Yesterday, Kelley and I stopped in a small Iowa town to lunch with an enthusiastic middle-aged filmmaker (and I use that term loosely.)  He urged us to stop on our way to St. Louis (it was a 3 hour detour) to discuss a current project.

We pulled up to an idealistic small town — gentrified “downtown” lined with shops, barbers, restaurants — and a movie house playing “Stagecoach” (very modern.)  We met the filmmaker (who I will call Mr. X.) and his intern.  They showed us an unfinished marketing video to sell the idea of moving back to Iowa from a major city.  A a city person, no video — unless it came with a free house, 4 acres and paid staff — would entice me to move to a field in the middle of Nowhereville.

The piece was too long, with cheesy music, bad acting, and although the cinematography was nice, the piece lacked oomph.  We made a few quick suggestions (cut 1/3 of it out, rearrange shots to add action and drama, and pick less hokey music.)  Satisfied with the comments, he asked us to lunch. I could tell from Kelley’s eyes he was hungry for the free meal, but not up to the consequences.

At the sandwich shop — which, by the way, was actually quite good, although the decor was NYC based and I believe that the only people in the restaurant to ever step food on Manhattan had just pulled into town with a dog in tow — Mr. X started to kiss butt.  Now, I am a great ass kisser — I have always been.  I have schmoozed professors into forgetting about papers and grades; talked clients into design projects I had no idea how to create; and on a daily basis, seem to convince people that I know what I am talking about.  It is a skill that has taken me lifetime to perfect — and I am proud of my talents.  Mr. X was out of his league.

First, he name dropped.  “I know So-and-So,” and “When I worked for Big-Name-Here” never impress me. I could see from Kelley’s darting looks that he was less than enthused, also.

Next came the Quotation Dictionary. Now, I like to quote my idols — after all, I respect them because of their accomplishments — and often their words of wisdom are worth repeating.  But when you begin every other sentence with “You know, Oscar-Winning-Director always said…” I wonder if you have you own thoughts or opinions.  Yes, being well read is important.  Yes, knowing the lessons from the past will get you farther with less aggravation.  But such a technique is to be used sparingly — not to the point where I was about to place a bet on who he would quote next.

Having sensed Kelley’s increasing frustration (and I will not go into his cringing every time Mr. X called him the Angry Filmmaker), I looked at my watch and said we had to get a move on — I wanted to arrive in St. Louis before dark.

I felt bad that, once again, we met filmmakers who are frustrated by their lack of resources and film community. I know that if Mr. X banded together with others in his college town and surrounding cities (of which I know there are others in the same boat), he would be more confident in his abilities — and create works which focus on his strengths.

Ultimately, he bought $80 of merchandise and paid for lunch — so that was an upside.  And a few hours later, he emailed to say he followed our advice and the commercial was much tighter — so the meeting was not a total loss.

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