At the risk of endangering a beautiful friendship, I have to write and tell you that were you to be serious in your offer of a stint with ‘Film 82’, I don’t feel I can take up the offer.
The main reason for this is that it would involve working from next September through well into spring (April, I think you said) and on reflection this really doesn’t fit into what I have to do already. It could more or less co-exist with my Times pieces. It couldn’t co-exist with a book I have agreed to do by next July, or with my other regular commitments. It would bugger up a trip which Instant Sunshine is planning, (has planned) to New York in October, for three weeks. And it would tie me down too much for anything else that might pop up.
Now, obviously all these things could be worked around somehow. The publisher would probably agree to the publication date being postponed. The group might gracefully postpone the NY trip for the sake of my chance of stardom etc. But all this would only be worth doing if I really, really wanted to do the programme, and I have one or two doubts about that.
1. You said that Film 82 is an exercise in journalism, that I am a journalist etc. Yes, but I’m not really that kind of journalist. I enjoy thinking on my feet, creating little humorous corners of the world, making little armed raids on idiocy or perhaps sanity, being anyway uncommitted. Even when I’ve been on TV, it’s always been as a guest, an odd figure, not a telly person. I feel that going on Film 82 would mean a change of direction, and not one I’m ready for.
2. The time. Barry Norman had “got it down to” three days and a couple of evenings. As someone in the office said, that means he had Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to himself. Hmm. I expect to have Saturday and Sunday to myself. What it really means is that I might have two days a week to myself. That’s not enough; not to keep writing, that is.
3. Psychologically, I don’t think I’m ready. Two years ago I went freelance in all sorts of ways. I left Punch after twelve years. Sally left me after seventeen and I suddenly stopped being desk-bound, wife-bound, whatever-bound. (You’re sending me to Peru was the biggest catalyst for all that, and I want to say thanks again.) But Film 82 would mean going back to a desk, getting married again. I don’t really want to, deep down,
4. Three weeks on Film 82, though absorbing, I found a hard grind. It’s not going to be a less grind over six or eight months.
5. Without want to get involved in an argument about TV with you, I really am not committed to the medium yet as you would like me to be. Frinstance. You may not believe this, but when somebody said to me right at the start that I shouldn’t try to copy Barry Norman’s approach, I had the perfect answer (which I was too cowardly to give). There was no way I could copy him, as I’d never seen him doing the programme. I haven’t even seen him doing Omnibus yet.
It’s a shame in lots of ways. The money I expect would have been a fortune. The people in the office are all smashing to work with. People quite seemed to like me. And I fear you will think I am letting you down dreadfully. Even so, I think I’m doing the right thing.
I wish I could explain myself better.
But I know I’m right.
Speak to me, Rog.