Wednesday, July 11, 2007

jeffrey and the bad day

today did not go well.

i've been recording legal depositions lately. it's simple, nearly mind-numbing work that pays better per hour than anything else i do. i show up to some place, point my camera in the right direction, and change tapes when needed. the simplicity of this makes today that much more frustrating.

i showed up at the location about 45 minutes early with my mcdonald's breakfast still in the bag. walking around the building to find the door to the lawyer's office, a guy met me and asked if i was the videographer. i smiled and said i was. he sternly told me that they were all waiting for me.
i began moving my equipment up the stairs into the legal conference room as half a dozen out of state lawyers stared at this kid in a bowtie. it turns out that the firm that set up everything told me that the meeting was to start at 9 a.m. pacific time, when in actuality it was mountain time. as i explained this, everyone exchange looks and comments regarding the unbelievable incompetance of the utah legal business. the most dominant lawyer called up the reporting firm and thoroughly chewed out the poor girl on the other end while i quickly tried to assign the mircophones as inconspicuously as possible.
to my advantage, the court reporter was also unaware of the time mishap, causing the glaring to be split between the two of us.

when i did my very first deposition sometime earlier this year, i showed up with my camera and tripod. the already-nervous court reporter about had a heart attack when i gave her a confused look in response to a question about my 'tape back-up'. this is the same equipment i use to shoot commercials, which costs more than what these lawyers charge. i've never even though of having a back-up.
nevertheless, the guy who hired me sent me out today with a chunky old vcr so that i could record a vhs copy from the camera.
under the stress of the whole time zone fiasco, i wired everything and everyone one and said i was ready as fast as i could.

doing these depositions is one of those situations where the people don't seem to like you being there and don't want you to make a sound. so announcing that there are five minutes left or that we need to stop and change tapes always draws paradoxical glares, them suspecting that it was actually my idea to have the hour-long tape run out every sixty minutes.
on the third tape, i noticed that the air conditioning was making some horrendous quiet but high pitched noise. i didn't think it would affect the audio, but i still kept waiting for it to stop. after about 20-30 minutes, i wondered if it could be the camera. no; in all the years that i've shot, i've never heard a camera make a noise like that. after another ten minutes, i leaned in to the camera. to my horror, the noise became louder--it was coming from the camera.

i pride myself in being someone who will stand up and admit a mistake when i discover something is wrong; hiding it just makes it worse. but with my vcr backup running and this big mean lawyer guy already not liking me, i chose to put my faith in the vhs instead of asking them to stop, let me check my camera, and possibly have to repeat the last 45 minutes of testimony.
a few minutes later they chose to take a 10-minute break. i checked the tape and my heart sank. there was a picture on the left side. the right side was a blank-blue, and a garbled mess divided them in the middle. the audio was completely useless as well. again, i should have faced up then. but i had the vcr and didn't want to cause unneccessary alarm.

lunch and a few more hours and we were done around 4 p.m. [lunch was my lukewarm mcdonald's breakfast in my car as i ran to the store to buy more mini-dv tapes]. as people had left and i was wrapping my equipment, i again tried to be friendly and began talking to the alpha lawyer. with the stress of the day's work behind him, he was not only more approachable than i once suspected, but also a graduate of byu's law school. i'm always a little disappointed when i meet byu alum who are 'successful' but snobbish jerks. by now there was no point in confessing the fallen nature of my mini-dv tape, but i did call the guy who hired me when i got out. he said to bring the tapes by and we could check it out.

the mini-dv tape was indeed 100% useless. as we were ensuring that there was nothing of use on the tape, the guy was mentioning how another court reporting firm lost some footage and the lawyers essentially sued them out of existance. the tragic irony of my ineptitude to properly use a camcorder was starting to weigh heavily. a delicate film camera, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars with dozens of tiny, precise parts? sure, no problem. pressing record on a video camera? i botched it.
we checked the vhs tape. blank. nothing. we check another. nothing.
my ability to wire a vcr is now a goose egg, too.

had i just caused this guy to lose his business? would these lawyers come after him with their emotionless ties and stacks of bland legal books? how could this possibly end up even remotely ok? was i going to get paid?

i came home that night feeling pretty low for all of the reasons described above. i had told him that if there were any problems at all [and there most certainly would be] to take it out of my money first. today was a bad day from the start. please don't take a picture.

epilogue:: about a week or two later i got a call from the guy. when they told the reporting firm, they were surprisingly unconcerned about the whole mess. apparently this happens more often than we thought. life went on, they gave them the footage we did have, and i got paid $100 for my gas and other expenses. wow.

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