The Media Mandarins
Last Bastion of the Amateur?
Seeking the Truth about Commissioning Editors,
Script Editors, Executive Producers, Production Executives,
Development Executives and others of that ilk.
From: Jeremy Sandford
The University of Reading is running a three day seminar in April called ‘On the Boundary: Turning Points in British TV Drama’. I’ve been asked to speak. I’ve chosen the title ‘The Media Mandarins, Last Bastion of the Amateur?’
I’ll be most grateful for information which supports or undermines the thesis that, amid increasing professionalism amongst all those involved in the making of television drama, the writers, directors, actors, editors and all the rest of them, there remains one area where the amateur, still all too often, reigns supreme. That weak link, which weakens the strength of everything else, is to be found where many people would least expect it - among those who in theory should be lending inspiration, leadership and quiet efficiency for the whole operation - the commissioning editors, script editors, executive producers, production executives, development executives, and people of that ilk.
In the process that starts with a writer’s script and ends on the screen, do these people act as facilitators, or are they rather too often the spanner that has a most deleterious effect on the whole bundle of tricks?
Not every script that is written can end up on the screen, there has to be some selection. But have we writers, who ultimately hold control because it is we who create the scripts from which not only drama but every single radio or television programme is derived, ensured that the editorial and managerial input is facilitatory, geared to empower what is excellent and appropriate, inspirational with concepts and guidelines which are clear and exciting and above all highly professional, or have we conspired in something that falls short of this?
I have my own views and my own set of extraordinary experiences. I’d like to test these against those of other writers. To what degree do the people ‘at the helm’ really provide a professional service? If the answer is ‘yes’, do we express our approval appropriately and enough? If the answer is ‘no’, what could we do to help them do it better?
Here are some of the questions I’ve been pondering;
How often do the members of this elite remember to send their CVs - those rapid tools for achieving rapprochement - with correspondence?
How long, on average, do they keep one waiting for a reply to correspondence? How often, for example, is the wait more than three months or longer?
What proportion of scripts and treatments and other correspondence gets lost by them?
How good are they at communicating their ideas efficiently and elegantly?
How often do you judge that they have entertained you to an expensive lunch because you were their expense account meal ticket, rather than because it was actually going to lead anywhere professionally?
How often do they advise as to new trends they feel are important and when they do this are they able to communicate a sense of excitement?
Are they able to avoid mistakes in grammar and spelling?
How good is their general knowledge of the society and culture in which we live? How literate are they?
To what degree do you feel their judgement of contemporary literature is sound?
To what degree are they able to understand the works of writers they are involved with? Writers they are not involved with?
Do they often seem reticent or unwilling to provide details of their own credentials or creative output?
Does their criticism, whether constructive or negative, contain sufficient reference to other published works of theirs, or other sources of theory, for a writer to be able to see it in context?
Are they able to be courteous, supportive, and to avoid arrogance?
Are they able to work well under stress? Do you sometimes get the feeling that they are losing their heads when all around are keeping theirs?
Do they sometimes present as axiomatic theses which most people would probably agree are highly personal and subjective?
Do they have problems in honouring appointments they have made?
When they find it necessary to request a postponement, are they able to do this sufficiently early to avoid one’s already having started out to see them?
To what degree do their statements and published opinions on television as a whole or drama in particular stand up to serious critical analysis?
Do you feel that suggestions they make for alterations to scripts are intelligent and appropriate?
Are they able to avoid being distracted from the job in hand by their personal whims, love life, or private scenarios?
Do they often seem to you to be inexperienced and lacking in wisdom?
Are they able to achieve efficiency and integrity in their financial dealings?
If the answers to these questions suggest a group of people many of whom are confused and, while aspiring to professionalism, remain highly unprofessional, then there remains one further question: How can we as writers best help them out of chaos and towards providing a service which is truly appropriate?
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
Almost all of the content of these webpages is copyright of the estate of
Jeremy Sandford, RIP.
They are provided here for your private research, and as a tribute to Jeremy.
However the index and sorting and coding are copyright of me,
George @ dicegeorge.com(c)2006
[Jeremy Sandford FanClub]