Welcome to the second instalment in the life of George, my fictitious enthusiastic writer, trying to make her way in the tricky world of television.
A Day In The Life Of George – Jobbing Writer
4.45pm – my flat SE London – Watching Deal or No Deal
Noel Edmunds knows how to milk his moment – he calls it ‘a crucial point in the game’ – we are ‘at 8 box’ and the middle-aged woman on screen is hyperventilating. She’s biting her bottom lip really, really hard. She strokes her lucky gonk, as the music swells beneath an unflattering close-up of ‘Jakki’ (why do game show contestants spell their names funny?) gurning away on National Television. Will number 22 box reveal £250,000 or 1p? Well, will it? I am on the edge of my seat now, don’t care if it’s tacky and television at its lowest common denominator – will Jakki be Deal Or No Deal’s second quarter of a millionaire? The phone starts to ring – am caught in a vice-like grip of indecision – if I answer it I’ll miss out on watching Jakki either plummet into a penniless hell or instantaneously and without any effort, get very rich. If I don’t answer it I am giving in to the insidious toxin that is daytime television and something that all freelancers worth their salt know, should be avoided at all costs. Also, I may miss out on a fab telly job or it could just be my mum – again. Noel’s saying some guff about Jakki being a brave contestant and how she’s given the Banker a run for his money – get on with it Noel! I grab the phone as Noel breaks the seal on box 22.
5.15pm – same place
It wasn’t my mum – it was Hope from Westenders – she’s the nicest Script Editor out of the lot but today sounded panicked and a bit pissed off. She tells me a complicated tale of why her script schedule has gone pear-shaped – I manage to catch something about Patty Faulkner (who plays Jessie in the soap) double booking a stint on a cruise-liner, a sorry tale about the main frame crashing and her producer’s smear test as the reasons for this upheaval. The upshot is that I have to come to Westenders Production Office first thing tomorrow for an emergency Script Edit on my second draft.
No Problem! I pipe enthusiastically while trying to swallow the huge lump that is currently crawling up my throat. The truth being (which I naturally don’t tell Hope) is that I haven’t written a word yet – having (I thought) 2 whole weeks to get it done.
Putting the phone down I catch a glimpse of Alan Tichmarsh on a garish sofa gushing away to a celebrity chef – bugger – Deal or No Deal has finished and now I’m wallowing in deadline hell and can’t even take solace in a complete stranger’s fate to boot.
2.00am – my flat – bedroom SE London
I am in bed but not asleep. I am drowning in a sea of paper, whole pages ripped and torn, ink stains from a handful of biros leaking into the pillow case (don’t know why, I like to write with a pen before I laptop my stuff) but at least it’s done; my second draft – in approximately 7 hours (allowing breaks for weeing and weeping) – not bad for a first timer and I am rather proud of the cliff-hanger I have come up with, whereby Stella (Laundromat assistant to the cruise-liner bound Jessie) and her secret lover Davey (on-screen husband of Jessie) get down to it during the spin cycle of his white wash. Done. Thank God. In my bedroom mirror a red-eyed alien stares back at me – whoever said television was a glamorous job was not a writer and did not work in television.
9.30am – Westenders Production Office – Hope’s Desk
I have a murky-looking coffee in a Styrofoam cup, I have blood-shot eyes, my mouth is totally without moisture and the coffee is sticking my tongue to the roof of my mouth. My script is no longer in one piece but approximately 5,000. Hope is ‘re-arranging’ my scenes – she says it’s not the dialogue that’s the problem – it’s the structure. She says it’s not the characterisation that’s at fault – it’s what the characters are saying (doesn’t that mean the dialogue’s no good?) Apparently not asserts Hope, it’s merely a matter of context – scene context – which is why she’s just ripped apart the best part of my third act, ruining in my view, the build up to the sex on the washing machine dénouement. But Hope is no longer listening to me. A Script Editor on a 4 x a week soap under pressure is a terrible sight to see and Hope is under more than most. I got here at 8.30am as requested and she has spent the last hour speed reading my episode so she can tear it apart to try and make sense of the pre-planned storyline centring almost entirely on Jessie and her brave fight to combat breast cancer, before Patty Faulkner who plays her, took herself off to sing ‘Memories’ around the Canaries. I really want to cry but Hope has just started so I do the decent thing and give her the floor.
1.30pm – Westenders – The Canteen
Well. Am I glad that’s over. The episode is now to length, it has characters in it that are available to play the scenes, it has 2 ad breaks and instead of a sexy dramatic cliff hanger, it has a comedy one, featuring Beckam, the laundromat’s Great Dane and his fatal attraction to the Pekinese from the pic ‘n mix next door. But at least Hope is happy. Or I hope she is – the last I saw of her before I crawled to this over-lit, over-heated canteen for a bowl of something cheap but nourishing (I settled for just cheap) was her scurrying figure clutching my annotated second draft, with Jane H the scary PA trying to grab it out of her hands bleating about not having enough time to do a shooting schedule…I reckon if I get a wiggle on I’ll get back in time to catch Noel’s recap of yesterday’s episode of Deal Or No Deal and find out if Jakki got lucky or not….
Thanks for reading and WATCH OUT FOR THE NEXT INSTALMENT OF GEORGE THE JOBBING WRITER, SOON TO APPEAR ON THIS BLOG!