Monday, 7 February 2011


Writers of a certain age will tell you how easy the commissioning process used to be, this applies to British TV I don't know if it held good in the US. Once upon a time you could propose something to a producer who then had the power to commission it on the spot. Wow. These days it's very different, you have to go through so many hoops and layers of commissioners and executives you have to be a thick-skinned hardy soul to get anything on TV. But it's worth it. Most of the time. You will get notes along the way. Sometimes it's fine. Like minded people, all on the same page.

And then there is the other kind of meeting. The one where you get notes from many different people, some of whom are qualified to offer a note, some of whom leave you wondering if a) they can read at all and b) if they can, did they read your script? You will go to meetings where four people have eleven ideas the script, none of which are consistent with what you've written or what anyone else in the room has said.

Painful as it is, the difficult meeting is not confined to television. I hosted a radio show for a number of years - you gotta pay the mortgage whilst those commissioners are dilly-dallying. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a radio host and we got great feedback, good figures and played some fine music. But just to show you that 'the difficult meeting' isn't just confined to TV here's how one meeting went.

The Boss: So, the figures are okay.

Me: Just okay? I thought we’d doubled them.

The Boss: Yes but they were very low before.

Me: But now they’re doubled and that’s just okay.

The Boss: The good news is I want you to do another hour.

Me: Because the figures are okay.

The Boss: I’m changing things. How d’you feel about the new show.

Me: I don’t know what the new show is.

The Boss: I told you, it’s three hours.

Me: Okay. But what do you want in it?

The Boss: I don’t work like that 

Me: Sorry? I’m just trying to find out what you want me to do.

The Boss:  Now you’re being awkward.

Me: What do you want?

The Boss: I want you to have fun.

Me: But what do you want me to do?

The Boss: Three hours.

Me: You must have some ideas about what you want in those three hours?

The Boss: I’m not going to sit here having a slanging match.

Me: Okay. What do you want it to be like?

The Boss: People keep telling me you’re creative.

Me: I’d like to think so.

The Boss: So…

Me: So…?

The Boss: I don’t want lots of non entities. Big names.

Me: Define ‘big’.

The Boss: You know who I mean.

Me: Give me one example.

The Boss: I don’t work like that. I’ll tell you if it’s wrong.

Me: I’ll go away and think about it.

The Boss: I need an answer now. Are you going to do the new show?

Me: Subject to contract.

The Boss: Sorry. The press release is written, I’m sending it out this afternoon.

Me: Subject to contract. You want me to do another hour.

The Boss: Why do contracts need to get involved?

Me: Because I’ll be doing another hour.

The Boss: There’s no money.

Me: You want me to work on a show that has no format, no content and is an hour longer than the show I’m doing now for no more money?

The Boss: They said you could be disruptive.

My advice about meetings - be prepared. Go in armed with a pen and pad or a laptop.  Ask your boss/producer/script editor to be specific about what they want. Pin them down. It's amazing how quickly those meeting will be over.

1 comment:

  1. This one must refer to a Mr P because that's how he likes his station