So I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of visionary brands (and yes, this is where I list the best of them so you can see my net worth. Deal with it.) Victoria’s Secret, Reebok, Lincoln, you know, the big boys (and girls). No matter who the client is, and this is absolutely true, I approach the job the same way; that it is not a job. I enjoy what I do so I bring that enjoyment on set with me.
See, I used to have “a job”. I used to work in hotels. As in a “hotel manager”. I choose that job because it afforded me the ability to travel, and to pursue my passions as a filmmaker and writer and all that good stuff. Well, passions were pursued, and eventually I caught up with them, and now their my bitch. People ask me what I do in my free time. I either tell them “I don’t know what free time is” or “the same thing I do in my not free time”. The reason is if I wasn’t doing this for money, I would still be doing it, so I can’t really call what I do a job. Shhhhh. Don’t tell my clients.
So it doesn’t matter if its capturing bodies for Victoria’s Secret or cam shafts for Victor’s auto body, the work, the actual work I’m doing, is always enjoyable.
That’s why, when a client suddenly doesn’t call you back, you cry. (well I cry.)
Unlike in the hotel biz when a guest doesn’t return, you feel a tinge of pain, but you know that you’ve done all humanly possible to make their stay better than they dreamed, or remedied any situation beyond their expectations. I secretly loved being a manager, because I love people, and I love fixing problems, and people problems are the best kind to fix. If the filmmaking thing didn’t work out I was going to become a Jewish mother. There comes a point though where there really is nothing you can do to help a person because they have decided that there is nothing that can be done. It’s a two-way street with people, and I guess, that’s what makes it interesting.
With clients though, because you are doing what you love, because it is not a job but an extension of you, you take it very, very personally.
About a year ago I used to photograph cupcakes for Crumbs Bakery. It was a fantastic time; sometimes in the morning I would have to shoot a Victoria’s Secret model, then in the afternoon, about 3 dozen crazy cupcakes. I used to call it “panty and pastry Thursdays” and all my friends hated that, and me, subsequently. The cupcakes were ultimately much more exciting, mainly because you got to eat them at the end of the session, something that would never happen with the models.
Things were going swimmingly. Each week a new batch. Flag day cupcakes, Halloween cupcakes, Thanksgiving, Chanukah, Christmas, Boxing day, Woman’s Suffrage Day. Crumb’s came up with new flavors and design for nearly every little note on the calendar. We had a great time building dioramas, getting creative with cream and sugar, and it didn’t ever seem it would end.
But then, it did.
They just stopped calling. We called them, asked, “anything this week?” they would reply, “No. Nothing this week. We’ll see next week.” but next week was the same deal. Soon we would ask, “did we do something wrong?” and they would say. “No. It’s just some restructuring.” the client equivalent to “it’s not you, it’s me”.
Well, I can’t tell you, this happened months ago, and I don’t pass a Crumb’s bakery, or even have a slice of birthday cake and not think of those beautiful days I spent with my Crumb’s cupcakes. I wonder where she went to, who she was hanging out with, and who was letting her beadboard light off of her. I would be jealous some days, others, just sad, wondering what was it I did, or perhaps, didn’t do, to make her stay with me.
Today I saw the news. Crumb’s is to close all its stores. They are totally bankrupt.
I can’t say I am happy. It’s not like the girl who dumps you, then you see her 15 years later at a cousin’s wedding and she’s fat with some sort of a mullet and a boyfriend named Ted who’s in “finance” (sells auto insurance over the phone. Nice try Ted). No, it’s not like that. It’s more like you found out your love had a terminal illness, and instead of telling you, she let you go, as to not bring you down. Or it’s like, “damn. So that was it.” and you might be able to eat a slice of Cookie Puss now without that sinking feeling in your stomach (you’ll still get that feeling. I mean, its Carvel after all)
The point (is there one Rob?) is that when you do what you love, it is impossible sometimes to separate your emotions from your “work”. This is the real challenge; to be able to give yourself fully to what you do, but have the restraint to be able to make cold business decisions when need be. I am constantly guilty of doing more than what is budgeted mainly because it doesn’t bother me. When you’ve listened to Hollywood hipsters complain about how they can’t get into the SkyBar for 5 years, and how it’s ruining their lives, then any request from a client asking to do something that you love just seems like heaven.
First world problems I suppose. Good luck Crumb’s. You will always have a sweet spot in my heart.