I feel it’s my duty as a writer to pass on the wisdom I’ve gained during my career so far. In particular, I think it’s important to help fellow writers grow and learn from my mistakes – especially when they’re fucking stupid.
And so plentiful.
So here, in chronological order, are the mistakes you want to avoid when taking a meeting with a BBC producer.
Just to set the scene: a friend put me forward as a potential writer for a newly commissioned TV sketch show. I sent in some sketches and one caught the producer’s eye. He sent me a more detailed writer’s brief and I wrote a load more. In the second batch, a sizable proportion were deemed funny/suitable. I was bombarded with ideas and requests for new sketches, a potential commission and a open offer to meet with the producer when I had time.
Here’s how not to proceed*:
- Don’t follow up your last triumph with a handful of, frankly, quite shit sketches you’ve dashed out between finishing a movie re-write and falling asleep.
- Don’t spend the entire night before in hospital looking after your best friend’s kid.†
- Don’t get up at bastard early o’clock in the morning to feed your best friend’s other kid.†
- Don’t arrange meetings for the day before the most important event of your life so far, when all you can think about is the next day and how much impact its success or failure will have on everything you’ve ever known or cared about.§
- Don’t attend a meeting immediately beforehand where the project you’re discussing takes a new and unexpected twist which could jump you straight to the top of the pile and leave you working with one of your favourite writers; thus causing you to wander around London deliriously happy and feeling like some kind of script-god.¤
- When filling in the BBC visitor’s pass – try not to spell your name wrong.
- Don’t, after meeting the producer and being all cheery, suddenly explain you can’t think straight because you’ve been up all night.
- Try not to, if at all possible, fall asleep when you’re being shown the taster DVD for the new show.‡
- When the producer mentions how the last batch of sketches didn’t quite hit the mark, try not to refer to them as ‘a pile of shit’. Sometimes, honesty is not the best policy.
- If said producer asks you for an opinion – try to have one. It’s preferable to just staring out of the window wondering if that’s a car park or not.
- When the producer mentions a particular sketch and wonders if you have any ideas on how to expand it/develop it further – try not to say yes and then go back to looking at the car park.
- Don’t ask if you can steal one of their TVs.
- When the producer describes a sketch you think is funny, laughing is a more acceptable response than stating “Yes, that’s really funny.” in a monotone voice.
- Recognise when the meeting is over – it’s usually just before the ten minutes of silence interrupted by the producer asking you if there’s anything else you want to know.
- If there isn’t anything you want to know, thank him and say goodbye immediately. Do not sit for another ten minutes thinking ‘It must be a car park, but why can’t I see any cars?’
- On your way out, try not to stare at the turnstile like a fucking simpleton – you’ve seen them before, they’re not that complicated.
- Say goodbye once. That’s all it takes.
- Once you have said goodbye, leave. It’s over, walk away.
- And finally, when you get home and write it all up on the Internet – don’t post a scan of the BBC pass which blatantly tells you to return it to reception.
So there you go – nineteen simple rules which should see you through any meeting and guarantee you don’t look like a fucking brainless moron who’s been on an all night bender.
*Please ignore any double-negatives, you fucking know what I mean you anal tosser.
†Actually, you always do this, no matter what the circumstances or time of day/night.
§This one has nothing to do with writing.
¤This one is so unbelievably cool I wish I could tell you about it, but I can’t.
‡I’m not sure if I did this or not. I think I did, but it may have just been a long blink and a short taster DVD. It’s not my fault, the sofa was sooooooooooooo comfy.