A strange choice of career

Have you ever made a major career choice on the basis of a movie? I mean after the age of twelve. In my forties, I chose a new career entirely on the strength of a film. I looked … I liked … “Why not do that?” I thought. So I did.

The movie was The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010), in which Ewan McGregor is a writer hired to ghost the autobiography of a controversial ex-prime minister (Pierce Brosnan, transparently based on Tony Blair) who’s been a poodle to the Americans, started an illegal war and allowed torture. McGregor finds himself in a nest of very nasty vipers, and ends up running for his life, having discovered that the ghost who worked on the book before him died in suspicious circumstances and left behind a clue to the truth about the ex-PM coded into the manuscript.

I thought, “I could do that.” (Be a ghost writer, that is, not get squelched by the CIA.) My life as a novelist and manuscript doctor was in a lull, and I needed a change.

I consulted my then agent, Jonny Geller, who gave me a short list of agents who handle ghosts. Top of the list was Andrew Lownie. I made my move, and haven’t looked back since. That evening in Cambridge Arts Picturehouse was the best-spent popcorn moment of my life.

Although I haven’t ghosted any world leaders yet, I’m also still in one piece, and that’s got to be a plus.

If you haven’t seen The Ghost Writer, you should. It’s gripping, atmospheric, and it may make you rethink your career.

© Jeremy Dronfield 2017