ANDREW BROWN was the first television executive who ever opened his door to me, writes Howard Schuman. Not his office door, the door to his home. He had read three of my unpublished television scripts and radiated enthusiasm. He was enthusiastic about many things in life - movies, television, food, painting, Dorset - in fact, when I met him for the first time in 1973 he seemed to be six feet plus of walking enthusiasm. His normal level of enthusiasm was exhilarating enough but it went into hyperdrive when he discovered a new writer he could shape, rewrite, mould - and champion.
He was script editing Armchair Theatre at the time and also masterminding a 30-minute version geared to showcase unknown writers. Determined to get me a commission, he kept encouraging me to come up with ideas until his producer, the redoubtable Joan Kemp Welsh, heard one that made her 'catch fire'. I started to write a play for him about a husband and wife undergoing video therapy with a techno psychiatrist. Whenever I doubted my ability to pull off the idea, Andrew chortled over a passage of dialogue and doubts evaporated.
When one of the prestigious Armchair Theatre slots became vacant, Andrew bought Verite - the first television play I had written - and put it into production. Polishing the final draft under his guidance, I benefited from his extraordinary gifts as an editor - an uncanny ability to put his finger on trouble areas in a script but make you feel as if you had found both the problem and the solution.
When the draft was finished, he sent it to Piers Haggard - exactly the right director for Verite. This was my first glimpse of Andrew Brown's other tremendous strength - creating the best artistic chemistry for his projects.
After we had done two plays together, he convinced me I could tackle a six-part serial. The result was the comic musical saga Rock Follies. Writing such an ambitious work brought me close to meltdown. By Episode Three I was lost at sea, befogged. He never let me see the panic he must have been feeling - our studio dates were fixed and the scripts weren't finished. Whenever I managed to squeeze out a meagre five pages, he would bound over to my flat, read them and say - in his wonderfully unreconstructed New Zealand accent: 'Mah-velous . . . mah-velous . . . you've cracked it.' He was my lighthouse and led me safely to shore.
It has to be said that he paid a price for all the energy he gave other people. Everyone close to him eventually had a glimpse of a dark side; sometimes he was both the lighthouse and the storm. When he was appointed Euston Films' Head of Development, there were times when his energy seemed drained by juggling too many projects and fighting too many political battles. At the beginning of the Nineties it was wonderful to see him concentrating on just a few projects and personally producing Selling Hitler and Anglo-Saxon Attitudes.
To my great sorrow Andrew decided to move to Sydney when he knew he was dying. The last letter I received from him referred only in passing to illness - most of it was taken up with accounts of travelling, the beauty of Australia, the books he was reading and the films he was seeing. The enthusiasm seemed inextinguishable.
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