Glass half full…

Recently I have written a few obituaries or tributes to men who have had a large bearing on my life. And so it is this week with the passing of Michael Apted, the director of P’Tang Yang Kipperbang, a TV film that I starred in.

Well, starred in? What I mean is, appeared in. I was a background actor. An extra. I did have a single line of dialogue but it didn’t make the edit. The story of my life ahead – or my show biz life anyway!

Our school happened to be close to the home of the casting director and one day they rocked up and asked the English teacher, Mr Sunters for a list of boys of good character and with artistic potential.

I did not make the list and but unperturbed, I knocked on their door anyway.

He who dares…

They liked my cheek and perhaps my quirky look (I haven’t always been classically handsome). They had me read for the lead. Which I didn’t get and instead I became one of the extras. “Schoolboys” on the credit roll. Two weeks filming over the Easter holidays for £200. I enjoyed it enormously and I think whetted my appetite for telling stories. The film was a hit and is still held in great affection to this day.

From here, Michael Apted went on to great things including directing Gorillas in the Mist and the James Bond film, The World is not Enough… and it was his continued Hollywood success which meant that our paths crossed again a decade or so later…

Show business is all about nepotism and who we know – and having written a screenplay called The Faldovian Club I chanced upon a brilliant idea of having my old friend Michael Apted come on board as director.

I say old friend when in reality Mr Apted almost certainly did not know who I was. That said, we did at least have a connection. I had been one of his extras and given that I had been truly magnificent darling (really held the screen) I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he recalled me instantly.

Full of verve and excitement I sought out the name of Michael’s agents so that I could write to him. The mighty and boldly titled Creative Artists Agency or CAA. I liked the name immediately. I was already a professional stand-up comedian and as such, my letter was from one creative artist to another.

I printed off my masterpiece and duly dispatched it to sunny California with my accompanying letter re-introducing myself.

And my exciting wait began.

I was excited at the prospect of Michael reading my flawless script. A modern-day Ealing comedy. With his English sensitivities, Michael would respond to the material and I would be whisked out to LA to meet with his people. They would find it incredibly refreshing that I didn’t have people of my own.

As you may have guessed already, this is not how things played out, although I did hear back from CAA. Correspondence from his agent and not from Michael. I imagined that Michael wanted to write himself but he was busy at the time, tied up with Sigourney Weaver and a bunch of gorillas.

It was a letter that amused me at the time of receipt and which I understand much better now. I came across it recently during one of our numerous lockdown “let’s get our lives together” clear-outs.

Included was my own letter to Michael that I had written all those years ago. I started to read it but couldn’t finish because it was so ill conceived and badly written. Juvenile and amateur, it made me wince and explains the other contents in the fading and creased A4 envelope…

My script had also been returned to me, but now emblazoned with two stamps in red ink. One stating – RECEIVED and an accompanying date and another with the more ominous word, UNREAD.

Their letter was short curt and legally unambiguous. Something like…

Dear Mr Holland,

Thank you for sending us your script, THE FALDOVIAN CLUB. This letter is to state that it has not been read by Mr Apted, his agent nor anyone associated with this agency. Should CAA ever be involved with any project which has any similarities to anything in your script, then this is by coincidence…

Not then what I had hoped for but a good warning of what lay ahead for me in film. Warnings that I did not heed. I would go on to sell The Faldovian Club and three other screenplays but without ever hearing that seductive word “Action”. But no hard feelings because this experience gave birth to Only in America, without which I wouldn’t have written Eclipsed…

Is this a silver lining or clutching at straws? A glass half full or empty?

Well, this depends on your perspective or outlook on life. I know what mine is and I figure it’s the only way to be.


For other essays like this – Dom’s latest book, Takes on Life – contains 31 comic asides which might make lockdown a tad more bearable. Available via this site in hardback and in paperback at online retailers.












8 thoughts on “Glass half full…

    • Lorraine says:

      Enjoyed today’s blog Dom. It made me think of how our pathes seem to be pre-ordained. “What if” could become a mantra that could be hinder rather than enhance our lives. I’m glad that you fondly remember Mr Apted but you’ve done pretty well without him. I think your glass is definitely more than half full Me Holland

  1. Sydnee Coleman says:

    Lovely blog as always Mr.H, I know what is like to find old writings and wince at the poorly written paper, although someone of your professional work, you’d probably think my writing are poorly written as well. I can understand being in film and on stage. On stage I was an extra or on the ensemble (which there is nothing wrong with that) but I thought I was destined to play the background character until I meet Bo, we had done a local play together and we clicked; she needed a character for her short film, and I was not the first or second option but the only one available. So I became the second lead in her short film which we produced and ended up actually getting excepted into the Black Hills Film Festival so it will be shown in February here in the United States. I didn’t think anything will come of it but I really liked the feeling of being there, do you think that Tom got into acting and musicals because of you and Nikki or just you because even if you were cut you were still technically an actor, I guess father like son

  2. Isabella Benz says:

    Do you ever think we can shape, no CREATE, the place we wind up in? Meaning, by one chance or another, we always end up being exactly what we are set to be. Those with a knack for card tricks become magicians, the studious become doctors and lawyers, the outgoing – sales associates. Not that these roles that we find ourselves in don’t take strong amounts of hard work and dedication, because of course they do. BUT, is it by chance or design that we finish practically back where we start? What if, for one reason or another, we refuse to accept? What if you pushed towards hearing “Action” instead or selling the screenplays? (Once again, still an honorable and courageous choice). Would you be happy? If we deny what we are meant to become, will there be consequences for not following our destiny? Could it ever be possible? And how can you tell?

    Certainly you have done well for yourself and seemingly chose correctly, whether designed or not, for your life path. I just wonder if you ever think about what could have been, and not only this, but what if you wouldn’t allow it to be any other way?

    I’m sorry to hear of the passing of Mr Apted, but I am glad to see the significance he has had on your life.

  3. Mashaal says:

    Another amazing blog!
    I completely agree with cringing when looking back at old pieces of writing— any time I reread an email or an old story I can’t believe that I did that so you’re not alone
    I never thought a company would notify someone that they didn’t read their script… but everything happens for a reason I guess!
    Loved Takes on Life and I really enjoy revisiting the book and and having a laugh
    Hope you’re doing well during this tough time (can’t even remember how many times we’ve been in lockdown this past year)
    Be well and stay safe x

  4. Rachel Conrad says:

    I really enjoyed this week’s blog!
    That’s a movie I had never heard of, but after a brief summary read, it looks like it will be going on the never-ending list of movies to see.
    I find it very admirable and inspiring that you kept at sharing your screenplay, and even selling several more, especially after something as disappointing as hearing that the script wasn’t even acknowledged or given a chance by someone you had known per se.
    I hope that one one day you get to hear “Action!” for one of your screenplays.
    Looking forward to next week’s blog!

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