For those who remember 25 Savile Row in the 60's those two long corridors set at right angles, with the offices arranged so cleverly, it was for all the world like the prow of a ship. You entered from the stairs in the middle of the short arm immediately in front of Charles Potter's office - he was not for nothing called the eyes and ears of the set-up. (The telephonist/receptionist was next door to him). On your left you found Basil Sangster and Bobbie Arlen writing their filmstrips. Further along the accounts section beavered away, with Mr. Keegan in charge when I was there. The long corridor housed the production offices - Ruth Pratt et al, and the inimitable Stewart McAllister who would shuffle into the theatre for the rushes when he could tear himself away from the myriad bits of sound equipment scattered around and over his office. The theatre was conveniently placed for Mac - he had the shortest run to get there when it was reported that Edgar was on his way. Distribution - oh, they were a law unto themselves they were out of sight at the end of the corridor. And I surveyed all this activity from my office at the apex of the two corridors. I watched the comings and goings, in it yet not quite part of it. But the powerhouse was the office next door the unostentatious office for an unostentatious man - Edgar Anstey. Courtesy was his watchword and he tried to find time for everyone. His circle of friends was enormous and everyone who worked with or for him felt it to be a privilege. Young hopefuls on the first rung of the film ladder came bringing their amateur productions to him in the hope of gaining a foothold In the industry and he was always kind to them perhaps he could offer them something at BTF or perhaps he would send them to one of his contacts elsewhere in the industry or, if he had to, he would let them down so gently and tell them to come back when they had something new to show him. People came who were already established but still with a way to go, like John Schlesinger who talked enthusiastically about what he was planning to do, while he sat in my office waiting to see Edgar. And there were those who needed no introduction - Muir Mathieson, John Piper, John Betjeman. Edgar was just as kind and courteous to the also-rans like me. I suppose we got on well because I have never been a clock watcher. His elastic timetables rather suited me - though they must have been the bane of people trying to keep to a schedule. Indeed I know they were. Everything got done in the end and Edgar would not be hurried. He was finickety to a point, whether film-making or writing. He was pleased to be a member of the Film Panel of the BBC radio programme, The Critics, and those beastly scripts were written and corrected many, many times before he was satisfied.
I have so many memories of working at BTF. Here are two little anecdotes I can share with you. The first is purely personal but it is typical of Mac and his wickedly childlike sense of humour. I had an old 40s/50s record player and Mac volunteered to mend it for me. So I lugged it up to the office and he kept it for ages - weeks and weeks. He was another one you couldn't hurry. Eventually he said, with a chuckle, 'I've got It working.' So I trotted down the corridor to hear welcome sounds of music coming from his room, but when I opened the door, the turntable was under a chair and the innards of my record player were scattered all over the room, connected by miles of wire, fully working but the case was empty. My face must have been a picture.
The second was that day when the rushes came in of the first footage Ron Craigen had taken of the ospreys for Wild Highlands, The excitement was such that everyone who could - including me piled into the theatre to see those historic shots - the first of breeding birds in the UK since their reintroduction into Scotland. I think what hit me so palpably was the way we were ALL delighted, film people and others - and, of course, they were great shots. I left BTF in 1965 - the hardest decision I have ever had to make. When I finally retired from teaching in 1984, the staff and children at school presented me with the proceeds of a collection and I spent it on a crystal carving of an osprey, which now graces my lounge.
This year I have enjoyed another reflection of BTF - no connection really but I am sure Edgar would approve. I have been recruited on to the adjudication panel of the Co-operative Young Film Makers Festival which for many years past has been encouraging young people under the age of 21 to explore the many facets of the medium. Many entries come from schools and colleges and some from individuals/groups working at home. Any who have seen the skill of the young animators the Three Bears will have witnessed what such encouragement and a platform for performance can help to produce. The enthusiasm of the youngsters and of the advisers never flags.