them trying to establish a rapport, he said,

Unknown Speaker  48:41  
you know, can you just also cameraman if if, if I'm being interviewed, we're not going to not ask him? Can you ask the interviewer? If I'm being interviewed as I expect you will?

Unknown Speaker  48:53  
Could they stop nodding all the time? And could they stop looking interested? Because it's very off putting, you know, if I'm talking I wanted to I don't want to watch somebody making funny faces.

Unknown Speaker  49:07  
Certainly, yeah, that was her. And then the next thing was actually a major,

Unknown Speaker  49:16  
major time for everybody involved. I think I can say that without fear of contradiction. We did three films called your life in the hands. And this was an exciting project. It was done without a presenter. There have been present. There's been a series they've done serious life in the hands before. But this was without a presenter. So a lot of research had been done. And when I came on board, I took on all that research and filtered it down and went off usually on my own, I think at that stage to meet some of the surgeons and try and shortlist at any rate surgeons or in some cases choose to surgeons before the team was fully established. And when it came to

Unknown Speaker  50:00  
getting the team together on someone else is incredibly important that I have people who I know and trust. And

Unknown Speaker  50:10  
to be fair, we got what we wanted.

Unknown Speaker  50:15  
Pretty well, there was only one person who none of us knew. But for the rest of it, it was all people that I knew anyway. So I had Sophie Robinson, James Vanderpool, and the other person had had worked with on Children's Hospital those years ago.

Unknown Speaker  50:30  
And that was Jeffrey Smith, Australian. And he has also made a very successful career actually, it's fun was built on the back of your life in the hands with a surgeon who just everybody knows now brain surgeon called Henry Marsh, who's written two books and as a regular broadcaster. And Jeffrey went off and made after this series, he went off and made another film, which was shown in the in the cinema isn't. So he did very well out of it. I think all the films are very good in the way the three surgeons with different each film had. Its its own identity.

Unknown Speaker  51:08  
In some cases, particularly in surface film had to deal with death,

Unknown Speaker  51:13  
as I've had to, so again, if you've if you've had that experience, you can share that experience. That's the point.

Unknown Speaker  51:21  

Unknown Speaker  51:23  
it did well it, The series won the World Television Society Award for something really

Unknown Speaker  51:31  
sure what of his documentary or silence on something anyway. So out of that came relationships. And one of the relationships that emerged was Sophie's relationship with the Lebanese mother of a boy who needed to have a liver transplant, which was being given by his father. And at the end of it all, it was important to show the film to that family who had given so much of themselves emotionally, in terms of time in terms of belief, trust, et cetera, at a very, very sensitive time in their lives, they could have lost their husband and their son could have done mistakes.

Unknown Speaker  52:17  

Unknown Speaker  52:19  
first of all, I managed to get it okay for Sophie to go. But then I worked really hard. And

Unknown Speaker  52:25  
to get myself out there to was I wanted to see the family as well. And we went to see them. And I took the opportunity of trying to locate that little girl whose photograph I'd taken with a T shirt saying America all those years ago in the rubble of Shatila and through various old contracts, I'd made a motion to get into tila. And I managed eventually to cut the story to the bare bones, and managed to not find her. But I did find her mother. And I did find her family. And I had got the photograph, which I left with them that I'd taken, and that they were all almost in tears to see it understandably. And they showed me a photograph of her she got married when she was about 20. I think it was no less than that. She got married about 18. And they left and her husband had something to do with

Unknown Speaker  53:21  
clothing or something like that. The main thing was that she was alive anyway. And for me, it was a nice closure. It was a nice running off of the chapter to know that she had survived. So you, you do get things like that, which are important. And on on that subject. What I'm talking about.

Unknown Speaker  53:39  
Now, and relationships is one relationship I think of a lot, or did think of a lot of times up since then. And that was when we were doing giving up for good. And we it's a difficult subject alcohol really is it's sensitive, you can easily put your foot in it. You can upset people, and we got into the Priory in Nottingham, which was a first I don't think we've ever been filmed inside before on foot Fletcher convinced. And there were a mixed bag of people. There was a teenage girl called Tina, who by any standards was stroppy. She wasn't easy that 10 She really wasn't. And it needed.

Unknown Speaker  54:21  
delicate, sensitive, skilled hand to win her trust. And this isn't learning don't matter to me. It's important.

Unknown Speaker  54:29  
Sophie was doing that and they struck up a report and Tina, I wouldn't say she became dependent on Sophie but she certainly needed and folk comfortable with Sofia, she never could have done with me. I'm old enough to be a great grandfather and grandfather.

Unknown Speaker  54:46  
And when the filming ended, that relationship continued in that Tina was forever getting in touch with Sophie. And to me that eventually things die out, you know, that sort of thing.

Unknown Speaker  55:00  
We have intimate relationships in filmmaking. I've had many, many, which have lasted in some cases a year or maybe two years. But they fizzle out, but you're left with a memory. And I think that's a good thing. There are those who say, no, no filmmakers, we've got to be like a doctor, you've got to be at arm's length, you can't get involved. No, no, you've got to keep your distance, you've got to keep your judgement, your objectivity, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Unknown Speaker  55:28  
Well, obviously, it's Trump's a point. But on the other hand, if you haven't gotten a relationship in the first place, you're not going to get the truth. And that's in all these things. What I advocate on this moment, anything else is trying to get to the heart of the essence of The Truth of and that can only be done by putting in the time,

Unknown Speaker  55:50  
I've took on a series or took over a series called trawlerman, which was off Aberdeen. And again, that was a series of highly successful films, not Minh, highly successful films, but the series had been highly successful. And as I was to take it over, and,

Unknown Speaker  56:07  
again, proving your credentials getting into a community rockin and so they're talking about half the time, the Scots ISIS was, was so broad, and one of them had come become sort of celebrity. And I felt that

Unknown Speaker  56:21  
because of the first series, and I felt he was simplifying me up and down, saying, what we're going to be able to do with this one.

Unknown Speaker  56:29  
But we, again, we put in the hours, I didn't go on the roughest of the boats, but I did go on a boat.

Unknown Speaker  56:36  
And those the others who did it, and made some wonderful films. And again, another pleasure, we brought in a new young composer,

Unknown Speaker  56:47  
called Cole homes, who did some fantastic music. And that's, that's always nice to see people continuing when they've been given a break in the first place as a serious producer.

Unknown Speaker  56:59  
I mean, I'm very glad that when I was a serious producer, I was by and large, able to do it the way I wanted to do it. And that meant being on the ground.

Unknown Speaker  57:11  
As I had been all my life, and I couldn't really envisage being at a distance, does not mean to say that I wanted to metal, it doesn't mean to say that I wanted to tell people how to do things. It doesn't mean any of those things. But it does mean is that we can talk about things because I've met the person in question. I know what he or she is like the person that film with her might have problems with. It helps me to Sue's troubled waters if I have to. And

Unknown Speaker  57:44  
nowadays, I shouldn't say this, because it's probably not always true. But it's been true. In my experience when I was offered a job, which I didn't take

Unknown Speaker  57:53  
the series producer sits in an office on a computer and makes decisions from there without even seen the protagonists not even seen how it's working on the ground. You can make suggestions, if you see what's working on the ground, you can't from an office. So anyhow,

Unknown Speaker  58:10  
I think I was lucky because I think I had extremely good people to work with. And I think some of the results we came up with were really worthwhile.

Unknown Speaker  58:20  
On the question of,

Unknown Speaker  58:24  
of plasma and Iraq, that was tough as hell to because again, there was there was gunfire, you know, people were being killed. And it was a it was a civil war.

Unknown Speaker  58:38  
But we were safeguarded by the Army. I was remember actually, one night, we went out on

Unknown Speaker  58:45  
to a remote place on a truck, where we had been told there was a cache of explosives in a hut.

Unknown Speaker  58:55  
To get to that heart meant going across its pitch of night, across incredibly difficult terrain. You know, I was stumbling, my foot was tripping. I was cold. And I was old. All of those things. And eventually when we found the cache, and we got back in the truck was waiting and it was open at the back. And they're all covered on board. And I was the last person to get on board, which meant that I had to sit at the end of the truck with my legs dangling over and I was told

Unknown Speaker  59:31  
I was gonna fall off the truck and be left stranded on the ground and the truck zoom off. I've never sat back like that as much in my life and then think I did do another series of series producer. And that was for Todd Austin, who had worked with me all those years ago at

Unknown Speaker  59:51  
at old a hospital. And this is a drama documentary series, which I did in Bolivia and I brought back my

Unknown Speaker  1:00:00  
Old friend Martin proctor who by now had fallen in love with Oblivion woman with him he had two children and was living in Bolivia. So I was reunited with, with Martin as well. So this is what I have enjoyed about my life, actually the comings and goings of people, Sophie had come across a remarkable story, what turned out to be a remarkable story of a woman in her 30s, who had suffered a brain haemorrhage. And he has suffered with with a real eye for an opportunity, felt that maybe there's something here took the camera, they started making the film, as best they could without any resources. And they'd reached a certain stage in making the film. And they were sitting to do a taster tape to try and raise some money. And Sophie called me and asked if I would like to help out, well, I didn't need asking twice. And the film went on to do incredibly well, it, it won prizes at festivals, it was, I think, the first documentary that Netflix have not taken up and backed. It got on top of the awards, it got an Emmy nomination. I like telling the story, because it's a classic story of abandoned acorns growing into oak trees. And that was effectively

Unknown Speaker  1:01:28  
the last thing I've done. I mean, I've tried at the moment to be a bit available and helped students at the film school have kept up relationships and some, and I've helped them and help has been cool for. But I've now reached the stage of looking back, you know,

Unknown Speaker  1:01:47  
I've had 50 years of it, I'm coming up to 80.

Unknown Speaker  1:01:52  
Every now and then you do your own balance sheet.

Unknown Speaker  1:01:56  

Unknown Speaker  1:01:58  
it's not been easy. It's not been easy. I've had a family to support

Unknown Speaker  1:02:04  
all the time. And it's not easy for them. When the father goes away, when the husband goes away, as I have done for long periods of time, long periods of time. And you have no security beyond the job you're doing.

Unknown Speaker  1:02:19  
And you have to live on the brink all the time, which which I sort of have done. But on the other hand, the compensations that I've had are, I think, enormous. I mean,

Unknown Speaker  1:02:33  
I haven't done a Summer Lesson I think, in a silver mine in Potosi, Bolivia have climbed to the top of a tower crane and been done and mine have been under FDA, et cetera, et cetera. And, you know, to have been able to make films with the likes of, of Alan price and megaphone, but it is pure fun at the same time, a film completely differently from that, and totally alien circumstances made.

Unknown Speaker  1:03:02  
For me, my balance sheet, it's made it all worthwhile. And

Unknown Speaker  1:03:11  
I think this generation now has to live with that and grab it. Because the days of security, which I was never offered, but the desert literature of pretty well over any way. So when I'm talking about freelancing, I'm talking about a vast number of people in the film industry who are doing just that. And all I can say is, I wish them well hanging, stick at it. And above all, keep your integrity and keep your values this is the most important thing of a lot. Your awareness, certain crisis of moment about standards, not visual standards, about standards of reporting about standards of writing, we have to maintain those standards. And if we find things or people who

Unknown Speaker  1:04:04  
go along with that you cling to them because it's important that there should be a sort of feeling of determination to keep this industry and to keep television filmmaking alive and healthy and sometimes angry.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai



Michael Houldey


Executive and Series Producer, Producer and Director, Tutor and Mentor

EXECUTIVE  PRODUCER  –  My Beautiful Broken Brain   Documentary feature (84 min). Director Sophie Robinson. Acquired by Netflix. NOMINATED FOR EMMY 2017. Winner of prestigious DOCU award and  Best Director, 'The Female Gaze', at International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam, November 2014. Best Film, Iranian Science Film Festival.  Also shown at Sheffield International Documentary Festival, Istanbul Festival and Zagreb Dox. USA premiere at South By South West Festival in Austin Texas 2016







MY HOLIDAY HOSTAGE HELL                                           Prospect Pictures for Virgin            6 x 60

Drama documentary series about British travellers kidnapped in India, Bolivia, Chile, Iran, West Papua, Liberia.  Also directed the film made in Bolivia


TRAWLERMEN  Series Two                                                                     BBC-1                           5 x 30                     

Narrator Peter Capaldi.  TX  at 7.00pm on five consecutive evenings Trawlermen 2   was seen by an audience averaging over 4 million. All five films featured in the Broadcast Top Ten Factual programmes and the series scored a BBC A.I. of 82.5%


‘Brilliantly made and fascinating’   ‘Compelling to watch, undoubtedly hellish to actually experience’   

The Guardian

Nominated for Maritime Foundation Media Award and Royal Television Society Midland Centre Best Documentary Award, 2007


SOLDIER HUSBAND DAUGHTER DAD                  BBC1             8 x 30          

Narrator Damian Lewis.  Unique access to a British Army Regiment on active duty in Basra and their wives and families at home.  A series which uncompromisingly illustrates the human stories of life and death which lie behind the political decisions.


‘A side of the war most of us don’t see much – small picture, not big picture.  Gunner Samantha’s war, not Tony Blair’s war.  I wonder if an insurgent sniper with Sam in his sights would have pulled the trigger if he had watched this programme’  Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

'In the way of the best observational documentary, the film accumulates striking scenes and speech…  a great example of what the longer, slower view can add to news coverage' Mark Lawson


YOUR LIFE IN THEIR HANDS                              BBC1 3 x 60

Narrator Barbara Flynn.  Three of Britain’s top surgeons undertake groundbreaking and life saving operations.  The series was made with the full collaboration of patients and their families often facing agonising decisions.


It’s hard to imagine this stunning medical series won’t sweep every factual-documentary award going this year’  The Independent

‘This is programme making of the highest order’ Sunday Telegraph

Winner, Royal Television Society Award














AIRPORT             BBC1           26 x 30'

A ‘facelift’ for the high rating series, introducing graduate cinematographers from the National Film School, original music by a new young composer, single stories and filming abroad.



HARROW – THE SCHOOL ON THE HILL        ITV-Carlton           8 x 30'


Everyday life and challenges in one of Britain’s most famous public schools, featuring the Headmaster and staff, 12 year old new boys and 18 year old seniors and their parents.



GIVING UP FOR GOOD                 BBC1 4 x 40'            

Alcoholics and nicotine addicts allow the camera team and the audience to share their attempts to break the habit. The series features first time access to The Priory’s clinic in Nottingham.



ZOO                   BBC1 26 x 30'            

Intimate and visually powerful series about the obsessions of zookeepers and the fascinating and sometimes eccentric behaviour of the animals in their care.



CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL (Alder Hey, Liverpool)             BBC1           40 x 30'

Long term access to the doctors and surgeons and to the young patients and their families at Alder Hey resulted in a loyal audience and high primetime viewing figures, leading to regular re-commissions

Nominated Winner, Best Factual Series, Television and Radio Industries Club Award

Best Factual Series, National Television Awards and TV Quick Awards





THE SEARCH                                                                                                                                 Channel 4

First programme in a seven part ‘Cultural Treasure Hunt’  presented by Jamie Theakston.

Filmed in Italy                                                                                      


HOPE FOR HELEN                                                                                                 QED Special, BBC1

Sports broadcaster Helen Rollason’s fight against cancer


GULF BABIES                                                                                                Panorama, BBC1

Investigation into children damaged by Gulf War Syndrome


GIRL FRIDAY                                                                                                                        BBC1

Joanna Lumley as a castaway on an island off Madagascar


WAR ARTIST                                                                                                 Forty Minutes, BBC2

Glasgow artist Peter Howson’s adventures in Bosnia


MOSCOW GOLD                                                                                                  Forty Minutes, BBC2

British businessmen are trapped during the siege of The White House


ONE FAMILY, TWO LANGUAGES                                                                                                   BBC2

Footballer (now manager) Ian Holloway and his three deaf children


BUS STOP                                                                                                                                     Channel 4

Day and night portrait of Victoria Coach Station     








SANTOS TO SANTA CRUZ                                           Great Railway Journeys BBC2 Author St Aubin de Teran travels from Brazil to Bolivia      


THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL                                                  Great Journeys, BBC2

Photographer Philip Jones Griffiths returns to Vietnam


SILVER TRACKS                           Great Journeys, BBC2

Billy Bragg and Andy Kershaw on a musical journey from Bolivia to Chile


THE SACRED WAY                                                                                   Travellers Tales, Channel 4

Michael Wood takes an historical walk from Athens


RETURN TO THE CAMPS and RETURN TO GAZA                         Granada for ITV                                     

British surgeon Dr Pauline Cutting revisits Palestinian camps in Lebanon and patients in Gaza


WELCOME  TO BIRMINGHAM                                                                            Central for ITV

Caribbean born writer Caryl Phillips visits Birmingham, Alabama


THE MIAMI DRUGS WAR                                     Thames for ITV

Drug Enforcement Agents track and arrest cocaine and marijuana smugglers


THE ONLY IN AMERICA TRILOGY                                                   Thames for ITV

Detectives (Nominated, US International Emmy Award) - made in the South Bronx

Cowboy  - made in Texas.  Going Home – made in Boston and Alabama


THE CHRISTIANS                                                                 Granada for ITV

The history of Christianity around the world, presented by Bamber Gascoigne


A YEAR IN THE LIFE  – (Winner, SFTA Best Doc Series)                                                          BBC2





MY HOLIDAY HOSTAGE HELL                                                                            Prospect Pictures for Virgin 1

Filmed in Bolivia.  True story of mother and daughter kidnapped.


OUT OF LOVE (with Juliet Stevenson)                                                                      Screenplay, BBC2

A love story with a tragic ending set in the hills of North Wales, based on fact


CHALKFACE (created by John Godber)                                                                          BBC2

Series about teachers and their pupils in a Birmingham comprehensive


TROUBLEMAKERS (with  Brenda Fricker and David Calder)                                                                        ITV

Drama and documentary about truancy





WORKING CLASS HERO                                                                                     EMI-DVD,BBC,Worldwide TV

90 minute film about John Lennon to commemorate his 65th birthday


DARKER THAN BLUE                                                                                           Omnibus, BBC1

Film about singer/composer Curtis Mayfield made before he died. Writer: Caryl Phillips


IN SEARCH OF CABARET and THE ILLUSIONS CONCERT                                     Granada for ITV

Singer Ute Lemper visits Berlin and Paris and performs songs of Dietrich and Piaf


BEETHOVEN’S TENTH                                                                                   Granada for ITV

The recently discovered manuscript is performed by the Liverpool Philharmonic






BOLSHOI BALLET SCHOOL                                                                                             Granada for ITV

Young dancers from Moscow visit and perform in Manchester


THE   BOLSHOI  BALLET (Nominated, BAFTA Huw Wheldon Award)                               Omnibus, BBC1

Two hour special – with dancers of yesterday, today and tomorrow and rare archive



SONDHEIM’S  FOLLIES (Nominated, BAFTA Huw Wheldon Award)                            Omnibus, BBC1

A remarkable stellar cast rehearse and perform a concert version of the cult musical


JUNO AND AVOS                                                                                                              Channel 4

A bold and controversial musical performed in Russian in a Moscow theatre


ELKIE AND CO                                                                                             Thames for ITV

Singer Elkie Brooks provides a behind the scenes insight into the world of music promotion


MARDI GRAS FUNK                                                                                                      Central for ITV

Film about the famous New Orleans Carnival featuring Dr John and the Neville Brothers


BEJART + BOULEZ  =  BALLET                                                                                                Omnibus,BBC1                              

Choreographer Maurice Bejart takes his ballet company from Brussels to perform at La Scala Milan


BETWEEN TODAY AND YESTERDAY                                                                              Omnibus, BBC1               

Singer/composer Alan Price creates a new album based on his Jarrow homeland



(BAFTA nomination representing OMNIBUS                                                                  Omnibus,  BBC1

Judy Garland’s story, with Liza Minnelli, Mickey Rooney and others


LIFE IS FOR THE LIVING                                                                                                            Omnibus,BBC1               

Humphrey Bogart recalled by Lauren Bacall, John Huston and others



(Nominated, BAFTA Best Arts Documentary)                                                                  Omnibus, BBC1            

The  life and songs of Edith Piaf, featuring Charles Aznavour and others