Nicolas Small share his experiences of the New York television industry industry and watching his script come to life at the NY TV Festival.
Chapter One. I adore New York City. Home to 30 Rock. Mad Men. All the Law & Orders. One of the CSIs. I idolize Tina Fey out of all proportion. To me, no matter which season I watch, this is still a town that pulsates to the great lines of Alec Baldwin. Wait…let me start over. Chapter One. We arrived on a Tuesday. The Greeks and Spanish believe Tuesday to be unlucky, but that wasn’t going to stop us. What was going to stop us was the moronic “computer says no” approach of the car service, which meant that only half an hour after arriving at JFK we were already two hours behind schedule. Women with girths like Italian gluttons with Thyroid problems took turns to lie to us about the arrival time of our taxi until finally…no….I digress. Chapter One. Anyone who has ever written comedy fears one thing above all others: no one laughing. Crickets. Tumbleweeds. The sounds of silence. This was the thought that dominated my waking life the moment we arrived in New York.
We were there with our trusty BAFTA handlers for the New York Television Festival, which for us would be a week of talks from industry luminaries and the opportunity to network with networks, but ultimately revolve around the BAFTA “Importing the Funny” event, during which our chosen extract would be performed by professional actors in front of the aforementioned career makers & breakers. It was terrifying….especially because my piece was designed for the screen rather than the stage, and we would then be interviewed and have our work critiqued by none other than Girls show runner and all-round epistolary legend – Jenni Konner.
I can’t really tell you much about the experience of that evening. I remember being so scared I thought I might have an aneurysm, before (and much like Ed Norton in Primal Fear) – losing time just as the actors got on stage. I’m vaguely aware of the sound of people laughing, but this might well have been at me rather than with me. I “came to” on stage, sat between Jenni and Farah, bright lights in my face, holding a microphone in front of me like an embarrassed Fluffer, trying to answer their questions as best I could. I was told at the reception afterwards that it had gone incredibly well, but by this stage I was drinking heavily and past caring. Everyone seemed to be smiling at me though, which was nice.
The rest of the week was fantastic. I got to listen to people like New Girl writer Elizabeth Meriwether describe how she broke into the industry, hang out with executives from NBC and walk through the hallowed halls of HBO with the coiled intellectual power of an undiscovered Aaron Sorkin.
I simply can’t recommend applying for the opportunities Rocliffe offer enough. New York was incredible and seeing my work read out loud was amazing, but both these things are far outstripped by the kudos you get from people back home. Being a Rocliffe winner is not only a calling card, but has the potential to be a golden ticket.
My advice to anyone that’s thinking of applying would be to choose your moment. If they want an American comedy then send them an American comedy. Don’t try to force a square script through a round hole.
Personally, the whole experience has been a godsend. The people that work within the BAFTA/Rocliffe framework are not only incredibly passionate about what they do, but unbelievably supportive to the writers they believe in, and I cannot thank them enough. Writing can be a lonely profession, especially when you are just starting out. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. But when Farah called me that morning, I knew she was one of my own. And my wolf pack... it grew by one. Then, a couple of weeks later, when I met the other writers at Terminal Five I thought….wait….this is getting weird. Deep breath. Chapter One….