> Lois Booton
Booton has effectively worked on Neighbours throughout
its run - starting with the scripting of the first episode in 1985 and over the years
scripting many classic episodes and plotting stories for some of the showís greatest characters. In this exclusive interview, Lois reflects on her Neighbours experiences...
you give us a background on your career before Neighbours?
My career really started with Neighbours. Iíd joined
Grundy Television as a script typist and written a submission
for Prisoner, so management knew I was interested in
writing. When Neighbours moved from Network Seven to Channel
Ten at the end of its first series, there was a scramble to
re-staff the writing team. I was offered a job as a trainee
storyliner and, since it paid ten dollars more a week, I jumped
at the chance!
been involved with Neighbours in various capacities
from the 1980s right up until 2001, can you take us through
your various roles in the production of the series through
I sometimes joke that Iíve been with Neighbours longer
than anyone since I typed the first episode of the first series.
But the real association started with trainee storyliner on
the Channel Ten series. I had very generous people to give
me on-the-job training, including Ray Kolle, Ysabelle Dean
and Rick Maier. As I gained experience, I was able to rise
through the ranks, so to speak. I became a fully-fledged storyliner,
then began writing scripts, then editing them. Later I became
the story editor and Ė much later, when Grundy moved the Neighbours
writing team from Sydney to Melbourne - I was Script Producer
for a brief period.
are your memories of being involved in the show at the height
of its success in the late 1980s?
Itís an old saying in television that when a show is a success,
praise the actors; and when itís a dog, blame the writers.
But what was wonderful about that time, were the friendships
that developed in the writing department. We worked so hard
and so intimately that we got to know each other extremely
well. Most of my friends now are people I got to work with
in those days.
characters did you most enjoy writing for over the years,
Oh, Madge, definitely! I really understood her because my
personal situation was similar Ė I was divorced with two children
to bring up on my own. A lot of the conflict between Madge
and Charlene went on at my own dinner table every night! Iíve
had different favourites at different times Ė Doug, Pam and
Cody Willis; the Kennedy family in recent years. Lou, because
you could give Tom Oliver anything to do and heíd be a hundred percent
important do you think the long standing, stalwart characters
- for example Helen, Jim and Madge in the earlier years and
Lou, Harold and the Kennedys in more recent years - were/are
Extremely! I think in these times of fractured families quite
a few of our teen viewers watch to see models of traditional
family life. You canít do that without the fathers and mothers
and grandparents. Especially the fathers Ė Jim Robinson was
quite stern and a real disciplinarian, but he was hugely popular
with our younger viewers.
do you think the scriptwriter uniquely brings to the story
A fresh eye. Depth.
you have any scenes or moments you wrote that you were particularly
pleased with, and why?
The episode in which Kerry died has always been one Iím proud
of. As I remember it, we didnít get the news that she was
dead until the second commercial break, and in the meantime,
none of the other denizens of Ramsay Street were aware sheíd
been shot. One of the other stories, involving Doug, Pam and
Cody, was quite light, so finding the balance between their
shenanigans and the tragedy of the Mangel/Bishop family was
a real challenge. I cried through the whole thing.
were responsible for writing Jimís death, which - as well
as being hugely dramatic - was an episode with huge significance
given that it marked the end of an era on the show. Can you
tell us a little about scripting such an important and memorable
I donít remember a lot about that one, except trying to get
some emotional honesty into that terrible situation of Jim
having been at the heart of his family for so long, and then
dying virtually alone. Very sad.
the more dramatic episodes harder or easier to write than
Iíve already mentioned Kerryís death, which was very tough
to write, largely because I was attached to the character
and hated to see her go. Attachment to characters can make
writing highly dramatic episodes difficult. On the other hand,
you have so much to work with in emotional terms that in some
ways they just seem to flow. Itís often much more difficult
to write the episodes in which nothing much seems to be happening. Then
the challenge is to make it happen in a way that will keep
the viewers with you until they get to the next episode Ė
where something wild is going on!
do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the Neighbours
I think Ric, Luke and Ben have got it absolutely right Ė if
you concentrate on the truth of human emotions and give the
viewers stories that illuminate strong characters, you canít
penning your last episode for Neighbours back in 2001,
what have you been doing since? Do you think you might return
to writing for the show at some stage?
I had to come off the Neighbours writing list at the
end of 2000 because Iíd accepted the Head Writer position
on Shortland Street in New Zealand and couldnít
do justice to Neighbours while I was so involved with
another project. I didnít even get to see much of the show
for a couple of years Ė it airs in NZ, but at an hour when
I was rarely home. Now that Iím back in Australia, Iím knocking
at the script producerís door, begging to be allowed back
in! But theyíve got such a strong writing team at the moment,
I may have to wait a while.
you still watch the show now? If so, what characters and storylines
have you enjoyed of late?
Absolutely! The stories that are airing here are extremely
strong. I still love the Kennedyís Ė Karl and Susan are a
joy on screen. Toadie has been a favourite of mine since he
joined the show and watching him lose Dee just broke my heart.
Steph and Max are lovely and real. Iím particularly charmed
by the return of Sky Bishop/Mangel; she gives Harold new life,
as does the arrival of his son, David and Davidís family.
I especially like Izzy Hoyland Ė she is the best kind of soap
villainess, winning and likeable in so many ways, but essentially
so self-centred and so prepared to go to any lengths to get
what she wants! Thereís an awful lot to like!
have you most enjoyed about your long involvement with Neighbours?
Playing with peopleís lives (however fictional)! And the friendships
that have grown through my association with Neighbours.
do you think accounts for the huge success Neighbours
has enjoyed over the last 18 years?
The commitment to believable characters with understandable
problems, portrayed with intelligence, affection and humour.
It touches the heart.
Interview by Moe. Added on 22nd November 2003