The Hard Way Part II of III by Amanda Graham

You know when something magical happens and it feels like things are going to go your way? 

That was the feeling. 

It seemed as though my life was finally going to turn around. 

After years in tv documentary production and some time doing stand up, I finally was in my first BBC writers room. 

I’m doing it! I’m really doing it! 

But holy hell, did I feel intimidated. I was cringing inside. It was impostor syndrome on steroids and after a couple of years of hardcore depression. It was huge, and it wasn’t budging. 

The first meeting everyone around the table had to say who they were and all the crazy amazing things they accomplished. 

And as each person talked about all the shows they’d written, their YouTube channels with a million followers, and that time they landed on the Moon, and I sat there, waiting for my turn, wondering what the hell I could say that would sound remotely impressive. 

Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god. 

Here was the thing though. When it got to be my turn, I just said what I had done over the past few years, said I was intimidated by everyone, and guess what…

…the sun came up the next day. The world didn’t implode. 

And what was wild was our job at that writers room weekend was to come up with ideas for 2 different tv shows (including a Sesame Street show OMG) and pitch them. 

And they loved my pitch and I sold my first script. And the millisecond I did I cancelled every single one of my booked stand up gigs. Gone was the anxiety and the worry and the stage fright that came with stand up. Here I was on my new career with writing tv and I had finally made it! 

(or so I thought)

There are few words that can accurately describe the insane rush of watching your show being made live. Listening to performers say your lines and watching all these kids falling all over themselves with laughter. 

I was so giddy and felt amazing and it was such an accomplishment and right away I was ready for more more more. So I got meetings with different shows and within about 6 months wrote 13 scripts in total for kids’ telly. 

And funnily enough, as it happens with so many of us, I thought that was it- I was set. I had made the change and wow was this so much easier than I thought it was going to be why does everyone say it’s nearly impossible?!!! 

I was about to find out that it is indeed nearly impossible. Mistakes were indeed made. 

The first mistake was actually something that I didn’t do. And that’s networking. Oh god. Not only was I always mentally exhausted after work and the last thing I wanted to do was spend time at those industry things, or setting up meetings, or whatever, but when I did, it always seemed to end in disaster. 

Misunderstandings? Yes. Missreadings? So much yes. 

But the problem is that when you work in tv, it doesn’t care that you’re exhausted. It doesn’t care that your mind is fried. It doesn’t care if you’re introverted or autistic or have another reason that it’s overwhelming to network. 

So I didn’t. And other writers did. They hung out with the script editors and producers and directors and whoever else, and developed friendships with them and I didn’t. 

And that means in practical terms I wasn’t memorable. And I missed out on developing friendships with some people who I would much later on discover are actually pretty fantastic. 

The second mistake is a simple one and one most of us are guilty of – I didn’t expand my horizons. It’s easily enough done. It was simpler to totally rely on one place to give me the work needed. There wasn’t any impulse to talk to other companies, or explore and investigate what was out there, and how I could challenge myself. 

The third mistake was the biggest one, and the one that took me YEARS to realise that I made. 

After years of working for them in factual as well as education and then kids scripted tv, it became extremely clear that the BBC is not for me. You know what it’s like when you work somewhere and though you might love the work itself, the whole thing is definitely not for you?

My whole time there, I tried really hard over and over to show that I loved the brand, cared for the productions, wanted the shows to do well. But my perspective and way of doing things was not a good fit. I’m too unorthodox, to honest about my thoughts in the moment, too experimental I guess. 

Maybe this is the autism, maybe not. But meetings and red tape, a super rigid hierarchy, and legal and double and triple checks and management and all that stuff that’s the foundation of any comedies about office culture sapping your soul was like a tornado around me that controlled every moment I made and blocked me from understanding the one truth I needed to understand about myself. 

I’m just too weird for them. 

And that’s okay, you know? Not everyone’s gonna like who were are, and we’re not going to feel at home everywhere. But because of the blinders I had on about relying on only the Beeb for work, I put myself in a terrible position of having to beg cap in hand for a job here and a script there. 

That ain’t a pretty place to be, because all they were saying was no. 

It’s brutal asking for something big from someone who doesn’t want to give you anything. 

Shit! shit shit shit! I was wrong, I had not in fact “made it” in writing! And now was financially totally screwed. What the hell was I going to do?

It was one of those what the hell happened just now?!? moments that life smacks up upside the head with. 

Very soon, carrots and potatoes were my food because that’s all I could afford. 

I had no idea how on earth I was going to pay my bills. 

And in a panic, I started contacting as many companies as I could- and not just for writing jobs, but for my old work of factual production and development. TV. Radio. Creative agencies. UK. US. Canada. Hundreds of emails, applications, meetings, everything. 

No doubt they could smell the desperation on me, even though I tried my hardest to look cool and in demand (what a joke of a strategy, right?) 

Nothing worked, nothing connected. 

Thus began what would be a really hard time for me- an “it doesn’t make any sense!” period, but it absolutely lit a fire under my ass and started the period of my life that has been the “working every goddamn waking moment essentially” phase of my life (which is still going!). 

HOWEVER, anyone who has gone through massive life-changing events and growth and new paths knows that none of this is linear. None of this is a smooth road. 

None of it goes the way you think it will. 

And the next part took me to a surprise job in Bristol, and after that to the biggest, hardest disappointment and lesson that led to the most incredible miracle that changed everything for me and helped me to finally understand my worth. 

And that’s where we’ll be in the last instalment of this story. I hope to see you there!

Amanda Graham

BAFTA Member 2022


Edinburgh Television Festival’s Ones to Watch 2018-2019

Representation: Guy Howe, WGM Atlantic Talent & Literary Group, 0161 850 1095


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