Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher

Writers Who Direct

In Conversation: A Writer’s Perspective is a projected series of author interviews edited by James Cooper. Volume One is available now and is a publication of The British Fantasy Society.

Contributors include Joe Lansdale, Graham Joyce, Ramsey Campbell, Mark Morris, and Tim Lebbon. My conversation with James was in the form of a series of emails over about a year, keeping the sense of a developing exchange rather than a simple Q and A.

This from our discussion of writers directing:

The experience of directing Oktober (a four-hour miniseries for ITV) was both exhilarating and harrowing. It was hugely time-consuming, and that’s partly one of the reasons why I haven’t done it again since. I wasn’t writing anything else or generating any new ideas at all for more than six months, and when I came out of it I virtually had to start engineering a comeback. Add together the prep time before it, and the time spent getting back up to speed with something new, and you’re pretty much talking about a couple of years out of the game. If you’re a full-time director, when you finish a job you move straight on to your next script; when you’re a writer, you have to go back up the mountain.

Having said that, I absolutely loved it. I mean, come on, for a while there I had my hands on the train set. Professionally it was the most taxing thing I’ve ever done. Imagine launching yourself out into something like that, in the certain knowledge that from day one you’ll be out of your depth. I had a terrific first assistant (industry veteran Roger Simons) to steer me in the day to day practicalities, and even those among the crew who clearly didn’t think I was up to much gave 110%.

How satisfied was I? I’m never satisfied. You know the old saying about, be careful what you wish for because you might just get it? Well, there’s a certain reality underlying it. The stuff’s always perfect in your head, but even when you get it down exactly as you visualised it, that’s the beginning of a journey, not the end of one. You’re then contending with a question that you’d never otherwise have to face… Well, I got what I intended, so why isn’t it having the effect that I imagined? And you want to make it over, do it again but different, incorporate what you learned, get it a bit closer to what you meant. And you can’t.

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