Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 1997

I’m in a car with C, heading from Hebden Bridge down to Elstree, where they make EastEnders. C is an established, highly respected writer on the show, on his way to a commissioning meeting. I’m on my way to an interview. I’m a novelist, I’ve recently left five years of full-time employment (still the only years of full-time employment I’ve done in my life) and I’m intending to return to making a living from writing. I’m working on a new novel – at any given moment in my adult life, I’m working on a new novel – and I’m doing bits and bobs of teaching, but the new plan, the new Plan, is to try TV. So I’m on my way to Elstree.

C is driving. I read his storyline to him. He tells me about commissioning, what it involves, how the show works. We think about what they might ask me in the interview. I come up with a couple of criticisms of the show. Don’t do that, C says. Say it’s great, and tell them why it’s great. I sent them a calling card script, they seemed to like it, asked for another. Now they want to see me. I’ve written a couple of episodes of The Bill by this time, but I have to admit I’m more excited about this. I’ve watched Enders, off and on, for years. And it’s a chance – isn’t it? I’m not quite sure how these things work at this point – it seems like it’s a chance to get some regular, well paid TV work.

We have the interview. She talks about my script. She’s pretty negative about it, comically so. She’s not blessed with people skills. (A lot of TV people, perhaps a disproportionate number, aren’t blessed with people skills.) She isn’t wild about the main character, or the story, she likes the little characters, off to the side, having a chat about nothing very much. I tell her that’s what I like too. Not so much pushing the story from A to B to C, but the little things along the way, Tiffany and Bianca at the bar talking about men, the texture, the small stuff in between events. I think she likes that. Anyway, I get the job. C shows me round the Square. It’s the Square! It’s all very exciting, can’t quite believe I’m becoming a part - a small part, a tiny stitch - of the fabric of popular culture.

But these days, honestly, I much prefer Emmerdale.

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