If you’ve been following along with my scriptwriting series, you now know that a script can be almost anything, as long as it provides a blueprint to tell a story. Words, interviews, sounds, music and of course pictorial descriptions are all fair game. Pacing notes are fair game. Stylistic comments (Quick paced montage of team building the house)” are fair game.
Which brings me to writing about in some detail the story of the “AVL Commitment” script.
Working for AVL is a bit like an actor or comedian being asked to host an awards show. It’s a great honor, there are limited opportunities, and you can make or break your career. There are smart producers that avoid this kind of thing entirely. But at Sorgel-Lee, we had made our reputation on high-risk ventures. Impossible situations. Tough clients. Drunk and impatient audiences. The type of situations that put you on the map or erased you forever. The type of situations where clients could get a major bonus, a promotion and a raise, or be shunned out of existence. Yes, there were some bumps in the night, but for the most part we had succeeded in working ourselves onto the national scene as a “regional leader” in the audio-visual multi-image business.
Multi-image was the adopted name of the creation of “shows” or “events” or “spectaculars” through the use of multiple slide projectors, animation stand special effects, sophisticated soundtracks and a major piece of computer equipment to tie all of that together into something that was often called a “film” or a “slide-movie” because the music and words matched the picture. It wasn’t film, but the use of multiple slide projectors and carefully photographed sequences gave the impression that it was.
The leqding provider of this kind of equipment was a company called “Audio Visual Laboratories, or AVL. There were other companies, but theres always a number one– a company cloer to the user, more clever in engineering and marketing, and m=better at customer service, and for many producers money (which wasn’t all that much money– thus wasn’t Hollywood, after all) AVL was the choice for people who wanted to do more, satisfy their own creative urges, and make audiences “eyes fall out”.
Being asked by AVL to produce a demo show for their equipment was equivalent to a coronation. Of course, you had to deliver And a handful of great in the multi-image industry (oh yes, it WAS an industry) had: Richard Shipps, Dough Mezney, Chris Karody, Duffy and Sherry White. New York, LA, Denver, Detroit.
Why would they ask a couple of guys from Milwaukee to do their next show?
We had already won a couple of “AMI’s” at the annual Association for Multi-Image” awards banquets, so our name was somewhat known.
With that under our belt, plus other at-home “Big Show” successes, we decided that if they weren;t going to call us, we’d call them. We’d had our picture on the cover of our industry magazine, I was a monthly columnist writing about computers in that same magazine, and Ric was working up the food chain to be president of AMI. Why not?
But we needed an angle. We needed to do what we did best. We didn’t want to just show off equipment with nifty programming tricks, we wanted to tell a story. The AVL story.
So we pitched it, the old fashioned way.
We called Randy Klein then Vice President of Marketing at AVL, and suggested that we had something important to discuss with him– a marketing proposition.
“Go ahead”, he said, perhaps sarcastically since he was nestled in New Jersey on the east coast near the Big Apple and were in, well, Milwaukee.
No, we told him, we have to do it in person.
Flights back then were plentiful cheap, and not the hassle thay are today– you could get in and out in a day if you had to. We had some business in New York; we had been working for AT&T and Playboy’s Fashion Magazine, and I was finding whatever excuse I could to go back home.
We took a North Central Airlines Jet to Newark, rented a car, and drove down the Turnpike, then the Garden State, to exit 117, which said “Keyport / Aberdeen”, but was also the gateway to the shore, and Atlantic Highlands, Monmouth County, New Jersey.
We arrived at the AVL Headquarters, which at that time was an old abandoned grade-school building. AVL’s operations were actually spread over three locations. There was another space on Atlantic Highlands main street, where engineering and manufacturing took place, and a location in the San Francisco area where manufacturing and engineering took place as well. (That location would become significant later, for another story.)
We had written one of our classic proposals– Who What Why, How, and Whats in it for me, the client.
As usual by that time in our careers, I started by reading, then let enthusiasm take over as I went into the ad-hoc, from the heart, Don Draper-at his-best pitch.
A minuscule budget was set, and we came home triumphant, although smarter folks on staff (including Linda Duczman and Tim Dodge) were probably thinking “What are we in for… that’s a budget?!”
But we were looking at this from a marketing perspective. There would be no argument now that we could stand head and shoulders with the biggies in New York and LA– if we pulled it off.
NEXT: Developing and writing the script.