(excerpt) from Walking On My Hands – Beth Porter Chapter 12, My Life in Comedy: Comedy in My Life
“It wasn’t long after that that I was given the chance to train as a BBC TV Drama script editor, with a view to becoming a producer. I’ve already told you about the disastrous effect the gig had on my relationship with Kerry, but in career terms, it proved to be an amazing opportunity.
My first assignment was to take over on a mini-series starring rock star Hazel O’Connor called Fighting Back by Gareth Jones [who later became an ITV producer]. The previous script editor had departed back to London after a couple of years up in Birmingham away from her partner. In retrospect, I sure wasn’t paying attention to what similar fate might befall me.
But, having lost one script editor, Gareth was keen to keep me and we had some really excellent script conferences. My experiences with Barbara were proving invaluable in keeping an overview of the whole project, but I’d never before felt so intimately connected with a series of scripts which told a complete story over several episodes, and which had a major broadcaster’s commitment for production. I found Gareth dedicated, intelligent, and full of ideas that complemented my own. I tried to interfere as little as possible, making sure such elements as fact-checking were well under control, which were appreciated both by director Paul Seed and producer Chris Parr.
It was so interesting to return to Pebble Mill as part of a production rather than the actress I’d been some years before in The Deep Concern. For one thing, there’s a level of respect shared among a production team which is just not afforded to the actors, unless they’re starry names and that’s more out of irrational fear or awe. In any case I really liked it; it reminded me of the happiest stage experiences when everyone is working toward the same end.
As the BBC collectively knew, the more one spends making a success of a position, the greater the confidence. Soon I had no hesitation in having frank and open discussions with writers without scaring them off. I also learned that my own background, as varied within the industry, engendered a feeling from them of trust and a kind of camaraderie.
I’ve also talked about my part in helping to launch the Birmingham Film and Television Festival, getting to meet some industry professionals from spheres other than the Beeb. One particularly kind, knowledgeable and dedicated chap was Roger Shannon, whom I’m pleased to report I recently re-found on FaceBook. Together we gritted our teeth in the face of the provincial attitudes we met from various jobs-worths on the City Council.
I don’t know what it is, but, even though I’ve now called the UK home for nearly 50 years, the default position of the Brits when confronted by a challenge tends to be Let’s wait and see. Let’s write a report. Let’s figure how to get out of it. While Americans almost knock you over with their enthusiastic Can Do! I just wish they’d each borrow a bit from the other.
In any case, those Birmingham burghers, try as they might, couldn’t stop the Festival from being hailed as a huge success……….”
Thanks to the script editor of the drama, Beth Porter, for sharing this excerpt.
Beth Porter’s (long and amusing) autobiography Walking on my Hands, is available for a couple of pounds on Kindle, on the link below. Chapter 12 includes Beth’s adventures with the BBC.