Archive for July 15th, 2008

An early writing assignment was recapping ITVA chapter meetings for our monthly newsletter. In this gig, I felt it was my responsibility to make it seem like you had really missed something when, trust me, you usually had not.

I was just starting out in the writing biz, and I knew I needed practice. So why not meeting recaps? Expectations were low, and nothing was off-limits. It was fine practice in meeting deadlines. And, most of all, there was an audience…a much larger one than reads this blog, for sure.

So from time to time I like to trot out some of these old articles, especially if they have any relevance at all. And since this whole business of entrepreneurship has been on my mind lately, this one popped up…a panel discussion on small video production company ownership held at the Xavier University TV studio.

*     *     *

It was a bitter, dismal April sunset. My location permit had expired, the generator was out of gas, and one by one my crew had abandoned me. With the last trace of daylight I tried for one more take. But as I absently listened to the words coming out of that talking head, it all seemed so meaningless. I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” I see now that I was having what the videoholics call a “moment of clarity.”

Camera in hand I wandered the grimy city streets, eventually arriving at the St. Xavier TV Studio and Relief Mission. There, swaying in the bitter wind, I saw the faded wooden sign: “ITVAA Meeting Tonite.”

ITVAA–I had heard of them. It was a group of survivors who had dabbled in this thing called “video” back when it was cool. Some blamed peer pressure. Some did it to look grown up. Some thought they could try it just once, never intending to get hooked. But before they knew it, they had 1,000 business cards printed with a stupid name like “Thirty Frames Over Tokyo,” a bank loan for a non-linear editing system, and a second phone line that never seemed to ring because they were calling the non-linear help desk every ten minutes.

I pushed open the mission door and entered the hall. The air was thick with smoke and desperation. At the front of the room a fidgety little man stood before the microphone. He cleared his throat.

“My name is Gerry… and I own a video production company.”

“Hi, Gerry.” The crowd responded in monotone.

I listened as, one by one, these recovering entrepreneurs told their tales of loss and redemption. Among the topics discussed:

  • Coping with the feast-and-famine cycle of business by hiding extra gigs in a hollow tree for winter;
  • Billing issues (net 30 vs. net nevernever)
  • Keeping up with ever-changing technology while resisting the urge to go back to flip charts;
  • Kissing the client’s butt without leaving too much Chap Stik on the seat of his pants;
  • Turn-ons, including roaring fires and moonlit nights; and
  • Turnoffs, such as people who play “head games.”

The panel also discussed the difficulty of knowing when to fold up the tent. For his part, Gerry confessed that he tried to give up his video company once, but he put on a lot of weight.

The evening ended on a poignant note as the crowd rose and recited the videoholics credo: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to get a third up front, a third at first draft, and a third upon completion.”

I would write more, but I feel the need to call my sponsor.

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