Spotted in today’s Guardian Comment is Free - a lively discussion on the rejection letter to celebrated filmmaker, Tony Palmer, from the BBC when he pitched his doco on the life of composer, Vaughan Williams. The film is now scheduled to screen on that champion of arts programming, Channel Five.
As rejections go, the BBC letter’s too good to be faked, as some sceptics suggest.
“Dear Mr Palmer,
Thank you for your enquiry about the composer Mr V Williams. Having looked at our own activity via the lens of find, play & share, we came to the conclusion that a film about Mr Williams would not be appropriate at this time. This is essentially because we are... reconstructing the architecture of bbc.co.uk, and to do that, we need to maximise the routes to content.
We must establish the tools that allow shared behaviours, and so harness the power of the audience and our network to make our content more findable. We have decided to take a radically new approach... and therefore free resources for projects of real ambition... So, given that this is the new vision for Vision, you will understand why a film about Mr V Williams such as you have proposed does not fit our remit. But good luck with the project, and do let me know if Mr V Williams has an important premiere in the future as this findability might allow us to reconsider.”
Cracker, isn’t it?
No signature, but who cares? When somebody’s kicking your teeth in, you don’t pay that much attention to who’s wearing the boots, although I think it’s more to do with Mr Palmer looking to spare somebody’s blushes. Still, the letter could have been written by any number of 20-year-old Oxbridge graduates fondling their way up Auntie’s skirts. Never mind the sheer ignorance – eg. V. Williams, or the idea he's got an upcoming gig – phrases like ‘lens of find’ and ‘play and share’ are absolute gems of consultantese. As one commentator pointed out, this is the outfit that can put you in jail for not having a TV licence.
Being no stranger to rejection letters myself – from agents, producers, funders – I just wish they could be a bit more a) truthful and b) imaginative. The standard two-line letter telling you how the standard of applications was SO high is really just saying ‘by the way, you’re crap’. I’d rather hear that than how other folk are more talented.
Mislaid scripts and paperwork is another ruse. How many times have I heard that so-and-so had your script on their desk three months ago but how it mysteriously vanished. Where, into their shredder/recycle bin?
Come on, Tony, be a man about it. Time to name and shame. Folk go to jail for less.