Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Circus

Fiona finally arrived home at about midnight last night, and I had a banquet waiting for her of soup and bread, asparagus with parmesan, and a lovely salad. She looked insanely tired, unsurprisingly for someone who'd just played the last date on her world tour with the band Placebo.

Today was all about deliveries: enormous boxes from the States, a brand new telly from John Lewis and a new modem from the man at Talk Talk. She's now set up for the winter. We plugged the TV into the aerial and were astonished to find it worked. In both of our experiences, these things are rarely simple, and usually require some pimple-faced youth to turn up and make us feel incredibly stupid.

The sea in Hove was turquoise and rough. Strong winds in the night had blown large quantities of shingle off the beach and onto the Tarmac promenades.

We had lunch in a little cafe on the beach front, staring out across the brown metallic remains of the old pier, longing to be able to see it in all its Victorian splendour again. They're building a giant tower there now. It's some kind of viewing platform which will no doubt stand out like a sore thumb and be prohibitively costly to visit.

I came home at exactly the wrong time. Victoria Station was busy like nothing I've ever witnessed. The underground ticket hall was filled to the brim and there were guards manning giant metal gates at the station entrance to stop people flooding in when things became untenable. There was no way on earth I could imagine staggering down there with all those people. It's a gift for terrorists and a complete nightmare for just about everyone else. I can't begin to imagine why people would put themselves through that level of humiliation on a daily basis.

Instead I decided to walk North from Victoria with the plan of finding a Northern line station which might prove less busy. On my way along Victoria Street, I passed pubs filled to the rafters with people. Queues of them ten or eleven deep at the bar, no doubt all shouting loudly at one another to make themselves heard above the shouting. There are few words to describe how little London's infrastructure works, and how horrific it can be at this sort of time. Cattle are frequently treated better...

The BBC contacted me this morning with the irritating, if not entirely unsurprising news that the next project I was hoping to be working on has fallen through. This is the second project in development at the BBC to collapse within two weeks. Of course, this means when I finish the Fleet Singers piece, I shall have nothing in the diary, which is a hugely depressing way to finish such an impressive year, and a lesson to us all that the life of a freelance creative can be a perilous roller-coaster.

Of course, with this latest project to hit the skids, it was only me, as chief creative, who'd had to block out three months in my diary, time which I'll never refill, because the project launch was already meant to have happened.

The problem, of course, is that the BBC has managed to get itself into a situation where a great deal of its output can't be created in-house. People, like me, with the creative and technical skills required to actually make programmes, are farmed in these days to make the shows which win the awards which allow the in-house commissioners and broadcasters to pat themselves on the backs.

And yet, certainly in my experience,  creative freelancers are treated like play things. Someone with a salaried job at the BBC comes up with a charming, yet half-baked idea, and, without offering any payment, calls in a freelancer to help flesh it out.  A pitch is developed, which fails when some kind of internal BBC process reveals that a similar project is in development elsewhere in the corporation, or that the project doesn't tick enough of the BBC's boxes. This process always leaves the freelancer with the same question... Why on earth did these discussions not take place before the freelancer was brought in? The answer, however, is always the same: because the freelancer is expected to develop ideas for nothing if he's ever going to be commissioned for real, and because the commissioner is not required to behave with any more responsibility. Tomorrow morning, they will still have a job, and the process can start all over again with a new idea and a different creative with another set of vital skills. Meanwhile, the freelancer loses a big chunk of potential earnings and suddenly doesn't know how to pay his rent! It's nobody's fault. It's simply the way that things have become, but it's definitely a frustrating circus, one in which, sadly, we're all expected to perform!

There. Rant over. Back to heavy duty hustling first thing in the morning.

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