What inspired you to write your first audio play?
I spent most of my working life in the world of film. My
first job, age fifteen, was as an apprentice projectionist. There is a
quote from comedian Stan Freeberg from the Fifties. Television was
eating into Freeberg's domain of radio and he said he asked a kid if he
preferred radio or TV. 'Radio,' the boy replied. Why? 'Because the
pictures are better on radio'.
So with THE APOLLO I wanted to make 'a film for radio'.
As a film editor and film-maker, I consider radio the closest next form
of the storytelling you experience when you sit in the dark of the
cinema. A radio play happens in your head and you supply the images.
Okay, in my play there is a narrator who is also providing a commentary
on how those images might form and what shots would best cut together –
as if you were watching a DVD of a favourite film with the option of
listening to the director's commentary.
Do you have a
specific writing style?
Yes, there are 26 letters and I use most of them, plus
various punctuation symbols. I also go in for things like paragraphs. I
confess I rarely venture beyond the 26 letters and rarely use
personally-designed punctuation. Call me conservative.
How did you come up
with the title?
THE APOLLO was the name of my local cinema when I was a
kid; The Apollo Cinema on Sundrive Road in Crumlin, Dublin. Like all the
kids around, I went there every Saturday early afternoon for the
matinee; lots of shorts, lots of 'follyin'-uppers' and a main feature
that was usually a Western.
based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
THE APOLLO was triggered by my memories of my first job;
two years, from the age of fifteen, as apprenctice projectionist in the
Dublin suburban cinema THE KENILWORTH (later renamed THE CLASSIC). The
manager (who years later bought the cinema) was Albert Kelly and he ran
a family cinema in which the staff were his family. I loved working
there. He was the father. He was the one who made The Kenilworth a safe
world we all inhabited. He chose the films. He even edited the films if
he didn't approve of their content! And if too much bosom was showing on
a film poster he would fold the poster in the showcase window so as to
hide the exposed flesh.
Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Too big a question. I have had a long, rickety career in
writing, editing and film-making and the influences range from people I
have worked with – Bob Quinn is one example – to people I wish I were –
Billy Wilder is one example. I am always looking to find a way of being
as good as I can be and as original as I can be. As to whether I succeed
from time to time...
What book are you
There always several books around me waiting to be read.
Right now, I happen to be reading a lot about World War One as part of
research for a book I have been commissioned to write. The book I
finished this morning is MAGNIFICENT BUT NOT WAR by John Dixon – it is
about the Second Battle of Ypres.
What are your
Above-mentioned book commission, plus looking at ways to
get another film project off the ground. Meanwhile I have two stage play
project possibilities. Oh yes – and always with an eye on earning enough
to pay the bills.
If you had to do it
all over again, would you change anything in your latest audio play?
Moi? Je ne regrette rien.
Do you recall how
your interest in writing originated?
It was there from childhood – an over-active imagination
in a lonely kid. My first film, THE BOY FROM MERCURY, is quite
autobiographical. I've been hiding in stories for much of my life!
Is there anything
you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding, believing in and going the distance with a good
story. All kinds of ideas can land in your head. You can spew anything
out on paper. I am much more critical these days of initial ideas – for
better or worse.
What was the
hardest part of writing your audio play?
Remembering all of the 26 letters mentioned above.
Did you learn
anything from writing your audio play and what was it?
I have written a lot for radio. I think the challenge is
to remember how much the audience can 'see' on radio and trust that you
don't have to lead them by the hand.
Do you have any
advice for other writers?
All that comes to mind is a quote that has stuck in my
head for years though now I'm sketchy on who said it. I think it was F
Scott Fitzgerald. The quote is: 'If you want to write, don't. If you
have to write, you're a writer'.
Do you have
anything specific that you want to say to your listeners?
Thank you for taking the time and trouble to listen to my
play. I hope you enjoy it.