THE first television programme I ever directed alone originated from the Alpha Television Studios here in Birmingham about four years ago. It gloried in the title of ‘Hit the Limit’ and I remember sitting in the Control Room that night with the Production Assistant alongside me counting me on the air; this means that she gives you a minute by minute warning as to just how long you have before the whole of England watches your programme. When she got to 15 secs, I sat feeling like a rocket that was about to be launched into outer space, and on 5 secs, to go, I thought to myself “If I don’t say anything during the programme, nothing will happen.’ The Production Assistant then said “One sec.” and we were on the air, and when we finished the half-hour programme, I had laryngitis!
That is the lot of a television director; he never stops talking while the programme is on, and contrary to popular opinion, he doesn’t stand in a little corner in the studio, but sits in a control room surrounded by engineers and screens watching hundreds of different pictures that are never seen on the home set.
Many young people ask how I ever became a director. The qualifications I had when I first went into television were ten years of acting, writing, stage management and production, for both theatre and radio.
This background is essential, for it would be impossible for me to walk into a studio and tell an artist who has acted for many years, how to do her job, if I didn’t understand it myself. The director also needs to understand the many problems encountered by cameramen, sound engineers, designers, wardrobe, make-up, properties, scene staff, floor managers and lighting technicians, because it is to these people he must turn when he is planning his programme, and after the original planning for his show, they then put the machinery into motion to ensure that when the programme is ready for rehearsal in the studio, every facility he requires from a match to an elephant is available to him.
No one person makes a television show; it is team work and team spirit that brings to your homes a programme that is polished, enjoyable and laden with atmosphere.
When viewers see television productions from the studio itself, they invariably say “We would never have thought that people worked so hard to put a programme on our home receiver.” We do work hard, and every day we learn something new from this fantastic medium, and as soon as we have learnt, we endeavour to perfect it. If you are an avid viewer, you have possibly noticed new techniques being employed almost every week from our studios here in Birmingham.
Whilst we have young, creative people working here, our one ambition is to continue improving shows simply to enable you to kick off your slippers, relax in your lounge, and enjoy yourselves.