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The Warp

Writing Cathy (2)

Over the next year or so I sent the storyline of ‘Cathy’ to various people in television, hoping that they would provide the funding for it to be made.

I had done the writing so far on speculation, as I did most things at that time. As the script shaped up, I became aware of its power and came to believe that there would be no problem in getting the money to make it. I was wrong.

What I had conceived was, I think, a fairly new idea, halfway between drama and documentary, and its newness may have caused a flutter in the hearts of those who stood in positions of power in the courts of television, and its time had not yet come.

As well as the television companies, I also approached other possible backers such as charitable foundations and these too were not prepared to back me.

The general feeling was that the subject was too gloomy. The charities I approached reacted negatively, although since then many have grasped the possibility of using film in order to popularise their causes. Some have since approached me to do films for them, including those who didn’t reply when I first wrote to them about ‘Cathy’.

I had thought there would be buyers for ‘Cathy’. Ted Kotcheff, who was much respected as a television director, wanted to direct it. I was confident that it was a powerful script. There were no buyers. So, for a year or two, I worked at other things, periodically pushing ‘Cathy’ in all sorts of directions.

In the end, I became doubtful that anybody would buy it and I decided to turn the script into a novel, so that ‘Cathy’ could have a life as a book, if not as a film. About halfway through the transformation into a novel, the BBC producer Tony Garnett rang me to say that he had my synopsis and was enthusiastic about it.

We met for lunch in the BBC canteen and Ken Loach, who had directed the television film made from Nell’s ‘Up the Junction’, was there, and said he’s like to direct it. I explained about the play’s previous history of refusals, thinking that this would put them off. But it didn’t.

Ken made a number of other suggestions which had the effect of giving the story a simpler shape. In the opening section of the film, and in the novelisation I began when I came to feel it had no future as a film, I had gone into greater detail about Cathy’s arrival in the city. I showed her finding a room for herself, and her relationship with the people who were living in the street and her reactions as a country girl arriving in town. I also gave more detail about her courtship with Reg. Ken suggested we prune these scenes in order to get on with the story sooner.


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