It is a greasy world. It is a disturbing world. It is the world of creative project financing and once you step into its waters you never really feel clean ever again. Forget your superpowerful deoderant soaps and steaming hot water. It will not make a world of difference. Of course, this story has nothing to do with that.
Almost two years ago, a group of people of which I was a member, stepped into this greasy world. At the time, our group consisted of two puppeteers, a television project producer, the owner of a local television station, and myself, the staff writer. The television station owner had arranged a deal with the CEO of a multi-national corporation headquartered in Orlando, Florida. He expressed a desire to completely fund the television station, pay us all "industry standard" salaries and put us to work producing twenty-four hours of programming in return for us running constant advertising for his interests. It seemed too good to be true, but it was finally an opportunity for us to quit our day jobs and go to work full time doing what we always dreamed of.
Leroy was a mysterious man behind a curtain, speaking only to the station owner and not to any other member of the group. We were fine with that. We did not know what we would say to him if we had the opportunity to speak. We were a collection of scraggly, long-hairs who wanted creative freedom and the ability to express that creative freedom while being paid for it. The impossible dream. The pinnacle. The be all and end all of everything. We were ready to uncork the champagne.
The station owner would meet regularly with Leroy and brought with him contracts that needed to be signed. Leroy would smile and push the contracts back across the desk at him and tell him that he needed to have his accountants run over the figures. "But why don't you have your jugglers, or whatever they are, set up the broadcast equipment in my upstairs office? We want to be ready to roll on schedule, don't we?"
The fires began to burn, because you must understand, professional puppeteers do not like to be called jugglers. It really gnaws on their boxer shorts. Not that they can't juggle. The dexterity required to be a puppeteer is similar to that of a juggler as well as a drummer. Hands and arms are trained to function independently, without that messy brain wave activity that causes arms to mirror each other move for move.
We rolled the dice and moved three truckloads of equipment into Leroy's offices. Three weeks later, we moved it all out again when Leroy decided our lowest conceivable contract demands, which would have left all of us living below the poverty level, was "much too extravagant." A month later, the group split in half, and the half involving just the station owner and producer agreed to consider a new deal that excluded all talent and writers. We wondered what kind of programming two completely technically minded people were going to present. The contracts were never signed and they moved the equipment out again.
Then Leroy asked the station owner to provide him with some demo reels of some of the material we had already recorded on our own accord. The station owner graciously agreed, hoping for last minute salvation. Leroy guffawed at the tape and watched it in its entirety before handing the tape back.
"Those jugglers are pretty good. My son's fourth birthday party is this Sunday. Would they be interested in putting on one of their shows for him on that special day? I would love to meet these puppets of theirs in person."
We slept in on Sunday.