Sometimes the day takes an odd turn, and something unexpected happens. So it was that I found myself in conversation with a retired woman who was at once both mad and fascinating. Maybe mad is always fascinating, I don’t know, but it’s almost always preferable to bland.
By the by, she introduced herself in an incredibly formal manner, delivering her full name in a posh Irish brogue. Her name was Sean. In all honesty, at first I wilted somewhat, resigned to be trapped in an encounter with yet another mad old bat, and she initially lived up to my expectations.
Very quickly however, the conversation perked up, and I went from indifferent Oh Reallys to genuinely interested dialogue. It turns out Sean was a documentary producer; and not the sort of person who made one documentary and is clinging on to the memory, but a proper bona fide well-respected one.
She used to run Box Productions, which is a company I remember well from the end credits of many a Dispatches, or Equinox, or Horizon. It was her work that exposed Mark Thatcher’s arms dealing to Iraq, the possible flaws with the new fly-by-wire technology on the Airbus, and the existence of the IRA Committee. She also investigated Denis Thatcher’s role in Waste Management in the States, and examined the bubble economy of Japan.
As far as I can see, there are no clips of these documentaries on the internet, which is a shame, but not unsurprising, given her next revelation. All of the tapes of these shows are in her shed, rotting under a tarpaulin. She’s been thinking about throwing them all out, but I suggested she might get in touch with the BFI and offer them up for archiving. To which she responded, “Oh maybe I should go and dig those films canisters out of the skip then.”
I listened slack jawed and ghasts a flabbed as she explained she’d just chucked out the original footage of the last ever filmed interview with Charles Manson, the notorious murderer. I do hope she did rescue them.
But it was her lament about the state of contemporary television journalism that was most telling. She said, “I’ve been thinking about making some more documentaries, perhaps about that recent Air France crash, but I just don’t know how to make a modern documentary.” Thus, the few people who really know the craft are being alienated by the current penchant for sensationally titled fatuous content. “The Boy With Custard For Eyes isn’t something I could make.”
As soon as I got home I googled her work, and all I could find really was this:
But it did whet my appetite for some good old fashioned proper documentary, and I was pleased to discover FourDocs, an online archive of some films from the past. I think I might watch The Dinner Party, which is literally a dinner party conversation between Tory party members discussing politics. I shall watch it bearing in mind that these are the people who have a voice in the Conservatives come next year, no matter how much Mr Cameron says the word Change.