This post is in a series: please start at Episode 1
I wrote the script on my pale blue Olympia portable typewriter because, in the olden days, there were no computers small enough to get into a room. As with my writing for Lumiere & Son, I used carbon paper to make copies. In order to save on photocopying costs I wrote my plays on eight sheets of A4 interleaved with seven sheets of carbon paper. This was the most you could wind around the roller without it jamming. In order that the final sheet did not comprise simply a series of faint grey marks I typed very hard, pounding the keys forcefully with every stroke. The director got the top copy, myself the second copy, the actors the next six copies. ‘Lots’, however, was merely duplicated. One copy for me and one for my agent who would copy one for Roger.
In common with most of my script work the writing part was the easiest. The thinking part takes between three years and three days depending on prevailing pressure systems. Once the thinking has advanced to what we, in the trade, call the ‘right’ point (I will not burden the reader with too many of these specialist terms) I say to myself “That’s enough thinking. Let’s write!” The writing is accompanied by thinking but it is of a detailed rather than broad-stroke character. If I remember correctly (and who does, these days?) writing ‘Lots’ was thoroughly enjoyable, especially on those occasions when I broke through into ever more extreme progressions of my regressive scheme.
When the teleplay was finished I gave the top copy to Roger, who would get back to me by the end of the week. During the intervening days I imagined myself on various chat shows and polished my witty yet telling ripostes and responses. A few days later Roger rang me (phones were attached to the wall by a wire in those days). He said that he had enjoyed the script greatly, as had his assistant and script editor who was called either Tatiana or Sally or possibly even another name. We went to dine in a restaurant adjacent to Sloane Square. I clearly remember thinking “The world is my oyster” as I navigated the Kings Road on my old yellow Claud Butler.
Over luncheon on linen, the first of many such that I was now destined to enjoy, Roger and Sally told me of their favourite scenes and moments. I told them that my favourite line in the script was ‘The car is red.’ Roger did make one critical comment, however. “You know, when you put a piece of paper over the left side of the page, covering up the characters’ names, you can’t tell who is who.” I told him that I wasn’t overly concerned with character and that, anyway, the actors would make it perfectly clear as they developed their roles. (I still believe this.)
In a few days we would get a response from Roger’s boss at the BBC, who may have been called Robin and was in charge of Play for Today or Playhouse, whichever series it was. In the intervening days I contemplated the better bicycles, the sharp suits and the frequent visits to America.
Robin said “He is making a monkey of us.” That was that.
Episode 5: My agent has an idea.