Thursday, 26 August 2010

Preparing for the hell of MGEITF by flying Ryanair

If you are about to take leave of your senses and enter the seventh circle of 21st Century hell - also known as the Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival - then what better way to prepare yourself for the inferno than flying Ryanair.

I am sitting writing this in what passes for a bar in Biarritz Airport, having just been fleeced of an additional €40 by one of Michael Ryan’s fork-tailed minions, for failing to check-in online in advance for my return flight. To make matters worse, as I sat sulphurous with rage after this brush with a very modern devil, I glanced up at the departures board to be informed that my flight to Stansted was delayed by three hours, meaning I will miss my intended connection north. Having shat in my mouth, the spawn of Satan is forcing me to swallow it.

And what further mortifications await me in bonny Scotland? The last time I attended the festival, after Hincks begged me for moral support in his first year as festival chair, I had a suite at the Sheraton. This time, with Luce controlling the purse strings, we are staying in a small family hotel so close to the airport that they may tannoy us to come down to breakfast.

The whole weekend will be a chastening reminder of my changing circumstance. When your commissioning budget runs to nine figures, as mine did not so very long ago, then you are a very big beast indeed in the Edinburgh undergrowth; like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, you can disturb the surface of a hundred glasses of sauvignon blanc just by coming within half a mile of the bar of The George Hotel. You may combine Steve Hewlett’s waistline with Alex Graham’s hairline, but you’ll still attract admiring glances and awe-struck whispers from the desperate crowd of networkers as you sweep by.

But this year, for the very first time, I will be joining the milling throng of desperate supplicants, pretending to listen to the gripes and grumbles of my fellow producers while scanning the room out of the corner of my eye searching for anyone with even a passing resemblance to a commissioning editor. I will have to endure the endless smirks of my fellow indies – the sort of c-graders that I've managed to keep off my lunch list for the last thirty years - as they inquire how I am finding life on their side of the fence. For some reason, the laundry scene from The Shawshank Redemption keeps popping into my head.

I begged Luce not to make me come, but she was absolutely adamant, doubly so after the Broadcast profile she was counting on fell through (despite the assurances of some thirteen-year-old at Freuds that it was ‘in the bag’). I have explained to her that barely anyone that matters goes to Edinburgh these days – most BBC executives don’t want ‘mini bar at the Caledonian’ popping up in the Mail’s next account of corporation expenses and the Channel 4 lot don’t see the point since the Soho House closed its doors. But Luce waved aside my protests, insisting we need to raise our profile and let anyone and everyone know that Admirable Productions is open for business. She has me lined up to offer Newsnight a comment after The Bishop’s opening night sermon and is egging me on to ask a question at the Post MacTaggart Q&A the following morning.

It will only take The Bearded One to pretend not to recognise me, as I stand there mic in hand beneath the house lights, like a right Rodney, and my ritual humiliation will be complete.

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