‘Red Shift’ by Alan Garner

In this video, Bob Jacobs (1st Assistant Director) and Oliver White (film editor), talk about their experiences of working on the 1978 ‘Play for Today’, Red Shift. The drama was written by Alan Garner and directed by John Mackenzie.  It was a complex play set in three time periods: Roman, Civil War and present day.

‘Red Shift’ by Alan Garner, 1978 Play for Today from pebblemill on Vimeo.

For more information about Alan Garner you might want to take a look at this Alan Garner website  http://alangarner.atspace.org/index.html .

Oliver White - Film Editor

Bob Jacobs - 1st Assistant Director

Oliver White (Editor) – His Unreliable Memoirs – ‘Red Shift’

Red Shift by Alan Garner

I was a little apprehensive of working with John McKenzie.  Like any good editor I’d looked at a previous film.  It was about the Orange Order in Glasgow, and was very good, tough stuff.  I vividly remember looked at the ‘synched’ rushes.  Take 1, so, so; Take 2, better; Take 3, better still!   Take 4, perfect.  Then horror!  Take 5.  Now I’d worked on quite a bit of twaddle, such as ‘Nanny’ (actually, that had some good bits) and the  Takes would go on to 8 or 9.  After Take 4, the poor actors would ‘fall over a cliff’, because they didn’t know what was expected of them.  Now a Take 5!  It was even better than perfect.  Then he stopped.  I now knew it was going to be good.  I don’t normally like directors ‘sitting in’ on the first cut.  I want them to be a fresh pair of eyes, but John just sat at the back of the room, read ‘The Times’ and moaned about the fuel consumption of his Volvo/DAF 340.  (I could have told him the belt drive would give 15 mpg….) It was obvious how to cut it, as it was so well directed.  Then the work started!  It is/was set in three time periods.  We sub-divided and rearranged them to make it, hopefully, more interesting.  We put the ‘in’s and outs’ of each scene on different coloured cards, and blu-tacked them all over the wall!  We were both nervous as to Alan Garner’s reaction to John altering his precious story – but he said, ‘John, it was my script, but it’s your film!’  I think he was quite happy.

I’d stolen a huge blow-up of Quatermass I from the basement – ex Pebble Mill at One.  My assistant,  Claire Doukin, coloured in the dreadful Space Slime consuming Westminster Abbey …. It’s now in my garage.