Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The State Of The TV Nation

So tomorrow I leave my home of six years to - I'm not sure what. Separation /Divorce is a messy business no matter how good the intentions. Anyway as a result I may or may not be off the blog for a while.

So with that in mind I thought I'd have a general rumination on the state of the Industry.

My prognosis isn't good. The proliferation of new channels in the last few years has in general backed up the old adage that 'more means worse'.

The introduction of short term contracts for most execs has led to a climate of fear where risk is avoided at all costs.

The BBC Writer's Academy is I think one of the worst ideas ever to be hatched. I don't say that just because it is costing me and all other freelancers dearly as spots on long running shows [ the only way a writer can make a living] dry up as the most favoured nation status afforded to Academy writers sucks them out of the system. I say it for creative reasons.

John Yorke has never written a produced script in his life. Yet his 'teachings ' His 'five act structure or 'Grid' or whatever the hell he calls it is being flogged as some kind of template for BBC shows. No wonder they all look the same.

It is also my understanding, I may be wrong, that Academy writers don't get a script fee for the episodes they write, but a salary which is way below the script fee. Way to circumvent the hard fought for minimums!

And finally, when I were a lad, writers got gigs by showing great original specs. Yorkie has touted the Academy as a place where writers can fail in safety. Whoop de doo. Then they get to meet the real world. Being trained to write for 4 specific BBC shows is not the same as being a writer. Meanwhile I know for certain that several real world writers of my acquaintance are seriously considering giving up TV writing. The Academy nonsense being the final straw.

Does that sound harsh? It was meant to be.

If there were some element in the Academy course that meant ''you will be encouraged to produce original work and ideas in addition to the usual bollocks'' then I might change my mind about it. Might.

Okay call me a curmudgeonly old git, but that's how I feel. And call me what you like. I'm never less than honest.

Training writers to write for Holby, Casualty, EastEnders and Doctors is like programming Robots to perform brain surgery. The Robot is only as good as the programmer. I'm far from convinced the programmers are up to snuff.

And yes if any Academy writers are reading this I may well come across as a malcontent luddite. Perhaps that comes with the territory of dealing with the shifting sands of those in executive positions over a number of years. But a word of advice. If Yorkie is sacked in the next few years the 'Academy' will be a dirty word. So to Academy writers. Be nice. Make contacts. Do a great job. But don't rely on Yorkie to watch your back. And for God's sake don't boast about being an Academy writer to any old salts who came through the trenches. It's the surest way to oblivion.

Writing is hard. What is harder is making contact with people who love your work and have the resolve and resources to do something about it. It's a symbiotic relationship. Apparatchik execs come and go. The passionate and creative execs are the ones who stay the course. Much like writers.

This one size fits all mentality is what is killing TV. Too much emphasis on what is safe and not enough on what is good. Subjective, I know, but the most memorable shows are always the most risky ones.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

But I digress

I'm going through a few domestic crisis at the moment so I promised myself I won't write about the strike or writing in general. Gets me too worked up.

I thought for a change I'd choose something less contentious.

This whole 'Teddy bear' business in Sudan? Wtf??????

Now if a Muslim teacher at a Christian school for instance had decided to name a teddy bear Jesus Whoremonger then I can see certain elements getting upset.

But here's the thing. Gillian didn't name it. Her pupils named it. 20 out of 23 of them chose the name Mohammed. The most popular boys' name in Sudan.

Then she circulated a letter to parents informing them of this. And not one of those parents complained. Why would they? They have no political agenda.

Nope, two months later a ''staff'' member informed the authorities.

Yeah right.

In Friday prayers the Imams whip it up a storm and send a few hundred rent a looneys out demanding death. The cameras are, of course, there.

It's called PR.

In essence what this means is that a handful of people suddenly have the power to besmirch a nation and a religion. For what? To put pressure on the West not to send peacekeepers to Darfur? Possibly. If so it's a tactic that has badly misfired. Unless it is a tactic to alienate moderates everywhere by the use of extreme measures intended to cause resentment and division which they can then exploit for their own political ends .

Much like the purpose of terrorism?

A big thank you to those British Muslims protesting outside the Sudanese embassy today voicing their displeasure. The way to counteract terrorism is for right minded people to actually stand up and do the right thing.

Anyway I have no doubt Gillian will be released to the British authorities shortly 'for her own protection' The Kuwait news agency have muted this ''might'' happen. Kuwait being one of the biggest aid donors to Sudan. 'Nuff said. But thank you.

I have no time for fundamentalists of any persuasion or conviction. I don't have a lot of time for organised religion in general. I'm of the live and let live persuasion.

But as a human being I've got to try to understand the motivations behind such actions rather than take a knee jerk reaction stance. More importantly - as a writer I've got to take a .............. dammit. I promised myself!