Some directors had to become continuity cleaks, Kay Mander.
'The Independent' reports :
Continuity girl turned director
Published: 07 September 2006
Zelda Ruth Solomons, producer, screenwriter and director: born Manchester 31 March 1929; married 1953 Ron Barron (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved); died 14 August 2006.
There are many routes to film direction and few of them involve graduating from film schools. Practitioners have invariably risen from a previous career in film: editors, cameramen, assistant directors, screenwriters; even actors and producers. Of continuity clerks (the director's veritable right hand), only one in the UK has ever become a director in her own right: Zelda Barron.
She was born Zelda Solomons in Cheetham, Manchester, the fifth child of six, to a family that comprised a Jewish Russian-born tailor father and an extremely left-wing mother from a well-off northern English family. Zelda was smitten by the cinema from a very early age, and used to read film magazines under the bed-covers by torchlight. She wanted to go to university, and perhaps write or act, but her parents terminated her schooling in order to enlist her at Pitman's Secretarial College.
After several secretarial jobs, including briefly in New York with a film company, Zelda's socialist leanings found her in 1953 at Unity Theatre in London, where she met and married the actor Ron Barron, and had two children by him. Eventually they would divorce, but in 1960 the family decamped for Israel, where Zelda Barron worked with the documentary film-maker Lionel Rogosin on What Now My Little Man? (1960).
Back in London, she managed to secure secretarial work at the Soho office of the film directors Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson, then on the crest of the British New Wave. She moved from the production office to the set, alongside Reisz, who was directing Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) and this led to a dÃ©but as continuity girl on the romantic featurette Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1967), on which she met and fell in love with the actor Anthony May, with whom she eloped.
She also carried out uncredited continuity work on Our Mother's House (1967) starring Dirk Bogarde, and worked again with Bogarde on Sebastian (1968). Uncredited both as personal assistant to Karel Reisz on Isadora (1968) and as production co-ordinator on John Boorman's Notting Hill-set Leo the Last (1970), she was finally credited, and started her career proper, with continuity on A.I.P.'s horror flick Cry of the Banshee (1970). Many British films followed, including Yanks (1979) for John Schlesinger.
Zelda Barron had already decided for herself that she wanted to direct, but in the meantime was looking for a vehicle that she could produce, to star Anthony May. Teamed with Graham Cottle, she chose the H.E. Bates novel The Triple Echo (1972) but the director Michael Apted selected Brian Deacon for May's role. Barron nevertheless took on the roles of Associate Producer and Continuity on the film and began a fruitful relationship with Apted, who would later accord her Associate Producer credits on two of his American films, The Coal-Miner's Daughter (1980) for which Sissy Spacek won the Best Actress Oscar, and the John Belushi vehicle Continental Divide (1981).
Returning to England, Barron made a tremendous invited contribution to Warren Beatty's Reds (1981), a film whose subject was close to her socialist heart. Beatty sought Barron's aid on choice and selection of takes, which on occasion numbered no fewer than 80. Beatty won the Best Director Oscar, and thanked Barron in his acceptance speech (as Sissy Spacek had done the previous year). Reds became Barron's own favourite among her own work, whilst Beatty recommended her to Barbra Streisand, about to embark on her own directorial dÃ©but in the UK with Yentl (1983).
But Barron was still anxious to direct. For a new company she had instigated with partners, she wrote a screenplay based on a Janice Elliott novel called Secret Places (1984), which became Skreba Films' second production, this time with Zelda Barron herself in the director's chair: an auspicious dÃ©but; not exactly a commercial smash hit, it nevertheless led to further offers to direct.
Her next film was the appallingly titled Shag (1988 - the title referred to a dance), a slight teenage romp that didn't dent the box office, and after that she swiftly accepted to direct the Robin Hardy-scripted The Bull Dance (1989; US title Forbidden Sun), on the grounds that, in her own words, "It's eight weeks in Yugoslavia - the money's good and the sun's shining." But the money ran out, and the film's completion was a struggle.
In a difficult climate, directing work became harder to come by. Barron busied herself in England, establishing the UK branch of Women in Film. Her son and daughter mooted her as a director of pop videos, and she helmed a series of them for Culture Club, despite Boy George's initial suspicion of her.
But Beatty kept calling, and in 1994 Barron accepted his offer to work on his production of the Robert Towne-scripted remake of Love Affair starring Beatty but, this time, not directed by him. It went nowhere. Barron's on-screen credit was as Production Consultant, and the credit was reprised for Beatty on Bulworth (1998) - this time directed by, and starring, Beatty, from an original story by him.
Barron's credit as Production Consultant conceals more than it reveals: once again, as on Reds, she was Beatty's indispensable right hand, but shortly after completing Bullworth she began to display symptoms of Alzheimer's, and she returned home, not to work again.
Some directors had to become continuity cleaks, Kay Mander.
Feisty director whose lifelong passion for the movies kept her at the centre of the British film industry
by Simon Relph
Tuesday September 12, 2006
Zelda Barron, who has died in Ireland after a long illness aged 77, was that rarity, a British woman film director. Indeed she was probably the only woman to move from being a script supervisor - or continuity girl, as they were known - into directing. Passionate about movies, she was also a screenwriter and a producer, and, from the 1960s into the 1990s, she worked on more than 40 films.
These ranged from Karel Reisz's Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) and Isadora (1968) to Lindsay Anderson's If... (also 1968), Michael Apted's The Squeeze (1977), John Schlesinger's Yanks (1979), and Warren Beatty's Reds (1981) and Bulworth (1998). She worked with Barbra Streisand, Jacques Demy, Tony Richardson, Jack Gold and Richard Loncraine. Other directors adored her, as her business partner Ann Skinner explained, not only because she gave them sound advice but also because she looked after them so well. She also was a co-founder of the British branch of the support group Women in Film.
It was in the early 1980s that Zelda, Ann and I formed our production company Skreba, using the first two letters of our surnames for the title. Our first film, The Return of the Soldier, was in the can and we were planning our second, Secret Places, for which Zelda had written the screenplay, based on Janice Elliot's novel. In 1984 she went on to direct the movie, which was well received and is still playing, particularly on US cable channels.
Set in a girls' secondary school during the second world war, Secret Places tells the story of how an exotic German refugee Laura Meister (Marie-Therese Relin) is ostracised until the bright but lonely Patience MacKenzie (Tara MacGowran) befriends her, and through strength of character she wins wider acceptance.
When I asked Zelda who she wanted to compose the score, she told me she would consider no one until we had approached Michel Legrand. He saw a rough cut, loved it and wrote the music for a pittance - which was all we had. Zelda then directed Forbidden Sun, followed by the well-reviewed Shag (both 1989) with producer Stephen Woolley and starring Bridget Fonda.
I had first met Zelda when she was working as associate producer on Michael Apted's first feature film, The Triple Echo (1972); she employed me as his assistant director. Somehow she combined the roles of continuity and associate producer working on a very tight budget on a difficult location in the Wylie valley, Wiltshire.
The 1970s were a tough time for British film-makers but Zelda kept working, either as continuity or in production, particularly with Apted, whose career she had helped to initiate and who had come to rely on her as a key collaborator. She was, he recalled, both annoying and inspirational. He would be in the middle of rehearsing, setting up a shot or reviewing a take, when he would feel a tug on his arm. "It was Zelda, poised to whisper in my ear. And what she was telling me was pretty much always right."
Zelda was born in Manchester, the fifth of the six children of a Russian-born tailor and an English mother from a prosperous northern family. Although she was keen to go on to university, her parents pushed her to leave school early and enrol at the local Pitman's Secretarial College. On leaving, she got secretarial work in the film business and became involved in the socialist Unity Theatre in London.
It was through Unity that she met the actor Ron Barron, whom she married in 1953. Two years later, her daughter Siobhan was born, followed a year later by her son Steven, now a successful film director. Life as a mother took up all her time until, in early 1960, she got a job with the radical documentary film-maker Lionel Rogoson. Zelda and her two small children decamped with him to Israel for four months to work on a film.
Then came work in the Soho office of Reisz and Anderson, where she also met Stephen Frears, then starting his movie career. Apart from her involvement with Reisz and Anderson's projects, she undertook continuity work on Jack Clayton's film Our Mother's House (1967) and David Greene's Sebastian (1968), and honed her skills as production coordinator on John Boorman's Leo the Last (1970).
At the end of the 1970s Zelda and I worked together again on Yanks and were beginning to plan what became Skreba. But then she went off to the US as associate producer on Apted's Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), a film that won many awards, including an Oscar for its leading actor Sissy Spacek. Another less celebrated film with Apted, The Continental Divide (1981), followed before Zelda returned to work with Warren Beatty and myself on Reds.
Here her contribution was enormous. Beatty was acting, directing, producing and contributing to the script. Since he was never off the screen, Zelda had frequently to make crucial judgments on his behalf - something he acknowledged when he won his Oscar and Directors' Guild award for the film. After- wards, and I suspect on Beatty's recommendation, Zelda went to work with another actor-director, Streisand, on Yentl (1983). Once again she became a trusted right arm. Then came her time as a director, which was also to take in a television episode of Soldier Soldier (1991) and three videos for Culture Club.
In 1998 Zelda accepted an invitation to work with Beatty again on Love Affair (1994) and Bulworth (1998); she was billed as a consultant, but I know she did much more than that suggests. It was shortly after Bulworth that she began to develop the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.
From early on in her career Zelda had been drawn to the most talented filmmakers - and they to her. She had strong opinions, but all those distinguished directors must have appreciated her input because they kept coming back for more. She was not always great at making decisions, but she knew very well what she did not like and equally well what she did. It was the in-between that she sometimes found difficult, but her work shows how she always got there in the end. She was tremendously tenacious in going after what she wanted.
Zelda and her husband divorced in the late 1960s, but remained on good terms. She enjoyed a loving relationship for eight years with the actor Anthony May, and again they remained good friends long after the relationship was over. The truth is that she was always married to the cinema, her first love. Her two children are the most enormous tribute to her.
Zelda Ruth Barron, film-maker, born March 31 1929; died August 14 2006
RIP Zelda, you made your mark.
Indeed. RIP Zelda, a woman who made true headway in the world of film and TV at a time when it was still difficult unless you were a "dollybird".
I have THE BULLDANCE on tape- to be honest, it's one of the worst horror films I've ever seen, but in light of her other substantial achievements it can be easily overlooked.