BUDAPEST. I meet Sally in Budapest. She’s a motivational speaker. We’re seated together at dinner. It’s the night before a conference, well, not really a conference, a “performance theatre.” I’ve filmed these events in Moscow and Oslo. I tell Sally that I’m a filmmaker and she says she’d like me to make a promotional video. Over dinner I give her a price she can’t refuse. Good, an extra job.
The next day, Sally wows them. I’ve wired her up with a radio mike. I use two cameras. One is close up on her and the other I keep wide. Shooting two cameras at once is really quite easy and a great technique. I swing the second camera around to take audience shots.
ISABELLE. She is with a company that manages speakers. Cute French accent. Tells me they have seen Sally’s Budapest video. They want a similar one for an author, James Workman. He’s giving a talk in Denver and it’s next Wednesday. Can I shoot it? Sure. I give Isabelle a quote for making a video.
She phones back saying they want me to shoot it but they’ll edit it in LA. I protest, but, nope, they want to edit. I’m free on Wednesday. I give a price for a shoot.
DENVER. I fly in late Tuesday. Super shuttle to the hotel that Isabelle has booked. The booking is there but they haven’t paid for the room.
The convention center is across the road. James is talking at 10:00 a.m. I decide to check it out. It’s huge: restaurants, movie theatres, meeting rooms, but where’s his talk? I ask the people selling movie tickets. Nothing.
Outside there’s a man on a ladder putting up a sign for a coming event.
“Never heard of him.”
“He’s talking here tomorrow.”
“I’ll take you to the office.”
The office manager is going home. He’s never heard of Workman. Tells me there’s a breakfast meeting in one of their ballrooms. That’s the only thing happening.
CROWLEY DUNLEVY They are Denver-based auditors. It’s their Christmas breakfast meeting for the clients. I’m there at dawn. Nobody knows nothing but they’re happy to see me.
I find a position between tables for my cameras. Meet a helpful on-staff technician. He says he can give me a feed from the PA but I decide to clip my radio mike onto his mike.
People start arriving. Workman’s book is being handed out. Phew! Good thing I checked out the center last night.
Breakfast is served. Crowley, or is it Dunlevy, welcomes everyone and introduces the celebrity speaker, James Workman.
After his talk, I ask Workman if I can interview him for the video.
“Is it for TV?”
“No your agent in L.A. asked me to film you.”
“I don’t have an agent. My publisher is my publicist.”
I tell him the name of my West coast client. He’s heard of them but that’s all. It’s 8:50 a.m. here in Denver but only 7:50 a.m. in L.A. I pack up and leave.
DENVER AIRPORT. Back at the airport, I phone Issy. I’m cross. The hotel wasn’t paid for, the talk was at 8:00 not 10:00 and the speaker didn’t know I was coming.
“Quel dommage!” (Translation: “Tough luck buddy.”)
“Yeah, quel dommage” (Translation: “Never give a sucker an even break.”) “Anyhow, it went fine.”
“Good, FedEx the tapes.”
“Isabelle, I can’t do that until I’m paid.”
MY INVOICE I bill them for the flight, the hotel plus my fee for the shoot. A month later, a check arrives for my expenses. I phone Issy.
“Michael says send the tapes. You’ll get paid once we have them.”
No deal. No money. No tapes.
Each month I chase for payment. Then, out of the blue, Issy phones: “We signed James Workman. He’s on our books. We can pay you. Send the tapes.”
A YEAR PASSES.
“Bonjour Stefan, it’s Isabelle. We have job for you. It’s next Friday in Portland.”
“Isabelle, You remember… the shoot… last year in Denver.”
“Ah oui, l’année dernière à Denver. Au revoir Isabelle.” (Translation: “Drink Pschitt”)