Movie marketing is hard enough without misspelling the mega-producer’s name. 1,777 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.
The phone on Buzz’s desk beeped twice. He picked up the receiver and punched the blinking light and it beeped again. The receptionist said, "Normandy on Line Five."
Buzz replied, "Thanks, Stinky." After the shenanigans of the Valentine’s Day office party, everyone in the company now lovingly called her Stinky.
He punched Line Five and greeted Normandy with an excitement that bordered on the romantic. Her reply was unusually tense and chilly. He caught the drift immediately.
"It’s Bruckheimer," she said, "Brrrr-uckheimer." This was out of the norm. She was his most important client and he was extremely sensitive to her needs, attentions and moods.
"Brrrr-uckheimer. Huh?" he puzzled.
"Ginger just got back from CinemaCon. She looked at the cap and said, ‘Brrrr-uckheimer.’ I said it was a sample. She asked who made it and I said you’re fixing it." Her last three words were pointed.
Buzz wasn’t sure how to reply. Suddenly his head was screaming with what he imagined as the roar of industrial machines, chunka-chunka-chunka, pounding loud on a factory floor.
"Yeah, I’m fixing it. Gotta go. Talk to you later."
He put the phone down gently. What a buzzkill. Life had just flipped 180 degrees.
The unstructured Flexfit cap that sat on the top of his computer was 97% cotton and 3% spandex. It was a beaut. The front was embroidered in five colors and 15,000 stitches with the film’s title treatment, Fore Score. The movie logo had a drop shadow with glow-in-the-dark thread. Buzz didn’t want to touch it, but he had to. The cap was staring at him. He slowly turned it around. The back of the cap was embroidered with 2,000 stitches in a very light blue.
It read "A Jerry Buckheimer Production." The chunka-chunka-chunka grew louder. It elevated his skull like a panic attack on a bad hangover.
Surprising to all, the studio had backed a boner of a film. Everyone thought it would be ignored and go from D.O.A to VOD. Then again, no one within the Industry ignores a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. For as long as Buzz had been working entertainment, he still could not fathom how decisions got made. Fore Score was a heist caper of a high-stakes poker game during an international golf tournament. Bruckheimer’s name was on it, but not his heart. This feature was clearly a throwaway to fulfill a studio contractual obligation.
Buzz had presented a full and thoughtful campaign, but he knew the much-delayed release was the sign of a sand trap stinker. Shia LaBeouf was the protag of the epic. These days, the wannabe James Franco was mostly making headlines off camera. Someone at the studio must have thought his meltdown would be great publicity and decided to put some bucks into his film’s release.
When the Fore Score cap orders flew in, Buzz bought the office a long round of drinks and then went shopping for a new car. He hadn’t seen this kind of studio bucks spent since 2006. Distribution tagged along with 15,000 orders. Exhibition wanted 20,000 pieces of a cheaper cap so that every kid making popcorn behind a theater concession stand could wear one in the weeks before the opening date. Buzz believed in that kind of subliminal promotion. Publicity ordered 5,000 along with a set of three golf balls and a tee emblazoned with the title treatment. Buzz suggested they add an imprinted golf towel and package it all in a nifty printed box carpeted with Astroturf. As well, when the entertainment writer or editor first opened the mailer, fake $100 bills would cascade from the box. If the media members looked closely at the Benjamins, they’d find that Franklin looked a lot like Shia LaBeouf. It also said, "In Jerry Bruckheimer We Trust." The studio was the mint. Ever the pro, Buzz even sprayed the inside of each mailer with the scent of a freshly mown golf course. He believed a promotion should engage all senses for maximized impact. That’s why he was so good at his job.
He hit the third button on speed dial aand called Evergreen Embroidery. Buzz said, "Cindy, please."
"She’s in a meeting."
"Emergency." The line cut to music. It was KROQ. Buzz smiled fondly. With satellite radio, he had forgotten how important the rock station used to be to SoCal. Sting was wailing “Roxanne.”
"Hello, Buzz." English was Cindy’s second language and she spoke in a singsong that always tickled him. "I’m in a meeting. Wassup?"
"We need new art on the back." There was no reply to this very bad news. "Where are we?"
"I started the backs first. We are waiting on the glow-in-the-dark thread for the front. I think we have finished 18, maybe 19,000 pieces."
"We gotta stop."
"I’ll call you back."
"Thanks Cindy." There was a great trust and understanding between them because they were problem solvers. She had an MBA from Berkeley and he was a seasoned firefighter good at igniting bright ideas for his clients and putting out any blazes when the shit hit the fan.
Buzz tapped the keyboard and his computer came to life. He went to his email and typed “Fore Score Approval” into the search box. He clicked on the last email from Normandy. It read, "Approved. 35,000 caps for Marketing. I’m sending this to Publicity, Distribution and Exhibition. You might want to call International and Home Entertainment."
Attached was a product sheet with a photograph of the front and back of the cap. “Buckheimer.” Normandy had approved the sample, misspelling and all. And so had the studio.
Buzz was off the hook.
He stood up and walked the four short steps to the office next door. Millie was on the phone. She handled the Sony account and it’s many companies and subsidiaries. Buzz leaned against the door jam and stroked an imaginary beard while he waited for her to get off the call. Millie saw it and smiled. Then Buzz began to twirl one side of a dastardly and imaginary moustache. Millie held up a finger for time. Buzz thumbed in the direction of the parking lot. Millie flashed an ‘OK’ sign.
Once Millie got in the car, Buzz took his foot off the brake and began to wind through the streets of the industrial complex. Millie opened up the glove compartment and pulled out a well-worn leather Dopp kit. She removed a short brass pipe and loaded the bowl with California’s finest. Buzz found an easy place to park the new Audi Q3 SUV. Millie stoked the pipe and exhaled that familiar sweet skunky smell.
"I just wanted to give you a last ride in the new Audi," Buzz said as he massaged the leather dashboard, "Before she goes. Glad I kept my truck." Millie lit another hit and raised her eyebrows in question. Buzz answered, "It’s ‘Brrr-uckheimer,’ not ‘Buckheimer.’"
Millie winced with understanding and handed the burning bowl to Buzz. "How many?" she asked.
"About 18 or 19. Thousand." Millie jerked as if she had been physically hit. Buzz rambled, "You know, it’s not the ‘Bruck’ that always freaked me out. It’s the ‘Heimer.’ Isn’t it supposed to be ‘I’ before ‘E’? Always had me panicked. All these years. The ‘Heimer’ freaked me out. Every time I double-checked it."
"You’ll need more caps. What’s the supply?"
"Nonexistent to tight. Just to get this many so fast, I had to bring in caps from Miami, Philly, Dallas. Ka-ching. I guess I’ll get a crew and we’ll pluck stitches by hand. It’s painstaking, but if the damage to the fabric is not too great, and it usually is, we can embroider over it. Or not…”
"That’s a lotta weed," Millie laughed, "To get through that. Maybe even a coupla grams of blow to speed up the job.” She shook her head. "But you’re still gonna need to buy new caps."
The Audi’s new seats were soft and comfy and Stoney. Millie changed the station on the radio. Smoke swirled to the ceiling and evaporated. Buzz sighed. Millie started to laugh loudly, so happy that this had not happened to her. She shouted, "To Happy Daze, bro!"
Buzz laughed, "To Happy Daze." The company they worked for was Happy Days Promotional Marketing; it was their old joke.
"Let’s swing by the bar for lunch," suggested Millie, "and I’ll buy you a pop."
"Make it a double and I’ll pay for the extra olives."
Dammit, Buzz mouthed silently. Just when things were going so well. Or were just starting to, anyway. The great recession had forced the mighty studios, which usually paid their bills in 90 days, to begin paying in 120 days or longer. But the small suppliers, vendors and fabricators, who still had to pay their bills in 30 days, were bled dry. Then film marketing and promotion were never the same after social media and the internet changed everything. The last decade had been a brutal indignity for Buzz. He put his hand on the leather dashboard and caressed it. "I’ll miss ya, girl."
Later that day, Buzz stuck his head into old man Deiner’s office and saw he was signing checks rather than making golf plans on the phone. He knocked on the open door. The president of Happy Days Promotional Marketing looked up and listened to Buzz’s update on the Fore Score snafu. Normally, such a conference would never occur. Buzz and his colleagues worked autonomously. The reps split the profits of the job with the house and everyone was happy. This was different. Deiner didn’t like to split the losses of a job. As a matter of fact, Buzz had never had such a discussion with the old man.
"You know, when I started this company…" Deiner began.
Oh Lordy, Buzz thought. Here we go! Deiner got his first start in showbiz marketing with an elaborate wedding invitation for Joanie and Chachi that was sent to the press to promote the final season of Happy Days, hence the name of the company.
Buzz was glad he was stoned. It made his eyes glaze over faster and easier. When Deiner’s long monologue ended with intonations of hellfire and damnation, Buzz sat up and said brightly, "We’re agreed. Profit, good. Loss, bad."
"That’s right," confirmed Deiner, "Now have you thought again about what I suggested? Setting you up with an assistant sales rep? With that, this mistake might have been avoided."
"Still no. The business isn’t back yet. And I don’t need the dead weight."
Deiner was disappointed. "The offer’s still there." He ended the meeting by standing up, "Remember, the studio is our god."
Buzz nodded. He said his prayers every night.
Part Two tomorrow