allmediascotland.com is about to change, in terms of design, functionality and style of editorial. That may lead to some disruption of normal services over the next few weeks, not least because there are holidays to be had. It does mean also the prospect of new voices, from a galaxy of bloggers. So far, Nick Clayton, David Calder, Chris Bell, Craig McGill, Shaun Milne and Mark Gorman. Here, PAUL HINEMAN writes for a second time. You’ll see his biog below. Feel free to become an AMS blogger yourself, by emailing us, here.
Pitching a new TV show is not for the faint-hearted. The process seems to be designed to cause (in no particular order) offence, disillusionment, expectancy, delusion, frustration, hope, incredulity, wonder and, only rarely, surprise and joy.
And then there are those commissioning editors who never, ever respond.
This is an area of the TV business for which you need to really bed yourself in and prepare to grow old.
I’ve pitched ideas from within at least one large broadcast organisation and the experience wasn’t much better. The only saving grace was that I was on a decent fee at the time – regardless of outcome, and could at least feed myself while I waited for the first non-committal email (or better still, an out-of-office reply).
Now, having set up a ‘Scottish indie’, I find myself and my partners pitching from the street, so to speak. Well, actually, from a wee office just off George Square, in Glasgow, and sometimes from the kitchen table at home.
I used the word, ‘hope’, before, and hope comes from letting go. Cherry picking from the most ripe fruit on your slate, you send a raft of carefully-crafted pages to various channels, write down who you’ve sent them to (because you’ll have forgotten by the time they reply) and then go out for a decaf latte.
Of course, in this game, you have to maximise any potential, and there’s always a degree of adaptation to be carried out, to suit specific channel requirements or commissioning editor’s tastes. So, one proposal goes out to two, maybe three recipients. It’s a bit like fly fishing, only with more than one rod.
It gets better. No, that’s not sarcasm; not so long ago, you’d be required to send an initial page or two to your commissioning editor of choice. You could attach pictures, diagrams, drawings, in fact any visual aid you thought would actually influence the decision-making process.
Now, we have ‘producers’ portals’. Yes, these days, producers ‘do it’ through a portal. Actually, it’s quite a nifty and robust way of getting your ideas in front of the people that, hopefully, one day will matter to you.
The BBC actually let you park work-in-progress and set up your own online ‘to-do-list’ (I’ve wondered if commissioning assistants sneak a look at these and snigger to themselves – I would). At least with this method, you feel as though you’ve achieved something.
So why enter the arena? Why not set up a catering business or go on producing other people’s shows?
Why the hunger to be commissioned?
At the end of the day, you have to deal with a variety of individual, idiosyncratic responses. They can be constructive and encouraging, whilst still letting you down. They can be obtuse and obscure and allude to not having read or understood your proposal. There can be silence.
It’s not always the case that the best ideas get chosen for development. That notion, together with an absolute belief in the strength and quality of our company’s ideas motivate us to continue playing the long game.
And one day, it’ll be our turn and we’ll never look back. Or rather, we’ll reflect on those days of re-writes and fifth drafts, of fingers crossed and of decaf lattes.
Paul Hineman was born in Glasgow in 1972 in a hospital ward which eventually became home to BBC drama, ‘Cardiac arrest’. Prophetic or what?!