Friday 10 August 2012

Update: Manners

This is just a mini-blog following up on my earlier entry bemoaning the lack of manners amongst development producers. After spending the first 7 months of the year doing actual paid work, I am spending the rest of my year on development. It's a great luxury and I'm very lucky.

This week I started making a plan of action/works (I am ever the optimist). I went through all the pitches and submissions that I'd managed to make amongst writing on New Tricks and Midsomer Murders. And I got angry all over again.

I couldn't quite believe how many pitches had been initially been enthusiastically received and then utterly forgotten about. Producers who had urged me to write pitches and treatments and to come to meetings (all for free and without any offer of expenses) had simply not bothered to follow-up on my work. Some of them have flat out lied to me; promising that they won't be like all the others and that they value me and my work. So, why do they still treat me like dirt?

And yes, I am still talking about my writing life, not my love life. That's a whole different blog.

Now, it might be that the ideas weren't any good or were too similar to others on the slate. And that's absolutely fine. It happens. But to not even bother to drop me an email or make a call to say we're not interested is just damn rude and unprofessional.

But it's not only that, it is potentially detrimental to mine and other writer's careers. Those ideas are my currency, my product. And if you don't want to buy them, that's okay. However, by sitting on them you are limiting my window of opportunity to take those ideas elsewhere. And the more I thought about this the angrier I got.

So, here is my plan of action.

I'm going to follow-up on every single one of those pitches with a polite but to the point email or phone call. I'm going to make it clear that I want a yes/no answer and that I want it within a few days.

If the answer is no, then I'll take the idea elsewhere.

If the answer is maybe (because let's a face it, it's never a straight yes), I'm going to ask for a time frame. I want to know where they are taking the idea next and when I can expect to hear something.

I'm also seriously considering no longer abiding by the unwritten rule that you only pitch an idea to one person at a time. It considered bad form to tout your ideas around to multiple companies. Well, I say fuck that. They're my ideas and I'll show them to whoever I damn well please. If you like the idea then get your finger out and make me an offer. Maybe I won't take my idea 'off the market' until someone is talking to my agent.

It's time for a change of attitude amongst writers. They are not doing us a favour by listening to our new ideas for characters and stories and worlds. If writers stop bringing those ideas in, then it all grinds to a halt. And if they can't show us a basic level of courtesy then maybe we should stop pitching to them?

Again, I say all this on the understanding that not every development producer is rude and thoughtless. I have worked with some crackers this year. Producers who talk to you like a human being, keep you in the loop and push for quick decisions. For those wonderful people, I go the extra mile. But I'm no longer even going to put on my shoes for the other rude bastards.

So, if you're a producer and you're reading this; ask yourself which category you fall into.


  1. Joshua St Johnston10 August 2012 at 12:27

    Brilliant plan. I feel your pain. And I'm going to take a leaf out of your book.

  2. Christine Murphy10 August 2012 at 12:53

    Here! Here! You're absolutely right. Why should we send our ideas out to one producer at a time for them to sit on? It's precisely this way of doing things that reinforces the doormat attitude towards writers.
    It should be more like selling a house - as you suggest, take it off the market when someone is talking seriously to your agent.

  3. It's not just TV prods and devs - it's rife in the publishing world too, believe me...

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  5. I'm a part-time journalist, just getting back into writing reviews and attending press screenings etc after years away from 'the game' and I'm hitting similar problems. People just don't bother to reply to polite enquiries. Surely e-mail makes it easier and more convenient than ever for people to correspond - I can almost understand the reluctance to sit and write or type an actual letter - but an email? Seconds to type and send off into the ether. But the number of publicity bods, press companies (even the BBC!) who just ignore enquiries is staggering and a little bit dispiriting.

  6. Agree with all of you! It's down to us to call people on their lack of decency. I'm at the end of my tether, so I'm well up for it. I will report back on any results. Lx

  7. Completely agree Lisa, I'm with you. And I hope more writers join in.

  8. Completely agree too, Lisa. Especially the bit about showing your ideas to whoever you bloody please. You're not a newby desperate for a gig. Even if you were, everyone deserves to be treated WITH RESPECT!

    Respect to you for saying it.


  9. Well said.

    However, I automatically send material to more than one company at any one time a) because of the four month turnaround b) because you know they won't contact you anyway c) they're not going to tell one another are they?

    Plus if you have a good working relationship then it may be better to maintain those rather attract attention for your work from the bad ones

    1. I think relationship building is the thing. I have my 'preferred list' of producers now. Some at the BBC, one at ITV and couple if Indies. When I have a new idea, I think of them first and who it would be a good fit for. That doesn't stop me getting seduced by new kids on the block every now and then, but I tend to stick to the devils I know at the moment.

  10. Well, in any degree of professionalism, they must know the so-called manners. We have give tribute to writers, like you because without them, there are no scripts for tv shows or even reading in books. I hope they are aware of their attitude and be sensitive to someone's feelings.