Where’s The Respect?

05Oct07

In case you’re wondering why there hasn’t been anything posted here since July it is because we’ve been busy. Most of what we’ve been doing lately is under NDA so I can’t reveal any details, but I can tell you about a tale of woe and major crapworthiness.

It’s mid-August and we were called in to do a 30-sec commercial for a vendor. The brief was brief – exceedingly brief: make a viral video about the vendor to be distributed via YouTube and the other usual suspects. Fine. It was a rush job. A week to write the script, get it authorised, and then film, edit and deliver. More time is better but it was doable. We were promised a quick turnaround on the authorisation.

An hour later we delivered the script and then waited 3 days for a response. Apparently the employees of this particular company don’t seem to work on weekends (or Fridays for that matter) even when there is a tight-deadline. The response was negative. It was too naughty for the brand. So we tried again – quickly writing 2 more scripts and delivering them. Another couple of days and once again the response was negative. It seems they didn’t want a viral video after all. They wanted a traditional commercial. Fine. So we wrote them one, delivered it and they then promptly disappeared for close to a week. Do the maths and you’ll see by now the original URGENT ‘must-do’ deadline has been shot to pieces.

They eventually get back to us and say that the client doesn’t like the script and that they’re going to write the ad themselves with the client. Fine. No problem there. Probably should have been done like that to begin with. Occasionally they ask us for information and we supply it.

About four weeks later they deliver the script to us. It’s banal. It has no conflict. And it’s clear that whoever wrote it has never spent time in Secondlife. But they’re the ones that are paying so they get to call the shots. The project gets greenlit. The deadline is a week away.

It takes me 2 days to scout the locations and do the storyboards and I tell them if we’re to meet the deadline they need to authorise the storyboards and make any changes by the close of business that day. Any later and it becomes problematic because of all the sfx that the shoot will require. Close of business and no reponse. I decide to go ahead anyway because otherwise we definitiely won’t make the deadline if we wait another day (or two – it’s the weekend after all).

I hire the cast and do the rest of the pre-production and prepare to shoot in two days time. 48 hours after the storyboard deadline has passed they deliver a long list of changes. Most are cosmetic, but there are some major changes too. One of the major changes is location. The script required a special need and it took me most of a day to find the one we had. They hadn’t offered an alternative so any change would mean a miss on the deadline. I informed them of this and rather than wait around another day or two for a response I continued work.

Since the project has been greenlit I’ve been asking for a copy of the vendor, so I can film it. It’s not until the day before I’m due to shoot I receive it. I test it myself and everything works fine. Or so I thought.

Shooting day comes and there are a couple of hitches. There always is on a shoot. One of the stars is unavoidably detained for 30 minutes and SL Voice has died a horrible death. It’s the latter that poses the biggest obstacle. Having to rely on text slows a shoot to about 10% the speed it does when using voice. But nonetheless we soldier on.

It takes us a couple of hours but we shoot everything we need right up to the point where the actors need to interact with the vendor. Problem is that the vendor doesn’t work. It still works for me, but anybody else it delivers a script error. Unfortunately this means that we can’t shoot anymore until that problem is fixed. We call it quits and I go deliver the bad news. It is now 4 days until the deadline.

It takes them nearly 20 hours to respond and another 10 or so to deliver a solution. I manage to arm-twist my stars into being available for a reshoot that night. Unfortunately the support cast is unavailable and there’s no time to recruit others. We do without. We shoot.

Nearly 4 hours later we’re done. Most of it went well but the ending requires some flying work. After an hour of shooting on location we have about 5 seconds of usable footage and there are problems also with the greenscreen flying sequences. But we don’t have time to waste, I’ll come up with something, so I edit until the early hours of the morning cutting together a rough cut. Then I crash.

First thing the next morning I’m back at it. It slowly comes together and it looks quite good. But the flying sequences are a problem. I can work a solution but it doesn’t match the script. Unfortunately there’s no time to reshoot, and I spend the rest of the day doing the sfx and then delivering the draft. I send a note explaining the problem with the flying, and then crash again.

It is the day of the deadline and my morning email is filled with complaints. One of the complaints is about the flying sequence but there’s nothing I can do. However, the major complaint is about the colour of one of the minor attachments that one of the avatars is required to wear. In the video it is black. They insist it must be white – but completely failed to specify that in the script, pre-production notes or storyboard response. They demand I change it. I tell them fine, but I need to reshoot the entire video (the attachment is seen throughout) thus missing the ‘must-do’ deadline – ie. today.

While waiting for a response I make all the minor changes they request, clean up the edit and output the final video. When they do respond they seem resolved to the inevitable so I send them the final video.

Now that should have been the end of it, but it isn’t. 24 hours after I sent the video I get two emails. The first stating that there is a problem with the video and the second telling me to ignore the first email and everything is a-ok. Even that should be the end, but it isn’t. Next morning I awake to ‘IT DOESN’T WORK’ as the subject line in my email inbox. I contact them and find out the details. It seems that it does work for my liaison, but the others can’t seem to download it from the site. I’m not much good at tech support – especially on sites I don’t control – but I suggest that he copy the file from his computer and give it to the others. It seems that none of the two-hundred or so people (no exaggeration) that spent 20 hours attempting to work a solution came up with that.

Now the story kinda ends there. Or it would if it weren’t for the fact that a week later it emerges that the end-client isn’t happy and wants a reshoot. So it seems the ‘must-do’ deadline wasn’t so must-do after all. This nearly 2 months after the original deadline. So the question is, why would anyone fuck around their clients and sub-contractors that way?

So that’s the story. Or part of it. Of course it’s missing the parts about the music and more about the vendors and a few other juiceys, but it provides you with some of the reasons why we’ve been absent here recently. Of course the good thing about the story is that we were too busy to do the reshoot so someone else has to deal with them now. I wish them luck.

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