Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Goldman Awards 3

To the brave, honest and noble writer who sat patiently through a lengthy elaboration of ‘The Grid’ in the conference room of a bland hotel over the course of several days (see ‘Swimming Lessons’ below). This writer, who has contributed successfully to British Television for years and is both respected and admired, was less than impressed. When asked for an opinion, this writer obliged by giving one in an attempt to be helpful. A week or so later, this writer was dismissed without explanation from the show she had served on and off for decades. It was thought, presumably, that no explanation was necessary.


Anonymous said...

read all your postings. Gosh, you're good. Have lived and worked through some of the times you've posted about and you're spot on.

Anonymous said...

Ditto the above.

I've been writing for British TV for the last eight years and for the first time I'm seriously considering turning my back on it. A lot of that relates to some of the scenarios described in this blog.

A few years ago I was asked twice over the space of a few months if I'd like to write for Holby. We had a meeting set, and then I emailed some other writers who'd worked on HC and Casualty, to get their advice. I cancelled the meeting and when the producer asked me why, I told him that of the five writers I'd asked to share their experience not one had a single good word to say about either of those shows. One had even handed back a subtantial amount of guarantee money to get out of doing any more episodes of Casualty. Any time I hear BBC propaganda about valuing writers and wanting their shows to be writer-led it makes me want to throw up.

I've worked for some terrific producers in the past, but more and more you face passive aggressive careerists who take any kind of criticism, however constructive and politely delivered, as a personal attack. I can't think of one TV writer I know who feels any different.

It gets to a point where you're so sick of all the negativity that it's probably healthier to walk away and reconnect with what drove you to write in the first place.

Faustus said...

Thank you so much for this comment. I want to say 'don't give up' but what we really can't give up is, as you indicate, why we started writing in the first place. Lose that and we lose everything that truly matters to us.

The question is, can we get it back into our work? Can we reintroduce it to television? It's important because it's the very heart of drama.

That's the challenge.

I think there is a terrible misconception growing in the business that we're all just corporate strategists working our way up the machine to achieve positions of power. That's why the independent spirit of any decent writer is regarded as a threat. But writers don't fit that description. We have to remind them who we are and what we do so that we can all work happily together again each with our respective talents, gifts and contributions. The execs can be as hard-nosed and self-serving as they like (though many don't fit this description either) but they have to treat writers like writers if an institution based on writing and creativity is to do its job.

Julia Honour said...

Dear Faustus

Good for you for speaking out and providing a forum for discussion of the current state of affairs in BBC long running series. Although I am sad to see few people are daring to comment on your fascinating and to-the-point blog – such is the climate of fear that exists at the moment – we are all fighting for our livelihood.

It is such a betrayal that the people who trumpet most loudly about believing in good writing and good writers have turned out to be control freaks who actually hate writers in general and see them at best as a necessary evil and at worse as a idiots who can’t read their minds and give them exactly what they want (heaven forbid that they would take the time to give lucid notes….) So they have developed, over the last five years, a pernicious system to get round this problem.

The attack, as I see it from my privileged position close to the heart of darkness, is two pronged. They are intelligent enough to realise that writers do have skills they need, so they have to offer experienced, quality writers long contracts with enormous incentive bonuses to keep them chained to their desks doing the bulk of the episodes, gritting their teeth and making those dodgy storylines work, and in for meetings every week for thought policing and team building to quash any hint of rebellion. To balance the budget they have devised system to select and break and train new writers as cheap fodder to do the rest. It’s ingenious, it gives them exactly what they want. You’ve really got to hand it to them.

I shouldn’t complain, the tortuous and blood–spattered road (ah, the back stabbings I’ve witnessed…) to this solution has provided the golden age for my long and illustrious career as Queen of the In-House Edit. I know, I’ve put my name to some truly crappy episodes, but hey, I’m not proud, a girl’s got to live. But even I live in fear now, under totalitarian rule no-one is unassailable, not even me. I take some comfort in the thought that the phrase “I’ve been Julia Honoured” has passed in to the vernacular. That is my lasting achievement. All I want to know now is, who got all my ALCS payments? I may be needing them soon…..

Faustus said...

The honour is ours. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Julia Honour! I wish you'd attached a photo. I have vague image of you in my mind. An amalgam of every editor I've worked with. A woman who writes not with her hands but rather by smashing her head repeatedly on the key board.

God bless you, Julia.