Copyright Ian Richardson. Email: email@example.com
(First published in August 2013 edition of Prospero)
TRIANGLE: how an old photograph led
It began with just another
box of old black-and-white photographs being sorted during a visit to
my mother in Melbourne, Australia. But there was one family group photo
that stood out because I had never seen it before, nor could I identify
one of the women in it.
My mother was dismissive. "Oh,
that's just Aunty Florrie," she said, "she wasn't talked about
I pressed my mother to explain.
Bit by bit I extracted the basic facts that Florence "Florrie"
Cox had been married to a Baptist missionary in East Bengal (now Bangladesh),
and that there was "another woman" whom her husband later married.
There had been a "terrible scandal" when it happened around
the time of the First World War.
My mother's revelations seemed
to amount to no more than a small sidebar story for the family history.
I was not to know that it would lead me onto a late-life career change.
Having left the BBC in 1996,
I had been doing the usual things for a retired corporation manager: teaching,
consultancies and writing occasional newspaper articles. But that all
began to change as I dug deeper into Florrie Cox's astonishing story.
The more I discovered, the more it became clear that what happened to my great aunt deserved a wider audience than the family history.
My wife, Rosemary, and I were
telling friends over dinner what had been uncovered about Florrie, when
Rosemary suddenly declared "You know, this would make a great film!"
I had to agree.
I was about to leave for Australia,
where I was born and grew up, so took the opportunity to sound out the
national and Victorian State government film agencies about the movie
The people at Screen
Australia, as the Australian Film Commission is now known, were polite
when I met them in Sydney, but not enthusiastic. However, the reaction
was different when I pitched the idea to Roslyn Walker, then Script Development
Editor for Film Victoria in Melbourne.
She thought it could make a wonderful film and that we should keep in
touch as the project developed.
It soon became clear there
were two major problems: 1) I had yet to establish why there had been
such a deep scandal, and 2) although I had spent a total of six years
in television news, I was clueless about writing a screenplay.
Coming up with the title God's
Triangle was the easy bit, but in my naivety, I believed that the skills
for writing a television news script and a screenplay were basically the
same. Wrong. My first draft of the screenplay was embarrassingly bad.
In the early 1970s, I had got
to know Australia's Bruce Beresford
who was then working in London and yet to establish himself as one of
Hollywood's most successful directors. He had asked me to comment on a
raucous script he and his mate Barry Humphries had written, titled The
Adventures of Barry McKenzie and based on the Private Eye magazine
Rosemary and I pronounced it
to be very funny, but because the language was so crude, we thought it
unlikely to get funding. Wrong again. Six months later, the money was
found and the film made.
Decades later, I cheekily contacted
Bruce and asked if he would comment on my draft. This he willingly did.
That was back in 1999. Since
then I have learned - often painfully - how a film script should be constructed
and I have discovered the truth about Florrie Cox's marriage breakup.
Roslyn Walker, now an independent
producer, has joined forces with another senior Australian producer, Julie
Marlow, and bought the film rights to Florrie's story. Just as importantly,
Film Victoria has given the project its stamp of approval and is funding
the project to the shooting stage.
Now I must get back to another
of my book and screenplay projects: The story of a scandal in the BBC,
but perhaps I have missed the boat on that one!