Thursday, June 11, 2015

Afternoons of Futures Past

Just after I'd finished writing for the second series of Green Wing, I had a meeting with a BBC Drama producer and we talked for a while about serious matters, and then it turned out we were both HUGE fans of The O.C. so we could stop pretending to be grownups after that, it was great.
If you never watched The O.C, shame on you, it was a teen drama/soap thing set in Orange County, and it was brilliant, first two seasons at least. Much funnier that it had any need to be, which is always my favourite thing.

So, Drama Producer and I, fired up by mutual love of good entertaining telly, started developing our own take on a drama that could be funny and moving and entertaining at the same time, with characters who actually felt like real teenagers rather than the mouthpieces of cynical old hacks. The BBC commissioned two scripts, then dithered a bit, then decided not to go any further with it, which was a terrible shame, but their inalienable right.

Drama Producer and I started developing another show for the BBC, and this one didn't happen either, and then she left to work somewhere else, but we kept meeting up for chats, because when you meet good people in telly who are fun to work with and you trust, you jolly well cling to them. Recently, Drama Producer moved to an entirely new broadcaster and we had one of those meetings where we talked about all sorts of things, until she said 'hey, what happened to that first thing we worked on, the teen soap comedy thing?'

And I said I hadn't taken it anywhere, because I'd liked working on it with her so much I didn't feel anyone else would get it.I still used it as a sample script, because we'd developed the crikey out of it, so it was watertight, but I didn't really trust anyone else with it.

DRAMA PRODUCER: So... shall we maybe have another go at it?


Which is what's happening. And this does happen a lot, things you thought were dead suddenly get a second chance and so on, it's either a good thing, or it drives you mad, dunno which yet. I only mention it because we have a problem with this one which has never come up before, thusly:

DRAMA PRODUCER: Okay, we have an issue which is not insurmountable, but is holding things up somewhat. Because what has happened it, some of the rights have remained with the BBC from when we developed this in the first place, and the person who nailed down these rights was an absolute ARSE and is making my life very difficult as I am having to engage with the fine points of this annoying contract on an almost daily basis, and now I wish I was dead to a certain extent.

ME: Tell me who is responsible for this hackery, this jobsworth, this detestable contracts goblin, and madam I shall see them hang! (I'm writing an 18th century based thing at the moment and sometimes stuff bleeds through).


ME: What do you mean it's you?

DRAMA PRODUCER: I did the original contract, and it turns out I was very good at this sort of thing, I had forgotten.

ME: So what you are saying is you, my agent, and myself are now engaged with a version of you from the past, who is a total badass?


ME: Well now I want to make a series about that.

DRAMA PRODUCER: Please focus.

ME: Sorry.

Anyway, the battle continues.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

A meeting in a restaurant.

Recently I had a MEETING. I haven't written about MEETINGS for a bit, because looking after small children makes you tired, and the people with whom I was having MEETINGS were starting to pick up the disconcerting habit of actually reading the blog afterwards. But the kids are at school now, and this was a little while back and I don't think this producer is in the habit of reading blogs so I think we're fine.

Anyway, I was in London, and my agent likes it when I'm in London, he can ring around television producers and say things like 'James is in London! You have exactly twelve hours to book a meeting before the bright lights and moving vehicles become too much and he scurries back to his burrow in Cornwall THE BIDDING STARTS NOW!'

So amongst my other meetings, agent had scored me a quite last minute thing with Quite A Big Producer, who I'd never met before, and much more excitingly, the meeting was arranged for exactly lunchtime, in Quite A Posh Restaurant. I even had to check beforehand if I was supposed to wear a grownup jacket or summat and not a stinky old fleece with a lego space logo on it (model's own).


I discreetly give my name to the discreet waiter person at the discreet bar and he checks the list, discreetly, obviously, then ushers me over to a small table, where Quite A Big Producer is sitting, staring into space.

I introduce myself, sit down, and wait for QAB Producer's focus to zero in on me, which takes a while, quite frankly. Discreet Waiter comes over and asks if I'd like anything to drink. I force down the impulse to shout AHAHAHAHA FREE BOOZE ALL OF IT, and ask for a still water, because I am professional. All the time I am looking down at the menu laid discreetly to one side. I am quite hungry, because I had to rush to my first two meetings, so didn't have time for breakfast, and after this meeting I am going to have to rush to another meeting, so this meal will have to be planned precisely.

QAB Producer and I shoot the breeze for no more than five minutes, trying to work out who we have in common (no-one) and discussing what the broadcasters are looking for at the moment (I know, but I'm not telling them, in case they get someone else in). Then there is a silence.

Discreet Waiter comes over with a notepad.

DISCREET WAITER: (discreetly) Are we ready to order?

There follows a silence, during which QAB Producer looks at the menu, then at the other restaurant patrons who are all nomming merrily, then down at the floor, then back at the other diners again, then back at me. I am using this time to pick out items on the menu which are not French, but will comprise a full meal, which turns out to be totes doable, huzzah.

Then there is a slightly longer silence, after which QAB Producers utters six words that still echo around my brain sometimes.

QAB PRODUCER: No, I think we're done here.

Discreet Waiter takes my menu away. QUAB Producer looks at me. Discreet Waiter looks at me. Slowly I stand up, turn around and leave the restaurant.

Luckily, my next meeting is with one of my Top Favourite Producers, who takes pity on me and lets me have one of her fruit pastilles, so never let anyone tell you everyone in television is evil, it's just most of them.