Monday, August 28, 2006

Fortunately, the cat was only rented.

Imagine you'd written a sitcom script around, I dunno, a year ago. Then imagine that this script had got passed around a few production companies, got you some meetings, that all went along the lines of 'we liked it, it made us laugh, it doesn't make any sense, what else have you got?'.

So this imaginary script has turned out to be one of those 'foot in the door' things: just enough interesting bits to make producers want to chat to you about what else you're writing at the moment, but not quite immediate enough to make anyone want to stake their house on it.

Then last month, you get a phone call about the script. Someone in a production company not only likes the script, they actively want to develop it. You have a nice chat with Production Company Person, you agree to tweak a couple of scenes and write a three page outline setting up what would happen in the rest of the series.

Then, two days later, you hear from a Development Executive from a Large Broadcasting Corporation. Not only do they like the script, they actively want to develop it.

Now in these circumstances, Interested Party One is not necessarily informed of the existence of Interested Party Two. No contracts have been signed yet, no money has changed hands, it's all very informal and friendly, and the fact that two different componies are a) interested, and b) unaware of each others' existence is a handy card to hold back for play later in the game.

This sort of game-playing metaphor is a kind you will use increasingly in the weeks to come. You may even start to visualise yourself as a cunning behind the scenes manipulator like that bloke with the white cat, or that woman with the dimpled chin from that Sydney Sheldon thing. For example:

INTERESTED PARTY TWO: Hmm, we may need some kind of outline of how you see a whole series going before we go any further.

ME: Hmm, how about, I don't know, a three page document setting up what would happen in the rest of the series? And I could tweak a couple of scenes while I'm at it.

INTERESTED PARTY TWO: Gosh, are you sure you don't mind?

ME: (whispers) It's no bother at all. (beat, then shouts) BWAH HA HA HA!

INTERESTED PARTY TWO: Are you all right?

ME: Ooh bugger, I said the quiet bit loud, and the loud bit quiet.


So anyway, you do bits of work on the script, because both parties have pretty much the same take on the script, and they're both experienced producers and actually rather nice to work with, and their ideas are good, and you do the work and you wait to see what happens next.

What happens next is an email from Interested Party One saying that she's leaving her Production Company to go and work with Large Broadcasting Company, where, it turns out, she will be working directly with... Interested Party Two.

Oh bollocks.

There are three potential outcomes to this story.

OUTCOME ONE: a meeting ensues at which Interested Party One talks about their transplanted projects with Interested Party Two. One of these projects sounds oddly familiar. An enormous fight ensues, I find beheaded action figures in my garden, and my agent is summoned to a dark room to have his little finger cut off by Ronnie Corbett.

OUTCOME TWO: The same start to the meeting, but both producers are delighted and astonished by my sheer political savvy and the script is pushed to the top of the pile, while the film rights to the actual meetings are sold for a kajillion dollars. Freeze frame on all three of us throwing back our heads and laughing.

OUTCOME THREE: I send a shamefully meek email confessing my misdeeds. Interested Party One says 'Hahahahah you twat' and is happy to hand over the project to Interested Party Two, who isn't bothered because this happens all the time apparently. A week later the script goes to the Head of Comedy, who doesn't think it's very funny and rejects it.

Anyway, it doesn't matter, because all this is strictly hypothetical.

Still, cuh, life eh?


UPDATE FOR CLARITY: what actually happened was Outcome Three, of course. D'oh!

26 comments:

woot said...

I do love it whe you write little bits of dialog on your blog. Its like reading a mini book and I picture little people actually having these conversations.

I know that one was made up but whenever I have funny conversations, at the time I think to myself "Oooooh, must remember this and blog about it" and then 20 minutes laters am desperately wracking my brains and trying to remember what I was thinking of bloging about and have no chance of remembering the actual conversation...

Heather said...

Oh crap*



*Hypothetically of course

Jen said...

Well done James, despite the Production Company affair you're having!

Can't wait to see the script on-screen, whether it be PC1 or PC2 that eventually get it.

You know, I can imagine you in a Mrs Doubtfire-esque restaurant situation... you've been asked out to dinner with PC1, but then PC2 phones you and arranges a meeting with you in the same restaurant, to which you say 'YES!' in a moment of comedic madness...and the whole thing turns out to look like a scene from a Richard Curtis film.

Both PCs love you... but who will order you the most expensive wine?

PCs = Production Companies, not the police.

Anonymous said...

hypothetical is the new probable

james henry said...

Thanks Jen, but er.... the answer was Option Three unfortunately. I'm not too crushed though, I'd got used to it being a script that opened doors, but wasn't actually going to get developed, so it was exciting for it to get as far as it did. And I now know two more producers than I did before, hurrah!

Right, off to meet a top CGI animator now. Coo, busy week.

Hamilton's Brain said...

And already your blog is funnier than Setup Joke, Setup Joke!

james henry said...

Yay!

I don't actually know what that is, but I shall graciously accept the compliment anyway.

Spinsterella said...

I sped-read from "the script went to the head of comedy" to "what happened was outcome three" and thought - YAAAY.

Then I read the post properly.

Commiserations.

Jen said...

I've always upheld that the Head of Comedy just doesn't get anything.

Is it still that woman who's a fan of Victoria Pile?

Sorry to hear that, James, hon. :-( Fook it; I'LL make your show!

Jayne said...

*hands James a large alcoholic drink*...

Al said...

I 've got a couple of grand spare, James. Do you think you could make it for that, perhaps with a couple of finger puppets and a cardboard box? And perhaps a smoked fish?

james henry said...

Jen, Different Head of Comedy, there's lots of them. I am enjoying the drink and the smoked fish.

Current minimum rate for a half-hour comedy pilot when you're working with a director, editor etc.: eighty five grand.

The average episode of Spaced cost, I am told, around one hundred and forty grand.

woot said...

Blimey...

james henry said...

Yes, although I'm pretty sure you can cheat. Armando Iannucci took the money to make one pilot and shot the first three episodes of The Thick Of It. He clever man.

Orb said...

From whence did you rent the cat? And was it a flat rate for the month, or do they charge extra for mileage?

Al said...

Ok, so you might not get a pilot with my dosh. But you could get shitload of mackerel.

realdoc said...

We could all donate £5 each to pay for a pilot like a sponsored pilot or something. Would that work?

Al said...

Sure. If there were 17,000 of us. Good luck with that. I'll put in £6.50 if that'll help.

james henry said...

Right up until I ran away with the money, yes.

I like your way of thinking though, and this sort of production could become quite feasible in the future I reckon. Let's wait until my scripts have been rejected by every Head of Comedy in the land and then see what happens...

Jen said...

How many are there? If there are more than one, then really they don't warrant being called THE Head of Comedy.

I presume there are different heads for different channels. That makes sense. And obviously different bodies and limbs and stuff too.

Eugh... a one-bodied, multi-headed comedy monster. With only two legs for one pair of Brogues. And one pair of hands for their driving gloves.

Al said...

I wonder if it would help your cause if you referred to him as the Dick Head of Comedy. Probably not, I suppose. Tell you what though, with a good enough script I could be good for up to 20K

patroclus said...

Hmm, the long tail bites the head that feeds. Or something. Might have to work on that one.

cello said...

Are you still talking about the cat there, Patch?

If Jon Plowman is involved anywhere in this tale James, take comfort from the fact he wears suede Hush Puppies.

baggiebird said...

Sorry James, better luck next time. Maybe we could hound the head of comedy until he panders to our whim's and produces your pilot

talulah trashbag said...

That sucks the big salami.

A plague on both their houses.

Country Bumpkin said...

Oh to be in the creative industries.... am in the same boat!