Archive for October 9th, 2007

AOP awards and RTS Futures talks

I’ve not posted for a while as my personal life’s in a bit of a tailspin…

…consequently I’ve been seeking solace at various champagne fuelled receptions, talks and awards do’s. First up 4oD was nominated for a Association of Online Publishers awards last Wednesday evening, for best Launch campaign (The big talent-filled vending machine one) After a comedy of errors mix up with the tickets that saw no one wanting to go, then everyone wanting to go once the rumour came round that we’d won, our table was eventually sorted, and I, as feeder of images into the beast duly rented the cheapest tux the Moss Brothers had to offer.

I’ve been to the AOP awards before, it’s a right boozy affair, that normally sees News International lot boo the Guardian, and everyone boo the BBC perhaps rather unfairly. My ex-colleagues at BBC food were robbed by the current bun for best use of video. Anyway, Paul and I went up to collect the trophy which have to be the cheapest in awardland, consisting of a sheet of paper in a plastic clip frame. There’s also a sit down dinner, and the food was just as bad as last year. The starter was salmon and avocado, it was that sort of bright matt pink cold smoked salmon that makes you do the gag reflex, dressing was ok though. Next up the mains, a slow-cooked fall apart when touched with a folk piece of beef in sauce which was actually rather nice, run-of-the-mill dauphinoise and the obligatory squeaky green beans. Dessert was a pongy eggy apple soufflĂ©. I then proceeded to get smashed, talk shit and tumble into a cab home.

A couple of weeks before this I went to the RTS Futures panel talk at Madam Tussauds. The panel was chaired by Hardeep Singh Kohli and consisted of the Ash Attila, Charlie Brooker, Victoria Coren, and Alex Zane. Much telly was discussed, and the points raised ranged from ‘hard work will get you there’ from Ash, to ‘Be nice to people’ from Victoria and Charlie. Alex Zane made a good point about the return to live TV. How with shows like The Word you never quite knew what you were gonna get, they had an edginess to them. There was some rather dull Q&A, with most young people saying things like ‘I’m being made to ask people trick questions so they’ll look stupid in the edit’ ‘my producer’s a bully and I’m doing this because if I don’t someone else will’ and ‘I’m not getting any training on anything’.

The panel very kindly stuck around for a drink and I cornered Alex Zane by the Hitler and Churchill figures. He talked about how shows like Friday Night Project and Charlotte Church should be live, how hosts now are too beholden to agents, PR people and marketeers, about how it’s ok to piss talent off once in a while (as his spat with the Enemy testifies). We talked about The Big Breakfast, Shaun Rider on TFI Friday, and about The Word some more. Alex Zane is probably too young to remember this, but there was a US glam rock band called Warrant in the early 90s who went on The Word to sing their hit ‘Cherry Pie’ as the credits rolled. Little did they know that the audience were planning to pelt them with real cherry pies. The singer stopped mid way through due to taking one right in the face and the whole thing ended in a farce. Live, naughty, edgy, it was obviously the talk of the 6th form common room the next day. It’s this that Alex, coming from radio, is on about. Not juswhat! And give up show business!t a tit flash or swearing, but the potential for things to go wrong, for celebs and guests to actually have to know what they’re talking about and be put on the spot rather than have their handlers shout ‘cut’.

But on the way home I started to think about why any 20 year old nowadays would want to work in TV, especially at the moment. Most of the established names in TV got their in a different age. Working with most exec producers these days is like being in a band and thinking it’s ok to let your dad decided the musical direction. There’s talk in TV about ‘getting to the top’, about standing on the corpses of all the other media graduates to make it.. Well perhaps that was fine when broadcasting was based on a scarcity of spectrum and prohibitive costs, nowadays bandwidth, distribution, cameras and mates are cheap. To sum up, if you’re in your 20s nowadays and want to make programmes, get a camera and follow your mate’s band, or interview your family, go on nights out and film that, make the films and programmes no one else is making because they can’t. Sure you might fail, but you’ll have done something genuine and it’s sure better than fetching coffee for Loraine Kelly guests. There’s the old joke about the guy who cleans up the elephant shit at the circus, and when someone asks him why he doesn’t get a different job, he says ‘what! And give up show business!’

Victoria Coren made a good point. ‘Anyone who’s done anything ground breaking or revolutionary in TV has done it because they’ve managed to get it done under the radar with out anybody knowing or finding out’, or they’ve just found away to do it and got on with it I reckon. It’s not so much standing on the dead of your generation as fighting the saloon driving, villa owning generation in front of you. You’ve got to have a blinder of an idea mind. Coren went on to talk about Oz Clark and James May’s Big Wine Adventure – the premise of which is the expert with the sceptic – and how she fielded a phone call from someone at the BBC that went ‘Is there anything you really know a lot about and would like to share with someone, or conversely, is there a subject you don’t know much about but would like to know more?’ And you can bet it was some poor nervous untrained AP who they got to do it.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
October 2007