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PERSPECTIVE

A diver in Burbank

By Josh Selig 24-01-2017

The president of US indie Little Airplane Productions recalls his recent trip to Los Angeles to pitch a preschool show.

3.30pm I arrive for the pitch half an hour early. In LA, I’m always early because I never know how long it takes to get anywhere. I go to security and the guard asks me for my ID. I don’t have a driver’s licence, so I give him my PADI scuba diving card that I earned while backpacking in Australia in 1996. He asks if I am joking. I tell him I am not. I explain that many New Yorkers do not drive cars. He gives me a sticky name tag, and asks me what scuba diving is like. I say it’s like dreaming you are a fish.

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3.34pm I ride the elevator. There are people all around me. They are talking about the Trump inauguration and what Michelle Obama is wearing. This is their elevator. I am an interloper. I’ve come to pitch a preschool show but I feel like a hit man on The Sopranos with a concealed gun.

3.36pm The elevator opens. I go to reception and say, “Hi, I have a four o’clock meeting.” The woman behind the counter looks at her watch. “You’re early,” she says. “I’m sorry,” I say. She makes a call. I have been in the building for six minutes and I have annoyed two people.

3.39pm An assistant comes to fetch me. His name is Bruce and he says, “Hi, my name is Bruce!” He is happy and his teeth are excellent. It appears that Bruce has not yet suffered the slings and arrows of the kids’ TV business.

3.41pm Bruce walks me to a conference room and asks me if I will need to have my parking validated. I tell him I have no driver’s licence, just a PADI diver’s certification card. There is a brief silence. Bruce can sense that we are from different planets and that his planet is nicer.

3.43pm Inside the conference room, Bruce says, “She’s still in a meeting, please go ahead and grab a seat. Do you need anything?” I read once in Men’s Health magazine that you should always answer this question in the affirmative because it shows others you have a resolute personality. “No thanks, I’m good,” I say.

3.46pm I am alone. I take out my small black pad. I take out my pen. I put the pen beside the pad. I take out my show bible and place it face down on the table. I always like to reveal my bibles with a big flourish, the way French waiters reveal the main course at your table. I am a one-trick pony and I have travelled far to do my trick.

3.53pm The room is hot. I don’t like for the room to be too hot or too cold when I pitch. In this way, I am like Goldilocks. I get up and I look at the thermostat. It seems quite complicated to me. At Little Airplane, we have a brilliant IT director named Malcolm who helps me with anything that involves electricity. Malcolm always speaks to me very slowly as if I were Amish. I imagine touching the thermostat and accidently shutting down the power grid for Los Angeles. I imagine Bruce running in with the receptionist and the security guard, yelling, “Oh, my God! What did you do?! What did you do?! What did you do?!” I sit down. My mind wanders.

3.57pm Once, I went diving in Micronesia off the island of Yap. I saw giant manta rays sweeping over the coral like slow birds. On Yap, the Yapese people collect large disks of stone money and place them in front of their homes. The value of their stone money is not based on its size or weight, but on the difficulty that they had when they mined the disks from a faraway volcanic island. Stone money that is retrieved during calm seas has less value than stone money carried through a hurricane. Los Angeles, I realize, is my volcanic island, and big waves are slapping my canoe.

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4.02pm She is late. What does this mean? Self-doubt breaks the surface of my mind like the dorsal fin of a whale. Maybe the meeting has been cancelled? Maybe she had to leave early for a kid or a dog or a Canadian with tax credits? Maybe I shouldn’t have put that smiley face at the end of my confirmation email? Why do I do such things? I recall that the Buddhists say, “All life is suffering.” On pitch days, I tend to agree with them.

4.06pm It’s very important to have a buddy when you go diving. A buddy can help you if something goes wrong. For instance, there are giant clams in the Pacific that can grab your entire foot. If one gets you and you are alone, you will remain at the bottom of the ocean forever like a pirate’s treasure. But if you have a buddy, he or she can swim down and blow air bubbles into the giant clam. If done right, the clam will smile and open and set you free.

4.11pm I hear the doorknob. She comes in. She is happy and relaxed. She has a mug filled with camomile tea. She holds a notebook. “Sorry to keep you waiting, I got stuck in a meeting,” she says. “Can we offer you anything?”

“Water, please.”

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today's correspondent

Josh Selig Founder and president Little Airplane Productions

Josh Selig is the founder of Little Airplane Productions. He is the creator and executive producer of Wonder Pets! on Nick Jr (winner of the 2009 Japan Prize for Best Television Series), as well as 3rd & Bird and Small Potatoes, both of which aired on CBeebies and Disney Junior.

Josh is executive producer of Super Wings on Sprout and the co-creator and executive producer of P King Duckling, which airs on Disney Junior US. Josh has received 11 Emmys in multiple categories.