They want me to do a 'How Documentaries Really Get Made' session (but I'm going to call it "how FACTUALITY Really Gets Made"). I said that I'd only be too happy to oblige. Anything to cement my Oxford alumni status.
So with nothing better to do today (no new pitches from Richard McKerrow for me to deal with - strange), I set to work on my thesis.
These are the notes I passed on to Anthony for him to type up properly onto Obama-style cue-cards:
* X pitches me an idea. But it's way too wet. Not enough "bite" to it. I suggest ways of ramping it up. X gets a hard-on, thinks he could grab a commission and rushes back to his development lackies. They spice up the proposition, relieved in the knowledge that they won't be the poor fuckers who have to deliver these over-promised ideas in the final programme.
* X runs back to me, desperate for approval of his revamped, totally revved-up and (unrealistic) pitch. I stroke my stubble, make him sweat a bit, swivel a few times on my chair, and then casually agree to sign off the project - but slice another 20% off the projected budget. Tough times I'm afraid (Jonathan Ross still needs his personal stylist after all).
* X then has to find some lackies to actually make it. His budget is totally disproportionate to the dreams and lies sold to me by his desperate lackies, so lots of prospective P/Ds gasp and tut and shake their heads. But as they are all desperate to work in these most distressing economic times, none of them would ever consider not taking the gig.
* I take my time signing off people. I only work from a preferred list of my star directors. This process takes a good 6 weeks (when in reality it should only take me a few hours if I could really be arsed).
* Production starts with a team made up of the following:
- 1 x cynical, world-weary late-thirties P/D
- 1 x super-ambitious and flirty 20-something AP
- 1 x dumb-as-fuck-but-cheap-recently-graduated researcher
They really need to double the manpower to come even close to replicating the magic promised in the pitch document, but budgets are a bit tight these days.... nevermind.
* Shortcuts are made from day one. The 6 weeks of pre-production suddenly becomes just 3, and it turns out that the budget my programme finance bods signed off is not the actual budget the production team has to play around with. No, their budget has been doctored by the indie - who have had to take a huge 25% wedge from the bottom line to keep the owner in her flash holiday home in Marbella and season tickets to Spurs.
* Filming kicks-off with the poor researcher being turned into a 'location director' (posh title to make amends for his paultry £350-a-week and 18-hour days) because there's "not enough money in the budget" to afford a professionally-trained, experienced (and unionised) camera crew.
* Weak storylines and contributors (not enough time to research them properly/find other stories, people, etc) provide a lackluster 2-week shoot. P/D already stressed to the hilt that his exec (and also me) will find the finished film a failure and never give the P/D another job in his life again. P/D has children to feed and bills to pay, so bites the bullet and uses his carefully honed people-skills to "produce" some outrageous actuality with dumb, working class-desperate-to-be-on-TV contributors.
* Edits go massively over budget as I insist on wholesale changes and reshoots to get it even remotely what my demographic are going to want to watch. The P/D is facing the brunt of my wrath as all the lies and exaggerations at the start of the project come back to haunt him, whilst the Series Producer calmly moves on to their next project.
* The press people take one look at the finished product in a weekly meeting lasting 15 minutes and decide to throw their minuscule promo budget behind a series with Ian Hisplop in it instead. Thus relegating the programmes to the dustbin of the EPG where it rots, week in week out, attracting fewer viewers and reminding me constantly like a dog turd on my frontstep that I never want to hire the P/D ever again.
* 6 weeks later I am being pitched again by the same production company and all is forgiven when they sit in my office and promise to deliver "Amy Winehouse being filmed going through rehab in a raw and uncompromising film about addiction"......Hmmm, I sit back and smile, this could just be the type of thing to solidify my reputation as a creative visionary amongst my rivals......."
Think that is about as honest as I would like to get with the Oxford kids.
NB. Simply MUST remember to bring Anthony with me so he can jot down the names and contact numbers of any impressive undergraduates who are desperate to work for cheap.