Unlikely and Sneaky Inspiration

The other day, as I ranted to a friend about the state of the economy and my unemployed status, I remembered a commercial that aired in 1971, when I was a wee-little boy. Here it is!*

*[The clip I originally posted was on Youtube, then removed and so hasn’t been here for a couple of years. I was contacted by M. who, after a few email back and forths, revealed that he was the commercial’s art director! He pointed me to the Vimeo video. Thanks, M.S. ]

At the time I thought it was hilarious. Just as you don’t need to know physics to find Coyote and Roadrunner funny, so too I didn’t need to know the social commentary it delivered. President Lincoln at an employment agency! What a gas!

I hadn’t seen this commercial since it originally aired. When I watched it for the first time last week, I was struck by its similarities to my first short film, 8 1/2 x 11, made in 1998.  (By the way, if you’re a fan of a certain medical drama that airs on ABC, you may recognize a certain Meredith Grey.)

The idea for 8 1/2 x 11 came to me one humid summer evening. I had spent the day going on job interviews — I think three or four of them — and that night, in the shower, I tried to scrub them off me. I couldn’t. They ran through my head, but in a strange way; they had merged into one mega-interview that I couldn’t separate. I thought that was kind of funny, so I wrote a short script. When I showed it to my friend RM he suggested I direct it. I had written screenplays, but never thought of directing a film before. One thing led to another and I wound up directing and co-producing the film. You have RM to blame. And whoever handed me that Orangina on the stifling set, but that’s another story.

Here’s a screenshot from the commercial–Lincoln’s hands fidget with his hat.

Here are a couple of storyboard panels. We shot the hands but never used it in the film. I’ve put boxes around the relevant notes on the right panel.

Here’s another screenshot from the commercial.

A messy eater.

Here’s a screenshot from 8 1/2 x 11, featuring the amazing actor, Paul Albe.

A messy eater.

I didn’t have the commercial from 25 years earlier in mind when I wrote or storyboarded, nor when we shot or edited the film. I wasn’t thinking “homage.” And yet, there’s no denying that this commercial made an impression and was somewhere in my consciousness. After all, I still remember it.

I mention this because I am always struck by how things stay with us. You really never know what that thing will be. It can be a trivial thing, like a commercial that influences how a short film is shot, or a significant thing, like a beautiful voice that transfixes you and steers you to your life’s work, or a history tidbit learned in grammar school that leads you to make a documentary 40-odd years later.

Do you have a similar story you’d like to share? Something from your youth that you’re still carrying around? I’d love to hear it.

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What’s A Life’s Work about? It’s a documentary about people engaged in projects they won’t see completed in their lifetimes. You can find out more on this page.

We recently ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised enough to pay an animator and license half of the archival footage the film requires. We need just a bit more to pay for licensing the other half of the archival footage, sound mixing, color correction, E&O insurance and a bunch of smaller things. When that’s done, the film is done! It’s really very VERY close!

So here’s how you can help get this film out to the world. It’s very simple: click the button…

Donate Now!

… and enter the amount you want to contribute (as little as $5, as much as $50,000) and the other specifics. That’s it. No login or registration required. Your contribution does not line my pocket; because the film is fiscally sponsored by the New York Foundation for the Arts, all money given this way is overseen by them and is guaranteed to go toward the completion of this film. Being fiscally sponsored also means that your contribution is tax-deductible. So why not do it? The amount doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re helping to bring a work of art into the world. And that, I think, is really exciting!

Questions? Email me at d a v i d ( aT } b l o o d o r a n g e f i l m s {d o t] c o m[/color-box]

[cross-posted on extracriticum.com]

2 Replies to “Unlikely and Sneaky Inspiration”

  1. The image of the Native American tearing up as he sees pollution everywhere has stayed with me since childhood. I still react strongly against littering.

    1. Hi Eleni,

      That was a very powerful commercial. It makes me wonder why we don’t see these kinds of things more often. Are we so jaded that they no longer effective? Or are they still being made and I’m just not seeing them? (I don’t have tv.)

      As always, thanks for taking the time to comment.


      Here’s the link to the PSA Eleni is talking about.


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