Analogue Wayback, Ep. 6

This is the world’s most expensive stopwatch.

There are few clients who truly qualify as “the client from Hell”. Clients have their own stresses that may be unseen or unknown to the editor. Nevertheless, some create extremely stressful edit sessions. I previously wrote about the color bar fiasco in Jacksonville. That client returned for numerous campaigns. Many of the edit sessions were overnight and each was a challenge.

Editing with a client is all about the interpersonal dynamics. In this case, the agency came down with an entourage – director, creative director, account executive, BTS photographer, and others. The director had been a big-time commercial director in the days of cigarette ads on TV. When those were pulled, his business dried up. So he had a retainer deal with this agency. However, the retail spots that I was cutting were the only TV spots the agency (owned by a larger corporation as an in-house agency) was allowed to do. For much of the run, the retail spots featured a celebrity actor/spokesman, which probably explained the entourage.

Often editors complain about a client sitting next to them and starting to crowd their working space as that client edges closer to the monitor. In these sessions the creative director and director would sit on either side of me – left and right. Coming from a film background, they were less familiar with video advances like timecode and insisted on using stopwatches to time every take. Of course, given reaction times and the fact that both didn’t get the same length, there was a lot of, “Please rewind and play it again.” At least on one occasion I was prompted to point to the edit controller display and remind them that I had the world’s most expensive stopwatch right there. I could tell them exactly how long the clip was. But, to no avail.

The worst part was that the two would get into arguments with each other – across me! Part of this was just personality and part of it was that they had written the spots in the hotel room the night before the shoot. (Prior planning? Harumph!) In any case, there were numerous sessions when I just had to excuse myself from the room while they heatedly hashed it out. “Call me when you’ve made a decision.”

There was an ironic twist. One quiet gentleman in the back of the room seemed to be the arbiter. He could make a decision when neither of them would. At the beginning I had assumed that he was the person really in charge. As it turned out, he was the account executive and they largely discounted him and his opinions. Yet, he had the best understanding of their client, which is why, when all else failed, they deferred to him!

Over the course of numerous sessions we pumped out commercial campaigns in spite of the stress. But those sessions always stick in my mind as some of the quirkiest I’ve ever had.

©2022 Oliver Peters