There are few screenwriters who leave a real mark on popular culture, who create characters that are not only remembered but also well loved.
Bob Baker is one of those writers.
He must have have been very young, when he started his television career which reaches back to the sixties, in fact he must have been very young when he was born!
His school being Air Balloon Hill a secondary modern, he tells me, he had left without any O or A-levels and wondered what the heck to do. “I really wanted to be an artist” he says, “but my parents said ‘you’ve got to be joking. When are you going to earn some money?’”
So Bob became an apprentice monumental mason with the Co-Op in Bristol, where he learned masonry and then letter cutting: doing inscriptions on gravestones. “So, I was always a writer,” Bob smiles, “It was the happiest five years.
It was the guys there that really set me on the way, that and friends.”
Friends included Keith Floyd, John Fortune and Bill Stair.
Bob played in a trad jazz band with Fortune. “We were dead keen on music but we were keen on everything else. We used to go for walks, sit around and we used to talk and talk and talk. After gigs we’d talk about things we’d like to do and what we all really wanted to do was make a film.”
So they made a film. “All we had was a little 16mm Box Brownie but we made a film, which I look at now and I think, my God, it’s got master shots, close ups, panning, tracking - the lot! The only thing it didn’t have was sound. Having done it I thought I want to be involved in this: I like it.”
Consequently, on finishing his apprenticeship, Bob went to college. He studied painting but took film making as a subsidiary course. The course was actually led by an animator, so Bob began to make a few animated films and then the group decided to make an animated film.
John Boorman saw it and then wanted them to make a film for a TV show -“So I felt we were getting near.”
Writing duties fell to Bill Stair and Bob, although Bob points out that it was, “Not what I’d call ‘writing’ now, we just used to construct it if you know what I mean, but I thought this is it. I was the ‘film executive’. I used to go and see John Boorman on my bike with my briefcase on the handlebars, and my bicycle clips… However, Boorman then went to Hollywood to make Point Blank (1967) and Bill went with him.”
From BBC "Vision On" to "Wallace & Gromit"
Laurie Booth chats with old friend screenwriter,
Bob Baker with his BAFTA 2008
Bob Baker(right) with his BAFTA 2009
Keith Floyd...................................John Boorman............................Bob Baker.............................John Fortune
Bob was unsure what to do next. “I restored old houses, drove lorries, taxis, crewed on yachts,
played Jazz in a night club, in a rock group, drove a lorry to the south of France and back, delivering wine with Keith Floyd,
made model aeroplanes, invented toys. But I still didn’t know what I actually wanted to do!”
However, down in his basement he still had the animation rostrum that his film making friends had built, and
“suddenly people started coming to me saying ‘Excuse me I want to make a film. Can I use your equipment and will you help me to do it?’”