POST-OP WEEKS 110 - 113
So I was finally Voldemort’s victim. (Not that Voldemort! I’ve changed the name of the art director the agency hired to work with me in this diary) I was the focus of her quest for complete control. I had gotten in her way and now I had felt the brunt of it, got run over by the Dana Express.
[SIDE NOTE: A day or so after our little Music Love Fest with Her Boss in my office, we all got on the phone with the music house in L.A. By that time, Her Boss and Voldemort graciously allowed me to suggest my musical style to them during our conference call. We had emailed a few sample songs ahead of the call and we were going over them. They were ho-hum about Voldemort’s 2 or 3 sample tracks--- yeah, hm, okay. They had the same reaction about He Boss’ 3. But when they got to my one, little song (a fairly obscure psycho-punk song by a New Wave band called Siouxsie and the Banshees), they got all perked up. “Yeah, that’s a great direction! Very interesting,” they said, something like that. All I can remember was this look Voldemort gave me, this “you jerk, you beat me” kind of sneer. I guess we were competing and I didn’t know it.]
Even though I had “won,” the music track maneuver stuck with me, it got under my skin.
Voldemort and I had actually gone on an interview together at FCB (Foot, Cone, Belding) back in July. The new HR woman there was my old headhunter, so I thought we had an “in.” (We never heard back from them.) But now, we argued. I remember trying to give Voldemort my side of things, tell her the way I felt about her little Move with Her Boss, but she wasn’t getting it. The other people in our group knew what was going on, they couldn’t help it. There was talk of getting some sort of mediator!
I tried to talk to her about it, but I remember feeling like I could never say what I needed to say at the right time in the right way. There was the ol’ confrontation issue, too. She seemed really good at confrontation. I was always shrinking back. I eventually wrote some things out in emails. It was impersonal, and I “apologized” for sending them that way. At first, she took that part okay. She’d suggest we go out to lunch or dinner to “talk it out” and I’d refuse. (I’m not sure what those eating invitations represented to her, but I didn’t want any part of it.)
Through it all, I tried to explain that, yes, I was pissed about the music track incident, but that it wasn’t just that. That was only the tip of the iceberg, that it was a much bigger problem. She, of course, never backed down from her point of view that she needed to be “involved” in everything. For months, despite our Creative Director flat-out telling her that copywriters and art directors had separate and distinctive roles in the creative process (like EVERY other agency I had ever heard of), she kept at it, sticking her nose in everything. We kept working like this as we went through the process of making our first commercial together.
[Funny thing was: there were times where she’d ask me what I thought of a layout she was doing, maybe her way of showing “fairness.” She’d call me over to her computer and ask if I liked “A” layout or “B.” I’d tell her which one I liked and why, and she’d tell me I was wrong, with some distain, and do it her way.]
We got another assignment, too, for a clinic that did a certain cosmetic procedure. Again, through casting and pre-production, I sort of let her “take over.” I guess I might’ve been telling myself that it was because this was a campaign about women, for women starring women. But I again, let Voldemort sort of “steer” the casting. Of course, she began steering the voice casting, too.
By fall, Voldemort was beginning to behave strangely. During casting for the first spot--- a woman reaches in a fridge, smiles and pulls out a bottle--- Voldemort was so “hungover” that she kept ducking out to the bathroom to throw up. She said she was at the office, working like a dog, but she was pretty much out at bars. She’d tell me how she was puking in the train station after having one last drink and getting on the 1 o’clock train home.
She was extremely stressed during our “food shoot,” sitting all day on a couch with the client while a director shot the product pouring in super slo-mo. I got the impression she was over her head here, just barely keeping up. (I don’t know how many food shoots she ever been on)
We went out to dinner with the client afterward: creatives, account people, about ten of us. As we’re leaving, everyone’s figuring out rides and hailing cabs. Voldemort borrows my cellphone (she didn’t own one!) to call her husband at home to tell him she was on her way, I guess. And then she and this Account Guy we’ve been working with the last six months or so, disappear.
The next morning at the office, Voldemort’s prepping me. Out of the blue, she’s telling me that she went home real late and slept on the couch so she “wouldn’t wake everyone up.” And her husband didn’t realize it. Account Guy, meanwhile, is acting real concerned, telling me about Voldemort’s husband. I turned on my cellphone and there was a message from Mr. Voldemort, looking for her. (He had my number from when she called him, so he called me back!)
I guess I’m an idiot, because I didn’t add this up… yet.
It wasn’t until we all went to Portland after New Years, ’09. We were set to be there a week to “finish” the first spot. Voldemort, Account Guy, a really talented, veteran producer I’ll call Producer, the client, and me. We’d spend our days sitting around the animation studio, sitting on puffy couches, drinking coffee and having them order lunch for us. Occasionally they’d ask us for our opinion on something.
We’d get silly, playing name that tune on our iPods. One day Voldemort laid down on the floor because she said her back hurt and that she broke her tailbone giving birth to one of her kids. Another day she held onto the wall and did ballet poses. At night, they’d take us out to fancy dinners.
As the days went on, Voldemort and Account Guy got more open with their “canoodling.” We’d be sitting at a table in a kitschy Portland diner and they’d be in the corner seats, across from each other playing little games and giggling. Eventually, even the head of the animation house noticed it.
Again, I thought Voldemort was over her head, just barely keeping up with all the “stuff” that goes into making an animated commercial. One day she says to me, “I really like the way this spot turned out.” When I said nothing, she added, “What do you think of the spot?” I didn’t say anything for a long second. I thought about giving her the politically correct answer, the one she was angling to hear. But then I thought, for some unknown reason, I should just tell the truth instead.
“It’s okay,” I told her. “It turned out okay. I’d give it a ‘B.’”
Yeah, that probably wasn’t the best idea. I should’ve gone with plan A. She was flabbergasted. She sputtered. She told me she thought I was being smug. That I was lying to her because it was her… It got ugly after that.
I’d catch her passing little “judgments” at Producer, about the way he did things. She aimed her displeasure at me. Account Guy chimed in.
Thursday of that week, we were hanging around again, late, when they broke out the red wine: Oregon’s famous for their wine… One bottle, then two. Account Guy was really packing it away. I was in the middle of my second glass when I realized that we were getting quite toasted and the client was stone cold sober (she doesn’t drink) so I stopped. Account Guy and Voldemort and Producer kept going.
We finished everything but the last step: color correction. In all my 15 years in advertising I have never been to a color correction; copywriters never go. It’s an art director’s job. Producers rarely go and I have NEVER seen an account guy go. But when Voldemort got in the car with Account Guy but not Producer and me, she got pissed. She wanted everyone to follow her along. She did what she did and they uploaded the spot to the service that plays it all over the country on TV.
We went to dinner, whatever, went back to our hotels. We weren’t leaving ‘til Saturday, so we had a day off. Producer told me we were done, so I spent Friday walking around Portland, shopping for my wife and the kids. Around 5, I get a call on my cell from Chicago looking for Voldemort because of the emergency they’d been dealing with all day. This was the first I’d heard of it. I got a hold of Producer and to me the emergency was pretty much over and there was nothing I could do anyway, so don’t bother coming over the studio. So I didn’t. I ate dinner in my hotel and monitored emails on my laptop.
It ends up the spot they uploaded was the wrong one; it had a mistake in it. When everyone back in Chicago, who’d been looking at everything like hawks over the Internet, caught it, they were pissed. It was a small mistake, but our agency hates mistakes of any kind. (See: our spot featured wacky talking vegetables, one of which was a bunch of asparagus held together, like they are, with a rubber band. They’re in a total of 3, quick shots, in the background. Well, it seems the rubber band was red in one shot, like it’s supposed to be, then white in the next, then red again. Gasp!)
I get a frantic call from my creative director on my cell in my room--- what are we going to do? I told him, calmly, that we’ve already done it, the mistake was fixed and the new spot uploaded. But, he said, the networks already got the incorrect spot, it’ll play on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and whatever CBS calls their morning show. I further explained to him that it’s playing all of 4 or 5 times one day and then the new one will be in rotation. It’s not like we accidently printed 300,000 brochures with a typo, this mistake is tiny, I didn’t notice it the first time I re-watched the spot, no one at home would see it at all. And then it’ll be gone. He calmed down and everything was fine.
(The best we can guess it that the commercial up-loader guy double-clicked on the wrong file and sent an old, uncorrected version of the spot to the networks. Oops.)
Well, the next day, I certainly heard it from Voldemort… I went to the airport alone to catch my flight--- Voldemort and Account Guy were on a later one. So, I’m sitting in the Portland airport on the free wireless firing pissier and pissier emails back and forth. Voldemort’s judging me for being lazy, for not caring, for not, somehow KNOWING there was a screw-up (that was been attributed to her!) and calling in on Friday.
I’m telling her I thought she had been acting unprofessionally--- the drinking, Account Guy, etc, etc, etc. I could feel the pressure rising in my head. This was Saturday, January 10th. That whole next week, I was starting to get chest pains. The ramifications from our little episode in Portland kept reverberating. My creative director had us in his office, one by one trying to figure out what happened. Voldemort was flaming out, continuing to do things with the client and not looping our bosses in.
During all the mess, there were many closed-door conversations. Producer came into my office one day to talk. Among other things, Portland, whatever, he told me Account Guy bragged to him about he and Voldemort having sex.
One morning, I go into Voldemort’s office to do something or other and she holds up her left hand, backside out, for me to see. I look at it, okay, what? No ring, she says, beaming. Whatever-her-poor-husband’s-name-is and I are getting a divorce, she says. Like taking the ring off makes it official somehow. Like I should care, like this should mean something to me, like I should be happy for her. I say something like: um, okay and finish what I came in to talk about…
There was a moment where I had Voldemort’s future in my hand. She did something (I don’t remember what) but she didn’t cc me on the email. I told my creative director, he was livid, ready to fire Voldemort. She came storming into my office, slammed my door, telling me to fuck myself, I’m screwing with her livelihood, screwing with her ability to support her family, blah, blah, blah…
I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what got into me, but I went into my creative director’s office and told him it was all cool, there’s nothing the matter… I could’ve been rid of her, that might’ve been it, but--- no.
Behind the scenes, in meetings I wasn’t invited to, she was talking to the photographer/director who shot our other campaign about the MUSIC TRACKS we needed to do for those spots. She kept blocking me from talking directly to him or the sound effects house, while giving him her own suggestions. This is the week of Jan 11th, the week I started getting chest pains upon exertion.
The other client was asking about the next commercial while I was trying to get the tracks right for these spots. I go to my doctor that next Tuesday and my doctor schedules a stress test for that Thursday. I spent that morning recording voiceovers. While I’m there, I talk to the engineer about music and he says that the director’s been talking to him about tracks, but, hey what do I want…? We work some things out and he sets out to make it happen.
I walk over to the hospital to my appointment, stopping every block for the pain to go away, and spent the next 9 days in the hospital…
I email my creative director and a few other key people I work with from my hospital room that I won’t be coming in the next day. Voldemort’s not one of them.
Monday, sometime after they put me under and prep me for my bypass, Voldemort emails my creative director that she wants to set up a meeting with the three of us to discuss roles and responsibilities between writers and art directors!!!!
After I got back from medical leave, I told my bosses that I’d rather not work with Voldemort if I could possibly help it. They tell me that if I don’t work with Voldemort, I won’t be doing any TV commercials at the agency for a while. I concede to work with her.
So, yeah… That new partner your boss was going to get for you. That one with all that consumer experience. That one that’d help you produce a bunch of great work. That one…?
How’d that work out for you?
diary continues April, 2011...