Thursday, 10 June 2010

First Job

I often get asked what my first job was. It was a post boy at ATV in London. In 1966, when I started there, it was the major weekday and weekend television broadcasting network in the UK, and its boss was the legendary Lew Grade. The only times I remember seeing Grade was when I was on newspaper duty, and had to go and get all the evening papers from the Cumberland Hotel and deliver them to his office! He seemed a rather frightening figure, like I imagine Elvis Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was said to be! I never saw him without a cigar, and on one occasion, when I dropped the paper money on his office floor, he was not amused!!

It was quite a place to work. On the 5th floor was Pye Records and on the lower ground floor was ITC who made such television series as The Saint and Danger Man, and a bit later, The Prisoner. I can remember going home with loads of photos of Roger Moore and Patrick McGoohan to hand out to family and friends! We used to get all sorts of goodies. I remember I was once given a film cell from the opening credit sequences for Danger Man by the film editing department. I was so excited! It was of no use, of course, but it was all the same quite a unique piece of memorabilia to own and something you could not buy for love or money! It was also something to show off to my friends.

Most of my school mates had gone to technical college to train as draughtsmen. I wasn't very academic at school, and had left without any GCE passes, so college was not really an option. I had some six months before leaving school gone for a five-year apprenticeship in printing, but had fluffed the entry interview and exam, so instead I went for a job that would get me into either the television, film or music industries, so ATV seemed liked a good starting point, seeing I had no qualifications, and because my father knew the personnel officer, it offered the best hope yet of leaving school with a job, and a job that had a future, as I could train for something once I was working there.

At the interview I was told that ATV expected most of their post boys to end up as trainee cameramen at Elstree Studios. My parents considered that would be a good and worthwhile career. But what was not made clear when I joined as a post boy was that graduation from post room to Elstree studios was not that simple. Any time a trainee cameraman post became available, it was circulated to every television station, film company and recruitment agency in the land, so the chances of getting selected to go and work at the studios was pretty remote! And certainly as a cameraman, because those opportunities were few and far between, and were usually grabbed by someone already working on the studio floor, like a clapper boy.

The other problem was that if a post boy hadn't found another job within ATV by the time you were 18, you were kicked out, because you couldn't be a post boy over that age! Getting promotion out of the post room to another department just didn't happen. Every job had to be applied for. I stayed there for about a year, applying for all sorts of jobs from a trainee film editor to running the stationery department, but to no avail, because there were so many applying for the same job, in and outside of ATV. It was the same old story, how did you get the experience if no one was prepared to give you the opportunity to try... so in many ways, it was all a bit of a closed shop.

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