ASCII by Jason Scott

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Bring on the Pain #3: OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE —

Hooray, Bring on the Pain is now a series.

I originally gave a list of places I was writing to or looking into or otherwise interacting with to do the next generation of BBS Documentary availability. Preferably digital distribution, which I count cable/satellite in as well as radio (?) or anything else where I, personally, am not sending out copies for people, but they are getting it somewhere and I’m making some small amount of bucks at. The list has expanded and there’s no point in listing a bunch of “I’m gonna” bullet points when I’d much rather list some “I did” bullet points.

But if possible, I’d like to occasionally touch on some learned or re-learned wisdom on my little journey, because it truly is about the journey and not the destination in this case. I already “got there” when I finished the BBS Documentary, the rest of this is sweet, delicious, digital gravy. So let’s talk about subjects that I hope inspire others.

I can’t fully explain why I have this need, once I’ve done stuff or gotten well along on something, to turn around and shout to people what I just did and what I learned. I am sure at least part of it is that on multiple occasions in my past, I relied on someone else laying a lot of fears at rest or more importantly proving that something is actually possible, even if I think their result ain’t so hot. At least they did it… and I welcomed that advice and knowledge and saved myself untold amounts of pain.

To that end, then, let me give some advice.

If you are working on a big project, with “big project” tentatively defined as “a project that takes long enough that you go to sleep and wake up multiple times before it is finally finished” and especially if your project involves other entities, you will encounter at least a few cases of entirely lame stupid shit that will amaze you. You will doubt that this lame stupid shit is normal, expected and a part of the process. You might in fact think that it’s you. It’s not you.

Some of us have had to deal with lame shit all our lives. Some of it is so ingrained we barely recognize it as lame shit any more (things once made of strong metal are now weak plastic, advertising is pervasive, public space is no longer considered requirement for dressing nicely), but that’s just low-level stuff; I mean the lame shit that people deal with like being denied stuff they need for absolutely no good reason, or being given poor quality product because they’re in no position to argue. That sort of lame is out there too; please don’t think I’m diminishing it here.

But when you set off to do a new thing, like make a film or a song or build a structure or learn to drive, you will have a heightened sense of things going just right. You’ll want to get things just so so you’ll be paying attention where maybe otherwise you wouldn’t be quite so hyperfocused on the little things. And I am telling you now that you will inevitably encounter stupid shit indeed, shit that will make you wonder how the world even functions when all these little secret rules and made-up fakery and terrible contingencies are propping the whole jalopy up.

When the industrial revolution happened, more than ever before, a process of optimization happened. Processes which were done by people could now be done by machines and that required a rebooting of thought, of interaction with the world. In one way, this was great – we could make stuff better and faster. In other ways, not so good: the machines were huge, occasionally ate children operating them, and the resultant product had to lose quite a bit along the way the be easily consistent into the hundreds or thousands of copies.

We are now in the process of cutting over a whole new range of processes; processes again thought to be the place of human beings but which machines can do in analogue; sorting, collating, designating, compiling. Yes, a human being will do a better job but a human being can’t do millions of images either, so there’s an advantage butting against a disadvantage here, and the machine is going to win – it’s cheaper and faster, ultimately, or it will be once we downgrade the quality and expect a new generation of people to accept lame shit as the baseline.

So here you are, person who is coming into the whole mess, with your creation or business or situation, and you see stuff that is lame and stupid and weird and inefficient and you will go “What the hell is going on here?”

Sometimes, well, often, the person you will deal with in these situations will have no idea why this is the case. It’s the way it is and they do it this way and welcome to the center ring, newest stuffed-in-car clown! Get ready for your pie! And you will see all the pieces there, all the things lying together, and you will think you could point this out, but the fact is, everyone knows this is the way, and someone, somewhere might even know the reason why, but on the other hand there might not be any reason why at all.

Concrete examples, you say. Fine.

  • When you order items to be duplicated, especially in the thousands, you will be told that you can’t get it in the quantity you ordered; it is likely to be anywhere up to 10 percent over or under. You will not be charged for stuff you didn’t get, but you are in no way guaranteed the numbers.
  • The definition for “you need a permit for that” in larger cities if you shoot video or film is “you put a tripod on the ground”. Therefore some movie-makers put their cameras on tripods on trucks, so they don’t touch the ground. Or shoot out a window while moving in a car, again obviating the need for a permit.

So what got me to remember to tell you this was that I contacted a digital distribution service (Tesco), one of these sites that makes films available. They have a few movies up and they offer you ways to buy and otherwise get the movies (although they still seem to prefer WMV for its delicious DRM) and so I thought it couldn’t hurt to at least contact them and get terms.

There was no e-mail address, just a technical support address. So I hit THEM with a request. And said “Hi, I have a movie and want to talk about distributing through you. How can I do that?”

This is what I got:

Dear Jason

Thank you for your email.

I am sorry but we are not able to deal with this type of enquiry in
the Customer Service Centre.  I would have to ask you to re-direct the information
you have sent us to our Buying Team.  You can contact our Buyers by writing to:

The Buying Team
Tesco Stores Ltd.
New Tesco House.
Delamare Road
Waltham Cross
EN8 9SL.

Our Buyers do receive many enquiries and, I am sorry we cannot supply telephone numbers
or email addresses.

I am sure that if the team would like more details of the product from you, they will write
back as soon as possible.

If you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact us at quoting TES5811116X.

Kind Regards
Gary Falconer
Customer Service Manager
Tesco Customer Service

Now, what’s being said here is “Because you want to distribute a movie through us, you must write us a letter and mail us in the UK through postal mail and if we’re interested we’ll mail back”.

I have a little internal rule: if you have to go through HR to apply for a job, you have failed. I believe this because my experience is that HR’s job is to tell you to fuck right off, because we’re looking for superstars, and it’s the executives who pal around at various functions and places who go “well now, let’s see what we can do for you” and THEN HR’s job is to settle where your paychecks go.

I wrote to technical support because this is the only way to contact Tesco. This is apparently the same as going for a job through HR, because they’re making me jump through a lot of hoops with my movie for the privilege of begging a place to distribute my movie.

It’s fucking lame and stupid. But I’ll certainly do it, because I said I was going to try this whole thing out.

But it’s not me. It’s the way this place works and a lot of places work this way. That’s how it is.

So cheer up, emo kid. It could be worse. And will be.

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  1. Alkivar says:

    Tesco is the british equivalent of WALMART…

    You’re going to have to jump through 9 levels of flaming hoops while playing a bagpipe to even get on the corporate janitors radar.

    More than likely they will respond with something to the effect of “You’re not from Hollywood. Blow me”.

  2. Drew Wallner says:

    If I read posts like this, and am both entertained and informed in a way that only makes me want to become a filmmaker *more*…

    …does that make me totally crazy?