Peter Francis May

Cue the Tears

So, I used to run a video company. Mostly corporate clients, some broadcast TV, a few ad agencies. Agencies paid well, but I never got along with agency guys. I don’t know, I found them … insincere. And they needed too much attention; people around at all times to admire their creative brilliance.

OK, this is going to sound like a right turn. I was reading about Benjamin Franklin. Inventor. Writer. Entrepreneur. And something of an oddball. So Benjamin Franklin used to strip down naked, recline outdoors and take “air baths.” He wrote that they were salubrious. I had to look that up. Salubrious means healthy.

So I’m directing an edit session with this new agency guy. I’m a little frustrated. He’s talking on the phone, drumming on the desk. Making everything take longer and basically eating up my margin. But he’s bored so he’s looking through this big thick dictionary on the client desk.

I hear him behind me. “Hunh, English is a stupid language. So many useless words. Who even knows what they mean? Like “Insalubrious?”

“Well, salubrious means healthy so insalubrious probably means unhealthy.” Got his attention … for a minute.

He hired us for another gig; a commercial for a big pharmacy chain. I didn’t really like working with him but, like I said, agency money is good and this is when we were young, just trying to get established as a business.

So this guy, let’s call him Dick. And if there’s anyone in the audience named Dick, my apologies. I understand how you feel. My name is Peter.

So our edit session has been going on for about four hours. Haven’t seen Dick. Suddenly, the door bursts open, Dick comes in, goes directly to the garbage, pulls out some food wrappers, empty pop cans, cigarette butts. This back when you could smoke indoors. He lights a cigarette and two seconds later and the pharmacy client walks in and Dick is like, “Let’s cue it up and look at it from the beginning.”

Insincere. Deceitful?

So, next time we work together is a spot for a non-profit. Some dread disease. We’ve got a wife in the studio, talking to her about losing her husband. We’re on a tight shot, it’s very emotional but, she keeping it together. Dick pulls me aside and he’s like, “I need tears.” I don’t want to do that. He takes over and starts pounding this woman with questions. “You ever think about how he’s never gonna see your daughter grow up, get married, have grandkids.” It works. She finally starts crying.

And that was the deal breaker.

Or it should have been. It still bugs me today that I didn’t have the courage to just walk out. But that kind of freedom comes later in your career; when you know who you are and clients know who you are and you’ve got a few bucks in the bank. But the fact is occasionally you’re handed a crap sandwich and you’re going to have to just take a big bite and say, “Mmmmm.”

Well, selling my self-respect didn’t buy us much. We did a couple of more projects with Dick before it ended. As a matter of fact, it ended the worst possible way. He totally exploded the budget on a spot but guess who he blamed it on?

Thanks Dick.