Saturday 9 November 2013

A journalist's life in film

I'm pleased to know that the film Philomena, based on a book written by a former BBC correspondent, Martin Sixsmith, is doing so well. I am also amused that his fascinating investigation makes him a central part of the film, although he is played by someone else, in this case, the unlikely Steve Coogan.

Martin and I were not friends, as such, but rather friendly colleagues. He was employed by BBC domestic radio and television, while I worked for BBC World Service.

When Martin was stationed in Moscow during the Gorbachev era, I spent a few days with him sorting out plans for World Service coverage of one of Gorby's summit meetings with (I think) Ronald Reagan. Also visiting at that time was the BBC's first staff correspondent in Moscow, Erik De Mauny.

Martin invited Erik and me for dinner in the BBC apartment, but the only food he could find in the Gym store on Red Square was pudding rice and something described simply as "meat". Still, with the aid of some imaginative cooking and reasonable red wine, it proved to be a most enjoyable and entertaining meal.

The reason I mention this is that several years ago, an Australian film company briefly showed enthusiasm in doing my book and film God's Triangle until one of the partners discovered that religion was a feature of the story. "I hate religion," he said and used his veto to block his company's involvement in the project.

As a modest consolation prize, the partner took me out to lunch and got talking to me about how I stumbled across the scandal that destroyed my Great Aunt Florence "Florrie" Cox's life. I summarised how I had turned detective to discover the truth behind the scandal. "Well," he exclaimed, "that's the film!" It should really be about you and your determination to expose what happened and how it was covered up.

For a few seconds, I thought he was going to re-open the negotiations, but no such luck. He still didn't like the story I'd uncovered because it was about missionaries.

Since then, there have been a few others who rather fancied the idea of God's Triangle being a detective story, but we always have come back to it being a rather special and visually-dramatic period saga, set mostly in India in the early 1900s.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, God's Triangle is now in the hands of two enthusiastic and experience Melbourne producers, Ros Walker of Walker Films and Julie Marlow of Deep Rock Films, who are getting moral and financial support from Film Victoria.  So things are looking up, whatever the final structure of the film.