From the TVTimes for week commencing 23 August 1969
I remember a nubile young starlet once blushing after a round of studio applause for one of her scenes and saying: “I’m just as good an actress as my director makes me.”
Which earned her another burst of appreciation.
The director, unless he happens to have come in from university as a trainee, has usually risen to his present eminence from humble beginnings.
Many began as call-boys, and if you have not had the good fortune to go to university, this is as good a way in as any, even now. Today, a call-boy earns £19 a week. [£300 now, adjusted for inflation]
Bill Stewart, a director on contract to Thames TV at present, began as a call-boy and says that of the nine call-boys he worked with, seven or eight are fully-fledged directors now.
A director’s work begins with the acceptance of a script and from that a show, a play, a programme is mounted. At times, he can be both director and producer which means that he has the financial and administrative work to cope with alongside his creative ideas.
It is the director who calls the tune, decides the shots, the camera angles, weaves his own technique.
He can enlarge a script, cut it down, kill one acting part altogether, give birth to another. He is the skipper on his own sophisticated bridge, the control room, where the cameras flash their scenes to him on monitor screens.
But before this stage he has been rehearsing the actors in rehearsal rooms usually located in church halls or boys’ clubs, redolent of plimsols and stale cheese.
“I have great respect for actors,” says Stewart. “There are stars who can be temperamental at the top, some who are struggling at the bottom. But in the middle there is a great core of career actors who are highly professional and earn a good living.
“And I have known some aggressive, bullying directors. So for me, the actor’s temperament is something of a myth. I have often been inspired by the people I am directing.”
The qualities needed are drive and an enthusiasm for detail, imagination and sensitivity. No school can give you these. Some techniques can be picked up working for dramatic societies or repertory companies.
As a director in TV you can work your way up to £3,000 a year after three years [£47,000]. And a staff director who decides to freelance on short-term contracts can easily clear £6,000 a year [£94,000]. More if the work is their whole life. But the pressures are great.