Aftermath of Cathy (3)
I remember how I first learned that TV mandarins work to a different agenda to those of their writers and programme makers who are inspired by sincerity, respect for their audience, integrity, the first time I came to realise that so much of TV drama management serve their whims rather than their convictions.
With a BBC producer I’d been working up a screenplay about a prostitute. I had a contract. I also had a girlfriend of whom I was fond. I didn’t know much about this producer except that it was said that although he had a dingy flat somewhere he spent all his nights in the homes of different women friends. He went back to his flat once a week for a change of his sombre outfits. Peering in the drawers of his office desk it was said you’d not find scripts but spare pairs of pants and condoms.
Should I have been wary? Showbiz tradition has it that, in a professional situation you respect each other’s relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends. Professionalism requires this respect because sex is powerful and philandering wrecks concentration. The show is more important than one person’s fancies.
Trusting that he would feel bound by this professional code, I introduced my girlfriend to this stallion. It was at a press launch for a book of mine. Afterwards I had an appointment to be interviewed on the television. Next day, she rings to say, ‘Jeremy, I’m now going out with Ken.’
The production went no further. In this man’s production values, passing lusts demanded a high profile. They took precedence over his commitment to the public or to the show or to his writer.
In another production I made a similar mistake and believed my producer’s production priority would be to the show. I was wrong. Her priority commitment was to get herself into bed with the director. Once, long ago, she’d had a fling with him. Now she’d spotted an opportunity to do it again.
One morning there are some fifty technicians and actors waiting to be let into the day’s location. Who’s got the key? She has. Where is our producer? No-one knows. Someone finally tracks her down to a nearby toilet. She’s locked herself in. She’s got the key with her. She refuses to open the door or pass the key under it. A production assistant explains; ‘She wants the director to come and get it in person. She feels that this gesture will bring home to him how much he goddam needs her.’
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