Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The Chronicles of Gus Scrottee

When I told Judy that I’d finished a script for another of my radio comedies, she shrugged her shoulders and carried on plucking her turkey. But before you think she has some plucking fetish, I should add that this was back in December when the feathers were already lying crisp and deep and even.

‘You’re not impressed?’ I asked, standing at the back door and watching my wife’s fingers work deftly around the gizzard.

‘Oh, I suppose I am,’ she said, snorting few feathers towards me. ‘Who are you sending it to? Ken or Mary? Or perhaps Lucy? She owes us a few favours.’

My hand tightened against the door jamb, as my fingers have a want to do when frustrated and in the region of door jambs. ‘Are you suggesting that they’d only produce my work because of my name?’ I asked.

‘Well I think that’s the only way you’ll get one of your scripts broadcast,’ she admitted.

‘That sounds remarkably like a dare,’ I replied.

‘If you want to see it like that,’ she said, grabbing her cleanly plucked bird by its crop and swinging it casually over her shoulder.

That was over six months ago; six long and frustrating months since I pledged to re-launch my career as a writer and broadcaster the hard way. Any man can ring up his friends and ask them to give him work based on years of favours owed. But I’m not any man. I am Gus Scrottee and, today, Gus finished his second project.

In order to work undercover as an unknown writer, I was forced to adopt this pseudonym which, by now, is familiar in production offices across the land. I’ve been writing my own material and submitting it, just like anybody else without a production credit to their name. The first of Gus’ full length scripts went to the BBC, via their Writersroom, where it has languished for nearly four months. We expect their rejection any day, given that only 2% of work submitted catches their eye. The second of Gus Scrottee’s big projects was finished this week, but, instead of sending it to the BBC, he thought he’d try independent radio production companies.

Turns out, finding an independent radio production company willing to read a script is as easy as sucking marbles through a chair leg.

As soon as I knew the script was done, I dragged my copy of the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ from the shelf, thumbed through the section for Independent Radio Producers and began my research. The list of production companies is pretty abbreviated:

Above the Title Productions
All Out Productions
Angel Eye Media Ltd.
Athena Media
Baby Cow Productions Ltd
Big Heart Media
Bona Broadcasting
Campbell Davison Media
Classic Arts Productions Ltd
Crosshands Ltd/ACP Television
CSA Word
Electric Airwaves
Ruth Evans Productions
Festival Productions Ltd
Fiction Factory
First Writes Theatre Co. Ltd.
Flannel
Heavy Entertainment Ltd
Loftus Productions Ltd
Made in Manchester
Jane Marshall Productions
Neon
Pier Productions
Promenade Enterprises
Random Entertainment
SH Radio
Smooth Operations
Square Dog Radio LLP
Lou Stein Associates Ltd
Sweet Talk Productions Ltd
Testbed
Tintinna Ltd
Torpedo Ltd
UBC Media Group plc
Whistledown Productions Ltd
Wise Buddah Radio

That’s only thirty six independent production companies in the UK making programmes for the radio. Yet this far-from-impressive list is made to look even more humble once I remove all the companies that don’t make radio comedies, which happens to be Gus Scrottee’s speciality.

Above the Title Productions
Angel Eye Media Ltd.
Baby Cow Productions Ltd
Bona Broadcasting
Flannel
Random Entertainment
Sweet Talk Productions Ltd
UBC Media Group plc

Not too bad? You might think so, except many of these won’t accept unsolicited scripts, or only accept scripts submitted via an agent.

Thankfully, I am Uncle Dick Madeley, world famous author, presenter, and trapeze artiste, who can’t cross a London road without having agents slicing him with laminated business cards. However, for the purposes of this exercise, Gus Scrottee is unrepresented. So, the possible market for Gus’ script comes down to:

Random Entertainment
Sweet Talk Productions Ltd

Except that ‘Random Entertainment’ (the highly prestigious, award-winning company formed by Graeme Garden and Jon Naismith) has only a limited web presence and ‘Sweet Talk Productions Ltd’ has none. In other words: it’s likely that neither company are actively seeking scripts and highly probable that they’ve simply forgotten to mention that they don’t accept unsolicited submissions. Which leaves a hole where there was once a list of thirty six...

The answer to this problem is, of course, to get an agent. And here, unknown writers like Gus Scrotee, have the ‘Writers and Artists’ Yearbook’ to advise them. It helpfully suggests that: ‘the best way to get an agent is to first get an offer of a deal on a project’. What the ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ fails to explain is how to help the dog catch its own tail: how to get a project so you can land an agent to help you get a project...

But what we can say is that ‘The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook’ costs £14.99 and at 832 pages, contains more publishers, agents, production companies, newspapers, and broadcasters than you could shake your fists at.

Which is all you can do once you realise that you’re as stuffed as Judy’s turkey last Christmas.

Season’s greetings!