Alan   Coleman   was   the   first-ever   director   on   Crossroads   - following   Reg   Watson   both   producing   and   directing   the   first week.   He   has   since   become   a   serial   legend   -   working   on many other classic serials both here in the UK and abroad. Working   closely   with   Reg   Watson   on   the   early   years   of Crossroads    lead    to    Grundy    Television    offer    both    senior positions    at    their    newly    formed    drama    department    in Australia.    Hits    such    as    The    Young    Doctors,    Sons    and Daughters, Prisoner: Cell Block H and Neighbours followed. Here Alan Coleman shares his memories of his time at ATV: 'I   wrote   to   Lew   Grade   [then   head   of ATV   programming]   and   suggested   that   if   I   combined   my   talents   as   an   actor   and   photographer   this   surely   made   me   an ideal candidate for consideration as a trainee camera person with his company, Associated Television.' This   self-confident   approach   paid   off.     The   letter   led   to   an   interview   with   the   Production   Controller   at ATV,   and   thus   began Alan's   career   in   television.      It's a   story   Alan   uses   today   when   teaching   young   actors   during   the   many   acting   workshops   he   has   held   in   the   UK   and   Australia.      'I   tell   them   that   in   order   to succeed,   you   have   to   overcome   the   biggest   hurdle   and   that   is   getting   to   the   interview,'   he   says.   'You   have   to   make   the   company   want   to   talk   to   you.     Make them want to find out what makes you tick.' 'I   was   in   the   right   place   at   the   right   time,' Alan   continues.      'When   Mr   Grade   decided   to   appoint   trainee   directors   from   the   studio   floor,   I   was   lucky   enough to   be   chosen   from   hundreds   of   applicants   for   the   job.   I   worked   as   a   trainee   on   many   various   shows,   light   entertainment,   documentaries   and   chat   shows.     You name it, I did it.' This   apprenticeship   was   enough   to   convince   Lew   Grade   that   Alan's   strengths   lay   in   drama,   and   in   particular   a   new   daily   programme   ATV   were planning called Crossroads. The   idea   of   a   five   nights   a   week   drama   on   British   television   had   come   from   Reg   Watson,   later   the   founding   father   of   many   Australian   TV   hits,   including Neighbours.   Originally   entitled The   Midland   Road,   the   show   was   also   a   vehicle   for ATV   executive   and   star   presenter   Noele   Gordon. The   show   would   follow the lives of widowed Meg Richardson [Noele Gordon], her children and the family of her sister Kitty Jarvis. Fabulous   -   in   a   word.   Fabulous   and   scary   in   two   words,   is   how   Alan   recalls   directing   Britain's   first   five   nights   a   week   serial.   'We   all   knew,   cast   and   crew alike, that we were breaking new ground,' he explains. 'We knew we were setting the style for a brand new type of television drama.' 'You   notice   I   never   use   the   term   soap',   he   adds.   'That   term   belongs   to   the American   style   of   daily   drama   and   we   decided,   up   front,   that   our   style   would   be tighter, faster and contain stories that would be more identifiable with the viewer.' In the show's early days it was filmed "as live", with scenes recorded in chronological order and little manoeuvre for editing out mistakes. 'Because   we   were   virtually   live   the   feeling   was   very   much   like   that   of   a   stage   production,'   Alan   explains.   As   a   former   actor   it   was   an   atmosphere   that appealed   to   him,   and Alan   believes   his   early   days   spent   on   the   stage   made   him   a   much   better   director.   'I   may   be   old   fashioned,   but   I   firmly   believe   that in   order   to   direct,   you   have   to   have   been   directed. You   have   to   know   what   it's   like   to   take   direction.   Noele      Gordon   did   in   fact   make   this   comment   to   me one day during a particularly difficult human conflict story.' The   pressure   of   producing   a   show   that   was   filmed   as   almost   live   led   to   many   "hairy   moments",   as   Alan   describes   them.   'In   those   days   we   had   to   tune exactly   to   the   second,   as   each   network   in   the   country   would   leave   our   feed   at   an   exact   time   in   order   to   run   their   own   commercials   in   the   break.      We   did have a bit of leeway. We ran the end credits live and if we were running over, we would either cut the captions short or run them faster. If   we   were   under   time   the   end   titles   would   run   for   ever!      On   one   occasion,   we   were   way   over   time   and,   whilst   still   directing   the   current   scenes   and calling   shots,   I   was   also   giving   directions   to   our   Floor   Manager   to   pass   on   a   new   shorter   final   scene   to   the   actors   involved,   in   order   to   bring   us   out   on time.' Another occasion Alan remembers well illustrates the unflappable professionalism of Crossroads' leading lady, Noele Gordon. 'It   was   the   final   scene   in   an   episode   where   a   local   councillor   had   to   pass   on   the   news   to   Meg   Richardson   that   the   council   had   voted   on   a   proposed   new motorway   that   would   run   right   through   the   motel.   Unfortunately,   the   actor   playing   the   councillor   had   a   total   mental   block   as   he   entered   Reception   and just stood there looking blankly at Meg.  Noele Gordon immediately proceeded to take over the scene. As I remember it went something like this..' MEG: Councillor, I suppose you have come to tell me of the Council's decision at the meeting tonight? COUNCILLOR: Er.... Yes.... MEG: And..? COUNCILLOR: And.... Er.. MEG: And I suppose you're going to tell me that the decision is that the motorway is going ahead and that the motel will have to close? COUNCILLOR: Yes.... MEG: Thank you Councillor, you may report back to the Council and tell them that I will fight them to the bitter end on this matter. 'And, once again, Noele Gordon saved the day!' Alan concludes. He   was   to   learn   a   lot   from   the   veteran   television   presenter   and   actress.   'Whenever   we   had   a   new   actor   joining   the   series,   whether   it   be   for   a   short weekly   story   or   a   long   on-going   storyline,   Noele   would   do   her   homework,   find   out   what   the   actor   had   done,   who   they   were,'   he   reveals.   'Then   she   would make   sure   that   she   was   there,   in   the   green   room,   to   greet   the   new   actor   with   the   words:   "Hi   -   I'm   Noele   Gordon,   I   play   Meg   in   the   series.   It's   so   nice   to meet   you.   Welcome   to   Crossroads,   we   really   look   forward   to   working   with   you." And   if   she   had   seen   recent   work   from   the   new   actor   she   would   comment on it. She taught me that actors need to be noticed - so very important for a new actor joining a long running series.' Alan also remembers that that there was a great sense of rivalry between who he called "two of the more famous actors" and their characters: 'Each   was   convinced   that   their   character   was   the   more   popular   and   successful.   Out   of   this   was   born   a   storyline   in   the   show   where   both   of   the   ladies entered   a   competition   to   be   the   face   on   the   packaging   of   a   new   brand   of   biscuits.   We   encouraged   public   support   for   each   character   and   the   outcome ultimately decided who indeed was the more successful character. This story gave us a strong story, good public reaction and extremely good publicity." The   actresses   in   question   were   Ann   George   who   played   Amy   Turtle   and   Elisabeth   Croft   who   played   Edith   Tatum.   The   competition   saw   Ann   as   Granny Grimble and Elisabeth as The Duchess.
 © Crossroads Fan Club 2018.