Pinch me; I must be dreaming. I’m standing in the dark somewhere in Lower Manhattan, blearily clutching my complimentary drink and waiting for Prince Andrew to meet me at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…
As part of International Business Wales’ June Trade Mission to New York and Washington, I spent last week representing our TV company Rondo Media, alongside a number of Welsh independent producers chosen to develop our links in the U.S. It’s been an intense but thoroughly enjoyable week, with the slightly surreal moments – like our first night’s invitation to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – more than matched by the fantastic level of access given to us by many of the top factual broadcasters in North America.
From PBS and Smithsonian TV, to A&E, History Channel, National Geographic, Discovery Channels and VH1, what’s struck all of us has been not only the openness with which all the commissioners are happy to talk, but also their enthusiasm to listen to pitches and meet new producers who, to be frank, had assumed U.S. TV to be a closed market.
Rondo Media is one of the largest Indies in Wales, with a range of output from factual to drama and sport and a long track record in international co-production. But the same access and courtesy was also afforded to my colleagues who, in UK network terms, have a much smaller output. And, once we got over the initial embarrassment of having to perform our ‘elevator speech’ introductions in front of each other, it was also eye-opening to realise how, by arranging meetings collectively, our combined strengths as producers could give us real opportunities and access that we just wouldn’t have got alone.
And we’re not talking ‘speed dating’-style pitching sessions here; Nat Geo alone gave us nearly three hours of their time with five commissioners – and even got us a discount in the shop afterwards! As a veteran of several BBC U.S. visits in the ’90s, it was also encouraging that all the commissioners we met were very happy and open to working with producers all over the world. The most repeated phrase we heard was ‘a good idea is a good idea, no matter where it’s from.’ And this wasn’t empty rhetoric – time and again we heard stories of positive working experiences with UK and European producers, and a genuine knowledge and respect for our existing output.
The other really positive experience of the week was being a part of something bigger than the TV industry. This IBW Trade Mission was the first time that the Welsh Creative Industries have been included in a wider trade delegation, and part of our week was spent hearing from UK Trade and Industry representatives in the States about the support that they can offer and how Creative Industries can contribute to the image and the economy of the UK abroad. And, again, the tangible support and benefits they outlined gave us a real belief that, even in these straightened times, there are plenty of opportunities for British companies to develop their business here… which is why we’re at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; guests of UK T&I at a reception hosted by Prince Andrew, to celebrate ‘Love & Money: 50 Years of Creative Britain.’
So, all-in-all, it’s been a great experience and a huge eye-opener into how, by working collectively and targeting our creativity, independent TV Producers from Wales can genuinely begin to realize their ambitions to reach out to a global market.
But I’ll have to sign off now… I’d hate to keep royalty waiting.