Nicolas Small talks about meeting agents and production companies in his second blog since becoming a BAFTA Rocliffe Winner.
Much like first dates, rollercoasters or front row seats at a Frankie Boyle gig; meeting agents and production companies can be a nerve-wracking experience. You have to be interested without seeming obsequious, knowledgeable without being smug, and hungry without appearing to be desperate. It’s a balancing act – and a difficult one if you’re as arrogant, sycophantic and impatient as I am.
My first post-Rocliffe meeting was with Shane Allen. THE Shane Allen. Currently the head of Comedy for Channel 4, he’s soon off to oversee everything funny at the BBC…Miranda too. Now, I’ve met high-powered executives before, but this was a step up. Here was a man that could make (or break) my career. In the Point Break of Life, this was an audience with Bodhi.
I sat waiting for him in what can only be described as a Japanese karaoke-inspired meeting pod. It was like a scene from Lost in Translation, just with less Bill Murray and more Jelly Babies – which I panic-ate nervously as I waited for him to appear.
If the worst thing you can do in this sort of situation is inadvertently insult something the person you’re meeting has produced/commissioned, then the second worst thing you can do is not know your own writing inside out. Preparation is key. Chances are you’ll end up bonding over a mutual love of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but you should be ready for any and all questions on the script you are there to talk about. If they ask why you think a particular character is relevant, or what happens in the subsequent episodes, you should have an answer.
With only a few Jelly Babies left (I avoided all the green ones), he arrived. Reassuringly funny and annoyingly self-deprecating, he was as charming and helpful as I could have wished. I’m not gonna go into all that other stuff. That who said what to whom stuff. You know the first and second rules from Fight Club? They’re two of my favourite rules. I can say we had a good time. I can say that. And when the little hand said it was time to rock and roll, I left.
- Be prepared. Know whom you’re meeting, and what they’ve done. If it’s a comedy producer – make sure you’re au fait with all the latest comedy shows on both sounds of the Atlantic. Likewise with drama.
- Dress appropriately. Don’t wear a suit and tie – you’re not a sales rep for H&M. Similarly, don’t turn up in ripped jeans and an old T-shirt – you’re not auditioning for Shameless.
- Have another project to talk about. Even if it’s not fully formed, make sure they know you’re a fount of other, potentially ratings-grabbing, award-winning ideas.
- Wear a reasonably porous item of clothing you can wipe your sweaty palms on. No one enjoys a hot, slippery handshake.
- Don’t refer to yourself as the Johnny Utah of comedy writing. You look like a dick.