Posts Tagged ‘sitcom pilot’

The Making Of Slaving Away, Part 1.

July 8, 2015

Hello! Time for a blog post….because you’ve got a lot of explaining to do, young lady!

Now, I know most of you will be other comedians, just wondering ‘How the hell….?’, other will be sex-workers, wondering ‘What the fuck…?’ and the rest? Well, normal people just having a look. In which case, welcome! Feel free to browse, but please don’t touch the precious things of the shop.

Let’s start at the beginning, which is a surprisingly long time ago.

So for a very brief amount of time, I used to work In The Meedja.

My office

I worked for a well-meaning radio station, with a bunch of well-meaning people. I worked in the marketing ‘department’, which is to say a badly lit desk in the corner of an office – an office which, when people walked through, they’d say ‘Oh, is this an office?? I always thought it was a fire escape!’

I realise at this point I’ve lost half my audience by saying I worked in Marketing. You’re all throwing Bill Hicks quotes out – ‘Kill yourself. Just, kill yourself’. You’ll be pleased to know I didn’t last long. I went on to be a sex-worker, an altogether more moralistic line of work.)

Anyway, ’twas at this well-meaning venture I met Nick, Marcus, and other weird and wonderful characters. The kinds of people you can only find in an office-slash-fire-escape. Nick was a producer, and Marcus was captain of the ship as executive producer.

They didn’t really know what I did, apart from make MSPaint pictures and save them as their desktop.

The whole thing collapsed about a year in. Turns out I wasn’t very good at marketing…

Anyway, we all go our separate ways, and remain friends etc etc.

A few years later, and the whole Coin Operated Girl thing kicks in. Now, before you start going ‘Oh, so it was who you know….’ No! I begged and begged and begged Nick to let me work with him on various sex-worker related / funny ideas I had. Every week, he was met with a barrage of ‘we should do this!’ or ‘Hey, I had this idea!’ And mostly, he looked at me like this…

015

That’s about right – a cruel mixture of pity and extreme disappointment.

But I persevered, much to his chagrin.

So I go off on various adventures, and Nick goes to work for Unusual Productions.

Which is one of many radio content providers (those are the little production companies who provide radio stuff for the big people, like the BBC. It’s totes the law, y’know) Audible.com contact with a proposal for their new sitcom pilot scheme. They want new writers to come up with sitcom pilots.

So maybe my documentary idea about fish herpes didn’t work, perhaps my world service feature on the origins of Nutella wasn’t a go-er. But maybe…just maybe…

See, Nick knows that the current 50 shades nonsense of Dom types is portraying an idea that we all swan around in Mansions and keep our clothes immaculate.

He also knows me; he knows I’m happier with a pint of Becks in a t-shirt. He knows the day I step into a mansion will be the day I’m thrown out for trespassing. He knows there’s more chance of finding rocking horse shit than walking in on me with an iron in my hand. So, November 2014, we sent the one line proposal ‘Slaving Away – The Utterly Mundane Life of A Dominatrix’

And, having been filled such promises as ‘Don’t get your hopes up’ and ‘We just need one line for them to reject.’ I totally forgot about it. Or at least worked really, really hard to.

But they didn’t reject it! They wanted to know a bit more..and a bit more after that..by December we wrote a whole page proposal…by March we needed a writing sample, then a script…then…

Nick – ‘Lets meet, we’ll go over what we need in a script.’

In a commuter pub near Kings Cross, I met Nick and fellow Producer Shane.

We discussed, divulged and delved into what could be written, how, and why…what to include…what not to include…it needed to be done by the next week, so I was on strict instructions not to go to Wetherspoons.

They, however, fucked off to China.

Something about ‘other work’ or something. I dunno..jeeez….

So, I wrote a script. Not quite the current script, but it’s close. I made a story that I wanted to hear – one that included Domination, but also frequent trips to the poundshop. One that showed sex-workers do not live and work as islands, but we have friends and family around us. Some know, some don’t, and I wanted to show the funny side of what both of those relationships mean. I wanted a story to show what it’s like in London, where rooms are small and rent is extortionate so yes, you do often have to have a flatmate.

And I wanted that end-of-the-pier humour because that’s what I grew up with. Listening to old-school shows on the radio, going to ‘Vicar, where’s your trousers!’ with my nan. All that cheesy, Carry-On, gag-filled buffoonery. I openly admit it’s not God’s gift to comedy, it’s not clever in it’s post-modernism, but it is fun..and it’s playful. And, frankly, it made me laugh. My sense of humour looks up to the gutter.

It’s also not political, because the call was for a sitcom. I want to make you laugh first, and there will be plenty of thinking later. I worry constantly that everything I do has to come with a ‘decrim’ message, but then I have to remember that the way I live, how I make my money, my career is being a comedian. Through that, I can be an activist and point people who want to know more in the right direction to those who can explain it a lot better than I ever could.

And that was my script.

I was very pleased with it! Until I met David.

Now, David Spicer is a script editor par excellence…

David – Have you read it out loud?

Me  -Of course!

David – Out loud..not just mumbling through your lips.

Me – Umm…

David – *Sigh* Sit down…

And we read it. Out loud. And my god….

If I can pass anything on to anyone who wants to write a sitcom, it would be to read the damn thing aloud!

Not just the first bit, and not just skimming it with your lips vaguely moving. Get your mouth open and get the words out. It creates a whole new beast.

I’d avoided alliteration, but there were moments in sentences where I questioned the whole English language. Wondering if I had ever found going from S to an F to a D so hard…or trying to say ‘There are only..’ without feeling like a Thunderbird puppet. I swear you will never hear anyone in a radio play saying ‘There Are Only’. It’ll always be ‘There’s only’, or they’ll only say it if they’re a Bond Villain and. They. Are. Annunciating. For. Effect.

We talked about the characters, who they were to us in real life. Who they reminded us of and what they would be like in the situation…it was quite the process!

But it was still there, stronger than ever. And formatted in a correct and appropriate manner.

I realise at this point you could probably do with a cup of tea. Also, I suspect I’ve answered a lot of questions about How a sitcom is commissioned…but I’ll explain a little further.

It’s not who you know. Nick is my friend, and is therefore one of the hardest people to impress. (And, in actual fact, it turned out that Shane was the one who decided to get in contact, so nyer!) But it is about making people aware of you. Production companies get calls for commissions all the time – sometimes they know the right people to talk to, other times they don’t. So if you do have a specialised area, a USP, get something down on paper. Get something written, or record it on to your phone. Introduce yourself. ‘Waaaa, I can’t believe no one came to see my show!’ Did you tell anyone about it? ‘Waaaa! I put it on facebook, so obviously the commissioning editor of BBC comedy should have seen it!.’

*Facepalm*

I sent hundreds of emails to production companies to see Coin Operated Girl because I have always, always wanted to do something in audio. TV, I’m not that fussed about. But radio lends itself to so many imaginative opportunities! The only reason I ended up in a fire-escape radio station was because I loved the medium so much.

You may feel the same about theatre, or TV, or film. In which case, it never hurts to hunt down other opportunities within it.

Ok, preaching over. And, in fairness, I have no idea how the other writers got to hear about it, so I may be talking completely out of my arse.

But anyway, about that tea….

So that’s the Why. Coming very soon will be the How, and that’s a lot more fun!