Monday, 1 December 2008

International Emmy's (Part Three)

And so we come to the final installment in my epic travelogue. As you read in the previous post, it was a busy Sunday. But I was kindly invited to attend a lunch the following day to honour Dick Wolf. Mr. Wolf, supremo of Wolf Films, is the creator of the massive Law and Order franchise, along with all its related spin offs, as well as producing a host of other well known US shows. It would therefore seem pretty rude not to turn up so I dragged myself out of bed and shuffled the few minutes from my hotel to the Hilton.

As it was quite a posh do, I didn’t take my notebook. But there were a couple of very interesting points. When asked about the longevity of his shows and how they were kept fresh, Wolf didn’t hesitate is replying it was the writing, first, foremost and always. It was all I could do to stop myself from doing a one man standing ovation. He went on to state that on his shows, writers write, directors direct and producers produce. You won’t find any actors or producers with directing or writing credits. Same with writers with directing or producing credits. That might not seem so strange here, but in the US it’s quite unusual. But that’s how he runs his shows and everyone is told this from the outset. If they don’t like it, don’t join up. But possibly the most interesting feature was Dick’s response to the inevitable credit crunch question. A little worryingly, especially when he’d just spoken about the importance of the writing, he felt one change that was coming was the disbanding of the famed US writing rooms. Shows simply wouldn’t be able to afford to employ a large writing staff. What would be more likely was a couple of senior writers/showrunners, and then episodes being commissioned on a freelance basis – so pretty much what we do over here. I was a little saddened, as this writers room structure is often credited as the reason why the US produces more and better shows than we do here.

But overall the lunch was another nice event to attend, and I met more industry people, many of whom would return to the Hilton that evening for the Emmy Gala. I had a couple of hours rest before it was time to don my dinner suit and walk the red carpet with my wife – a surreal and thoroughly ego boosting experience. I even did a quick interview, although goodness knows where if anywhere it was on! Inside it was pretty clear that I had the cheapest tux in the place. David Aukin kindly introduced me to David Sutchet, a very nice chap indeed, who expounded on his theories surrounding Robert Maxell's death. I congratulate him later on for winning the best actor award for his performance as the media mogul, but really wanted to ask Liz Murdoch, who was hosting the Emmy's, and whose dad was Maxell's bitter rival, thought about it all! It turned out to be a cracking night for the Brits, who swept the board in all categories they were nominated, except, ironically, Britz, as I mentioned previously. Special mention to Lucy Cohu who won for her sterling performance in Forgiven, and was also very nice when we had a little chap. Watch out for her in the next season of Torchwood. And of course as I've already demonstrated in pictorial form, the Life on Mars contingent for letting me wave around their Emmy. It made me want to go back and get my own like never before.

A quick word on networking. Those who know me and indeed readers of this blog, will know I watch a fair bit of TV. But two moments over the trip clarified for me how important that is. The first was when I met Ashley Pharoah. I like his writing and have done for a long time. I certainly wasn't hesitant in telling him so. But I think he was a little surprised that instead of talking about Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, or even Bonekickers, I mentioned what first brought him to my attention (!) was Paradise Heights, a show he created and wrote over six years ago (around the time that I started writing properly.) It only lasted one season (although there was a slightly different follow up) but I thought it was excellent. Ashley admitted he'd poured himself into the show and seemed pleased that I even remembered it, let alone admired it! And I genuinely do, by the way, it wasn't empty flattery. The same thing happened at the Gala. I knew by now that Ashley was there, and I'd already knew producer Cameron Roach a little, but when Cameron introduced me to SJ Clarkson, a little bell went off in my head. She directed a lot of Life on Mars episodes but I also remembered, because I make a point of noting these things, that she co-created Mistresses, surely one of the best shows of 2008. And so I told her and we had a little chat, and that was that. I don't know when I'll run into SJ again but hopefully I am now on her radar a little bit more. And again, it's not empty flattery. But the point I am making is that watch TV, make a mental note of who's involved with the shows, especially the ones you really like, because you never know when you might bump into them.

When the evening ended it was time to head back to my hotel, and the trip was almost over. We flew home the next day and a week on, it all seems a little like a blur. But I have my plaque, my cheque, a load of business cards (by the way great tip from Danny Stack recently about scribbling on the back of cards to remind you who everyone is - cos I would never have remembered!) and all the motivation I am ever going to need to be the best writer I can possibly be. I also have a load of photos, but Mr. Toby 'lightmattersstudio' Tenenbaum buggered off on holiday and hasn't sent them to me yet! When I do I'll put some on the blog and the rest on my facebook page! A final thank you to Fred Cohen, Tracy Oliver and everyone else on the Emmy organisational committee who were so welcoming, so friendly, and did so much for me.

But I think it's only right to leave the last word as a quote, I think, from Dick Wolf. "Television has a strange way of ensuring quality prevails."

Let's prove him right.


Dave said...

Thanks Jez for recounting your adventures in New York with the great and good.

And again...

Jolly well done, Sir!

Janice Okoh said...

sounds like a wonderful experience. well done.