‘Fellow Traveller’ – interview with writer, Michael Eaton

This interview with writer, Michael Eaton, was recorded in spring 2011 at an archive screening event of the 1991 drama, ‘Fellow Traveller’.  It was the only feature film release from Pebble Mill, and was a co-production with HBO.  Michael Wearing was the producer, and Philip Saville the director.  It starred Imogen Stubbs, Ron Silver, Hart Bochner, and Daniel J Travanti.  The story covered the blacklisted American writers in the McCarthy era.  Many of these writers fled abroad, and some ended up working on British television shows like ITV’s ‘Robin Hood’.

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‘Fellow Traveller’ – Michael Eaton from pebblemill on Vimeo.

Archive Screening Event

Had an interesting day today at the Archive Screening Event at the School of Art in Margaret Street.  We showed several Pebble Mill dramas: A Touch of Eastern Promise by Tara Prem, A Box of Swan by Alan David Price and Fellow Traveller by Michael Eaton.   Tara Prem and Michael Eaton were able to join us and it was fascinating to hear from them about how the dramas came about.

Fellow Traveller is set in the McCarthy era in the US, when many Hollywood film makers were blacklisted for their Communist sympathies.  Some screen writers who couldn’t write in the States resorted to working for British television, particularly ITV’s highly successful Robin Hood series.  Fellow Traveller is the story of a Jewish writer: Asa Kaufman, who flees to Britain and writes several Robin Hood episodes.

Michael Eaton wrote Fellow Traveller as a speculative script which he sent to HBO.  The BBC had apparently already turned it down.  Two weeks later HBO asked him to come across to the States.  He said that going there was like having a masterclass in script writing.  He was told that what he’d submitted was a two Act drama, and what it needed to be was a three Act drama – he hadn’t come across the three Act structure before.  The original version finished with Asa Kaufman finding out how he had been betrayed and by whom, but unable to do anything about it.  He then had to write a third Act where Kaufman confronted Leavey, which gave a much more satisfying conclusion.

Fellow Taveller was a three way co-production between HBO, BBC Pebble Mill and the BFI.  It was shot on 35mm film, and had some theatrical release before being transmitted on BBC 2.  It was the only TV film made at Pebble Mill. HBO apparently needed two different versions – one shorter and without any of the scenes containing nudity or sex, and one longer than the BBC version with some additional scenes in. Greg Miller, who edited the film in Soho, told us about how HBO had become quite demanding about their different versions quite late in the day.  Michael Wearing produced the film and Philip Saville, who had worked with Michael Wearing on Boys from the Blackstuff, was the director.


Fellow Traveller – poster from Ann Chancellor-Davies

Fellow Traveller was produced at Pebble Mill in 1991 by Michael Wearing.  It was directed by Philip Saville (who also directed Gangsters and Boys from the Blackstuff), written by Michael Eaton and edited by Greg Miller.  Gavin Davies (who was Ann Chancellor-Davies’s husband – who supplied this photo) was the production designer. It was the only TV film produced at Pebble Mill, and was a co-production with HBO.
The film is set in the McCarthy era in the United States.  It follows a writer forced to work in England on the ITV serial – Robin Hood, to avoid the witch hunts in America.
It stars Ron Silver as Asa Kaufman, Imogen Stubbs as Sarah Aitchison, Hart Bochner as Clifford Byrne, Daniel J. Travanti as Jerry Leavy and Katherine Borowitz as Joan Kaufman.

Fellow Traveller is one of the Pebble Mill dramas to be screened at the archive screening event being held at the School of Art, Margaret Street, Birmingham on Saturday 5 March. It will be introduced by writer Michael Eaton, and producer Michael Wearing.  For more information about this free event go to: http://homeidentityandcitizenship.posterous.com/ .

Thanks to Ann Chancellor-Davies for making the poster available.

‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ – video of film editor Greg Miller

‘Boys from Blackstuff’ – Greg Miller from pebblemill on Vimeo.

In this video, film editor Greg Miller talks about the editing of the ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’ series.  Greg edited ‘Yosser’s Story’ on film, whilst the other four episodes were recorded on lightweight video cameras and edited on 2″ videotape. Bernard Hill played Yosser.

Philip Saville directed the series, and Michael Wearing was the producer. The series was produced at Pebble Mill and went out in 1982.

'Jobs for the Boys'



Multiculturalism in drama at Pebble Mill

5- Multiculturalism from pebblemill on Vimeo.

This specially recorded video includes interviews with Peter Ansorge, Tara Prem, Philip Saville, David Rose and Barry Hanson. It discusses how the English Regions Drama Department at Pebble Mill in the 1970s was amongst the first to develop dramas which included multicultural stories. A Touch of Eastern Promise, by Tara Prem, was the first British drama with an entirely Asian cast, and Gangsters portrayed multicultural themes prevalent in Birmingham at the time.