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Friday, 21 January 2011

Without (self) promotion something terrible happens. Nothing!

So said P.T Barnum, the US showman. I was thinking about this after reading an article in Jezebel about self-promotion for girls (without being a jerk). Americans are generally much better at self-promotion anyway. Possibly because they only get a lousy nine days annual leave per year. I remember reading about how David Hassellhoff, after Baywatch and before American Idol, was in the UK trying to relaunch his career, and after appearing on a daytime chat show, he handed out copies of his CV to the audience with a note: Thank you for taking an interest in my career.


On the other hand, a very good friend of mine who happens to be married to a television producer, said that during a party, a girl they knew slightly presented her television showreel to her slightly pissed husband, asking if he would give her some feedback, there and then. Equally yuck.

Without delving into the whole Self Esteem thing, in Blighty we seem to pride ourselves on career self-deprecation to the point of not just hiding our light under a bushel but burying it fifty miles underground. That book you wrote? Well . . .you don't want to boast because mum said that men don't like bluestockings. That script? So she wrote a script but have you seen the state of her kitchen cupboards . . .tsk tsk! An Oscar?! It's in the downstairs toilet! I'm ashamed to admit that just after a series I'd written received a good review, I was with my producer and he enthusiastically mentioned the review to a third party. I went red and mumbled something about 'not doing that much and it was down to casting.' Embarrassing because all I had to do was say, 'Yes I'm very proud.' What was I scared of? A person I'd just met over lunch might think me big headed?


So many of us are freelance and we have to learn to get out there and promote our work, without pissing people off. It seems to boil down to a couple of rules.

1. Inform, don't brag. Say 'you've been interested in my work in the past so I thought you'd be interested in . . .'

2. Be clear about what you want in your own mind. 'I want a 10% raise. Here's why . . .'

3. Be low key. Facts and information rather than bluff and bravado.

4. Don't mix messages. Christmas and birthday cards which include work plugs are really irritating.

5. Use other people's words about you.

6. Be generous. Not in a creepy 'you scratch my back' way but if you get a tip off that you know could help someone else, do it. It takes a while but you do build up a bank of good will, especially if you don't expect an immediate return. This is very important with freelancing. I don't understand the attitude of there's only a finite amount of luck and goodwill to go round.

Oh and this good friend who is married to a television producer? She suggested keeping a Nice Things File. It sounds so simple and it is. You just write down every nice remark that anybody makes about your work, professional or friend. It's the equivalent of an electric blanket on a freezing night. Because I don't know about you but I often need a nudge to remember the kind words but all the nasty ones are burned into my memory.

Any other self promotion ideas?

*David Hasselhoff

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Cheers to Miriam O'Reilly.

The cult of the older women ie any woman over 35 is based on the 'well you would wouldn't you?' scenario, so what it really means is, do we still want to fuck her? I wonder if that's the secret measuring stick used by the BBC to justify their decision to replace ooh say Arlene Phillips with the blandoid Alesha Dixon who now sits between two desiccated old men, Bruce Forsythe and Len Goodman.

But anyway whether you 'would' or not, in a business where women are still valued primarily on their looks and 'fuckability' Miriam O'Reilly has won a landmark case and really really embarrassed all those short (they are) white, middle aged men who run the BBC. Miriam was let go from Countryfile but not before a series of ominous remarks were made about her wrinkles showing on high definition television. She was replaced by a younger woman, and (surprise!) all her ideas for further programmes which had been so enthusiastically received were suddenly dropped along with her. It would have taken a lot of courage to go to tribunal especially when it means making an enemy of a very powerful organisation.

Miriam interviewed me once, when she was standing in for Jenni Murray on Woman's Hour. I had just written a series about girls comics called 43 Years in the Third Form and we were talking about the wonderful old comics like Bunty and Jackie. When we'd finished recording we chatted more and she mentioned that she'd been brought up in Balbriggan, a once small suburb of Dublin, and where my dad was born. She told me that the nuns at her convent school placed little black lace mantillas on all the little girls heads as they went into church. Every little girl that is, but Miriam, who was made to wear a blue bobble hat. 'Why?' I asked. 'I never found out,' said Miriam, 'but my mum was the only mother who wore high heels and lipstick when she came to pick me up.' While I sat stunned at this example of contemptible cruelty, Miriam shrugged. 'At that point, I made up my mind to get out of there and come to England,' she said. Maybe a similar kind of grit has gotten her through the last fourteen months and to a resounding victory.

And one of the most interesting points raised by the tribunal is this:
The discrimination was not justified. The wish to appeal to a prime-time audience, including younger viewers, is a legitimate aim. However, we do not accept that it has been established that choosing younger presenters is required to appeal to such an audience

So the BBC (run by white, middle aged - short - that's very important - men) are obsessed with youth but their get-rid-of-the menopausal-old-bat-and-stick-a-pretty-face-in-there-instead formula doesn't get the audiences in. Julian Fellowes, the Oscar winning script writer, has said that television executives are 'obsessed with this mythical youth audience,' whereas the average age of the televison watcher is 52. Drama in particular is watched by older people, but ask any script writer and they will tell you the first words out of the executives' mouths will be: 'Can we cast young?' as though if you put a bunch of pretty people on screen, the audience won't notice the shoddy script. In fact what usually happens is give it enough of a push and the audience will tune in for one episode, but however young the cast - if it's rubbish they won't tune in for episode two or three or four.

Which reminds me. I haven't seen any of those ads for Build Your Own Set of Miniature Boer War Soldiers. Part One only £1.50 with part two, three, four, five, six, seven . . . .free! Or How to Stick Bits of Felt onto Stuff, part one only 0.75p with part two, three etc etc. Not one of these ads. So maybe this recession has a slight upside.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Fear + Hollywood + Money + Career =

Arrrghhhh! Will you look at the rubberised face of the utterly beautiful Nicole Kidman? I said that I'd had my forehead botoxed in my last post and what with oddly blank, expresssionless celebs, or Jocelyn Wildenstein horror stories, our perception of botox seems to be wrapped up in a toxic stew of vanity, fear of ageing, too much money and deluded notions of holding back time. And by the way, while everyone had a horror stricken laugh at the poor woman's face, let's not forget she did it in an attempt to keep her relationship together. But I don't think botox is any more madly induldgent than spending a fortune on some dubious face cream, and at least it works. Also I know it's not going to stop me ageing but I do feel loads better having a nicely smooth forehead that still moves, and leaving the rest of my face alone. The other thing my chatty botox doctor mentioned, apart from leaving the eyes alone unless they are very lined, was that the frozen face sydrome is also caused by having the bottom half of your face botoxed (around the nose, mouth and neck) instead of just a little in the upper area - frown lines, glabella (between the eyes) and a teeeny weeeny bit round the eyes themselves. Oh and it does hurt a bit. Like you're being attacked by a very pissed off (and persistent) bee. You can get an anaesthetic but apparently they're not very effective because of the problem of needle on bone. But don't go into one of those high street salons that offer any needle related products - you want someone who is very very experienced, and a properly qualified doctor or nurse. Botox may not be permanent but too much of the stuff or improperly injected, and you can look like a stroke victim for a couple of months. Applied by a professional and a nervous beauty therapist who's just done a weekend course is the difference between an artist wielding a brush, and a dog with its tail dipped in a paint pot.

Although having said that, I'm sure the surgeon who worked on La Kidman was not an orange faced teenage therapist, but she still ended up looking like she'd been dipped in formaldehyde.

As for those who exhort younger actresses to 'embrace their wrinkles' (Yes I'm talking to you Jane Fonda - no stranger to the scalpel yourself missy)- funny how the people who witter on about loving their wrinkles are always the ones who have both the choice and the funds to minimise them?

Friday, 7 January 2011

It's January . . . .it's raining . . . and The Girl is . . . .

. . . running round the house iPodded up, and tunelessly singing, Hey Hey You You! I wanna be your girlfriend! courtesy of Avril Lavigne. Avril wants to go out with this guy because his current girlfriend is like soooo whatever . . . and I was telling The Girl that 'like' shouldn't be used as a verb or when quoting someone or to approximate (He was like what are you doing and she was like none of your business and it turned out that he was like . . hairy). The Girl looked at me and I could see she was thinking: Like whatever.

First resolution. Try to communicate with fast growing daughter without sounding prissy or anything approximating a cat's bum mouth.

Second resolution. (This one is really embarrassing) Stop having imaginary conversations with people who have wronged me. Or even worse imaginary conversations about events that haven't happened yet. This is like a major waste of time.

Third resolution. One of the many crap things about getting older is your wrinkles start spreading like cracks on a windscreen. I've taken a stand against this, not by making friends with my wrinkles which is the sort of shit beauty editors come out with (and I should know - I worked in magazines) or buying ANYTHING from Space NK with phrases like science and beauty combined or vectin or NASA in the title. I'm still smarting from buying shampoo by Oribe at £35!!! Yes I am a fool. And even more so when I checked the ingredients online:

sodium laureth sulfate, TEA-lauryl sulfate, lauramidopropyl betaine, cocamide MEA, glyceryl cocoate and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate.

Then I checked the ingredients for Aussie Miracle Moist, my usual shampoo at £3.99 Hang on while I cut and paste:

Aqua, sodium laureth sulfate, TEA-lauryl sulfate, lauramidopropyl betaine, cocamide MEA, glyceryl cocoate and disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, Tetrasodium.
Aussie Miracle Moist has more water in it and something called Tetrasodium. Apart from that - same ingredients.

I'm still smarting in shame.

Anyway I massively digress. But the thing about wrinkles is they advance very slowwwwlly like Burnham Woods in Macbeth. Before you know it you're surrounded. So I had a Botox jab before Christmas. I'm sure some of you are raising your eyebrows in disapproval. (I wish I could). However, it was done properly by a trained doctor and not by an orange faced lady waving a needle about. And the doctor herself gave me some very sensible advice. Never get your eye wrinkles botoxed, she said, because it's ok to have a smooth forehead, but if you smile and your eyes don't crinkle up, it looks weird. Really weird.

Went home and Husband deliberately started a row just so he could piss himself laughing when I tried and failed to frown. Ah well. It's New Year and I'm better botoxed than detoxed.