HOW I GOT MY SECOND SHOW ON TV
Dear reader, thanks for subscribing to Lee Kern Substack if you do. (Great name, isn’t it? One day I’ll tell you about how I came up with the name of this substack).
If you don’t subscribe, please click on the link and do so now:
You can sign up for a free subscription or a paid one. Obviously I love the paid subscribers more, which is why they often get exclusive content, including most of the post below. If you’re currently a free subscriber, consider upgrading and checking out all the articles you’ve missed in the archives.
Now to HOW I GOT MY SECOND SHOW ON TV…
I hope it’s of interest to the general reader, to any writers, directors or producers, and to anyone who’d like to work in television and is interested in the various moves people make in order to get stuff sold and onto the screen.
I’ve included the video of one of the films talked about, (“My Back Garden”) and I’ll post the other two films mentioned soon, (“Where Have All The Insects Gone” and “Lofts”).
I don’t know what the collective noun is for films, but this Robocop of films are the second thing I got on TV. They were three shorts - each three minutes long. They were part of a Channel 4 strand called “3 Minute Wonders”. Each week a different director had a Beetlejuice of three minute films. It was a great slot because your films were broadcast over the course of a week at exactly the same time each day. This meant you could have an ongoing presence and build up some micro-momentum on the TV landscape. It was like having your own mini TV series. Or think of a film where there’s a character who actually has very little screen time - but their appearances are threaded and placed into the script so strategically by the writer that their presence looms much larger within the film. Having 9 minutes of TV spread out over three days, coming straight after the news, has that kind of effect.
And it led to other opportunities. One of these was going on to voice the cartoon Modern Toss. My Three Minute Wonders made heavy use of voiceover and people seemed to like my monotonous, soporific tone. Using the things you make as grappling hooks to try and climb successfully onto other opportunities is definitely something you should do. Everything you do, even whilst you’re doing it, should be trying to get you something else. The project you’re working on isn’t the point. It’s how the project you’re working on gets you the next project. Life is long and you’ve got to make a living. You have to try and shorten the gulf between jobs when you’re self-employed. Continuity of work is the dream and it’s something you have to hustle and always forward plan for. Obviously you need to have multiple irons in the fire as most dreams are extinguished or you simply need to park them for another day when, for some mystical reason, they suddenly glow again when their true home in time and space becomes apparent. No work is wasted. Nearly everything you do can be recycled, repurposed, stripped for parts, or rehoused elsewhere.
At the same time, whilst continuity of work is the goal I’ve had the following, perhaps contradictory attitude when it comes to the things I’ve made…
Whenever I’ve been commissioned to make something I’ve told myself, “This’ll be the last time anyone ever lets me make something so I’m gonna make it as good as I can and make what I want to make. If it all goes tits up I can get another job.”
By this I mean I prep myself to be steadfast in making the best shit I can and to push through my vision as much as possible - not someone else’s.
Obviously, working in film and TV means you have to compromise in order to get something made. You have to deal with the fact people are paying you - or being paid to make it with you - and they want to feel creatively fulfilled, like they’re earning their wage and that they’re leaving their mark on the finished product.
But incorporating that, (and for the most part enhancing your project by engaging with suggestions), doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything. It is your idea. You are allowed to protect its integrity when metamorphisising it from a product of the mind into an object in the world.
As an aside, one place where you should never make an objection is in a pitch meeting. If a gatekeeper suggests something you don’t really like - there’s no point digging your heels in and having an argument about something completely hypothetical that doesn’t even exist at that stage. You’re just arguing about shapes drawn in air. When the product is actually being made - then you can take a view on what works best as you actually have something real to debate. So for G-d’s sake don’t make a meeting go badly and lose an opportunity to be paid because you’re uptight when people you don’t know properly yet give their first spontaneous thoughts on something you’ve had a headstart thinking about.
As I say, most of the time the input of good people will enhance your project. Even when your initial reaction is one of scepticism, I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results if you go away and try something out. It could lead to something awesome neither of you envisioned.
So to conclude this little bit. Manufacturing continuity of employment doesn’t mean you have to be a drip who agrees to everything, even that which is objectionable. This is because the ultimate thing that creates continuity of work is the quality of the product you actually make. My strategy has been to stick to my creative intuitions because if I’m not deluded and I do have skills and an interesting voice - ensuring my vision gets on screen as pure as possible is what’ll get me work thereafter. Because if I’m not deluded and I am good, people will like what I make and want more of it.
Basically, I find that a way to ensure continuity of employment is to not give a fuck if I get continuity of employment, and then I’m free to make something really good that ensures I get continuity of employment. As TS Eliot said, “Teach us to care and not to care.”
Anyway, something to think about . Here’s how I hustled the Three Minute Wonder opportunity in the first instance…