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Blaze of Glory: My Secret Life as Jennifer Beals

My four-month holiday relief job at the BBC is over. One more visit to say goodbye to my FOM, Fred.

“You heard? He burnt my clapper.”

“Great story. Westbury said you tried to save it. You leave us in blaze of glory…”

“Very funny. Any chance of a last-minute reprieve?”

“No. In fact, I have to cut back on camera crews—25 to maybe 20. Tough decisions for me. But try Derek in sound. He might have something. Derek, ask him a few of your famous questions!”

Derek is the film operations manager for sound. He’s a desk away.

“So you think you know about sound?”

“I started in radio and did wedding recordings.”

“You’ll need more than that to get into film sound at the BBC. I’ll start with a simple question.” I am expecting him to ask me something like, What’s the difference between a VU and a PPM meter? But no. “Tell me all you know about power amplifiers.” It’s a below-the-belt question with zero relevance for film sound. “Come on. Power amps.”

Power amplifier with push-pull 5B/854Ms—basically slimmed down 807 tubes.

“Power amps! I love them—807s in push-pull. I prefer Class B, although AB has its merits. Shall I draw a circuit diagram and include the EF86 preamps?”

The other FOMs fall about laughing. A year before, I had built an 807 Class B power amplifier from a kit set. Derek has no choice; I start the next week as a sound recordist.

Eight Days a Week

Forgive me if I skip through the next awful six months doing sound. I’m out in the freezing British weather holding a boom mic over people’s heads–naturally I get the flu. On my return, I’m in a small room transferring location Nagra tapes to 16mm magnetic film.

I work 12-hour shifts every two days: Mon/Tue on, Wed/Thu off, Fri/Sat on, Sun/Mon off, and so on. It’s hell in my little prison cell. I am no longer on holiday relief; I’m stuck here for good. Ugh!

The Board

I’ve been at the BBC almost a year and this is my annual review. It’s like the last sequence in Flashdance: a long table filled with respectable BBC executives and I’m Jennifer Beals.

“Hello, Stefan. We’re delighted to meet you. You were a cameraman and then transferred to sound. Why did you make that move?”

“Not my choice. My holiday relief cameraman job ran out and I was offered sound, but I hate it. I’m just transferring tapes all day.”

“What would you like to do? Don’t say, ‘I want to direct.’”

“Take me out of sound. I can edit. I really can. I’ve made hundreds of pop videos and commercials in Australia. I can mark up 35mm film for optics.”

Me as Jennifer Beals flying through the air. The man at the end of the table picks up interest.

“There’s a mountain of 35mm film waiting for you to edit at Ealing Studios. It’s a three-part, nine-hour series, The Wars of the Roses. Report to your edit FOM next Monday.”

What a feeling, being’s believin’.

To be continued…