Aug. 30, 2021

19: Talking TV, comedy and California with Adrian Poynton


Well, despite somehow failing to record the first 30 minutes of the interview, we still manage to have a rather interesting chat with TV comedy scriptwriter Adrian Poynton about his work and his adventures in the world of American TV in Los Angeles. 

Music by Dano Songs
Transcript

hi i'm michael parkinson and just for inquiring about further episodes of the failing writers podcast you'll receive this free pen what's that we've run out of pens

welcome everybody to another thrilling episode of the failing writers podcast and it is thrilling today isn't it it's kind of a special edition we're pushing back the boundaries of interviewing techniques really and we've tried something quite um quite special really yeah unheard of well what we've done is literally not recorded the first 30 minutes of quite an interesting interview yeah partly through incompetence well i don't know i think it does make no one's ever done this before tom like you said it's pushing the boundaries very experimentally i think we should you know other people should do this like to imagine that maybe like terry wagon or michael parkinson could have done this just live on tv just sat there with her arms folded for the first sort of 20 30 minutes it's one of those techniques it's one of those techniques isn't that way a lot of um a lot of writers just been like the first few chapters yeah yeah i guess effectively what we've done with this and so yeah anyway we're interviewing adrian poynton who's a comedy writer uh for tv and well we started off talking to him about how he kind of started off didn't we um so you should fill in some of the gaps that kind of this is the downside of deleting this first 30 minutes there's no other way that people will know is there so quite a lot of information we've missed out and some of this yeah some of this might be wrong as well because we might have misremembered

well i think we'll get it we'll get it pretty much spot yeah yeah um so he started off as a florist doing interpretive dance basing on the flowers is his immediate was that something like that yeah i don't know if he was actually thinking about it now i think he might have written a play yeah that sounds more powerful graham chapman didn't he have the idea in a lift an escalator yeah i think wasn't he was going up going it was an escalator he was going up he was going up wasn't he literally he was going up in the world wrote a play and took it to the edinburgh festival yep uh i believe got sort of good reviews oh it won an award it won an award tom it was an award-winning play i did fringe first got him some kudos and attention did he tour the play afterwards or it was on in london or something either the west end or off the west end i think it blew up a bit near the west end and then he went on to write um tv comedy white yes which was about 2 000 yeah during this period was he also doing stan he was yeah yeah as well or maybe he did that yes i think that's initially earning a crust as well i think there we go half an hour that was that three minutes and he was just starting to talk about uh the difference between writers rooms oh that's it because white van man was then sold to america and he was just starting to talk about the difference between writer's rooms in america and the uk that should that should segue into that i think so

so adrian why don't we just randomly uh let's just pick a topic to talk about um what about writer's rooms uh have you ever worked imagine that we've been talking for maybe half an hour

and the point where we would have got to is talking about writers rooms in the uk and then in the us maybe if you got the opportunity to work sure i mean yeah if i mean if i'd been talking for half an hour yeah and then we found yeah trying to get all right

yeah yeah i'm lucky i've worked in wright's rooms in britain and in in the us so i was um so after i came up with a man i got offered a job um on trolleyed on sky one um and they did this series uh that was that was rise room run which was quite unusual at that time for for the uk most most shows weren't there's a lot of kids tv stuff that was written writer's room wise so i'd done a bit of that and but this was one of the first ones that was processed yes properly doing it and what's weird about it is the writer's room only exists in america because they write so many episodes i think we forget that in in the year yeah that will you inhabit we just write ourselves oh it's six episodes one person could do that so you get good solid kind of you know consistency but it only really ever started happening because they were writing 24 episodes a series so they needed that group of writers not to burn each other out and they all started throwing the ball around in a room so we often look at america going oh wow the writer's room system and you kind of go yeah no it's not necessarily better that was necessity but now they've dropped to like 10 episode orders even sixes out there they still run the writers room because they've now lost confidence that one human being could ever do all of it this is a very strange balance yeah um so i yeah so we did trollied and the way that worked there was about what seven eight of us in a cold church loft in soho huddled around our coffee cups um just kind of working out what the series arc would be and and then dividing episodes out so there would be there was a guy who uh i guess you classed as a not script editor that's a different job a script developer i don't know what you'd call him and he was kind of running the writers script descriptive scripting looks criticisms um yeah and he he was um he was sort of guiding the room and we'd all sit around every day and um it would just be you know the six of us seven of us in the room and and um and your man so eight of us in there he wasn't a writer and um we would we would come up with ideas one of us would usually have a laptop open typing down what was said um in case anybody forgot it whereas in america there would be a team of uh script assistants uh on the laptop at the back all doing that so you'd just be sat talking um you wouldn't have to have one of us doing it because they've got money and so was was that like a hyper competitive environment in the uk was there a difference between the uk one i think the difference between the two is exactly that i think that the rooms in the uk that i've been in they seem to be firstly filled with what i would class as more true writers that sounds really offensive but they're people who had often written their own individual things and and didn't need to be in a room uh because they weren't just joke people there'd be people who were good at jokes and people who were good at like story but they they'd all be more all-rounders they were you know and a couple of people had written their own shows and things like that as well but but if you've given them their own show they could all sort of handle it i think my experience in america is it's very easy to hide in a writer's room in america and just be oh that's the joke guy he sits in the corner and says two sentences a day and they're really great but they're just jokes you know yeah so how did you how did you actually end up going to america then what was what was the process i was i was quite lucky in the um white van man the series i did for bbc three uh got bought by a company called the mark gordon company in america and they wanted to try and do a remake out there they had a deal with abc television and um they bought the project for them to try and do it um and i was writing series two of the uk show and had just committed to trolleyed so they applied um an american writer to write the main body of the script and i would sort of over i'd look over and give overview and be a co-creator on it um which is good because i didn't know the american market at all at that point in time and you know you think you do you don't know how to make american television they do it very differently um it's just a very different country and their tone of comedy is slightly different i realize now yeah uh it's a lot broader and the difference between american comedy and british comedy to sort of sidetrack a little bit and this has been said so much but it's worth saying again is that we're kind of victims over here and we like to be victims and in america they're funny guys because we as a country um well they as a country particularly are successful in their eyes america is all about success so you look at any character that's successful in a successful american tv comedy particularly and they make jokes okay if you look at the cast of friends yeah every single one of those if a laugh happens in this in the tv show friends it's because one of them usually has made a joke yeah whereas in britain it's because our trousers are hot boys fall into account or deal boys falling through the bar is the classic example the only person in the cast of friends that would fall through that bar is ross he's the only one and it's such a small difference that they're successful people filled with hope whereas over here we're not and actually the writers rooms they're very competitive in america and people don't just sit down at the table and go right let's all work together to make the best tv show they all sit down and go right i'm the best sit down and listen to me and it just becomes this ladder of people crawling over each other trying to get to the top so how did it actually develop with you actually moving over to america then because you're saying you were just like a script yeah so i i was a scripture zone on it and then i went over and got myself an american agent because i i realized that there was a point in time especially when the pilot was commissioned that i thought oh what's happening here is um usually as a writer or as anyone you're stood outside a door banging on it going hello can i come in and i suddenly went oh hang on we're they're making a pilot of a show that i created so everybody else's agents are in town banging on the door trying to get them a writing job on it so i can now go to america there's about a period of a month where i can turn up and go hi i'm the guy that did the thing um didn't want to sign me you know because because it was the only there was a window there where people knew my name because i'd done a thing that was going to get their writers they'd already got work so i rather sensibly got on a plane when i got an agent out there and then i thought you know what i'm gonna do i'm gonna go back when they're filming the pilot and i'm gonna hang around like a bad smell because for no other reason then i i just love television more than anything it's my favorite thing in the world and i thought i just want to be on a set in america where someone's making television i'll probably never get that opportunity ever again i want to see how they do i want to go to la and i want to sit there and the fact that it's something i kind of co-created and and have a lot of jokes and sort of co-wrote this one i get to sit there just giggling my tits off about this so i i went there and i just i turned up to set i was just a bit of a giddy giddy child but i sort of forgot that there was a possibility of work or anything like that or it should be impressing because i was i was just a kiddie child but what that ain't actually came across as was confidence and americans really respond to confidence so i'd be sad at like the tv the big like video village monitors and uh happily just you know giving everyone [ __ ] because i was having a laugh with everyone just having fun like what and then i went back to my hotel one night and went you really need to work out who some of these people are because you don't know what you're saying to anyone mate what are you doing and then it turned out actually that i just managed to make a good impression on the right people and luckily by the time i got back to the uk um i got a phone call from my agent saying abc want to sign you on a development deal they think you're you're a great writer and your shows are great so maybe you'd like to write some more with them that must have been a nice phone call it was ludicrous because i hadn't i've never had a plan i'm not someone who's gone and then i want to do this and then i want to do this um and so yeah so i was like great i'll do that and then the show yeah got commissioned to series i will say now a hundred percent because of who they cast in it as opposed to um it being good it was a it was a good show it's a good pilot but when you've got leah remini who'd done nine years on king of queens and jk simmons who you know um ended up winning oscar a couple years after it for whiplash and his jojo and jameson and spider-man you know you get you get noticed um so so we got commission series and um one of the i remember one of the producers had said to me if we get this as a series would you want to come out here and work on this and i'd gone oh yeah a course i would be great wouldn't it not really thinking it was actually a job offer and then it went serious and i got a phone call coming saying do you want to right you've got a development deal you could do that in britain if you want to but if you want to why don't you come and work in the writers room in america three days a week and then go off to your office and develop other stuff during the the rest of the time and i thought i can't yeah yeah yeah not do that and luckily um my wife had been in the job she was in for like nine years and was ready for a change and i just said i think we should do you want to do this yeah should we go and just go to california for a bit and see if it's fun and we honestly went out not knowing if we were gonna go for six months or six years or what but how exciting i i remember strangely i remember um thinking that it was the most exciting thing i'd ever heard of at the time your wife your wife was working becky was working at kiss in london and i used to do some uh scripts for her and i remember i must have seen a social media post that she said about it or something when she was leaving and i remember thinking that just sounds like the most exciting thing in the entire world like that was pretty much however you've written the series and you're off to america to make it that was just i was insanely jealous i remember it was it was so ludicrous to me that like somebody had said do you want to come and do this we'll pay for your flights we'll pay for your wife's flight as well here's because they were disney so they've got so much money they they were saying things like and we'll give you this amount of money to find somewhere to live it's like that what you know when you're used to just working in britain where even even if you're like a really well paid writer you still feel like when when they go oh yeah that's um yeah that's okay they've agreed like your agent will come back and finally go yeah the lawyers have agreed the fee on that one you still get the sense that they've gone all right but we're going down the back of the sofa for extra pounds on that come on yeah that's not a lot of money whereas america put sandwiches in the room but they'll just be cheese yeah exactly do not ask for ham you you know what happened when you asked for ham um yeah so but america because the you know abc's owned by disney so they were just doing anything to get me to go out there it felt like whereas i was sort of whispering to my agent at the time you know we're going right you know we're not wiping still throwing stuff like that shut up shut up stop being a human about it this is not the way america works they're throwing things at us

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he said there was a difference the definite difference between the ethos in the writers room and the atmosphere there what was what was the rest of life like outside of writing just in terms of being over there culture wise well we call it our champagne years because we were having a writer the thing with america is it's a really interesting and exciting country and it's got you know every environment you could possibly go and want to see there's mountains there's snow there's the desert there's everything and they're all honestly when you're in la you can drive if you drive an hour in any direction you can pick it you can pick whatever climate you like uh unless you go left and then you get very wet um but the thing with with la particularly the town that when you first get there seems the greatest thing in the world but the longer you spend there actually becomes a negative is that everybody in that town is in that industry so everyone's a writer everyone's a director everyone's an actor everyone's you know everything in it usually one of those three because they're the big sexy jobs that people want and then producers and agents yeah so every party you go to even if it's just a mate's barbecue in their back garden all you talk about is work and all you get is that weird anxiety inside yourself when other people are going yeah i just sold this project you know like that i didn't sell a project this week does that mean i'm bad no no it doesn't do you wrong a thing you're on a show it's fine or or you know are you still allowed a burger yeah exactly and you can always feel other people kind of fronting up and not really necessarily being honest about you you get to a point where you just want someone to turn up to a bar and just go and you go how was your day and they go absolutely terrible i've had my agent can't get me any work i'm falling down the tree this is awful just nothing's happening for me it's horrible at the moment and you just wrap your arms around them and go yes which to be fair in england is exactly what would happen everyone just complaining about how shall you know even if you're having a mega success

but the thing with america is 98 of people in that town in l.a are doing exactly that they're not getting scripts so they're not because it's still like in britain goes to a very small amount of people but they're not honest because it's their country's all about you know being the best and you can grow up to be president so they all they all pretend it's going great because you don't want to be the only one in town does it feel like a bit of a game in that sense that everybody's it's it's more of a game than it is anything else it's all about it's all about representing who you want people to think you are and the work you think they you're getting because then people in rooms will go oh well he said he's doing this so we should do this with him as opposed to actually in i think a little i think there's it's always going to be that in the industry full stop but i think in britain you know if you write in it's really good they they will find it in the end and and you know that they like just good scripts it's not about oh but they're not anybody they haven't written three other scripts that have been good well of course they haven't you have to find at some point there has to be the first script that they get made um and and britain's better at that uh america's bad at that and very bad at pigeonholing people as well so i i went over there with a comedy and a certain type of comedy quite a mainstream comedy that was on a very mainstream itv-esque channel yeah so then that was what i wrote yeah that was who i was you know i would give in other ideas and that would be like a hbo style idea and my agents would get bit oh but no but they don't want this family yeah but that's what i'm inspired to write at the moment how did it all um end for you then the american adventure was it was it was it an abrupt end or was it kind of a slow moving back yeah it felt it felt so i did um family tools which was the remake of white van man for the years on the 13 episodes we did and did my development deal with that um got a script commissioned on that wrote the script um wasn't sure i liked abc and we weren't connecting in the right way and i didn't think they were necessarily right for me so my agent got me a development deal over at cbs um so i moved to cbs and did development stuff there and sort of was writing scripts and and certain ideas didn't feel i was getting close to getting uh stuff actually made getting getting the camera put in front of it because it's so competitive and they do like to give it to people they've had success with before and that's you know understandable there's a lot of money involved and i i then was also so i was developing my own stuff and working with new writers to try and develop their ideas and turn them into things with regard for me to be the show runner on their shows and i got to a point where i just i realized two things i realized i think i'm gonna get stuck in the cycle of development only here and they're going to pay me very very well and we're going to have a very nice life in california but i want to make television and i think i i will be able to say i'm a writer um but i don't know if i'm gonna necessarily get permit and then it's gonna like i'm just gonna become a grumpy man helping other people get shows made rather than putting faith back into myself and that's fine and that that's that's good and it's still better than a real job but it wasn't quite what i wanted and i i just i was missing britain there's a there's a tone to to the british sensibility that i i think i very much write within that we've been out there six and a half years and i was i was still getting development work i didn't really want to write in a writer's room again it's a there's a lot of long hours and it's quite an aggressive environment i just thought i'd rather be sitting at home writing what i want to write and then um we're missing our families and and more importantly we'd always sort of said that if it did go well out there if i was just being a development guy and and they were saying come in and pitch shows and we'll buy them off you i could do that from anywhere so i would come home do that go over there twice a year sell some shows come back write it all here and then if it ever got made maybe consider going back for a couple of months making the thing come back because i'd hit a point as well where i didn't need to be there so it was the conversation was not so much should we leave hollywood it was more of a should we go home and see our friends and families and be british again yeah so it was a mix of the two but they they were the main points of the conversation i think and happily came back thinking well this is great i'll uh i'll go back i'll do some american work while i remind people i'm in britain and then i'll i'll get some british work going just after that so we arrived um just as the right skill of america went on strike so i couldn't work there and then just as that was finishing up the pandemic hit so i can't work here so it's been a crack in two years yeah everyone loves a happy ending well do you know what i still work so right i've got i've got lots of nice things in development that sounded incredibly grumpy and bitter that's because you're back in the uk that's right that's the way exactly yeah he's come back it's still in the u.s you've been like i'm writing this i'm doing this got a lot of interest in this it's all going very well do you know what i i could do all that about the projects i've got here with various companies but what's the point who knows what's going to happen with them i've got stuff in development it's lovely i'm making money it's i'm very happy i'm writing i'd like to turn the camera back on again thanks

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can i adrian just just uh i mean imagine a world where we had a conversation previously that someone may or may not have recorded and you mentioned about it i'm

yeah um yeah i think we all can and you mentioned about um kind of your first job if you like was doing stand-up comedy um what kind of stand-up comedian were you what was your what was your thing what was your style what was your i i think i was i was people like to say if you say you're a standard comedian

tell us a joke make us laugh can you can you yeah i i think that i was a writer in disguise as a stand-up and i didn't know it for a long time i liked being on stage i was very at ease performing yeah but i think that i was telling nice long-winded interweaving stories as opposed to just talking about my penis or or something that you know the the you know i think there's been a bit of a sea change in in comedy since maybe i was doing it but you know liverpool on a friday night didn't want what i was i was shoveling as much as um they don't want what most people are giving to be honest with you from this podcast one thing i've learned if we ever become stand-up comedians is don't go to liverpool yeah it seems to be a theme isn't it yeah has that been mentioned before

they're a great town they just um they're they're a funny town themselves and think they should be on stage as well that's the difference it's a fight um but yeah i was so i i was always i was always happier writing my material than i was performing it necessarily right and the things that i i got known and would get most of my work as was i was very loose with the audience and very that sounds like i slept with a lot of them um that's not what i meant i was i was very um chatty with the audience and uh you know trying to pick up on little bits about them and sort of do it so i'd get booked as a compare quite a lot which you know in many ways is a bit like writing because you're just picking up a piece of information and running with it and creating stories about it so i was always sort of my brain was that muscle was functioning correctly for what i should have been doing the whole time but the brilliant thing about that was because i would compare a lot and like warm up audiences and then bring on other comedians i ended up getting booked a lot as um a studio warm-up for uh tv shows which you know absolute dream come true for me that because not only did i just want to be in the audience of those shows anyway watching tv get made of brilliant comedies and bad ones sometimes as well but just it was amazing i also then would go to dress rehearsals to see the show before i then had to introduce it and stuff so i knew what was going on with it and i'd just sit in the audience and i could sit there and work out what everyone's job in production sort of was like oh that's a yeah that's the floor manager oh wait a minute floor manager is the same job as a first ad in film it's just got a different name here and you could see the way everything sort of worked so it was it was dreamy it was great wow so do do you feel that you've got any sort of uh like unfinished business in the states or is that sort of chapter closed and on on with something fresh i i feel at the moment i really want to get another couple of shows or just one show away here and sort of get my feet firmly back on the ground and bring because like i said the the i haven't had a chance to do much work here because of you know pandemics and stuff like that so i'd really like to just do a british show and remind myself what i love about british tv and go yeah there we are that's tv i've got you know i've written a few scripts for companies whilst being here so i've had a bit of that and it's it's been great so i'm very much into british tv which is you know more and more international anyway because with streaming services so your netflix and yeah you know all of that malarkey amazon and stuff like that there's just an ability to you used to have to sell a show here and then they'd remake it with different actors in america whereas now actually you can just make the best version of the show here if it's expensive you get a bit of money from america for them to screen as well in a co-production and um and you really can plant your feet in one country and and sell it all around the world and i think i also think we're making some of the best tv in the world at the moment there's there's been periods when we haven't and we haven't been able to compete but i think at the moment when you look at some of the stuff we're putting out there we're doing really good things well fingers crossed for some of the stuff that you've got uh in in development at the moment uh is is there like one sort of big thing you think this is this is gonna be the next big thing for me i think that do you know what there's two and one of them got turned down three weeks ago by everyone but well i know well but that's the job yeah honestly and the the half that half the thing say to anybody who wants to be a writer is well congratulations you're gonna sit you're about to get a lot of rejection but that's the thing that it doesn't matter because because when you've got i i know with this project that got turned down i think it's so good i really think it will go out with it in two years again and so someone will make it and if they don't do it then we'll go with it again in like another two and it'll get made so that one i'm confident and then another idea i'm just working at the moment i'm so excited by that if if somebody said what what would you like to do those would be my two projects i've got i've got like what i've got seven eight projects with different companies at the moment and they're all great and if anybody asks if they've listened to this podcast i'll say the one i'm speaking about now is definitely that i'm working on with them are they are some of those actually written or are they they all just treatments so a lot of those are at kind of a pitch stage where the way it was it might be quite interesting to just sort of talk through the way often pitching works here because maybe people don't know actually that much maybe they do maybe they don't um is often you go in you have a meeting and you'll you'll pitch an idea to a company and they'll go oh yeah that's great can you go and work that up a little bit and and you will try and work with them on a kind of pitch document which is maybe five eight pages of um so a bit about what the show's about who the characters are maybe a couple of of story ideas and then a bit of a wrap up about why the show should be made maybe what the title of it is and then that gets sent to commissioners and um then they go through it and hopefully you know at that point you've sold it to a production company so that you know your deal's already been done so you know what you would get if you were writing it so you can't argue with them about that at that point um and if they like it feel it's something that they want to put on the channel maybe they'll come back and go okay great um maybe they want to meet with you about it often they'll come back and go right write the first script and you'll write the first script if they like that maybe they'll make a pilot maybe they'll ask for another script or two and and sometimes they'll just come back and go great go and write a series if you're a bit more known as a writer so with projects i've got around place i'd say the majority of them have just been either gone out at pitch dock and the stage and the one that just got turned down was bought by a tv channel and then turned down a script stage and then uh the one i'm about to go out with soon i've just written up uh the pitch doc but it's quite a complicated show it's now a long kind of comedy drama type thing but it's the plot's quite complicated so i've written like a 12-page kind of bible of this kind of is what it is and this is basically the story and and i think actually you just have to do the work sometimes with things like that and do what you need to do to really sell the show because they get so many there are so many production companies pitching things yeah they get so many um so many pitches you've got to make it bulletproof you've got to challenge them to not compassionately it sounds like it can yeah it can bomb at any point oh it's it's a tightrope the whole the whole thing is a tightrope walk you have to get to the point with tv and been scriptwriting tv where you think like whatever that last project with mine is i said you have to really think to yourself and sometimes it sounds arrogant but it's not you just have to think okay it wasn't for them now or i think it's important that every time you go out with a script or a project that you've put so much work into it and done so much beyond what they've paid you for it that when they turn it down you get to go well they're wrong and really believe that yeah there's nothing worse than than than going out with a project and uh then turning it down and you go in yeah i can see why you did that

i mean i mean yeah yeah there was some good stuff in it but i could have done better it sounds like you're a very resilient person you've gotta be you don't spend many nights crying into your place obviously no but that's because well no not about this no um i've been around it as a job so long that i'm aware of a few things and the main things are one it's a very silly job because i'm doing something i love in in a way that occasionally when i get paid i get paid very nicely for it and it seems silly to me that anybody would ever pay money for something that's this much fun that i love doing this much but at the same time i know that it's hard and there are many people that want to do the job that i get to do occasionally and a lot of time don't get to do and they're snapping at my heels and i'm snapping at their heels and there's only you know x amount of spaces to put things on tv and there's a lot more writers and a lot more projects you know it's not just like one one right gets a project each per year you know we've all got a lot out there so you think about that you're like god it's it's really competitive but you just have to overcome that and think yeah but is it worth it and i i just love being a writer writing is great it's loads of fun it helps yeah it helps to love the process definitely it really yeah yeah you really have to say to yourself am i prepared for a lot of no's and a lot of pain um even that stuff might have worked in america that's like part of the dream and i still get to sit here going oh that was a rough week oh that hurt that way this week and you know i've done i've done good work i've done i get meetings with people you know there's people who can't even get meetings because they're new and people don't know who they are and it's competitive out there but yeah the pain that we you feel at the at any level you do at all levels yeah i'm loathe to ask this but is there any particular like stab in the heart that that you remember that you know was there anything that just really hurt like something you really believed in in it it came crashing down we're big on failure on this podcast yeah no those projects i did in america that just felt like it was bulletproof i got um oh well i'll say it was it was a tv project and i got will arnett the uh actor who was in arrested development and voice batman um he was a producer and was going to be in it and it was with a massive production company and we got a couple of other big cast members and the script was consistently to a point where it was it was really good where people just weren't giving notes on it because they'd read it and go yeah that's really good and it was everything that one of the networks needed at the time and it just we we hit a point where i think we all started to think oh my god this is gonna happen isn't it this is yeah great this is gonna happen and um you start to realize i realize now you can never predict television at all everything was aligned everything was perfect people at the network producers were going yeah this is that's gonna be yeah this is happening this is gonna happen and then um fox made a project that was nearly identical to it so we got shut down within a week we were all just sat there not even going oh god that's unfortunate we were going how did none of us know that one was happening it was it was insane it was just um we were we were you could feel cameras like being hired to we were that close and we're like that hang on but they haven't got why why is that one we've got these this cast we've got this guy he's the voice of lego batman what's happening um yeah so there's been a few like that that does seem to happen yeah there is there is a phenomenon in hollywood isn't there about that especially with films where you get films coming out in pairs because yeah similar ideas have been optioned and then they get wind of yeah um one one studio making something and then they fast track the other one so often the one that's released first is the is a rubbish film oh it's been released quickly and under on a small budget to sweep up as much of that money as possible yeah so when the second film comes out it's like oh that spit too much like that one yeah so that yes yeah that's that's clearly what happened with us they'd uh they'd heard the buzz about the show and yeah and we made it we better make a crappy version of this pretty quick just get it out quick as well so we got shut down as opposed to just going well why don't we make the pilot anyway or just put it on anyway and then the other one only went to they didn't even get a pilot i think they wrote the script no they made the pilot and then just put it in a bin hang on bloody what's up but that's that again that's the jacket how close were they there you know when he said was it spooky close or was it just kind of yeah the setting was the setting was identical and it was a really quite obscure set i won't say what it is in case no no no no no no no you're not but um yeah the setting was identical and it was a really unique setting and so some of the setup and that the the basic premise the whole show it was one of those ones you couldn't put them on and not have someone go well that's the same show isn't that on a different channel even if the characters and everything inside it was different it was the same show but that's you know that's it's a classic thing that when you get a great idea like i was saying earlier when you said have you got an idea you're very excited by that's like that oh this one um part of you when someone says that to you and you or you have a really good idea that your heart starts being faster because you're panicking thinking i've got to get this out there to some people to get this commission because i can't be the only one that's had this idea because sometimes ideas feel so yeah like like they don't belong to you that you just picked them out of the east yeah because it's such a good idea that sometimes you're sitting around going i mean this is someone's done this before right haven't there's nobody done this before because this feels like this is obvious isn't this so good it's obvious um and whether it is or not maybe you're wrong maybe you just feel that i'm not actually arrogantly saying this is the best project i've ever thought of but i'm thinking oh my god that's maybe that's this is it but then you start panicking that you're trying to get it out there as quick as possible before some other idiot steals your thunder yeah it's much like christa berg said in the classic song missing you isn't it uh if i if i say you're beautiful someone else is going to think it too and christaberg he can he can sum things up like that yeah it's a great analogy though yeah

when that happens with a project like that do you think is it sort of is it better if the the other one falls on its ass or are you hoping that actually it turns out to be really good so you can go oh actually yeah fair enough they yeah there's a week at the beginning when you hope that um the set catches fire and all of that stuff um but then but then it's exactly that you you want the idea to be so good you there's nothing you don't want to sit there going right we've made a really terrible version of that and mine was excellent you want you want to sit there going oh thank god all right yeah no we we weren't better than that no we weren't that was that's the best version of that okay everybody walk away and how did that one play out i mean i don't know i i didn't i didn't watch the pilot somebody offered me the script once and said do you want to join my video and i went for it i just didn't i wasn't interested also because i think at that point in time i tried to move my brain onto other things yeah yeah very well it's so hard you must know this as i think all writers know this that it's very hard sometimes to just leave a project behind when it doesn't feel like it's got to a point of completion but you know i write tv mostly um and when i write a script it's very nice you get to the end of the script and you go oh i've written a script but you don't want that you wrote it so it would become a television series or a television film or something like that so to not get to achieve the end is you know when you write a book you can be really proud that you've written a novel but you know it doesn't feel like it's done until people are able to go to a bookshop and read it you know emailing it to your cousin doesn't feel the same as as having it printed by somebody else yeah there's there's an element of pride in that and and yeah and you know god if you've written a book or you've written a film or a script for tv you should be so proud of yourself because most people don't finish things but it really is there's there's a point where sometimes it's hard to to leave them behind because you just think no i'm not done with that that that i've got other episodes of that right i'm not done with the story of that so the hardest thing is to fight and go no i've got to park that for a little bit even if it's not done i've got to leave it and then yeah get on and do other other projects because then maybe i can come back to that one when i'm massively successful off this other thing that i haven't thought yet but you know that doesn't stop at any point does it because the hardest thing about the job is is even when you have a massive success you know you've got the advantage that doors are a bit more open to you and maybe people want to see what you're doing next but you still have to think of it yeah yeah it's like an old computer game you know the ones where you didn't save them that when you died three times you had to go back right to the beginning of the platform going and running it's a bit like that but maybe you get to start a bit further on because you're a bit more known but you have to come up with an idea it has to be a good one and then you've only got the expectation yeah as well some of the development stuff you're like that i don't want to show them this yet it's absolutely shite but but and this sounds like a horrible tweet thing to say and then also like conclusion wrap up bit of coolness so i've already put a button on this but honestly if you're a writer i really think that the writing is the thing that must make you happy and therefore the ideas that you're writing have to be the ones that make you happy to write them and you're excited to write because really that's what it should be it's the pureness of actually writing it and completing the end of a book or the end of a script and that and don't stop halfway through don't get distracted complete it finish the thing do it for yourself if nothing else then if other people buy it if it gets turned into a tv show it gets published anything like that that's a really lovely bonus and it's very easy to forget that and i you know i've forgotten it three sentences ago i'm sure but it yeah it's gotta be because also that's what'll make it good and stand a better chance of actually completing its journey but as long as as long as you're happy writing it i think um that's that's where it's got to be i think you've got to be like that haven't you because what we've learned from interviewing people on this would be tv or novels being traditionally published there's an awful around the industry there's an awful thing of what's cool at the moment what's what sort of things agents and producers are looking for it's quite a narrow and if you go chasing that by the time you get there you've missed the mark so you so you've got to do what you believe in and hope that that's the kind of thing they're going to be looking at yeah and tv is the worst of that because it'll take a year to two years to get the thing made anyway so you've missed that yeah if you're chasing that but it happens all the time like modern family is successful so then there's you know 20 other family shows and you're like hang on that's that one's there why are we trying to do that why are we not looking for the exact opposite or something new and exciting it's something that you always have to overcome and especially with things like streaming where netflix are just sat in office all day reading an algorithm that tells you what people are watching it's an amazing story about that orange is the new black came about because netflix looked at their algorithm um in the early days and they saw that people were enjoying prison shows a lot and weeds um so the tv show reads and and things about prisons and crimes so they got the writer of weeds to create a tv show set in a prison i would love for that algorithm to go completely wrong and just mix two things that shouldn't be i don't know if you've seen bridgeton i feel that's happened well i did you know what that seems like other than there's probably there's probably about a half hour of other details we could talk about but maybe we should adrian thank you very much even the stuff we didn't bother recording that still took a valuable time i i do appreciate it genuinely enjoyed it even a bit people will never hear about thanks very much uh adrian and um yeah enjoy enjoy the rest of your life that's it that's it for us is it we're done forever very final engine isn't it no more conversations ever

wow that's it that's just yeah i was going to say stay in touch but apparently dave doesn't want to stay in touch so somebody brought a port kelly's down on that didn't they i genuinely enjoyed that all right thanks very much and um

well there you go that was the bit of the interview that we actually recorded which i'm glad we didn't have to describe his entire life yeah that would yeah it would be a really disappointing episode yeah it was um it was interesting that wasn't it just hearing about his hitting the big time and going over to america and it kind of working but just not quite not quite what he wanted to do it's like a dream isn't it you know i mean you you write something yeah and he could have stayed there and been successful and possibly broken through at some time but he just kind of felt he wasn't it was just kind of almost like it just became no longer a dream he woke from the dream it turned out to be not a dream yeah but very interesting so thank you very much adrian for coming on that was great hey chaps you know what we should do on the back of that we should move to l.a yeah let's go now yes let's do it oh let's just go and just see if we can get a job yeah no one does that yeah no well you could you could maybe become like a waitress or something john maybe to get by yeah yeah no i was going to say why don't we

yeah we could do that because coming up on the podcast at some point we'll i think we're going to rope my friend rich into coming on the podcast what does he use a tv commissioner oh that means he could even tell us he could give us an idea as to whether our ideas are any good we could just hit him with a load of amazing ideas what do you reckon we could we could do that couldn't we the more this podcast goes on the more vulnerable and exposed i feel yeah do you mean the more work we have to do yeah we no we just keep putting ourselves out there for rejection which i'm sure is entertaining for the listeners but we're doing it for on behalf of other people people are interested in the in the commissioning process and uh we we can take that rejection for them i think i'm still just smarting from the uh feedback from the microphone contest yeah that hit me hard that really is difficult to get over that isn't it so what do you think what do you think i think it's a terrible idea let's do it it's a good idea it is a good idea come on yeah so we put so we put a pitch together then we pitch to the commissioning executive and we find out his opinions of our pitch live on the show exactly all right but until then we should probably say goodbye

oh my god that's jeff goldblum over the watermelons

where's everybody gone

yeah we should point out that our our endings are getting weirder and weirder for some reason and tom just cuts them off um

well that's what we a lot of the time me and jonah's gone bye take care and then you go then there's a little pause and then dave comes in going bye then have a nice day just enjoy your lunch people it's been really you know [ __ ] abrupt and then john bless him feels the need to come in and join you just so you don't look silly talking about yourself oh now we're doing it again i said goodbye about five minutes ago just just stop all right goodbye everybody and then john will say goodbye yeah this is what happens it's happening again you're still talking yeah just stop talking bye bye see dave always asked to get the last have a nice day everyone look after yourselves bye then see ya

how did you like it

hi i'm michael parkinson and just for inquiring about further episodes of the failing writers podcast you'll receive this free pen what's that we've run out of pens

welcome everybody to another thrilling episode of the failing writers podcast and it is thrilling today isn't it it's kind of a special edition we're pushing back the boundaries of interviewing techniques really and we've tried something quite um quite special really yeah unheard of well what we've done is literally not recorded the first 30 minutes of quite an interesting interview yeah partly through incompetence well i don't know i think it does make no one's ever done this before tom like you said it's pushing the boundaries very experimentally i think we should you know other people should do this like to imagine that maybe like terry wagon or michael parkinson could have done this just live on tv just sat there with her arms folded for the first sort of 20 30 minutes it's one of those techniques it's one of those techniques isn't that way a lot of um a lot of writers just been like the first few chapters yeah yeah i guess effectively what we've done with this and so yeah anyway we're interviewing adrian poynton who's a comedy writer uh for tv and well we started off talking to him about how he kind of started off didn't we um so you should fill in some of the gaps that kind of this is the downside of deleting this first 30 minutes there's no other way that people will know is there so quite a lot of information we've missed out and some of this yeah some of this might be wrong as well because we might have misremembered

well i think we'll get it we'll get it pretty much spot yeah yeah um so he started off as a florist doing interpretive dance basing on the flowers is his immediate was that something like that yeah i don't know if he was actually thinking about it now i think he might have written a play yeah that sounds more powerful graham chapman didn't he have the idea in a lift an escalator yeah i think wasn't he was going up going it was an escalator he was going up he was going up wasn't he literally he was going up in the world wrote a play and took it to the edinburgh festival yep uh i believe got sort of good reviews oh it won an award it won an award tom it was an award-winning play i did fringe first got him some kudos and attention did he tour the play afterwards or it was on in london or something either the west end or off the west end i think it blew up a bit near the west end and then he went on to write um tv comedy white yes which was about 2 000 yeah during this period was he also doing stan he was yeah yeah as well or maybe he did that yes i think that's initially earning a crust as well i think there we go half an hour that was that three minutes and he was just starting to talk about uh the difference between writers rooms oh that's it because white van man was then sold to america and he was just starting to talk about the difference between writer's rooms in america and the uk that should that should segue into that i think so

so adrian why don't we just randomly uh let's just pick a topic to talk about um what about writer's rooms uh have you ever worked imagine that we've been talking for maybe half an hour

and the point where we would have got to is talking about writers rooms in the uk and then in the us maybe if you got the opportunity to work sure i mean yeah if i mean if i'd been talking for half an hour yeah and then we found yeah trying to get all right

yeah yeah i'm lucky i've worked in wright's rooms in britain and in in the us so i was um so after i came up with a man i got offered a job um on trolleyed on sky one um and they did this series uh that was that was rise room run which was quite unusual at that time for for the uk most most shows weren't there's a lot of kids tv stuff that was written writer's room wise so i'd done a bit of that and but this was one of the first ones that was processed yes properly doing it and what's weird about it is the writer's room only exists in america because they write so many episodes i think we forget that in in the year yeah that will you inhabit we just write ourselves oh it's six episodes one person could do that so you get good solid kind of you know consistency but it only really ever started happening because they were writing 24 episodes a series so they needed that group of writers not to burn each other out and they all started throwing the ball around in a room so we often look at america going oh wow the writer's room system and you kind of go yeah no it's not necessarily better that was necessity but now they've dropped to like 10 episode orders even sixes out there they still run the writers room because they've now lost confidence that one human being could ever do all of it this is a very strange balance yeah um so i yeah so we did trollied and the way that worked there was about what seven eight of us in a cold church loft in soho huddled around our coffee cups um just kind of working out what the series arc would be and and then dividing episodes out so there would be there was a guy who uh i guess you classed as a not script editor that's a different job a script developer i don't know what you'd call him and he was kind of running the writers script descriptive scripting looks criticisms um yeah and he he was um he was sort of guiding the room and we'd all sit around every day and um it would just be you know the six of us seven of us in the room and and um and your man so eight of us in there he wasn't a writer and um we would we would come up with ideas one of us would usually have a laptop open typing down what was said um in case anybody forgot it whereas in america there would be a team of uh script assistants uh on the laptop at the back all doing that so you'd just be sat talking um you wouldn't have to have one of us doing it because they've got money and so was was that like a hyper competitive environment in the uk was there a difference between the uk one i think the difference between the two is exactly that i think that the rooms in the uk that i've been in they seem to be firstly filled with what i would class as more true writers that sounds really offensive but they're people who had often written their own individual things and and didn't need to be in a room uh because they weren't just joke people there'd be people who were good at jokes and people who were good at like story but they they'd all be more all-rounders they were you know and a couple of people had written their own shows and things like that as well but but if you've given them their own show they could all sort of handle it i think my experience in america is it's very easy to hide in a writer's room in america and just be oh that's the joke guy he sits in the corner and says two sentences a day and they're really great but they're just jokes you know yeah so how did you how did you actually end up going to america then what was what was the process i was i was quite lucky in the um white van man the series i did for bbc three uh got bought by a company called the mark gordon company in america and they wanted to try and do a remake out there they had a deal with abc television and um they bought the project for them to try and do it um and i was writing series two of the uk show and had just committed to trolleyed so they applied um an american writer to write the main body of the script and i would sort of over i'd look over and give overview and be a co-creator on it um which is good because i didn't know the american market at all at that point in time and you know you think you do you don't know how to make american television they do it very differently um it's just a very different country and their tone of comedy is slightly different i realize now yeah uh it's a lot broader and the difference between american comedy and british comedy to sort of sidetrack a little bit and this has been said so much but it's worth saying again is that we're kind of victims over here and we like to be victims and in america they're funny guys because we as a country um well they as a country particularly are successful in their eyes america is all about success so you look at any character that's successful in a successful american tv comedy particularly and they make jokes okay if you look at the cast of friends yeah every single one of those if a laugh happens in this in the tv show friends it's because one of them usually has made a joke yeah whereas in britain it's because our trousers are hot boys fall into account or deal boys falling through the bar is the classic example the only person in the cast of friends that would fall through that bar is ross he's the only one and it's such a small difference that they're successful people filled with hope whereas over here we're not and actually the writers rooms they're very competitive in america and people don't just sit down at the table and go right let's all work together to make the best tv show they all sit down and go right i'm the best sit down and listen to me and it just becomes this ladder of people crawling over each other trying to get to the top so how did it actually develop with you actually moving over to america then because you're saying you were just like a script yeah so i i was a scripture zone on it and then i went over and got myself an american agent because i i realized that there was a point in time especially when the pilot was commissioned that i thought oh what's happening here is um usually as a writer or as anyone you're stood outside a door banging on it going hello can i come in and i suddenly went oh hang on we're they're making a pilot of a show that i created so everybody else's agents are in town banging on the door trying to get them a writing job on it so i can now go to america there's about a period of a month where i can turn up and go hi i'm the guy that did the thing um didn't want to sign me you know because because it was the only there was a window there where people knew my name because i'd done a thing that was going to get their writers they'd already got work so i rather sensibly got on a plane when i got an agent out there and then i thought you know what i'm gonna do i'm gonna go back when they're filming the pilot and i'm gonna hang around like a bad smell because for no other reason then i i just love television more than anything it's my favorite thing in the world and i thought i just want to be on a set in america where someone's making television i'll probably never get that opportunity ever again i want to see how they do i want to go to la and i want to sit there and the fact that it's something i kind of co-created and and have a lot of jokes and sort of co-wrote this one i get to sit there just giggling my tits off about this so i i went there and i just i turned up to set i was just a bit of a giddy giddy child but i sort of forgot that there was a possibility of work or anything like that or it should be impressing because i was i was just a kiddie child but what that ain't actually came across as was confidence and americans really respond to confidence so i'd be sad at like the tv the big like video village monitors and uh happily just you know giving everyone [ __ ] because i was having a laugh with everyone just having fun like what and then i went back to my hotel one night and went you really need to work out who some of these people are because you don't know what you're saying to anyone mate what are you doing and then it turned out actually that i just managed to make a good impression on the right people and luckily by the time i got back to the uk um i got a phone call from my agent saying abc want to sign you on a development deal they think you're you're a great writer and your shows are great so maybe you'd like to write some more with them that must have been a nice phone call it was ludicrous because i hadn't i've never had a plan i'm not someone who's gone and then i want to do this and then i want to do this um and so yeah so i was like great i'll do that and then the show yeah got commissioned to series i will say now a hundred percent because of who they cast in it as opposed to um it being good it was a it was a good show it's a good pilot but when you've got leah remini who'd done nine years on king of queens and jk simmons who you know um ended up winning oscar a couple years after it for whiplash and his jojo and jameson and spider-man you know you get you get noticed um so so we got commission series and um one of the i remember one of the producers had said to me if we get this as a series would you want to come out here and work on this and i'd gone oh yeah a course i would be great wouldn't it not really thinking it was actually a job offer and then it went serious and i got a phone call coming saying do you want to right you've got a development deal you could do that in britain if you want to but if you want to why don't you come and work in the writers room in america three days a week and then go off to your office and develop other stuff during the the rest of the time and i thought i can't yeah yeah yeah not do that and luckily um my wife had been in the job she was in for like nine years and was ready for a change and i just said i think we should do you want to do this yeah should we go and just go to california for a bit and see if it's fun and we honestly went out not knowing if we were gonna go for six months or six years or what but how exciting i i remember strangely i remember um thinking that it was the most exciting thing i'd ever heard of at the time your wife your wife was working becky was working at kiss in london and i used to do some uh scripts for her and i remember i must have seen a social media post that she said about it or something when she was leaving and i remember thinking that just sounds like the most exciting thing in the entire world like that was pretty much however you've written the series and you're off to america to make it that was just i was insanely jealous i remember it was it was so ludicrous to me that like somebody had said do you want to come and do this we'll pay for your flights we'll pay for your wife's flight as well here's because they were disney so they've got so much money they they were saying things like and we'll give you this amount of money to find somewhere to live it's like that what you know when you're used to just working in britain where even even if you're like a really well paid writer you still feel like when when they go oh yeah that's um yeah that's okay they've agreed like your agent will come back and finally go yeah the lawyers have agreed the fee on that one you still get the sense that they've gone all right but we're going down the back of the sofa for extra pounds on that come on yeah that's not a lot of money whereas america put sandwiches in the room but they'll just be cheese yeah exactly do not ask for ham you you know what happened when you asked for ham um yeah so but america because the you know abc's owned by disney so they were just doing anything to get me to go out there it felt like whereas i was sort of whispering to my agent at the time you know we're going right you know we're not wiping still throwing stuff like that shut up shut up stop being a human about it this is not the way america works they're throwing things at us

rearrange these words into the name of your favoritist podcast failing the writers yep that's right you're listening to writers failing the podcast

he said there was a difference the definite difference between the ethos in the writers room and the atmosphere there what was what was the rest of life like outside of writing just in terms of being over there culture wise well we call it our champagne years because we were having a writer the thing with america is it's a really interesting and exciting country and it's got you know every environment you could possibly go and want to see there's mountains there's snow there's the desert there's everything and they're all honestly when you're in la you can drive if you drive an hour in any direction you can pick it you can pick whatever climate you like uh unless you go left and then you get very wet um but the thing with with la particularly the town that when you first get there seems the greatest thing in the world but the longer you spend there actually becomes a negative is that everybody in that town is in that industry so everyone's a writer everyone's a director everyone's an actor everyone's you know everything in it usually one of those three because they're the big sexy jobs that people want and then producers and agents yeah so every party you go to even if it's just a mate's barbecue in their back garden all you talk about is work and all you get is that weird anxiety inside yourself when other people are going yeah i just sold this project you know like that i didn't sell a project this week does that mean i'm bad no no it doesn't do you wrong a thing you're on a show it's fine or or you know are you still allowed a burger yeah exactly and you can always feel other people kind of fronting up and not really necessarily being honest about you you get to a point where you just want someone to turn up to a bar and just go and you go how was your day and they go absolutely terrible i've had my agent can't get me any work i'm falling down the tree this is awful just nothing's happening for me it's horrible at the moment and you just wrap your arms around them and go yes which to be fair in england is exactly what would happen everyone just complaining about how shall you know even if you're having a mega success

but the thing with america is 98 of people in that town in l.a are doing exactly that they're not getting scripts so they're not because it's still like in britain goes to a very small amount of people but they're not honest because it's their country's all about you know being the best and you can grow up to be president so they all they all pretend it's going great because you don't want to be the only one in town does it feel like a bit of a game in that sense that everybody's it's it's more of a game than it is anything else it's all about it's all about representing who you want people to think you are and the work you think they you're getting because then people in rooms will go oh well he said he's doing this so we should do this with him as opposed to actually in i think a little i think there's it's always going to be that in the industry full stop but i think in britain you know if you write in it's really good they they will find it in the end and and you know that they like just good scripts it's not about oh but they're not anybody they haven't written three other scripts that have been good well of course they haven't you have to find at some point there has to be the first script that they get made um and and britain's better at that uh america's bad at that and very bad at pigeonholing people as well so i i went over there with a comedy and a certain type of comedy quite a mainstream comedy that was on a very mainstream itv-esque channel yeah so then that was what i wrote yeah that was who i was you know i would give in other ideas and that would be like a hbo style idea and my agents would get bit oh but no but they don't want this family yeah but that's what i'm inspired to write at the moment how did it all um end for you then the american adventure was it was it was it an abrupt end or was it kind of a slow moving back yeah it felt it felt so i did um family tools which was the remake of white van man for the years on the 13 episodes we did and did my development deal with that um got a script commissioned on that wrote the script um wasn't sure i liked abc and we weren't connecting in the right way and i didn't think they were necessarily right for me so my agent got me a development deal over at cbs um so i moved to cbs and did development stuff there and sort of was writing scripts and and certain ideas didn't feel i was getting close to getting uh stuff actually made getting getting the camera put in front of it because it's so competitive and they do like to give it to people they've had success with before and that's you know understandable there's a lot of money involved and i i then was also so i was developing my own stuff and working with new writers to try and develop their ideas and turn them into things with regard for me to be the show runner on their shows and i got to a point where i just i realized two things i realized i think i'm gonna get stuck in the cycle of development only here and they're going to pay me very very well and we're going to have a very nice life in california but i want to make television and i think i i will be able to say i'm a writer um but i don't know if i'm gonna necessarily get permit and then it's gonna like i'm just gonna become a grumpy man helping other people get shows made rather than putting faith back into myself and that's fine and that that's that's good and it's still better than a real job but it wasn't quite what i wanted and i i just i was missing britain there's a there's a tone to to the british sensibility that i i think i very much write within that we've been out there six and a half years and i was i was still getting development work i didn't really want to write in a writer's room again it's a there's a lot of long hours and it's quite an aggressive environment i just thought i'd rather be sitting at home writing what i want to write and then um we're missing our families and and more importantly we'd always sort of said that if it did go well out there if i was just being a development guy and and they were saying come in and pitch shows and we'll buy them off you i could do that from anywhere so i would come home do that go over there twice a year sell some shows come back write it all here and then if it ever got made maybe consider going back for a couple of months making the thing come back because i'd hit a point as well where i didn't need to be there so it was the conversation was not so much should we leave hollywood it was more of a should we go home and see our friends and families and be british again yeah so it was a mix of the two but they they were the main points of the conversation i think and happily came back thinking well this is great i'll uh i'll go back i'll do some american work while i remind people i'm in britain and then i'll i'll get some british work going just after that so we arrived um just as the right skill of america went on strike so i couldn't work there and then just as that was finishing up the pandemic hit so i can't work here so it's been a crack in two years yeah everyone loves a happy ending well do you know what i still work so right i've got i've got lots of nice things in development that sounded incredibly grumpy and bitter that's because you're back in the uk that's right that's the way exactly yeah he's come back it's still in the u.s you've been like i'm writing this i'm doing this got a lot of interest in this it's all going very well do you know what i i could do all that about the projects i've got here with various companies but what's the point who knows what's going to happen with them i've got stuff in development it's lovely i'm making money it's i'm very happy i'm writing i'd like to turn the camera back on again thanks

you're listening to the flailing writhers podcast

can i adrian just just uh i mean imagine a world where we had a conversation previously that someone may or may not have recorded and you mentioned about it i'm

yeah um yeah i think we all can and you mentioned about um kind of your first job if you like was doing stand-up comedy um what kind of stand-up comedian were you what was your what was your thing what was your style what was your i i think i was i was people like to say if you say you're a standard comedian

tell us a joke make us laugh can you can you yeah i i think that i was a writer in disguise as a stand-up and i didn't know it for a long time i liked being on stage i was very at ease performing yeah but i think that i was telling nice long-winded interweaving stories as opposed to just talking about my penis or or something that you know the the you know i think there's been a bit of a sea change in in comedy since maybe i was doing it but you know liverpool on a friday night didn't want what i was i was shoveling as much as um they don't want what most people are giving to be honest with you from this podcast one thing i've learned if we ever become stand-up comedians is don't go to liverpool yeah it seems to be a theme isn't it yeah has that been mentioned before

they're a great town they just um they're they're a funny town themselves and think they should be on stage as well that's the difference it's a fight um but yeah i was so i i was always i was always happier writing my material than i was performing it necessarily right and the things that i i got known and would get most of my work as was i was very loose with the audience and very that sounds like i slept with a lot of them um that's not what i meant i was i was very um chatty with the audience and uh you know trying to pick up on little bits about them and sort of do it so i'd get booked as a compare quite a lot which you know in many ways is a bit like writing because you're just picking up a piece of information and running with it and creating stories about it so i was always sort of my brain was that muscle was functioning correctly for what i should have been doing the whole time but the brilliant thing about that was because i would compare a lot and like warm up audiences and then bring on other comedians i ended up getting booked a lot as um a studio warm-up for uh tv shows which you know absolute dream come true for me that because not only did i just want to be in the audience of those shows anyway watching tv get made of brilliant comedies and bad ones sometimes as well but just it was amazing i also then would go to dress rehearsals to see the show before i then had to introduce it and stuff so i knew what was going on with it and i'd just sit in the audience and i could sit there and work out what everyone's job in production sort of was like oh that's a yeah that's the floor manager oh wait a minute floor manager is the same job as a first ad in film it's just got a different name here and you could see the way everything sort of worked so it was it was dreamy it was great wow so do do you feel that you've got any sort of uh like unfinished business in the states or is that sort of chapter closed and on on with something fresh i i feel at the moment i really want to get another couple of shows or just one show away here and sort of get my feet firmly back on the ground and bring because like i said the the i haven't had a chance to do much work here because of you know pandemics and stuff like that so i'd really like to just do a british show and remind myself what i love about british tv and go yeah there we are that's tv i've got you know i've written a few scripts for companies whilst being here so i've had a bit of that and it's it's been great so i'm very much into british tv which is you know more and more international anyway because with streaming services so your netflix and yeah you know all of that malarkey amazon and stuff like that there's just an ability to you used to have to sell a show here and then they'd remake it with different actors in america whereas now actually you can just make the best version of the show here if it's expensive you get a bit of money from america for them to screen as well in a co-production and um and you really can plant your feet in one country and and sell it all around the world and i think i also think we're making some of the best tv in the world at the moment there's there's been periods when we haven't and we haven't been able to compete but i think at the moment when you look at some of the stuff we're putting out there we're doing really good things well fingers crossed for some of the stuff that you've got uh in in development at the moment uh is is there like one sort of big thing you think this is this is gonna be the next big thing for me i think that do you know what there's two and one of them got turned down three weeks ago by everyone but well i know well but that's the job yeah honestly and the the half that half the thing say to anybody who wants to be a writer is well congratulations you're gonna sit you're about to get a lot of rejection but that's the thing that it doesn't matter because because when you've got i i know with this project that got turned down i think it's so good i really think it will go out with it in two years again and so someone will make it and if they don't do it then we'll go with it again in like another two and it'll get made so that one i'm confident and then another idea i'm just working at the moment i'm so excited by that if if somebody said what what would you like to do those would be my two projects i've got i've got like what i've got seven eight projects with different companies at the moment and they're all great and if anybody asks if they've listened to this podcast i'll say the one i'm speaking about now is definitely that i'm working on with them are they are some of those actually written or are they they all just treatments so a lot of those are at kind of a pitch stage where the way it was it might be quite interesting to just sort of talk through the way often pitching works here because maybe people don't know actually that much maybe they do maybe they don't um is often you go in you have a meeting and you'll you'll pitch an idea to a company and they'll go oh yeah that's great can you go and work that up a little bit and and you will try and work with them on a kind of pitch document which is maybe five eight pages of um so a bit about what the show's about who the characters are maybe a couple of of story ideas and then a bit of a wrap up about why the show should be made maybe what the title of it is and then that gets sent to commissioners and um then they go through it and hopefully you know at that point you've sold it to a production company so that you know your deal's already been done so you know what you would get if you were writing it so you can't argue with them about that at that point um and if they like it feel it's something that they want to put on the channel maybe they'll come back and go okay great um maybe they want to meet with you about it often they'll come back and go right write the first script and you'll write the first script if they like that maybe they'll make a pilot maybe they'll ask for another script or two and and sometimes they'll just come back and go great go and write a series if you're a bit more known as a writer so with projects i've got around place i'd say the majority of them have just been either gone out at pitch dock and the stage and the one that just got turned down was bought by a tv channel and then turned down a script stage and then uh the one i'm about to go out with soon i've just written up uh the pitch doc but it's quite a complicated show it's now a long kind of comedy drama type thing but it's the plot's quite complicated so i've written like a 12-page kind of bible of this kind of is what it is and this is basically the story and and i think actually you just have to do the work sometimes with things like that and do what you need to do to really sell the show because they get so many there are so many production companies pitching things yeah they get so many um so many pitches you've got to make it bulletproof you've got to challenge them to not compassionately it sounds like it can yeah it can bomb at any point oh it's it's a tightrope the whole the whole thing is a tightrope walk you have to get to the point with tv and been scriptwriting tv where you think like whatever that last project with mine is i said you have to really think to yourself and sometimes it sounds arrogant but it's not you just have to think okay it wasn't for them now or i think it's important that every time you go out with a script or a project that you've put so much work into it and done so much beyond what they've paid you for it that when they turn it down you get to go well they're wrong and really believe that yeah there's nothing worse than than than going out with a project and uh then turning it down and you go in yeah i can see why you did that

i mean i mean yeah yeah there was some good stuff in it but i could have done better it sounds like you're a very resilient person you've gotta be you don't spend many nights crying into your place obviously no but that's because well no not about this no um i've been around it as a job so long that i'm aware of a few things and the main things are one it's a very silly job because i'm doing something i love in in a way that occasionally when i get paid i get paid very nicely for it and it seems silly to me that anybody would ever pay money for something that's this much fun that i love doing this much but at the same time i know that it's hard and there are many people that want to do the job that i get to do occasionally and a lot of time don't get to do and they're snapping at my heels and i'm snapping at their heels and there's only you know x amount of spaces to put things on tv and there's a lot more writers and a lot more projects you know it's not just like one one right gets a project each per year you know we've all got a lot out there so you think about that you're like god it's it's really competitive but you just have to overcome that and think yeah but is it worth it and i i just love being a writer writing is great it's loads of fun it helps yeah it helps to love the process definitely it really yeah yeah you really have to say to yourself am i prepared for a lot of no's and a lot of pain um even that stuff might have worked in america that's like part of the dream and i still get to sit here going oh that was a rough week oh that hurt that way this week and you know i've done i've done good work i've done i get meetings with people you know there's people who can't even get meetings because they're new and people don't know who they are and it's competitive out there but yeah the pain that we you feel at the at any level you do at all levels yeah i'm loathe to ask this but is there any particular like stab in the heart that that you remember that you know was there anything that just really hurt like something you really believed in in it it came crashing down we're big on failure on this podcast yeah no those projects i did in america that just felt like it was bulletproof i got um oh well i'll say it was it was a tv project and i got will arnett the uh actor who was in arrested development and voice batman um he was a producer and was going to be in it and it was with a massive production company and we got a couple of other big cast members and the script was consistently to a point where it was it was really good where people just weren't giving notes on it because they'd read it and go yeah that's really good and it was everything that one of the networks needed at the time and it just we we hit a point where i think we all started to think oh my god this is gonna happen isn't it this is yeah great this is gonna happen and um you start to realize i realize now you can never predict television at all everything was aligned everything was perfect people at the network producers were going yeah this is that's gonna be yeah this is happening this is gonna happen and then um fox made a project that was nearly identical to it so we got shut down within a week we were all just sat there not even going oh god that's unfortunate we were going how did none of us know that one was happening it was it was insane it was just um we were we were you could feel cameras like being hired to we were that close and we're like that hang on but they haven't got why why is that one we've got these this cast we've got this guy he's the voice of lego batman what's happening um yeah so there's been a few like that that does seem to happen yeah there is there is a phenomenon in hollywood isn't there about that especially with films where you get films coming out in pairs because yeah similar ideas have been optioned and then they get wind of yeah um one one studio making something and then they fast track the other one so often the one that's released first is the is a rubbish film oh it's been released quickly and under on a small budget to sweep up as much of that money as possible yeah so when the second film comes out it's like oh that spit too much like that one yeah so that yes yeah that's that's clearly what happened with us they'd uh they'd heard the buzz about the show and yeah and we made it we better make a crappy version of this pretty quick just get it out quick as well so we got shut down as opposed to just going well why don't we make the pilot anyway or just put it on anyway and then the other one only went to they didn't even get a pilot i think they wrote the script no they made the pilot and then just put it in a bin hang on bloody what's up but that's that again that's the jacket how close were they there you know when he said was it spooky close or was it just kind of yeah the setting was the setting was identical and it was a really quite obscure set i won't say what it is in case no no no no no no no you're not but um yeah the setting was identical and it was a really unique setting and so some of the setup and that the the basic premise the whole show it was one of those ones you couldn't put them on and not have someone go well that's the same show isn't that on a different channel even if the characters and everything inside it was different it was the same show but that's you know that's it's a classic thing that when you get a great idea like i was saying earlier when you said have you got an idea you're very excited by that's like that oh this one um part of you when someone says that to you and you or you have a really good idea that your heart starts being faster because you're panicking thinking i've got to get this out there to some people to get this commission because i can't be the only one that's had this idea because sometimes ideas feel so yeah like like they don't belong to you that you just picked them out of the east yeah because it's such a good idea that sometimes you're sitting around going i mean this is someone's done this before right haven't there's nobody done this before because this feels like this is obvious isn't this so good it's obvious um and whether it is or not maybe you're wrong maybe you just feel that i'm not actually arrogantly saying this is the best project i've ever thought of but i'm thinking oh my god that's maybe that's this is it but then you start panicking that you're trying to get it out there as quick as possible before some other idiot steals your thunder yeah it's much like christa berg said in the classic song missing you isn't it uh if i if i say you're beautiful someone else is going to think it too and christaberg he can he can sum things up like that yeah it's a great analogy though yeah

when that happens with a project like that do you think is it sort of is it better if the the other one falls on its ass or are you hoping that actually it turns out to be really good so you can go oh actually yeah fair enough they yeah there's a week at the beginning when you hope that um the set catches fire and all of that stuff um but then but then it's exactly that you you want the idea to be so good you there's nothing you don't want to sit there going right we've made a really terrible version of that and mine was excellent you want you want to sit there going oh thank god all right yeah no we we weren't better than that no we weren't that was that's the best version of that okay everybody walk away and how did that one play out i mean i don't know i i didn't i didn't watch the pilot somebody offered me the script once and said do you want to join my video and i went for it i just didn't i wasn't interested also because i think at that point in time i tried to move my brain onto other things yeah yeah very well it's so hard you must know this as i think all writers know this that it's very hard sometimes to just leave a project behind when it doesn't feel like it's got to a point of completion but you know i write tv mostly um and when i write a script it's very nice you get to the end of the script and you go oh i've written a script but you don't want that you wrote it so it would become a television series or a television film or something like that so to not get to achieve the end is you know when you write a book you can be really proud that you've written a novel but you know it doesn't feel like it's done until people are able to go to a bookshop and read it you know emailing it to your cousin doesn't feel the same as as having it printed by somebody else yeah there's there's an element of pride in that and and yeah and you know god if you've written a book or you've written a film or a script for tv you should be so proud of yourself because most people don't finish things but it really is there's there's a point where sometimes it's hard to to leave them behind because you just think no i'm not done with that that that i've got other episodes of that right i'm not done with the story of that so the hardest thing is to fight and go no i've got to park that for a little bit even if it's not done i've got to leave it and then yeah get on and do other other projects because then maybe i can come back to that one when i'm massively successful off this other thing that i haven't thought yet but you know that doesn't stop at any point does it because the hardest thing about the job is is even when you have a massive success you know you've got the advantage that doors are a bit more open to you and maybe people want to see what you're doing next but you still have to think of it yeah yeah it's like an old computer game you know the ones where you didn't save them that when you died three times you had to go back right to the beginning of the platform going and running it's a bit like that but maybe you get to start a bit further on because you're a bit more known but you have to come up with an idea it has to be a good one and then you've only got the expectation yeah as well some of the development stuff you're like that i don't want to show them this yet it's absolutely shite but but and this sounds like a horrible tweet thing to say and then also like conclusion wrap up bit of coolness so i've already put a button on this but honestly if you're a writer i really think that the writing is the thing that must make you happy and therefore the ideas that you're writing have to be the ones that make you happy to write them and you're excited to write because really that's what it should be it's the pureness of actually writing it and completing the end of a book or the end of a script and that and don't stop halfway through don't get distracted complete it finish the thing do it for yourself if nothing else then if other people buy it if it gets turned into a tv show it gets published anything like that that's a really lovely bonus and it's very easy to forget that and i you know i've forgotten it three sentences ago i'm sure but it yeah it's gotta be because also that's what'll make it good and stand a better chance of actually completing its journey but as long as as long as you're happy writing it i think um that's that's where it's got to be i think you've got to be like that haven't you because what we've learned from interviewing people on this would be tv or novels being traditionally published there's an awful around the industry there's an awful thing of what's cool at the moment what's what sort of things agents and producers are looking for it's quite a narrow and if you go chasing that by the time you get there you've missed the mark so you so you've got to do what you believe in and hope that that's the kind of thing they're going to be looking at yeah and tv is the worst of that because it'll take a year to two years to get the thing made anyway so you've missed that yeah if you're chasing that but it happens all the time like modern family is successful so then there's you know 20 other family shows and you're like hang on that's that one's there why are we trying to do that why are we not looking for the exact opposite or something new and exciting it's something that you always have to overcome and especially with things like streaming where netflix are just sat in office all day reading an algorithm that tells you what people are watching it's an amazing story about that orange is the new black came about because netflix looked at their algorithm um in the early days and they saw that people were enjoying prison shows a lot and weeds um so the tv show reads and and things about prisons and crimes so they got the writer of weeds to create a tv show set in a prison i would love for that algorithm to go completely wrong and just mix two things that shouldn't be i don't know if you've seen bridgeton i feel that's happened well i did you know what that seems like other than there's probably there's probably about a half hour of other details we could talk about but maybe we should adrian thank you very much even the stuff we didn't bother recording that still took a valuable time i i do appreciate it genuinely enjoyed it even a bit people will never hear about thanks very much uh adrian and um yeah enjoy enjoy the rest of your life that's it that's it for us is it we're done forever very final engine isn't it no more conversations ever

wow that's it that's just yeah i was going to say stay in touch but apparently dave doesn't want to stay in touch so somebody brought a port kelly's down on that didn't they i genuinely enjoyed that all right thanks very much and um

well there you go that was the bit of the interview that we actually recorded which i'm glad we didn't have to describe his entire life yeah that would yeah it would be a really disappointing episode yeah it was um it was interesting that wasn't it just hearing about his hitting the big time and going over to america and it kind of working but just not quite not quite what he wanted to do it's like a dream isn't it you know i mean you you write something yeah and he could have stayed there and been successful and possibly broken through at some time but he just kind of felt he wasn't it was just kind of almost like it just became no longer a dream he woke from the dream it turned out to be not a dream yeah but very interesting so thank you very much adrian for coming on that was great hey chaps you know what we should do on the back of that we should move to l.a yeah let's go now yes let's do it oh let's just go and just see if we can get a job yeah no one does that yeah no well you could you could maybe become like a waitress or something john maybe to get by yeah yeah no i was going to say why don't we

yeah we could do that because coming up on the podcast at some point we'll i think we're going to rope my friend rich into coming on the podcast what does he use a tv commissioner oh that means he could even tell us he could give us an idea as to whether our ideas are any good we could just hit him with a load of amazing ideas what do you reckon we could we could do that couldn't we the more this podcast goes on the more vulnerable and exposed i feel yeah do you mean the more work we have to do yeah we no we just keep putting ourselves out there for rejection which i'm sure is entertaining for the listeners but we're doing it for on behalf of other people people are interested in the in the commissioning process and uh we we can take that rejection for them i think i'm still just smarting from the uh feedback from the microphone contest yeah that hit me hard that really is difficult to get over that isn't it so what do you think what do you think i think it's a terrible idea let's do it it's a good idea it is a good idea come on yeah so we put so we put a pitch together then we pitch to the commissioning executive and we find out his opinions of our pitch live on the show exactly all right but until then we should probably say goodbye

oh my god that's jeff goldblum over the watermelons

where's everybody gone

yeah we should point out that our our endings are getting weirder and weirder for some reason and tom just cuts them off um

well that's what we a lot of the time me and jonah's gone bye take care and then you go then there's a little pause and then dave comes in going bye then have a nice day just enjoy your lunch people it's been really you know [ __ ] abrupt and then john bless him feels the need to come in and join you just so you don't look silly talking about yourself oh now we're doing it again i said goodbye about five minutes ago just just stop all right goodbye everybody and then john will say goodbye yeah this is what happens it's happening again you're still talking yeah just stop talking bye bye see dave always asked to get the last have a nice day everyone look after yourselves bye then see ya

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Adrian Poynton

Adrian Poynton (born 29 January 1979) is a British screenwriter, playwright and stand up comedian. He is best known as the creator and writer of BBC Three comedy White Van Man and its American remake Family Tools. He has written projects for BBC, ITV, Sky, ABC and CBS.