Saturday, December 7, 2013

Life In Storybrooke

By Doug Vehle, The Daily Bosco 

So watching 'Once Upon a Time' reminds me of a time that seems magical now. A time when so many others thought I was the wizard of the tale. There were evil queens, sorcerers, black knights: I called them bosses and coworkers. Casting my thoughts back to the time when I worked FOR REAL in the world of television is like a trip to Neverneverland.

Trying to work in TV/Film is all too much like life in Storybrooke, where the curse of an evil queen has caused everyone to forget they are fairytale characters. So many seeking work in my field fall under the spell of villans who trick then into "Internships," taking them to a dark place from which they'll never return, until they've forgotten who they really mean to be. Others will get to work occasionally, but like the people of Storybrooke will have to return to their ordinary job and life.

There have always been very few actually making a living in television, at least compared to the number seeking work. Very few like me. I never waited tables while I waited my place at the table; The only home I painted was my own, while others painted so often without a home of their own.

Which is one of the reasons they thought I was a wizard; I could find the jobs. In the freelance world of television most people need to be hired several times a year. It was as though a cloaking spell hid the places of employment, while so many were lured by a siren call to the offer of that magic apple, the unpaid internship. Not all my work was in Hollywood, or even much of it. So much educational television for the Public Broadcasting Service, city school televsion channels, closed curcuit classroom broadcasts. Shows that ran on cable networks that not many were watching, as well as on the local channel of a cable system or a city I worked for. Programs for TRW Credit Data ran for years in consumer lobbys where people bought copies of their credit reports. The real world of the working professional was a middle earth hidden before the eyes of so many who couldn't recognize that this was what they were looking for, or at least what they would settle for.

But the real magical power was what I could do on the job. You think anyone could work a perfectly good camera, actually that's not true. Worse when the camera doesn't work right; jokingly we called the analog NTSC signal "Never The Same Color" when the cameras were new. What to do when they're so old the picture of one is tinted red, another blue, the last green? I was that person who knew what to do.

And for editing they wanted such special effects as would take expensive equipment for, oh but what I could do with a switcher and a phase loop. If a better prop or set piece was needed I could dig stuff out of the trash to make it with. Or just use the gaffer tape to make a mattebox for the camera.

So what would you expect then to pay such a person? $25 an hour? $50? Actually, they kept trying to offer me those damn magic apples. I'd tell them I just didn't care how many succors they had in the room and turned them into donkeys just like in 'Pinocchio,' there was no point in having anyone there if I don't show up and make it work and I don't show up unless I'm getting paid. So obviously true, yet I picture some of those people still waiting for the evil curse to work. Its as though they've been eating their own magic apples.

What magic really went into finding work? Back when their were still dozens of trade publications, they had job ads that were far more legitimate than the newspaper ads, if you read the trades. There were also articles on companies and productions, telling not only what outfits might be so busy they might need to hire but also who to send your resume to. Some production companies are located in buildings with others, the lobby offers a list of businesses to apply to. And when your attitude is good people move to the next job and try to take you with them. You'd be amazed now many bad attitudes you find.

Which is why I say so many of my former coworkers are the villans. Somehow people get the idea there's no effort involved in television, then they wind up taking their wrath out on others. I told one coworker he'd be homeless someday, now he appears to be indigent when I see him on the streets, he runs away if I try to approach him. Sometimes you wonder what possesses the bosses, one woman stared at my resume during an iinterview then looked off in the distance and said "I didn't come her for this lousy job, I think I should have gotten a really good job. . . ." I wanted to tell her she didn't get to be crazy because I needed that job.

So I thought that, at times, I was cursed in what now seems to be those magical times. As much as I wanted that curse lifted, I certainly never wanted that curse replaced. Thanks to the internet, there aren't many trade magazines, therefore there are no reliable job classifieds. Nor are there fact checkers for the fabricated articles about what a company wants you to believe they're doing.

Meanwhile there is far less to making the digital cameras work; while a professional would still do a better job, the people doing the hiring rarely seem to know what a better job is. If you look at software at websites like hitfilm.com you get the idea a pure amateur no longer has to worry about taking out too many frames or a bad match cut.

So I really feel that the same curse that was cast on Storybrooke has dropped on the television industry, taking the magic out of it. They just seem to keep telling themselves they don't need professionals anymore, they just need more magic apples.

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