Paul Ashton is paid to say “No”.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. He’s also paid to say: “Yes.” And, on the odd occasion, “Maybe.”
Ashton is development producer at BBC Writersroom, a place wannabe TV writers can send their scripts.
The TV VIP was in Birmingham on Monday as part of Birmingham Book Festival, where he discussed the process of busting your way into the Beeb.
It was an informative talk, if a little depressing for all those Midland scribblers who dream of becoming rich and famous off the back of their artistic endeavour.
One of the main themes was how difficult it is.
He started by showing the audience a photographic slide of the room where all the scripts sent to him are held.
And, boy, was there plenty of scripts in that room. A wall of words, in fact.
“What do you see?” asked Asthon, gesturing to the slide.
“A lot of paper,” suggested one audience member.
“Hopes and dreams!” said another.
“Very strong shelves,” suggested a more pragmatic individual.
But the answer Ashton was looking for was... people.
He was trying to explain that the script was less important than the potential of the author. The main task of the Writersroom is to nurture relationships with budding authors and help them find their feet in a demanding industry.
Most audience members were hungry for a job in that very same industry, of course.
So plenty of questions about breaking into the Beeb were fired at Ashton.
What exactly was he looking for?
It transpired that he couldn’t really say. Though what he did reveal was that he longed for something he hadn’t seen before.
Fresh ideas, in other words.
For those interested in a career in television, this was an invaluable talk, if a little dispiriting.
It seems that owning your very own iPad, plus printer, isn’t all it takes to get your tales on the telly...
* Birmingham Book Festival runs until Sunday. For more information about other events www.birminghambookfestival.org or tel: 0121 446 3232.