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U3A Writing: Decisions

John Ricketts recalls the day he turned down a job in the film industry.

In everyone’s life there are occasions when decisions have to be made. People come to a fork in the road and have to make up their minds which way to take. They have to take those decisions without the benefit of crystal balls but they know that they will change the course of their lives. Such a decision faced me in June 1950.

I had become friendly with a fellow who worked at Teddington Studios where at that time many feature films were made. It competed with Pinewood and Ealing. Now its work seems to be entirely in television. We used to meet at ‘The Anglers’, next to the studio, and went in his car to the dog tracks or Twickenham or other sporting events. On several occasions he left messages that extras would be needed the next day and twice I was successful in getting a day’s work. At three pounds fifty a day plus food it was worth having, besides giving me a chance to see films being made.

In June 1950, I had passed my exams and was just waiting to receive my teaching certificate. I had a job to go to in Birmingham to start in September and was quite pleased with myself. I met Karl in “The Anglers” as usual for a drink but this time he put a proposition to me.

“You’ve met Mike, my assistant cameraman.” I nodded. “Well he’s left me. I don’t blame him because he’s got a camera of his own now, but it leaves me short. If you’d like the job it’s yours, but I need to know in the next few days. I know you’ve finished at College and could start in the next few days.

I protested that I knew nothing of camera work but he had an answer.

“Don’t worry, you’ll start at the bottom and I’ll train you every step of the way. I know that in the future fewer films will be made but television is the coming thing. It’s going to be huge and you’ll be in from the start.”

His arguments were very tempting and the pay he was offering was twice what I would get as a school teacher on the bottom rung of the ladder. I told him that I would think about it and let him have the answer the next day. I tossed the options from one side to the other through a sleepless night. The prospect of working in the glamorous world of film making was very tempting, but I did not want to waste the hard work which I had done to get my certificate, so I turned him down. Maybe I was too cowardly to jump into the unknown.

I have never regretted the choice that I made though I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had accepted.

In 1951 I moved to newly built school and met the girl who was to be my wife at the first staff meeting. That fact alone assures me that I made the correct choice.


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