People behind your screen (6)

Press, Volume Cx, Issue 32466, 28 November 1970, Page 4

Bill TaylorBILL TAYLOR was bom in Sydney and joined the N.Z.B.C. in 1960 in Auckland, when television was "starting; he came to Christchurch when CHTV3 opened.

He was in England in 1956, acting, when he decided, with a good many others, that the introduction of television in Australia offered great opportunities, and that it was time to “get in on the ground floor.”

But they discovered television acting chances were very limited, and his income came almost entirely from television commercials.

His first TV commercial was a cigarette one. He does not smoke. So he had to practice, the night before. And he made himself very sick indeed.

“One might earn £4O in a day with a TV commercial,” he said, “but it might be three weeks before the next job—and the £4O had probably gone a day or two after it had been earned.”

His big break as an actor came in 1958 when an American company decided to make a TV series, “Whiplash,” in Australia. The company bought about 10 acres in French’s Forest, near Sydney, and brought out Peter Graves (“Mission: Impossible”) to star in a story of Cobb and Co. coach days, a sort of Australian western.

“They were offering fantastic money,” said Taylor, “About 200 actors went to audition. But instead of being handed a script, you were handed a horse. Only about 10 of the 200 got through to the script audition. Everyone was desperate for a job, but hardly any could ride a horse and it was hilarious, for people were being bucked off, climbing on or off the wrong way and in general creating a shambles. Fortunately I had been at a country boarding-school and had learned to ride.”

Walter Pym, as Cobb’s manager, co-starred with Peter Graves, said Taylor :and it was pleasing, about 12 years later, to be able to star Pym as Baron Von Kooky in “Ooky Spooky,” a children’s programme Taylor produced.

He was an extra in “Whiplash.” A lot of the action took place in the saloon. He remembers in one episode he  had two words to say. As Graves landed during a fight, on a table sawn through so it would collapse, he had to say “Look out!” 

When Bill Taylor came to Christchurch he had had experience as a floor assistant in Channel 2 in Sydney, and he began producing for the N.Z.B.C. in Christchurch, although he was then known as one of the programme officers.

His first programme was with the late David Combridge.

He regards the "Sally Dailey Show” as his best production. He has produced four major series of children’s programmes for national screening, one for local use. But his most exciting show was “Ooky Spooky” because it was done live.

“I feel that if you are going to work in TV, you must do some live shows,” he says. “If you are frightened of it, you should be working in films. In TV you have to decide about a shot in a moment. If you make a mistake, it is too late to correct it. That makes it exciting.”

He has had some hair-raising moments with live productions. In “Ooky Spooky,” an actor jumped two pages of dialogue, which “threw” Walter Pym. But Pym is an experienced actor, and ad-libbed successfully, to get his co-actor back to the script. But then the other man realised he had skipped two pages—and went back to where he should have been in the first place. And Pym ad-libbed his way out again.

What this does to a producer in the control room has to been seen to be believed, says Taylor.

“Baron Von, Kooky, each week, displayed another of his inventions. At first, he was a brilliant inventor. Later in the ‘series, he was a most unsuccessful one, and there is a story behind that,” said Taylor. A good deal of money was spent in Christchurch getting the “inventions” made, and working, he said. One of the most elaborate required was a tea-making machine, but it was very complicated, and it arrived behind schedule, reaching the studio only minutes before this live show went on the air. There were tea-cup§ on a conveyor belt, and they were filled with boiling water from a kettle, the movements of which were timed to have it tip over one cup at a time. Then a tea bag was dropped in each cup, a milk bottle tipped over each one in turn, and the cups were then fed from a sugar dispenser.

But because it came to hand so late, the discovery that it was not working was made only a couple of minutes or so before the show began. Taylor told Pym he might be required to lib again. While they spoke, there were “technicians who came from everywhere, about 20 of them, with pliers and screwdrivers, poring over the machine.

“This was the best show of the series,” said Taylor. “The conveyor belt timing went awry. The boiling water went on the floor with dreadful regularity. Walter l tried valiantly to reorganise the cups but without any sort of success, and then about 10 tea bags got into one cup, and the cups kept coming off the belt at one, end and crashing to the floor.

“We didn’t want the : inventions to work after that,” he said.

Taylor said he loved making films and would be branching off into documentaries. He would be doing a subject for “Survey” next year—the effect of the sandfly on tourism in New Zealand—with filming at Te Anau and the Milford Track. “It won’t all be serious,” he said. At present he is working with the Rev. R. A. Lowe on two programmes,. the first of which will be released on December 13, the other early next year.

“Bob Lowe takes a look at New Zealand life,” he said. “It has a message, but it is. typically amusing and entertaining.” He also hopes to produce “Moving” next year.

Being especially fond of children’s films, one of his favourite television programmes is “H.R. Pufnstuf,” and he watches it whenever he can. His primary interest is in children’s programmes. Married, with two children (Simon, aged 10 and Penelope, aged 7) he recently built a house at Clifton. He played a lot of golf in Australia, but now his spare time is fully occupied in “converting clay into soil and building walls to hold it up.”

Ooky Spooky (1969)
Sally Dailey Show, the (1968)
Survey (1971-75)