Who’d be a producer?

Posted on April 7, 2010


All producers abide by an unwritten rule. Reveal the challenges involved in delivering a beautifully crafted piece of content at your peril. Do so and you risk shattering the illusion. You will expose yourself as a fraud. You’ll be shunned by your media associates.

The producer must be seen as totally in control, able to deliver on his promise by navigating any thorny problems and tackling any moments of self-doubt head-on and privately too, even if the reality is something quite, quite different. That’s the producer’s conceit.

But what about that reality?

No really, producers are human beings

I’m thinking this as I tackle my potting-shed activities for the BBC Proms website. The post-pitch euphoria might have eclipsed the wracked nerves beforehand, but two weeks on and the reality of actually making my ideas happen has hit me.

Those original ideas occupy different areas of my brain depending on my blood-sugar levels, the most recent telephone conversation I’ve had or email received and whether or not someone has mentioned the thorny issue of a ‘fee’.

Catch me at a particularly bad point in the day and I might even be heard to say ‘maybe it would be nice if the BBC Proms didn’t happen this year’.

Five fanciful ideas

There are five. I can’t reveal too much just yet. Just enough to make this blog post make a reasonable amount of sense. Bear with me.

  1. A five-minute ‘package’ consisting of contributions and a linking script
  2. A mash-up of a song featuring musicians from all of the BBC’s performing groups
  3. A rehearsal performance of an ensemble piece I played at University
  4. Collection of talking heads exploring musical training and professional music making
  5. Another ‘thought-provoking’ package featuring all sorts of different people

Simple ey? There’s nothing difficult about that, surely?

In the two weeks since the pitch, I’ve concentrated on the trickier – more ambitious plans.

Ideas number one, four & five

All three are essentially the same beast. A series of talking heads with a possible linking script in between. If there’s a chance the linking script can be dropped then so much the better.

Treatments and script ideas for all of them have rattled around in my head for a couple of weeks now, with a few making it to the notebook. I find that repeating stuff in my head helps – thinking about the overall narrative and how that’s visualised – although going over it too much can limit the shelf life of the overall idea. Inevitably, the first film has been given the most attention as this should be published first (shortly before the season begins).

Some thought has been given as to who I could approach to feature in the piece. No ‘asks’ (requests for an interview) have been made yet, largely because all three ideas are script based and so the idea has to be strong before any requests are made.

If I was to rank these three in terms of comfort, enjoyment and ‘ooh, I’m looking forward to that one’ it would be 1) Number Five 2) Number One and 3) Number Four. But that could all change in a flash.

Idea number two

This is the first of the tricky ideas. There are a number of variables.

1. The song. Do we have the rights? Have we secured the permission? What will it cost. Bizarrely, this has been the easiest and quickest thing to get sorted.

2. Can we get an instrumental track laid we can be played with portable equipment so that the singers will be able to sing along to it relatively easily?

This was a conversation I had with my go-to man, musician extraordinaire – and recently engaged – man Pete Faint. We had that conversation a couple of weeks ago. It’s not finalised, but I don’t anticipate this being a problem.

3. The singers. Who will agree to sing for fun on camera? This hasn’t been as easy a process to get moving as I’d hoped.

It involves ringing people who are responsible for ‘marketing’ in all of the BBC’s performing groups. Each additional person in the process demands another pitch. The success of ever project is dependent on the success of every single pitch. And when the phone call is over, there’s an email to send. And when the email’s sent there’s the hope they talk to the people they need to talk to and get back to you immediately. If only they could say ‘yes‘ there and then

That’s when the patience has to kick in. When is the right amount of time to wait before chasing up? What happens if they say no? Is it all going to fall apart? Will we get to the stage of actually shooting the damn thing?

4. What location do we use? When do we shoot? These questions are (fortunately) dependent on the availability of the contributors. So I’m deliberately not worrying about this at this stage.

Idea number three

This is the second tricky idea. have the music sorted, but I don’t have a band.

I’m working on it. Watch this space.

What I’ve got from all of this (so far)

Assuming you don’t know me well and have read that sub-heading and not thought to yourself ‘you pretentious twat’, I thought it might be interesting to share what I’m thinking at this stage in the process.

  1. The idea I’ll actually shoot and deliver all of this is an impossible thought. It’s scary.
  2. I wish the BBC Proms would go away. Only I don’t (obviously). You get the idea.
  3. I need to factor in a bit more time into the production process to wait for responses.
  4. It’s easier for people to say ‘no’, than ‘yes’
  5. Flexibility is key. Your original idea may not be possible. You need to recycle ideas.
  6. If you can revisit a script idea in your head a few days later, it’s probably a goer.
  7. Be happy to fail. Be happy admitting failure. There’s no shame.
  8. Just because you’ve pitched you’re not committed. That’s why we love the web.

More news .. as it happens .. and if you can bear it.

Posted in: Audio & Music