Sunday, June 14, 2015

Berowne's 274 Quiz

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "W" is for "woeful")

There was a nice response to my post a while back that asked “What Would You Have Done?” as a quiz, so I thought I’d publish another.

Back in the sixties I was a hungry, independent film-maker struggling to make a living.  I got odd jobs here, odd jobs there, that kind of thing.

But one day I landed a big one.  I was hired to make a tourism promotion film for a cruise-ship company.  What an assignment!


I was sent on several cruises throughout the beautiful Caribbean on one of their ships – to plan, come up with ideas, write a script.  Surprisingly, the client loved the completed movie.


They went so far as to schedule a “premiere”; they contacted the magnificent New York Plaza Hotel, known for a century for its grandeur and elegance, and reserved one of the large main rooms.


They invited everyone having anything to do with travel and tourism promotion to the premiere, and to enjoy a lavish spread of free food and drinks.  This threatened to cost them, as you might guess, a small fortune.

I felt that small-timer Berowne had suddenly hit the big time.  There would be an audience there of hundreds of folks working in the travel field – all of them potential clients, who would presumably come rushing over to me after having seen the film and saying “We want you to make one for us too!”

Didn’t happen.

The problem was projection.

The movie was in 16mm.  Your average 16mm projector was fine for a dozen or so people, but for hundreds in an auditorium-size venue it would never do.  Blown way up on a large screen the 16mm film would appear faded, with dull colors and fuzzy definition.   It would appear, in other words, amateurish.

I met with my cruise-ship client and informed him that for such an audience we must have a special projector, an arc projector.  This would send a blast of light on to a large screen that would be every bit as good in quality as a Hollywood movie in a motion-picture house.

Trouble was, it was expensive.  You had to hire a specialist who would come and actually construct a sort of projection booth that would contain both him and the arc projector. 

My contact on the client’s staff had been a chap named Ben, who had supported me all the way and had turned out to be a good friend.  But he said it would cost too much so they’d use their 16mm projector.  I emphasized that this was an unfortunate decision: the poor picture quality would be bad for the impact of their message.

Nope.  An arc projector was just too expcnsive. 

Well, the day of the “premiere” came and went.  I sat through some of the movie at the Plaza but I began to feel physically ill and had to leave – the movie on the screen was woeful, dim and dark and amateurish-looking.

The next day the director of the cruise-ship company called me on the phone.  He was so furious he could hardly talk; their premiere had been a disaster.  He had called around later and had been told that they should have had an arc projector, but, he shouted, “You never told us!”

We have come to the “What would you have done?” moment.

First off, I felt that I had to send out a message, loud and clear, to anyone who might listen – including the director on the phone - that the guy who made the film had fought hard against the el cheapo type of projection that had been used.

But then I thought of Ben.  All I had to do to get myself off the hook was to describe my conversations with my friend Ben of his staff.  However, I realized that if he knew Ben was responsible for the miserable presentation - and he was - he’d be fired.

At the moment, I was pretty well dead as a film-maker; it might take a year or so to recover.  Surely something had to be done.

But on the other hand, I hated to toss Ben under the bus.  He was a friend who had worked hard to get me hired for the film in the first place.  A tough decision.

What would you have done?

(The answers will be posted as received.)
 

36 comments:

kaykuala said...

At that point of time assigning blame on Ben or anyone else would appear as a convenient excuse to the Director. He would not readily accept it. To just accepting Que Sera Sera was the best solution 1) Ben did not have to shoulder the blame and remained friend 2) you cut loss and moved on.

On hindsight if the Director was in the know and pre-warned of the likely consequences before the fiasco then the onus would be on him to bear. On a 50-50 chance he could have okayed the high cost then (or canceled the event) Hank's 2 cents' worth!

Hank

naturgesetz said...

I noticed that on the previous "what would you have done," most people ignored the question and said what was the right thing to do. On this one, I think that 50 years ago, I might well have told the truth and pointed the finger at Ben. Today, I think I'd probably try to remind the director of what I had said to him, maybe apologizing for not being more forceful, and leave Ben out of it as much as possible.

Kathe W. said...

I think I would have contacted the person who hired you- the client- and voiced the concerns- then if they confirmed what Ben had said it would NOT be Ben's fault nor yours. What a shame.

Gail said...

That's tough. You were already toast so I guess I would have saved Ben. It, sadly, was a lack of communication.

Re: Your comment on Apples...Ain't that the truth! Thanks for reading.

Old Egg said...

It is easy to see what should have been done after the event. You could have insisted that Ben inform the Director of the problem for it was your job to advise how the film should be presented. Ben decided for himself when told and bore the responsibility. Even if it did no good you should have advised the Director that your advice was ignored much to your own disappointment. Being a nice guy in business only works so far when others do not play that game.

brudberg said...

Alas I would probably have pointed my finger at Ben, though I guess there would have been two in the fall instead of one. I think instead what I should have done is to accept it and then take Ben for a beer and laugh it all off. But alas I would have done it all wrong.

DEE DEE said...

I would have stood for Ben, He is a friend after all and its human to make erroneous decisions

Maria said...

At that point it is too late, pointing fingers at Ben is pointless and unprofessional. One thing I've learned (through various mistakes) is to trust my own instincts when I know I'm right. It's hard to be forceful with a friend, but I don't think I'd have let my work be presented on the wrong equipment. I'd have gone over his head if necessary to request the correct equipment. If multiple people refused the offer. . . ugh, I don't know, then I probably would have caved, took the money and run, lol.

Berowne said...

Old Egg: "Being a nice guy in business only works so far." Lamentably so.

Anonymous said...

I would have said " i was trying to save you money and i think my own film sucks , Ben tried to talk me around but i just wouldnt listen ". Then , when Ben rises up in the world , you call in the favour , remembering all the while that you really are a good film maker .....cheers !

Berowne said...

Thanks, Anonymous, whoever you are...

Theresa Milstein said...

Oh, that's difficult. I guess I'd save myself and be as tactful as possible about Ben. But I'm feeling a little cranky at the moment. In a few more hours, I might say the opposite.

Berowne said...

Cranky or not, your suggestion appears to be a good one. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Back in the sixties ~~ I suspect we were fairly close to the same age ~~ I would not have thrown my good friend under the bus. Would like to think the same holds true today. I suspect you have always known your true value!

Other Mary said...

this is a difficult one. Especially as word of mouth is so important in getting future business for you. I think I would have tried very hard to get Ben to use the right equipment, including offering to split the cost or pay if it turned out to be a bust. But if he still didn't I would have told the angry client that I had suggested the correct projector, but would not have mentioned any names and hope no one person got the brunt of that anger.

Helen said...

~~ don't know why I show as 'anonymous' .. It's Helen

Berowne said...

Interesting, because tho I didn't mention it in my post, I DID offer to pay half. Nope, still too expensive, said Ben.

Kutamun said...

June 15 7:29 am , that was me .. For some reason your comments section is defaulting to " anon " -

Truedessa said...

My first thought was to find a way to pay for the more expensive equipment. If we have to go with this scenario, I would probably say I tried my best to get the right projector, but someone else made the call without throwing Ben under the bus. A friend once told me remember those on the way up as they might be the same ones you meet coming down. A friend is a friend and it is not cool to throw a friend under the bus so you can climb on the bus...

I have to say I really enjoyed this story and I wish you would share more of them. I was expecting a quiz, but this was a delightful surprise.

Berowne said...

That last little paragraph of yours, Truedessa, was indeed a pleasure to receive and read. Thanks.

Roger Owen Green said...

You had your treppenwitz moment, when you could have gone over Ben's head BEFORE the event. After that, what was done was done.

Hildred said...

At this stage of the game I would give myself at least a half a dozen hours to fume and settle down, and then would probably shrug and carry on - but that's not to say what I might have done when I was younger... I admire your concern for Ben, and really in the long run that's the important thing.

Trubes said...

I would have told the person responsible for refusing to get the correct equipment in the first instant that it was totally his responsibility for ignoring your advice.
As for Ben, You were quite noble in not bubbling him,
Good decision.
More of these stories please, you've had such an interesting career, Since doing ABCW I have some amazing people!

Best wishes,
Di.
ABCW team.
b

Photo Cache said...

Is this "movie" on You Tube?

My ABC WEDNESDAY

Joy said...

It was too late to do anything the people in the room you had wanted to impress had left with the impression they had, the MD would have taken his anger out on two people instead of one and you might have lost a friend. Would the next step be be to tell your friend and give him a dilemma of whether to fess up or not?

Berowne said...

Ah, no. This all happened a long time ago; my guess is that the film by now would be in the great celluloid graveyard.

Lmkazmierczak said...

It is exactly those moments that defines one's character....having done all you could I would have kept the friendship and made sure next time you get in writing how your projects would be presented. But hindsight's learning curve can be a harsh one♪ http://lauriekazmierczak.com/wispy-desert-bush/

rel said...

I would have apologized for not talking to him directly.
Leave it at that. If Ben valued your friendship as much as you did his, he'd fess up to the boss. If not, hard lesson learned.

Jae Rose said...

Call me a sap and unambitious but i wold have stuck by Ben too

Sheilagh Lee said...

I agree with rel. Ben could make his own confession

humbird said...

Oh, one of this situations, when you have to choose...but hasn't Ban done it first, when did prefer his indifference to your interest or he just didn't realize it at that moment....I can understand the desire to stay in someone's comfy zone...happens now everywhere....besides, should we judge our friends?

Truedessa said...

Berowne,

Can we expect another story from you soon? Hopeful :)

Karen S. said...

I believe I'd play it out just as you did. The only other thought that came to mind, was if somehow you could have had some other film to show as an example of poor quality viewing as you were pleading your case. Also, that had to have been quite an adventure seeing and putting together!

Berowne said...

Truedessa: What a wonderful comment, thanks so much.

Ruby Manchanda said...

Save Ben ... Friends are rare to come by these days

Berowne said...

And that's what I did...

 
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