Ken Loach: A golden age before talent was stifled by formulas

From a talk by the film-maker on the 1960s, given at Tate Britain
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The Independent Online

In the early Sixties I got a job at the BBC. I'd applied to be assistant film editor and got turned down, but some weeks later got accepted to a directors' course. Then came a six-week induction course. It was not so much a course on making anything, but on how the BBC works: about filling forms in on time and the ethos of the BBC.

While at the BBC, I got caught up with a group of people who had huge freedom to create contemporary drama, namely the Wednesday Play and Play for Today. We were given licence to put on a contemporary piece of 75 minutes or more each week at 9.15pm on a Wednesday. Not everything was good, often it wasn't, but there was a huge respect for writers. And the key people who made it work really made a massive contribution. That was a situation that could not occur now.

Hugh Greene, the Director General, asked Sydney Newman, a Canadian who had done contemporary drama at Armchair Theatre, to come and do that at the BBC. He was the new head of drama and he made the space in the schedules and organisationally for that to happen. He got a young producer called James McTaggart and a writer called Roger Smith. Roger then brought on another script editor called Tony Garnett.

These men were the powerhouse, and together they found a really dazzling collection of writers. Without their openness and interest in raw talent, it could not have happened. They wanted originality of form, originality of ideas, a connection to peoples' lives.

Nowadays there are so many people who sit on writers' shoulders. They have producers by the throat in terms of format, in terms of who should be cast, how they should be cast, what the style of it should be. Happy programmes for happy people is the old formula. Now there is a rigidity that absolutely stifles creativity.