Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sounds worryingly like having a 'job' to me.

All this stuff flying about at the moment about how the good old days of drama commissioning does make me feel I rather missed out on the Golden Age, where apparently, one just wandered up to the office of a pissed bloke called Ken, said something like 'Crime-fighting cheesemakers, anyone done that?' and wandered out with a commission for two series of eight fifty-minute episodes, and a Threshers gift voucher for a hundred quid.

These days, of course, you have to jump through nine flaming hoops just to get your outline read by someone with the key to the petty cash, then even if she says yes, there are some dirty great longueurs between stages, while you wait for the script editor to run your work past a focus group of pissed thirteen-year-olds (if it's BBC3) and a lawyer who needs to make sure you haven't accidentally accused any national treasures of murdering prostitutes, even if you know Bill Oddie wasn't where he said he was that night.*

The truth is though, I quite like these gaps, where your script hovers in some Schrödinger's inbox, untarnished by reality, budgetary constraints, or Oddie's solicitor. Especially if you're working on a few projects at one; you can do a bit on one, lob it back, start something else, lob that one back, then wait for the first one to come with notes on, as though you were playing tennis with quite a slow octopus.

Which is why this blog post of Stephen Gallagher's, about writing for US television (sourced via Piers) SCARED THE BEEJEEZUS OUT OF ME.

"So it's taken roughly seven weeks to get from first conversation to the start of shooting."

Meep!


*I am not actually accusing Bill Oddie of murdering prostitutes.

9 comments:

Boz said...

Wow. That's... fast.

I've got things on my non-writing-work-related to do list from months ago. This makes me feel enormously incompetent.

james henry said...

In the time between my writing the first episode of teen drama thing, and the second, I had: entered into a grown-up relationship, bought a house and fathered a child.

THAT is the British way.

*salutes flag*

PK said...

Fast is too inadequate a word. A new word would have to be invented to describe the very quickliness of that kind of process. I felt exhausted just reading Gallagher's post. Wow. That's amazing. Wow. Can't stop saying wow.

Simon said...

James, it sounds to me you should start writing for US TV (if only anyone could understand their humor).

james henry said...

I think the pace would kill me.

Marsha Klein said...

HAS anyone done crime-fighting cheesemakers, because that sounds full of possibilities to me...

rockmother said...

Crikey - that is superfast - congrats. Actually to be fair - the BBC in particular have got much better - it's C4 that hang on and play pass the parcel, then can't agree, then don't want to commit unless someone else agrees, then change their mind, then request more re-writes then it all happens again. Suddenly it is 2 yrs down the line and you forgot what your premise was! (NB: from a producer's point of view not a writer's)

james henry said...

Indeed, I've always found the BBC (or at least the Drama department) to be slow, but steady, which lets you pace yourself, and other projects (and they've always been very generous with re-write fees in my experience).

Channel 4 are, indeed, bloody awful.

mr bish said...

Woke up to go to the loo. Couldn't get to sleep so thought I'd read some blogs. The phrase "Schrödinger's inbox" alone makes this time well-spent. Good night.