This time last year, I got a commission to write an episode for a new series. It came out of the blue, I didn't know the producer or the production company, so it was a very welcome offer, especially in the run-up to Christmas. There was more episodes potentially available, too, providing all went well with my first script. Naturally, I was determined to make my first episode a success.
To start, pitch a few ideas. This is the norm. The producer commissioned one idea quite quickly, and wanted an outline/script done before Christmas, if at all possible. I was visiting relatives in Ireland BEFORE the holiday break but I thought I could accommodate the producer's pressing deadlines. I did an outline, she approved it without much fuss, and I happily went to 1st draft script. Within a couple of days, I had it done, and I was keen to send it on. However, my agent told me to hold on for a second while she had a closer look at the contract, just to be sure that everything was ay-ok. All very standard and above board.
I sat by my computer but didn't want the producer to think that I was missing a deadline or falling behind, so I dropped her an email, telling her that I had the script ready but was just waiting for my agent to give me the nod after she read the contract. I then travelled to Dublin, thinking all was well but when I next checked my email, my face fell to the floor.
The producer took great offence at my previous message and claimed never to have been so insulted in all her working years. Plus, she was really irritated that my agent was 'holding things up' and asking for more money (standard negotiation request, and all very politely dealt with). Furthermore, she blasted my script as one of the worst she'd seen, and clearly I hadn't grasped the show or the characters from the couple of scripts I had been given as a guide. Ouch! I felt sick. It seemed just as soon as the opportunity came out of the blue, it was going to be taken away over a stupid misunderstanding.
I replied to the producer, trying to assure her that no offence was intended. Perhaps my email had been naive. I apologised. And if my script was rubbish, then please let me have another go to get it right. My agent also sent an apology, both she and I quite flabbergasted at the turn of events. However, the producer replied in an aggressive tone, still offended by the whole affair, but this time insulting me and my agent, accusing us of playing silly games. Now I was annoyed. Still, I was still determined to fix the script, if not the situation.
So, after some notes from the irked producer, I rewrote the script. She conceded that the 2nd draft was better but she did a rewrite of her own, and sent me back the finished result. Fine, not a problem but that was it, opportunity over. OK, it didn't work out, and it won't pop up on my CV but I least I got paid. What did I learn? Even if you apply what you think are the highest professional standards to an assignment, it can still go pear shaped over unforeseen, and often trivial, developments. Or sensitive egos. Who knows.
This year, on completely the other end of the scale, I had a dream commission with Badly Drawn Roy, which was a joy from start to finish. Just goes to show you can never tell how things are going to go, even when you think you're doing the right thing.