… which, (to continue with that ultimately uplifting yet increasingly laboured metaphor), sees the Green Shoots of David’s early career success yield the Bitter Fruit of Showbiz Disappointment. Fruit which then proceeds to split open and rot away, revealing the very Seeds that would later blossom into Sweet Game Show Success.
(Just go on without me, I’ll be fine….)
DP: Then a few months later (producer) David (Elfick) unilaterally decided that we weren’t experienced enough to direct it and he got someone else to direct it who everybody thought was just the wrong choice, a guy who shall remain nameless, but you can look it up on IMDB, a guy without a sense of humour, which is really useful when you’re making a comedy. The thing was that David, the producer, was full of enthusiasm and then he’d be attacked by nerves and indecision. So he got us to make some test scenes from the film to see whether we could direct it. We booked space at Paddington Town Hall, which has a little community television studio. We shot a couple of scenes there but there were huge sound issues at the studio, so we couldn’t do any recording all morning. We could only work in the afternoon. So, everything was rushed and it was just a really unpleasant situation. We had no sets; we just had two timber door frames to suggest walls, and at the end of it David decided that it looked like television.
SH: Sounds like everything was stacked against you there.
DP: So, he ended up getting a guy who just happened to be a good friend of one of his underlings. Paul and I had worked on this script for two years or so. This director came in weeks before production started, and he was clearly not sympathetic with the script at all. He struck us as a very paranoid individual and we were not allowed on the set.
SH: You were banned?
DP: We were allowed to visit the set one day when they were doing some shooting in a studio, but we were specifically told not to speak to the director. We were then allowed to visit the set on the last day of filming when the house in the picture collapses. So, it was like a really big production number. There were a lot of people not involved with the film there watching it, because it was a big event, and it happened in a real location. But again, we weren’t allowed to speak to the director. When we did see a final cut in a theatre somewhere, the director walked up to me and he said, “You hate it, don’t you?” I was just speechless. I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything. I think that was the last time I spoke to him. But it was out of that experience that I just thought, “Wow we’ve put in so much time on this and it’s been such an unsatisfying experience.” I just thought, “Gee, there’s got to be a better way to make money.” So really, going on Sale of the Century came directly out of that experience.
SH: So that was when the seed was planted. How did you approach it, after making that decision and locking it in?
DP: Well, I’d unsuccessfully been doing a bit of stand up comedy around this time, then I got involved with Theatresports. Now it happened that over the years, various people I’d watched Sale of the Century with had suggested I should go on the show, but I dismissed any such thoughts, as I was going to be a successful screenwriter and was intending to make my fortune that way instead. One of those who’d made the suggestion was my Polish stepmother, a mail-order bride as it turns out; “David, you should go on this show! You do very well. Maybe you can win me some saucepans! I need new saucepans.” And I’m there thinking, “Oh what would you know?” It wasn’t a good relationship. So, I took anything she said with a grain of salt, including that. But now, with the failure of Emoh Ruo, it dawned on me that… they’ve given away a lot of money on this show! It really was a case of just thinking, “my options are narrowing and I am now 31…”
And so, I just thought, “I’ll do this!” I rang them up to do an audition, and did an audition and did very well at the audition. We were told – as I’m sure you were – “You’ve passed the audition, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get on the show. If you haven’t heard from us in two years, please feel free to do another audition.” That was as much as they told us. The next day I bought a Macquarie Atlas (which I still have) and a one–volume encyclopedia. I thought “I’ve really got to brush up on all this stuff that I’ve forgotten”. I was also really big on quiz shows. I loved Pick-A-Box, I loved Coles $6000 Question. I just loved any quiz show on TV.
And so the stage is set! Join us again next week, when David begins training in earnest for his time on ‘Australia’s Richest Quiz, Saaaaaaaaale of the Century!’