Series Producer The Real Eastenders six part biographically-based history of the East End; Roger Bolton Productions for Carlton
Producer The Clintons: A Marriage of Sex, Lies and Power Anglia for ITV
Producer/Director Beware Vandals LWT for ITV
Series Producer So You Want to be Mayor..? three part series on London’s problems; for Roger Bolton Productions for Carlton
Until 2000: Development Producer at Brook Lapping Productions working mainly on history/current affairs. Successful developments included: Britain’s Slave Trade, four part series for C4; Victoria’s Empire, four part series for PBS. Wrote proposal for The Dynasty: The Nehru-Gandhi Story (BBC/WGBH) and advised the production while writing a book to accompany the series
OTHER MAJOR TV CREDITS INCLUDE:
Producer Kitchener: The Empire’s Flawed Hero for BBC2’s Reputations and A&E network.
Producer/Director AIDS - The Unheard Voices for Dispatches, Channel 4. Royal Television Society award for best international current affairs documentary.
Series Producer/Director Food - Fad or Fact? second six part series for TSW for ITV network on controversies surrounding government advice on food and health.
Producer/Director The Mouse's Tale for Channel 4 examining the effectiveness of animal experiments.
Producer Food - Fad or Fact? first six part series for TSW for ITV.
Series Producer 10 Million - two series of daytime consumer programmes for Channel 4.
Associate Producer Who Cares - four hours for Channel 4 on health care in six different countries.
Researcher The Missing Women for Thames and Channel 4 on the Dalkon Shield IUD.
Researcher Health Kick-Back, two programmes for Thames and Channel 4 about the dangers of ‘health foods’; Silver Award at Berlin International Consumer Film Competition.
Researcher Kill or Cure? - six part series on the international pharmaceutical industry for Channel 4.
Researcher Called to Account on the life and death of Roberto Calvi for BBC Panorama. Royal Television Society award for best current affairs documentary 1982.
Numerous other pieces of work as a 'jobbing' director including work on History Channel programmes; Media Show items for Channel 4 and Four What It's Worth for Thames and Channel 4. Considerable development work on series proposals and televised versions of my own books, both written and proposed.
The following is my take on the labours of the development producer, published in The Author spring 2012
HAVE WE REACHED DEVELOPMENT HELL YET?
As the season's new programmes are rolled out in all their identikit colours, think of the sad world of the development producers, holding their heads and wondering why they didn't think of that or - more often - wondering why their proposal for an indistinguishable show was not accepted.
Perhaps only the late William Donaldson gave development producers their due, with his satirical company Heart Felt Productions ('our mission is to dumb down Channel 5'). He offered commissioning editors ideas 'progressing family product across a range of Triumph over Tragedy subjects' and printed their replies.
They were such light entertainment presentations as 'disabled gladiators' or 'pensioners over a cliff'; and infotainment programmes featuring 'the wacky side of tragedy' including 'Who put heroin in my kiddies' sweets?'
Even he could not match the out-of-sight-beyond-satire response of one commissioning editor to a colleague of mine, who was suggesting a series of programmes following the counselling of families after children had been sexually abused.
'All this stuff's been done,' said the great man in the commissioning chair, as ever thinking outside the box, 'can't we have a programme about people who were sexually abused as children but enjoyed the experience?'
The most distinctive part of the development producer's job is actually the least arduous: having new ideas for television programmes. When you meet peopel at parties this is what you say you do.
Having ideas for programmes is easy, but even making programmes is not so hard - it is a demanding job but no more so than, say, installing a central heating system. Selling the idea for programmes to broadcasters who will pay to have them made, now that's the hard bit. Hoc opus, hic labor est.
Even then, all is not over when the work is commissioned (but the cheque not yet handed over). Now you realise with a dawning dismay that you were not in development hell at all. That was development purgatory. This is development hell.
Offer prayers to Saint Clare (patron saint of television) that you never experience the ultimate humiliation, the de-commissioning process. You will have been sent a letter offering the commission and will have discussed the start date, you will have told colleagues, friends and your mum. Then the commissioning editor's office will go dead on you, replies will be evasive, emails and phone calls not returned. Then there will be a letter (not a phone call or a meeting) and you will be told on the same headed notepaper on which you were given the commission that the decision has been 'reviewed' and they 'will not be proceeding with your proposal.'
Perhaps you could start pitching programmes on the attractions of suicide as a career option.
Dos and don'ts of approaching commissioning editors:
Better than film-making skills, a brilliant proposal or hitherto unimagined access to a subject is a simple quality: a personal relationship with the commissioning editor.
As in the Mogul court, the best practitioners are those who have learned the art of flattery and subtle pulling at the threads of influence. Learn something about your commissioning editor that you can remark on e.g. 'a superwoman like you with a child and a high flying career' Actually she had the child only because she had her eye on the head of children's TV job and it looked better to have a mum in the post, but let that pass.
Do: Be nice
Always be especially kind to the little people, the work experience folk and the production secretaries, taking care particularly over those annoying ones who act as if they already know it all and make helpful suggestions as to what you should do when they have been in the office all of a week. The chance is that in an alarmingly short period you will see them again, as commissioning editors, and they will be rather better dressed than you are.
Do: Be positive
Learn to greet every new appointment in the commissioning departments with a joyous exclamation, thus: Splendid! Just what we needed, another level of management in the commissioning process! Congratulations, if anyone is right for the job you are!
Members of the commissioning team should on no account be held up to ridicule. For example, those who have applied for a job as a 'commissioning professional' (no previous television experience required) should not be asked if that was what they always said they wanted to be when they grew up. From personal experience, this doesn't go down well.
Best not to advise them to do the job they are paid to do, to pick the programmes and then leave you to make them. They love to meddle, selecting staff, subjects and locations. It may be true that you could do their job without thinking about it, and they could never do yours, but it's best not to make it obvious that you know this.
The adored commissions are those that imitate successful programmes from another channel. You must learn to watch television with the eye of a magpie: take what glitters and fashion it into a pretty thing, almost identical to a programme already made that the commissioning editor has coveted, but with a minute difference that you can play up. Usually this is the same thing as before, but with added celebrities. Remember Viz magazine's take on 'Through the Keyhole' where they put a hidden camera in famous people's toilets and asked members of the public to guess the celebrity arsehole. Coming soon to a television set near you.
Good luck, you will need it.