The job was immediately demanding, my first weeks being reminiscent of a Carry On film. The computer programme was in Dutch, which meant I had to ring the Netherlands to translate it, then the keyboard got rained on so I had to move to Peter's computer, which used a programme from 1978. Six years on, we've just had a Mac installed and it's bliss. Because Peter is so busy I had to learn to pin him down when I could, grabbing the opportunity of talking through work whilst driving him to the airport.
People always think that fame equals lots of money and a large, glossy power base so they are amazed to discover that Peter's offices are in an old potting studio. I work there on my own apart from the presence of George, a brightly coloured neon sculpture. There are three incoming telephone lines and it's not unusual to find 30 faxes in the morning.
It rankles with me when people ask me if I am Peter's secretary. My job actually covers the full spectrum from cleaning the loos to flying to Mexico to represent him. But I like this whimsical way of working - it's demanding but I have learned a hell of a lot. Knowing how to filter out what's essential and what can wait is particularly important when Peter can have a book, a film and an installation out simultaneously. I have many different hats - one minute I'm off researching, the next I am acting as Peter's commercial agent. I am also the archivist for his stills. At other times I will have an enormous typing load, weeks and weeks of updating film scripts that Peter has scribbled over. Collating the credit list at the end of the film trying to keep everyone happy is a regular post- production nightmare.
I don't see Peter very often, but we are in constant touch by phone. However, recently we travelled together across America for three weeks promoting The Pillow Book. While we travelled I worked on updating the script for the new film, Tulse Luper Suitcase.
I always join Peter on set when filming is under way, filling in where needs be, dressing a set when the set dresser has a crisis. I've also acted as courier, dropping everything to fly a film out somewhere like Cannes. There are mad moments like trying to find a film lab open at three in the morning in the Parisian suburbs or the time when the baby failed to turn up for the baby sequence in The Baby of Macon. I was at my wits' end and then, like a mirage, a passer-by appeared pushing a double pushchair. I grabbed her and the babies and we shot our scene.
In a few months I will go freelance because after six years I want a bit of freedom, but I will still be very involved in Peter's work.
The way we work together remains fairly formal although we share a sense of humour and a love of gossip. The fluidity brings excitement and I work whatever hours I want, although I like to get everything over by a civilised hour and I don't let my work rule my life. I love the fact that for much of the time I am my own boss and can influence decisions.
Ultimately I would like to be a producern
Interview by Katie SampsonReuse content