TVTimes talks to Janice Willett, producer of ABC’s State Your Case, in 1957
AN attractive girl we never see on our screens is Janice Willett. But what we lack visually is made up in production technique — for, at 25, Janice Willett is one of the few women producers in TV.
“It will be a tremendous thrill for me,” said Janice. “My friends in the South at last will be able to see the show I have been telling them about for weeks past.”
With a huge weekly postbag, Janice expects this to assume even greater proportions with the addition of southern viewers. A great part of her working week is occupied reading hundreds of letters from viewers who all want to state their case in the hope of winning £100 [£2,380 in 2018 allowing for inflation].
Postcards, too, sent by viewer-judges roll in by the thousand. The first programme produced 1,000 replies. This has grown steadily each week until one programme last month brought in 12,000.
“I can’t get through all the correspondence during office hours,” said Janice. “It means I have to carry sheafs of letters everywhere.
“I read every letter thoroughly. After the first paragraph I just have to carry on. Many of them are moving human documents.”
In the short history of State Your Case every conceivable kind of claim has been put forward. Parents have applied to win money to visit their children abroad. Young married couples need deposits for houses and all sorts of would-be financiers want the £100 to float business ventures.
“Of course,” said the young producer, “we have naturally had a few people ‘trying it on.’ Probably the biggest example was the convincing letter from an ex-convict.
“He told us his house and furniture were being taken away from him because of non-payment of instalments. But we investigated and found that the man, although he had been in prison, wasn’t married and wanted the money to start a street bookmaking business.”
It is less than a year since Janice began producing.
Her yearning for the entertainment profession began when she was 12. She applied to Emile Littler for a dancing audition. She was successful, but her headmistress was against any of her “young ladies” going on the stage.
It was a very sorry Janice who was then persuaded to give up the idea. But, continuing her drama and music studies, she took a secretarial course and joined the BBC.
She became secretary to Michael Barrie, head of BBC TV drama, and eventually joined Dennis Vance as his personal assistant. When Vance left the BBC, so did Janice.
Before joining ABC TV early in 1956, she worked with Vance at Highbury Studios on such shows as Theatre Royal and TV Playhouse.
At ABC TV Janice worked as production assistant on Moment of Fame and on various children’s programmes. After Vance had joined the company she helped him to organise ABC’s drama department, before being launched as a producer in her own right.
Janice has quickly steered State Your Case into a top show. She finds it exciting and stimulating.
After all, what other programmes produce the kind of request she received from a man who wanted £100 to help him build a rocket ship to fly into outer space?
- UK: National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247
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