Monday, 11 May 2009

Founding a tv company

So with all the bad news swirling about, I was talking to a friend who said how lucky I was to run my own company, and have the 'stability' of doing so for years. This is lucky year 13 for my company (sort of) so he might have had a point.

But then I thought back to how it all started, and the night it nearly didn't happen.

I had cosied up to a senior exec at a big independent producer. It wasn't her job to add to the portfolio of mainly youthy, mainly entertainment shows this company made - and made very well - but she said she could help.

I'd got in via a guy who worked for me, who'd gone for a job interview in a period of unemployment, turned up a bit worse for wear but made an impression anyway. So the two of us went to see her, were kept waiting for ages - and we'd been to the pub so were a bit, er, the worse for wear. My mate wanted to walk out, I wanted to wait and see... well, anyway, she turned up, met us, chatted, introduced us to the bosses and we came to a deal to set up a joint venture company.

So I meet their head of new business, and we get on well. He works out a deal, we agree terms, and all that needs to happen is that this guy meets my other mate, who I'll be forming the business with.

Now this friend was easily my best mate in London, and it's fair to say we got on incredibly well despite being very different characters. We'd worked together well in the last job, despite the inevitable ups and downs of working with friends. And he was as enthused as me at the idea of setting up our own thing.

I decide it'd be good to meet in a pub, and off to Victoria Park me and my mate went as it was next to New Business Guy's (NBG for briefness) house. It turns out NBG was a drinker. Oh yes. A VERY big, VERY fast drinker, the sort who drinks half a pint in a sip. I'm quite a drinker, but pints of beer I find hard to drink quickly. My mate, however, is a legend when it comes to boozing, someone who could drink solidly for 36 hours and seem just slightly tired at the end of it. He could drink ANYONE under the table, under the ground or under anything ever.

The two of them are getting on OK, but the drinking is accelerating, and it's obvious my mate isn't exactly enamoured by NBG. "Twat" was his one-word judgement when NBG went off for a piss. "Quite an, um, character" was NBG's judgement as my mate went off to pee, rolling his eyes. I don't think tall, posh, clever NBG had ever met a tattooed, long-haired, leather-jacketed, burly bearded biker guy before. He seemed to view my mate - someone crucial to the business we were setting up - as some sort of amusement that would shock the oh-so-trendy types populating the parent company.

Things got worse. I tried to keep up and felt very ill. The subject of private lives was brought up, my mate fiercely protective of his... NBG seeminlgly yearning for more danger and edge than his lovely nice safe wife-kid-house-big job life was offering.

I was getting sicker and sicker as the two of them got drunker and drunker. They even arm wrestled at one point. I have no idea who won as I went off to vomit copiously. I got back to the table and they were both mute, arms folded, drinking shorts. I said I must've had something bad to eat and would have to go home. Goaded by NBG, my mate stayed and had more shorts. I watched from outside, having managed to grab a life-giving cup of tea from the jellied eel shop next to the pub (hey it was 1997, they still existed in Victoria Park Village)

My mate stumbled out on his own as I watched NBG asleep on the pub table. We wandered off, deciding to walk to Stratford where he lived. We walked through what is now the 2012 Olympic site but was then just wasteland with warehouses, barking dogs and skanky drug addicts slumped in corners. Now this I'd have considered scary except (a) my mate could more than handle himself, even when a bit pished; and (b) I was more concerned with him saying over and over again he couldn't work for that... well, insert every rude word ever here.

I pleaded and cajoled, seeing my dream slip away of a company I owned a stake in, guaranteed funding for a bit, the excitement of working with one of the biggest and most prestigious indies. But to no avail. We got to his place, ordered pizzas, drank booze and decided that was that.

I stumbled into a cab home at 2am, depressed and confused and drunk and ill, the worst night of my career so far.

Next morning I had a 10am meeting with NBG and boy did I feel rough. I was expecting exactly the same negative reaction from him, and on my way in I planned a speech saying how I'd decided to stay where I was after all.

NBG greeted me with "well, what a night!" and then said how wonderful he thought my mate was, how great things were going to be, and how he was looking forward to another "session" on the booze.


In my weakened state I nodded feebly, filled in the forms and went off to Stratford.

I knocked on my mate's door not sure what to do or say. He greeted me cheerily as he ate a slice of cold pizza. "What a shitty night!", he said, laughing.


So I started on my spiel of how NBG seemed fine with everything (a raised eyebrow there) but I know my mate wasn't keen to work with him and I understand that and I-

My mate stopped me in my tracks. "As long as I never have to deal with the twat I'm fine. The bastard we work for now is worse."

And with that he signed the documents and our company was born. Six months later, my mate - still without ever having dealt with NBG at all - met a lovely American lady, decided to get hitched and emigrate, and we went our separate ways business-wise.

My old mate now runs his successful own company Stateside. NBG left the parent company at some point, has surfaced in many different forms in telly and the interweb, and still likes a pint or several drunk at lightning speed.

And I don't do lager any more.

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