"" Rob Parnell's Writing Academy Blog: TV or Not TV, That Is The Question...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

TV or Not TV, That Is The Question...

Rob Parnell

In a few of my articles recently I have suggested that the path of the modern writer may not always lead down the traditional walkways of novel writing, journalism or indeed any of the more familiar routes a writer might want to take.

There are new opportunities of all kinds. The Net, for one, with its need for constant content and marketing material.

Offline too there are a myriad of writing jobs - many of which I explore in Easy Cash Writing. For the committed writer there are always new and varied avenues to pursue.

In the spirit of which, we ventured into the world of TV yesterday, when we visited an executive from a certain funding body to pitch some ideas we'd had for TV shows.

I won't mention our contact's name, not because it's a secret or because we're being coy, but because these people don't like it when you bandy their names around (especially not in a public forum like a blog). The last thing a TV exec wants is to be seen to be endorsing an unfunded program idea - or favoring a particular writer for instance (Heaven forbid).

Reality Bites

The meeting took place in the South Australian Film studios and we were taken to meet (Blank) by an old friend there called Quentin.

He's a great guy, very supportive of us. He's paraplegic, diminutive and wheelchair bound, but no less of a creative force at SA Film for that. We only wish that his enthusiasm for our projects caught on to the other members of the Funding Boards he sits on.

We're at a disadvantage you see - because we're writers. said as much to us. Apparently we need to align ourselves with more working production companies - as though this was in any way easy.

The problem we have is that in order to interest TV production companies, we need to have TV shows made or in production. And of course, how can you do that, without working with a TV production company? The old Catch 22. (Thank you, Mr Heller.)

Undeterred, as is our wont, we plowed into our pitches.

We've Got This Idea...

We'd heard that the new ABC 3 channel wanted ideas for interactive 'reality' types shows for kids. We'd come up with three and proceeded to pitch each of them in turn.

(Blank) quickly let us know that either we'd (a) missed the boat, (b) would need external funding or (c) had come up with ideas that were already in development.

Okay. So we let the conversation move on to other, more practical issues. Like the movie we were making with Hollywood - and how we had plans for forming our own production company as a springboard for future projects...

Did I detect faint amusement in (Blank's) eyes?

Or - in retrospect - was it alarm?

In a way I hope it was a kind of shock at the audacity of our plans. Robyn and I have always been ambitious. That's how we get things done. Aim high - and don't take no for an answer.

It serves us well in the long run - and proves to us that there are always alternatives for writers.

Rejection comes with the territory - and you can't be phased or put off by it. You just have to keep on trying, pushing, improving, until the industry is forced to sit up and take notice of you.

Fiction Rules

We went on to pitch two ideas for drama shows next. Well, you have to be ready for the old 'what else have you got' line, don't you?

Robyn told (Blank) about an idea we'd originally visualized as a movie but we'd since touted as an concept for a kid's TV series.

(Blank) was dismissive of the idea, said it was impractical and unappealing to a world audience. Curiously, (Blank) was also dismissive of the producer we'd involved at one point - even though (Blank) had worked with this person on an award winning TV show...

I started to wish I'd left my camera rolling.

Next, our final idea, admittedly not fully developed yet.

Robyn explained the premise, saying that it was already a book manuscript that we thought might work as an animation series - a kind of medieval soap opera.

"What form would it take on the screen?' (Blank) asked.

"Anything you like," Robyn said, amused.

"No," (Blank) said. "You have to know."

Soon after, Quentin arrived at the door - which had never been closed - and our meeting was over.

The Verdict

Believe it or not, the meeting went about as well as we thought it would.

An outsider might conclude we'd achieved nothing - and embarrassed ourselves in the process. But, as you'll no doubt know about us by now, we don't see things that way.

So our ideas were shot down.

So we were basically told we weren't well connected enough for TV yet.

So, okay, we'd need to be better prepared next time.

But what else can we do? We keep pushing. We're just writers. We want to entertain and create successful projects. We get our ideas out there. Some of them raise of flicker of interest, others get people excited. Some, inevitably, fall flat.

At the meeting we'd achieved a few things in our own minds.

We'd touched base with (Blank), shown our faces. And admittedly she was nice - and had always been helpful to us on the phone in the past.

Plus, we'd been able to let her know that despite our naivety and lack of experience, we have stratospheric self belief.

We'd also learned that there seems to be a clique of working TV producers in Australia who jealously guard their alignments and their contacts, and more importantly, their 'slate'.

We'd at least come away knowing what we were up against.

And that one day soon, we knew we'd be back.

The Wrap Up

Writing is not everyone's idea of a great job.

It can be slow and frustrating, even when things are going well.

We know everything starts with writing - and that all the agents, publishers, producers, directors, actors and TV executives in the world would have nothing to do without writers writing.

Elia Kazan said that writers are the only people who feel like they're gatecrashing their own party when they turn up to events that celebrate what they create.

Sometimes it seems as though the media, the publishing industry, indeed the whole world regards writers as some kind of irritant - a freak show - and a slightly seedy part of the creative equation.

But, alas, dear reader, we know better, don't we?

Keep Writing!

Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

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