But then Kevin the producer and his script editor Bill called him in for a series of one-to-one meetings.
Ian left each one feeling bruised and confused.
Every draft he did of his single episode seemed to get worse and worse, in their eyes.
‘Can’t you see?’ Kevin shouted. ‘It’s just shitty! And it’s getting shittier and shittier! And that’s why we’ve called you in, yet again, for an emergency meeting this time. We want to give you every chance to get it right, but that only goes up to a certain point. We’re getting to the stage where my Exec needs to see this and I’m not happy about handing it over in this state. This, what you’ve written, Ian – five times now – is still shit. It’s worse than shit. It’s like the scum on the shit it was five drafts ago.’
Bill the script editor smiled and shrugged from behind his computer.
Ian didn’t know what to say. It was like all his life force was draining out of him via the squeaky swivel chair he was sitting on. He hardly dared move or breathe. He saw that he had got everything completely wrong.
Kevin was going on, ‘We think you’re good. Or, we did do, at the start. But you’ve lost it completely, haven’t you? Look at this. Have you even read it back through? It doesn’t make any sense at all. No one, not one of them, is talking about what they should be talking about. It’s as if you’ve completely ignored the story-lining document and gone off in your own direction. What are all these twats talking about? Frigging nonsense!’
Ian tried to break in, saying that he was trying to show how distant the characters were from each other by giving them rather stilted chitchat…
‘Stilted chitchat?’ Kevin shouted. He was getting a bit shrieky by now. He actually stood up and for a moment Ian thought he was going to punch him. ‘Who wants to listen to stilted frigging chitchat? Is that why we shell out millions of pounds to produce quality, ratings-grabbing, world class telly? Is that what our viewers want to sit down to watch? Is that why they want to vote for us at the frigging BAFTAS and the TV Quick awards? The Stilted Chitchat Show? Are you frigging joking? They want drama. Quality frigging drama. And do you know what that is, Ian?’
He was looking down at his script. Kevin was right. It was terrible. Ian must have been in a dream. What had he been thinking of? Battering away at Liz’s word processor in her ground floor flat. Staring through the venetian blinds at the geese wobbling by and the cats slinking under the cars. Going over and over the same scenes and crunching down the lines of dialogue till they were as small and as real as he could make them.
‘Drama isn’t what you’ve written. Drama is her saying, ‘Look, Mike. I know you don’t love me anymore.’ And him saying, ‘I do, Hannah! I love you more than ever!’ And her going, ‘No, you’re lying!’ And him going, ‘But I do!’ And her saying, ‘I can feel it. Deep down. I know what’s true.’ There! That’s off the top of my head but there’s more real drama in that than the pile of shite you’ve given us. It’s pathos! It’s real life! And it’s eight million bastards sat at home on their settees thinking, ‘Shit! She’s actually saying it! She’s coming out with the truth!’ That’s eight million inarticulate bastards, Ian, and they’re all living dull little lives full of awkward chitchat. You see, they want to hear the twats on telly saying exactly what’s in their heads. They want to hear those twats saying exactly what they mean. They want her to tell him he’s wrong when he lies and tells her he still loves her. We all know he’s talking out of his arse and we want to hear her call him out! That’s drama, Ian. That’s soap. And you haven’t got a clue about it. Everything you’ve turned in for three months has been just frigging awful. You haven’t got a clue about bringing out the subtext. It’s clear you never knew what we were on about at all. And so, you’ve had your last chance, lovey. And you’re out.’
Before he knew it, Ian was out in the corridor. He caught a glimpse of Bill the script editor giving him a sympathetic look. The door slammed, and he heard even more shouting, a bit muffled.
Then he was leaving. He was heading back to the lift. He was out of there.