It began with writing informative notes to be packed in with Woodmansterne’s slide packs – sold (usually) in sets of nine or sets of three. However, I did take pains to ensure that the notes were easy and comfortable to read aloud. As well as being accurate. And properly edited.
To do that I effectively taught myself professional copy-editing and proofreading. (I’d done similar work when preparing the artwork for the later issues of SFinx magazine – which I then edited – at university.) Both were very useful skills that I would employ as a freelance later on. I also created a ‘house style’ for Woodmansterne so we could be sure everything we turned out was consistent.
But this wasn’t exactly the kind of audiovisual work I’d imagined when I took the job.
My first taste of something more serious had to do with the annual NAVAC exhibition, where we always had a stand – and where we also had a slide show running all through each day. One of my tasks was to build that show. And then there were the shows we prepared for visitors – and one in particular where I was given free rein to use my imagination.
Our core products were our pictures of the English cathedrals – inside and out, and in detail – shot with sophisticated techniques that ensured perfect exposure even in the most challenging of buildings. As it happened we also had images of medieval manuscripts, and of the NASA space programme, in our range. And I saw an opportunity.
The programme I created explored something that had fascinated me at university – the history of cosmology. The way our ideas about the universe around us had changed, again and again, over the centuries, until new technology finally allowed us to begin exploring the cosmos for ourselves…
I recorded a voice-over and accompanying music for the show, just as I’d done back in Woldingham as a teenager. And soon afterwards I suggested to our directors that we could, in fact, package a much smaller-scale show as a new product line.
For once – in fact, I think for the first time – one of my ideas hit home. The new range would be called ‘colourslide cassettes’. They’d consist of 18 slides and an accompanying cassette tape, featuring voice-over, music and sound effects. And I would be in sole charge of scripting each show, recording it at a professional studio, and creating the master tape to send to the duplication plant.
Overnight, as it seemed, I’d become a professional audiovisual producer. With an official title to match…