Saturday, 1 December 2007

The Best of People. The Worst of People.

It has been pointed out to Faustus by one of our correspondents that while you can meet the worst types of people in this business and have the worst kind of experience, you can also meet the best. Faustus agrees wholeheartedly.

There are many talented Producers and Editors out there with whom it is a pleasure to work - a pleasure because they make good work possible.

Of course, it is not to be supposed that Faustus applauds only ‘nice’ people. It’s not a cuddly-bunny world that writers are looking for but the opportunity, having been hired, to work to their very best potential. We all take stick sometimes, we’re all driven to anguish and frustration sometimes, many of us have gone home after a ‘strenuous discussion’ with the producer or editor to think: er, hang on, they was right. That is half the fun. The other half is knowing at the end of it all that you’ve made a great piece of drama.

Nothing of the grief described to Faustus derives from a writer being pushed to write better. They love nothing better than being pushed to write better. If nobody else does it for them, they’ll push themselves to write better. It all derives from that cynical climate of intimidation, power-games, mind-games and bullying so well described by one of our commentators below.

The word filtering back up the mountain, meanwhile, is that some writers have become ‘comfortable’ [I quote this again - it’s from the WGGB/BBC meeting]. That is an incredible slur. More incredible is that it might be believed. Being a writer is a constant and habitual state of discomfort. From where else does the writing come? What has become clear from the various messages that we’ve received is that, on the contrary, the writers remain so committed, so loyal, so dedicated to the art and all that it might achieve that it hurts.

So who is telling the lies and why?

It’s no surprise that the BBC is in a panic about getting new writers. All they hear is that the old ones (and that will one day include those who are now new) ‘lack enthusiasm’ or ‘are not sufficiently committed’. Maybe what’s needed is a system that allows the enthusiasm and commitment not only to shine through but to survive more than five years in what one writer described as ‘the battle-field that is now Series TV’.

[Note to many of the new BBC script editors now trained and ready to edit scripts: the title of this post is a reference to the opening of a book called ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was a writer who lived in the nineteenth century. A book is a thing with lots of pieces of paper stuck to each other in the middle with words written on them. A reference is … oh never mind, you won’t notice them anyway.]


:) said...

It's funny - I know so many BBCers, well, generally ex-BBCers to be honest. Online journalists, broadcast journalists, technologists, radio producers. They all report analogous experiences to those you write about.

It seems to me that the BBC is such an enormous behemoth, it's pretty much incapable of anything but dysfunctional relationships with its staff, who rarely have anything but dysfunctional relationships with each other. There's a reason that BBC TVC is so frequently referred to as the "pit of vipers".

My beloved used to work at the BBC, and once came home rolling with laughter having seen one of those ludicrous propaganda posters, the ones that said "Audience is at the heart of everything we do", where someone had crossed out "Audience" and written "Bosses' pay cheques".

I don't know that the BBC is capable of acting in a healthy manner at all. And I must admit, that makes me sad. I used to really admire the BBC, until I got closer to it and saw how appallingly it's mismanaged, and the way that bullying fools are rewarded with promotion. Shit rolls downhill, and there's more than enough of it at the highest echelons of the Beeb to go round.


Sorry for ranting.

One favour to ask you though. Please remove the single quotes from around the word blog in your sidebar. It's a blog, not a 'blog', no more than what you do on it is 'write'.

Faustus said...

How dare you suggest that I remove the quotation marks from around the word 'blog'? I spent hours on those quotation marks. For years I've used quotation marks and everybody's been perfectly happy with them. What do you suggest I do? Just leave holes? Just spaces? Just a void begging for the inclusion of quotation marks? Let me tell you that I did a lecture on quotation marks at the MA Screenwriting course at the University of Norristhorpe and it went down extremely well. This whole anti-quotation mark thing is exactly what I've been talking about. Suddenly, quotation marks nobody has ever complained about, for which writers - including myself - have won awards are out of fashion. Huh? Is that what you're saying?

Oh, alright then.

Paul Campbell said...

You have to remove both the quotation marks for it to work.

There are no half measures. No compromises.

Faustus said...

Look ... really ... uh ... I don't know why I bother. You've obviously got a serious problem with other people expressing themselves. Hnn? Isn't that right? Do you have any idea that for me a single quotation mark left hanging with no reference to anything at all reminds me of the day, years ago, when my hamster died? And I was left hanging with no reference to anything at all? Have you any idea how that felt? Do you care? Do you care about hamsters? My hamster? Do you care about my pain? My suffering? The reason why ... okay, I'm getting a bit emotional here, the reason why I wanted to write in the first place was ... sniff ... to talk about my Hamster. Now you know. For years I have tried to introduce hamsters into my episodes and have always had some b&***&d script editor tell me that 'it's not really working for me'. That Phil Mitchell hamster scene would have been a classic. That whole giant hamster actually being in charge of Holby Hospital concept would have been the twist of the decade.

Okay, seriously, there are some loops out there trying to write, bless 'em. And maybe we can all get carried away by something sometimes and be a pain to a hard-working editor. Script editing is not an easy job for many reasons, writers sometimes being one of them. But let's just have a go at working together. I've learned a huge amount from editors, but it's always been through a trusting, mutually respectful exploration of the work, not the sort of ranting, rambling monologue on the phone that's so much a part of the culture now that never seriously puts the question: what do you think?

Anonymous said...

Overheard at a BBC Christmas party;

Notes given to writers on Holby City are no longer to be credited to the individual who came up with them. Writers are now told 'Holby would like you to change this. Holby think you have failed to do this'

Chaff hiding behind wheat?