Yesterday’s post was about the possible spreading or delegating blame in the ‘Rust’ shooting. It reminded me of a much less serious incident when I was a runner working on a BBC Drama: “Campion,” and someone tried delegating blame to me. I’d sent the unit driver back to the unit hotel to pick up an actor; the driver returned saying he couldn’t find the actor. I was saved by the best first assistant director I ever worked with; her name was Clare Graham. She always stood like a dancer and was very collaboratory.
The actor, who will remain nameless, turned up half an hour later, claiming I’d not given him his call time – something like most runners I did religiously. So I said to Clare, “Please will you witness me give that actor his call time tonight in the bar.” She did, very stupidly, the actor tried the same stunt again the next day – to which Clare responded, “But I heard Jane give you your call!” We didn’t have any further trouble with him. I did happen upon him again a few years later on another production – he recognised me but pretended he didn’t, and I warned the runner about him.
I’m not having a pop at actors, most of whom are great to work with – team players by nature. However, I remembered the incident because it struck me as despicable, trying to blame someone who had no power at all. Smart actors realise that today’s runner is tomorrow’s exec producer and that production teams talk. On another production where I was filling in helping locations out, an actor was so unpleasant to the makeup department that it got around the whole unit. One of BBC Drama’s top producers came by the production office as we were clearing up – he mentioned that he was considering casting that actor in the leading role – we all turned towards him and silently shook our heads, “Strike that idea.” He said.
Treating people with respect pays: people could be so impatient with secretaries at the BBC – I tried never to do that and it paid off big time. I was on nodding terms with Anna Lee Miller, Michael Wearing’s secretary (Head of BBC Drama Serials.) I’d made a short film, but that year, the Drama Directors’ course didn’t watch submissions! I asked Anna if Michael would be able to spare 15 minutes – to watch the film. Sure enough, she rang me one afternoon to say Michael had a cancellation. Would I like to come and see him? I was terrified Michael was a giant of drama production. I’d never spoken to him before, but he was fine – he watched my film, saw potential, and put me on the BBC’s Studio Director’s Course – from which I got the drama director’s course the following year.
I’m not perfect when I’ve got it wrong; quite rightly, I’ve got nothing good as a result! When I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1995, it finished my career. The M.S. couldn’t have withstood the stress of my career path, and the understanding of protecting those with chronic diseases was non-existent. I was stubborn and angry, which did not help the situation. My career, which meant everything to me, was gone, I’d lost my religion, and there wasn’t a replacement in BBC Drama! The alternative I found was the trade union movement, and because I had no agenda at all, I was relaxed, had fun, and made progress on every level.
So in short behaving well should and does pay