Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I watched TV with my eyes shut

I know that kinda misses the point, but they don't do Dragons' Den on the radio. I could listen but I couldn't bear to watch.

Normally I don't even tune in to Dragons' Den or any form of reality TV. It's just not my thing. There's the occasional success story, yes, but most of it is deliberately designed to "entertain", i.e. to humiliate the participants. Either the producers set these up to be appalling from the beginning - cf. Big Brother - or they just point the cameras at a clueless no-hoper and sit back, letting them self-destruct for all to see. Not much fun either way.

But occasionally my buttons are pressed, and an easy way to do that is to be clueless about publishing. I know how fiercely the publishing flame burns within an author's breast; but I also know how easy it is to be clued up about the business before dipping your toe in the water. In the absence of certifiable mental illness or other similar unavoidable circumstances, those who have one without managing the other are fair game.

Last night's Dragons' Den on BBC3 was a repeat of a programme first shown last year in which one Denise Channing, a.k.a. self-published author Jaq D. Hawkins tries to get investment in her film company that is producing a movie of her self-published fantasy novel Dance of the Goblins. (Actually not technically self-published; it's the second book of a total of two in the publisher's catalogue. The first is the publisher's own book.)

The total budget for the movie is £1.5m, of which £1m is the associate director fee for her big name - whom Denise can't actually name, or she's in trouble. He was apparently in both Pirates of the Caribbean and Phantom of the Opera, so a little elementary searching narrows him down to Kevin McNally. Whether Mr McNally knows he's associated with the movie and can command million-pound fees is unknown at this time. His IMDB entry says he has mostly acted with a little singing and some writing. No producing, associate or otherwise.

Denise's director of photography has been in the business for 18 years. What's he done? "I can't tell you what features he's done - he hasn't told me that." It was obviously an in-depth interview that signed him up, then. Or she hasn't mastered the IMDB herself.

A little mathematical wizardry shows that if you subtract Mr McNally's putative fee, the total budget for the movie is "considered in film terms, very low" ... half a million. Well, yes, it can be made cheaply, says Denise. And how.

Has Denise any experience of moving making at all? No.

How has the book sold? 2000 copies since 2005. By Big Engine standards it's a bestseller, but then, I never went on Dragons' Den.

Here's the Dragons' Den page, including a link to the actual presentation and grilling. Watch it if only for the reaction of Theo Paphitis:
"You need to go home. You need to go home, go to your bedroom, turn out the lights, get under the quilt and get some sleep. When you wake up in the morning if you really think this is a really good idea, may I suggest you turn the lights back off again and go back to sleep ..."
And then Peter Jones tops even that.


  1. I can't believe I just watched the whole clip to find out what Peter Jones says at the end, only to find out that he ...

    Spoiler omitted.

  2. Dance, dance, little puppet.

  3. Anonymous9:15 pm

    I'm not self-published.

    Glad you enjoyed the show, it's been useful ever since.

    ~ Jaq

  4. I stand corrected on that statement.


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