About a year ago, the cosmetics company my wife was working for wanted to produce an infomercial, and she was put in charge of the project (due in part to the fact that her husband works for a large photo studio).
They hired the best infomercial producer on the West Coast, who also came with a hefty price tag. When his team came over to see the unfinished stage they were set to occupy, their VP pulled me aside and said, “I’ve seen a lot of spaces in my day, and this one is not going to be ready in time. If anything goes wrong, it’s on you.” By the first day of shooting, the studio hadn’t yet been hooked up to the city’s electrical grid. Two generators were lined up to handle the 50 tons of AC and the 8-ton grip truck.
The first generator went down around 11 a.m. All three RED cameras came to a screeching halt. Hair and makeup stopped. Before-and-after portraits stopped. We rotated to the backup generator and got everything up again.
The backup generator went down 20 minutes later. (Did I mention it was summertime in L.A.?) New generators were a half hour away, and just for the record, 30 minutes on a half-million-dollar job equals an eternity.
The new generators finally arrived, and we got everything up after a 30-minute break. The first of the new generators dropped 20 minutes later. This time, the VP came out and quietly said, “So, this is me yelling. And I’m letting you know that your facility will be covering all overtime charges we incur.” Seventy sets of eyes began to follow my every move—40 crewmembers, 20 models and 10 unhappy clients, including my wife. We quickly got the fourth generator up that ran continuously from 2 p.m. until the end of the shoot day.
The next morning, it took me a second to realize that the water seeping into our $2 million soundstage was in fact sewage, and I spent the rest of the day walking the models and celebrities across the street to the gas station bathroom.
I have to say that the VP of production had a pretty good sense of humor. And because we worked so hard to fix everything those first two days, the rest of the shoot was flawless. The production company became one of my biggest clients, and I’m happy to say that we’re all close friends now. The director has even become something of a mentor, and we’re so grateful to have him in our lives.
Anthony Tamayo is director of a prominent West Coast photo studio and is also a photographer and videographer.