It struck me over the weekend as to one thing that really needs changing for these established UK production companies/ commissioners….
Meetings with the little people! Not just for the exclusivity of the industry talent/ players.
I have spent the last five years emailing/ contacting every conceivable person in the industry for advice, information, even a foot in the door and all of it has come to nothing. If i actually get a reply, it’s some junior giving me some “not ready for primetime” guff and interestingly some of them (when i check their background) have merely done a chintzy media course and have this job straight out of college… hardly a long career in taste-making comedy. Every site says you should approach the producers but my friends and I have done that and still nada. I understand there should be a minimum standard of quality to look for but how can one judge upon an introductory email?
The problem is that unless you are established, nobody wants to give you the time of day, in fact for me, the only person who made the kind effort to meet up (in a Soho Starbucks!) was a feature producer who gave me expert wisdom which i have used. Just to be in their presence was a major achievement and has kept me going in terms of knocking on doors (very Death of a Salesman). I understand there are a large amount of us writers knocking on doors but read the next paragraph as another vision.
Now the flip-side is that a friend’s wife ,who is a writer, was in Los Angeles and ended up having meetings with select industry folk. Simple, no having to hack through the system. Whether anything comes of it is one thing but you get to see a face and talk about the ideas you have. I know the US is a meeting orientated culture and the UK people are busy but really, they should have a culture of setting time aside for meetings to scout new talent. They honestly don’t know how big the talent pool is. I do as i am networked with the most talented people still “hitting the bricks”
Personally as i am a comedy writer i have met indie producer/ directors who have said they will forward me to the established companies (of which i shan’t name!) but i hear nothing back. Even just a sit down chat with someone can be enough to keep the spirits up.
In a bizarre guilt ridden confession I have been watching insufferable crap like The Wolverine and want to poke my eyes out for such sinful behavior.
To get myself back on track i have viewed crap-that-knows-is’s-crap like this curiously odd travesty of the cop genre. This flick has it all, low budget, shot on video, bad acting, sub par martial arts, tacky action setpieces, a plot held together by a thin piece of video-string and my personal favourite, a black cop who is literally doing a rip off of Eddie Murphy a la Beverly Hills Cop. These mentalists actually try to out macho each other in a kind of poor man’s Crocket and Tubbs.
This opening will give you a taster of what to expect and yes, it’s hardly going to win awards but will be far more entertaining than the densely plotless megabudget shite that is lining the multiplexes.
So, the recent event to address the lack of diversity in media was a psuedo-success judging by the varied voices that were vocal at the current situation. I say pseudo as nothing has been set in concrete.
There were a few suggestions such as setting quotas but these ideas are made by people who have established themselves in media. What i want to express is ideas presented by a person who has tried numerous times to get his projects made and consantly been rebuffed. Essentially an outsider like me.
*disclaimer: This is not a blatant opportunity for me to get my scripts made (though it would be nice!) but a chance to level the playing field for all people*
1- Online: The various TV channels are now experimenting with their online divisions and in the case of Channel 4 they do these showcase opportunities. The latter’s last attempt was a disaster to the community as they ran a scheme called ‘Comedy Blaps ‘ where it was an open call to send in your submissions but the chosen shows were from the establishment (for the most part) like Baby Cow et al. This rendered it a dispiriting waste of time for all those who made the effort. What needs to be done is utilize these digital portals to properly showcase new talent at a fraction of the budget. Please look at the last line as i have worked on things for poverty level prices and even getting a few grand to bring something real will be money better spent.
2- Talent Scouts: I have seen numerous comedy talents in my time who are simply shut out because their face doesn’t fit the same generic people on panel shows. I am not saying put any old person on but pay attention to who can add a little quirkiness. Essentially the talent scouts should be fearless to “think outside the box” and have the backup to do so.
3- Workshops: They don’t work for the most part and it’s essentially there to make the managers sleep well at night. More thought should be made as to the point of direction and outcome for these. No point giving people a training session if it doesn’t lead anywhere.
You can certainly experiment without disrupting the core franchises. If the current mindset was applied 30 years ago there would simply be no Hanif Kureishi and he made some brilliant edgy stuff. The type that will not be made today unless change is made.
That’s it for positive action plans but three is enough right?
As for me i have set up my own website and production company and fighting on my rules (with no money!) in the hope something breaks. I mean look at Spike Lee, he did it by being angry/pushy/ focused and so am i.
So, one of the many chintzy spam-lite emails I get tells me that with a simple modest payment I can write in the same style as Tarantino, well for the first 15 pages at least.
I can understand why they are selling this concept as his films are unique but why would you want to be a writer turned Tarantino-lite hack?
Why emulate his work when every teacher tells you to find your own voice? Certainly watch his films and read the screenplays (as I have done) but only to see how he has structured his film for himself. It’s hardly the bench mark of structure much like Robert Towne’s work due to their unique styles.
It’s true that people want to read scripts that they can relate to as a hit movie but they also crave originality and scams such as this drive you away from getting your unique voice out there. Look at even the populist genre movies and you can see the writer’s personality is embedded in it. Yes, even Lethal Weapon!
Quentin has had a long B-Movie cinematic education which has developed his writing and for you to do the same thing will make a sub par rip-off script which people will say “it’s like Pulp Fiction/ Reservoir Dogs but a little bit shitter and it’s quite cheeky for someone to sell you a product that is pushing you away from originality and going towards conformity.
We are all influenced by great writers but don’t let it drown out what you want to write. Read a few film books, learn structure and narrative and go ahead and write. It really is that simple.
Disclaimer: This is a broad generalization when referring to specific episodes but I am making an overall point so don’t dick me over some late night show which you term a classic.
Each decade of television (and radio) has had an element of the radical that has changed the landscape and influenced the following generation from the Goon Show (1950’s), Tony Hancock (1960’s), Monty Python/ Q (1970’s), Blackadder/ The Young Ones/ Only Fools and Horses/ Spitting Image (1980’s), The Day Today, Big Train (1990’s), The Office, Nighty Night and Nathan Barley in the noughties.
Obviously there was a load of crap that fell by the wayside (Fresh Fields/ Curry and Chips/ Mind your Language) but the last one on my list is the point I am making albeit a broad one.
For me the last great comedy series was Nathan Barley and due to it’s reception was considered an artistic failure, which seemed to be a Chris Morris backlash. Since then there has been nothing challenging which is curious because comedy is about as fashionable as Anna Wintour these days.