Thursday, October 11, 2007


Is what I believe the latest BBC debacle is being named. You know the one, when Her Maj grumpy face was made out to be storming out of a photo shoot instead of storming into one?

I couldn't care less is my first thought because frankly I can't. Not about the subject matter. But heads have roled and rightly so. Because while of course documentary makers legitimately use dramatic techniques to enhance the experience, you've got to draw the line at manipulating timing of events to portray a completely different picture than what actually happened.

Did the right heads roll? Dunno. But I think the documentary maker should be tarred and feathered. You expect a degree of subjectivity in any documentary, but the least you should expect is that the facts are correctly presented.

Except from what I understand the documentary maker was innocent.

It was RDF, the producers, who sexed up the original tape in order to try to boost foreign sales. Well that kinda backfired as it promoted a commission bar from BBC and ITV and a 30% drop in their share price. Damn good thing too. Maybe it will wipe the smile off some of those cocky marketers faces.

I spoke to an irate dev exec. A programme she had loved and nurtured, and also loved the title, was bemoaning the fact that the marketing department had changed the title so that it would fit in the SKY menu box!!

Another had a name changed by marketing to make it a very unsubtle double entendre, when there was nothing at all sexy about the programme.

There is definitely a place for the marketers, but sometimes the tail not only wags the dog, it curls round it's neck and chokes it to death.

Hopefully this is a salutory reminder to them that in both fact and fiction, truth is the most important aspect.


Book of Don said...

Hi folks - let me briefly weigh in on this but frankly, I don't know where to start. I make a living here in Canada as a writer / director of documentaries. And despite my frequent misgivings I'm proud that I've been able to pay (most) of my bills (sometimes) for the past 25 years. In the past ten years or so we've had an explosion of channels here. From about six or seven to over FIFTY Canadian networks.

Of that 50...I'd say 45 are run by complete know-nothing wankers. The other five are run by friends of mine (and as we all know FRIENDS are the life-blood of the industry). The Wankers fall into three archetypes -: (1) arrogant, condescending
weasels - who are usually 35 year old women; (2) upwardly mobile sycophants - who are usualy 35 year old men; (3) terrified-and-burned-out "veterans" - who are usually 50 year old men like me.

As a freelance writer/direct I have to run the psychic gamut of all these clowns. This .. makes me drink heavily when I get home and dreaming of finding a randy 19 year old Australian nanny to run off with.

My point being .. when I first heard of the Crowngate debacle (which got lots of play in the right-wing press here) my heart went out to the poor doc maker. I knew -- I just knew that some marketing exec goaded on by a network careerist from either category (1) or (2) had caused this to happen.

...but that at the end of the day it would be the poor film-maker who would carry the stench of this enormous fuck-up.

I constantly struggle with Churchill's Black Dog and when I hear of episodes such as this which taint our craft -- and craft which depends upon a reputation of CREDIBILITY about all else -- I want to pick up a big, thorny stick and go whack somebody regardless of whatever career category they fall into.

English Dave said...

absolutely agree Don.Cut me a stick while you're at it.

In Drama an audience is willing to suspend their disbelief to the point where they feel they are being manipulated rather than entertained - and no further.

But at least that is their choice. Manipulaton presented as fact is unforgiveable.