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Smith, Roger

Writer, Script/Story Editor, Actor

Main image of Smith, Roger

Roger Smith progressed from Oxford University into the BBC as a writer at the beginning of the 1960s. He was one of a group of politically progressive young men - "the young blood Left Wingers", as television dramatist Ian Kennedy Martin called them - who introduced new voices and methods into the staid world of BBC drama.

Smith became writer and script editor to producer James MacTaggart's experimental drama anthologies Studio 4 (1962) and Teletale (1963-64). The ambitious 'Catherine' (Teletale, tx. 24/1/1964), his first original script, exemplified the series' non-naturalistic credentials and was director Ken Loach's first production. He worked as story editor on First Night (1963-64), a series of new, original television plays, and on the non-naturalistic serial Diary of a Young Man (1964), again with MacTaggart and Loach. For a time, he also acted: his credits included 'Tickets to Trieste' (Storyboard, BBC, tx. 1/9/1961), alongside a pre-fame Michael Caine.

When First Night was cancelled but effectively revived as The Wednesday Play (1964-70), Smith became story editor to its first proper series. He later recalled of this period of his career: "I had total freedom at the BBC to read and choose and commission scripts. I could promise the writers I chose that their scripts would be made. I could encourage them to be daring... I was also given the right to be wrong."

He gave first commissions to many new writers, among them ex-convict James O'Connor and Dennis Potter, who he persuaded to complete 'The Confidence Course' (tx. 24/2/1965) for The Wednesday Play. Working with MacTaggart, Smith favoured provocative contemporary subjects and bold new writers, helping to make The Wednesday Play a popular, if controversial, success.

Smith resigned over internal censorship of Potter's second script, 'Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton' (tx. 15/12/1965), although he'd also grown tired of the BBC. He returned to writing, with credits including an adaptation of Loach's controversial Wednesday Play 'Up the Junction' (tx. 3/11/1965) for Peter Collinson's 1967 film version and 'An Hour of Love' (Saturday Night Theatre, ITV, tx. 1/3/1969) for Kestrel, an independent television drama production company run by a group of his previous Wednesday Play colleagues.

His 1973 Play for Today (BBC, 1970-84) 'The Operation' (tx. 26/2/1973) was a satire of ruthless business practice, but caused complaints due to its sexual content. In later years he returned to script editing; he has acted as script consultant on most of Ken Loach's films since My Name is Joe (1998).

Oliver Wake

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From the BFI's filmographic database

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Ae Fond Kiss (2004)Ae Fond Kiss (2004)

Unusually tender Ken Loach feature about love across cultural divides

Thumbnail image of Bread and Roses (2001)Bread and Roses (2001)

Ken Loach's first US film, about the exploitation of Latino workers in LA

Thumbnail image of Land and Freedom (1995)Land and Freedom (1995)

Passionate tale of British volunteers fighting the Spanish Civil War

Thumbnail image of Looking for Eric (2009)Looking for Eric (2009)

Football-related supernatural buddy comedy from Ken Loach (!)

Thumbnail image of My Name Is Joe (1998)My Name Is Joe (1998)

Drama about a reformed alcoholic trying to run a failing soccer team.

Thumbnail image of Sweet Sixteen (2002)Sweet Sixteen (2002)

Bleak portrait of a Scottish teenager coping with drugs and poverty

Thumbnail image of Diary of a Young Man (1964)Diary of a Young Man (1964)

TV drama about two young Northerners in London, co-directed by Ken Loach

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Ken Loach: Television DramaKen Loach: Television Drama

The powerful small screen work of an uncompromising master

Thumbnail image of Play for Today (1970-84)Play for Today (1970-84)

Single drama slot known for its provocative political work

Thumbnail image of Wednesday Play, The (1964-70)Wednesday Play, The (1964-70)

Long-running, often provocative BBC drama strand

Thumbnail image of Ken Loach and his collaboratorsKen Loach and his collaborators

Collaboration is key for Britain's foremost political filmmaker

Related people and organisations

Thumbnail image of Loach, Ken (1936-)Loach, Ken (1936-)

Director, Writer

Thumbnail image of MacTaggart, James (1928-74)MacTaggart, James (1928-74)

Producer, Director, Writer

Thumbnail image of O'Connor, James (1918-2001)O'Connor, James (1918-2001)


Thumbnail image of Potter, Dennis (1935-1994)Potter, Dennis (1935-1994)

Writer, Director