The fourth exclusive extract from Sam Brick's new book - only on SFN!

As spring gives way to summer in 2006, the first crack occurs when there is a change of management at ITV. This is par for the course in television, but it means that my talk show pilot is blown out of the water in one sentence: ‘I’ve got enough overweight blonde presenters on my hands right now, I don’t need another one.’
Harsh? That’s TV for you.

I’m not too worried; I’ve got another series in place with a major satellite channel. But there have been three different bosses since it was first green lit, and with every new creative voice comes another change in how we should make it – without an additional penny thrown in our direction. As my profits are used to shore up the series, terse calls from the bank increase. To say my cash flow is stretched is putting it mildly.
I also have two shows in the US about to start. A cause for celebration? Not a bit of it; a clash of egos between two trusted staff members in my UK office delays the delivery of our budget to the American network, which in turn holds up our first payment. I have no choice but to inject precious UK cash reserves into the US as start-up costs. While I tear my hair out worrying about finding more money, contract negotiations and, without wanting to sound too American, ‘winning new business’, other things start to go wrong.
My dream of a female team working harmoniously alongside each other?
It is disintegrating before my eyes.

My open-plan office makes the The Devil Wears Prada set-up seem like a much friendlier option. It is turning into a hormonally charged snake pit. How did that happen? Whatever they can argue about, they do – laptops, handbags, even fertility treatment. I am powerless to stop it; all of my energies are focussed on keeping my businesses afloat. I leave the staff problems to my right-hand woman, Jane.

Jane and I have been friends for ten years. Jane is adorable. She is faithful, immediately likeable, quietly meticulous. Unfortunately, while I thought I’d hired myself a Rottweiler- esque Sharon Osbourne, instead I find myself having to take up the slack of a Bambi-eyed Kim Kardashian.

At the end of my working day in the UK, LA starts. I have great hopes for the US business, having already hired yet another trusted friend, Heather, as my right-hand woman there. Heather and I have always been there for each other; I’d trust her with my life. Ballsy, gift of the gab, gorgeous bod (alas, this is mandatory in LA). Yet conversations are on my radar that should not be.
‘Sam,’ my voicemail blares out at me, ‘you’re gonna have to sort this out. It’s urgent!’ There’s a dramatic pause. I unintentionally roll my eyes, waiting to discover what it is this time. ‘She’s threatening to walk.’
Oh God.
Knowing how difficult it is to keep good staff in LA (everyone has their eye on the next big gig), I treat this seriously and immediately talk to Jane, whose job it is to deal with personnel issues on both sides of the Atlantic. I’m painfully aware we are both regularly working late into the night to support our LA office.
‘What’s going on?’ I ask. ‘She wants the convertible,’ is the nervous reply. ‘What?’ This is about a car? No one drives a convertible in LA! ‘We don’t have that kind of allowance in the budget. You know that,’ I reply. Jane and I look at each other. Those watery eyes! My instinct is to put my arms around her and give her a hug; I know she doesn’t want to play bad cop. I also have a sinking feeling our friendship is in a terminal decline.
‘You have to tell her the rate you approve,’ I say gently. ‘Anything over, she must pay herself.’
One phone call later, Jane is predictably in tears. The hardened New York native refuses to back down over the hire car, slamming the phone down on Jane – no doubt she is playing to an audience in the LA office. The friend in me desperately wants to console Jane, but the boss in me worries about what’s going on in LA. I put down the contract I need to discuss with our US lawyer and pick up the phone to Heather in LA.
‘She really wants the car, babes,’ she breezes.
‘But how are we going to pay for it?’ I, too, hate this part of my job.
‘Can’t we find it?’ she asks innocently.
‘No! You know we can’t!’ She knows every dollar that’s not approved in the budget is a dollar I personally have to find. Our TV series in the UK is now so far over its budget that I have no choice but to look at what I can personally sell to pay our bills. No one else knows this but Jane and Heather. While I pay them the going rate, I pay myself nothing. I shouldn’t have to tell them how important it is to keep our programme budgets on track.

It’s lucky I’m an optimist; the satellite series is already on air, and there is talk of series two. In fact, I’ve already been given the unofficial news. It’s gonna happen. We just need to get over this sticky phase, tighten our belts. Like most things in TV, it will be fine. I tell myself this constantly during those nights when, unable to sleep, I spend hour after hour staring into the darkness.

TV is an expensive game. My company’s outgoings are twenty grand a month and I know I’m taking a risk investing everything I can get my hands on. I sell my two Mercedes, much of my beloved designer wardrobe, bespoke pieces of jewellery, even my eye-wateringly expensive handbags while I wait for the contract for the half-a-million-pound series that has already been verbally promised to me. All the noises I’m hearing from the executives at the channel are good. Of course the deal will be signed.

I spend the summer and autumn of 2006 jetting back and forth between London and LA, crisis-managing from one continent to the next. I live on painkillers to combat the excruciatingly painful sinus problems from all the flying. While I might be putting on a brave front, my body isn’t. One of the few times I allow myself to cry is when I see masses and masses of my blonde hair swirl in the bathtub. My body, it would seem, is protesting; deploring the stress I’m placing it under.

You can read the next installment here...

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

Winston Churchill

Trisha - I take it you haven't seen James's comment in the other thread - third extract? But as you are a new ish member, I thought it best to give you the benefit of the doubt so to speak?

Not getting any better is it!