The Freelancer’s Journal: Tales from the Writing Trade (No. 5)

August 26 [cont.]

Dr. Sharp spoke slowly, stretching almost every syllable to its limit, but within the mellow cadences unwavering conviction resounded. He continued to tell me about his growing operation as Sandi interjected details about the infomercial, or, as she called it, “paid programming.” She spoke in purposeful staccato sentences.

“We’re gonna go with a three-camera setup—probably use a Steadicam for the walk-and-talk. The display’s gonna be framed by a flashing call number, with purchase ops every seven minutes, interspersed with some real people. We’re gonna do alternate versions, too, ‘cause the Spanish market is crucial. As far as the writer‘s concerned, the copy really has to hit the product. Ultimately, though, we’re looking to go network.”

“Yeah, network, of course,” I said.

She and Roger, who had been quiet to that point, had a brief jargon-filled aside: post-production, online/off-line, Avid fully loaded, zero-gravity jib arm, flicker-free video. Then Roger said he had another appointment and Dr. Sharp showed him to the door.

We resumed our interview and I foolishly admitted that I had never written for television. They would have found out soon enough, though. My attempts to answer Randi’s question, “What approach would you take to the infomercial?” were sadly inept. I was mired in ignorance, too deep for my impromptu bullshit to even dog paddle. I kept repeating some variation of the phrase, “I think we should orchestrate Dr. Sharp’s charisma.” I foundered deeper: “As I see it, the dialogue should cloak the pitch in entertainment,” I gesticulated sharply for emphasis, “and Dr. Sharp’s engaging presence.”

It didn’t matter at that point. I knew the man was a sham, unmitigated. But I enjoyed listening to him. His voice was soothing, his rap was infectious . . . He spoke as if success was a birthright, and that struggle was for suckers only. I could have listened to him for hours. Maybe it was that slow, uncannily self-assured way he tossed off essential THM dictums: “Just let it happen, man. Don’t worry about it, dig?” Or his parables, a sham(an) raconteur’s stock-in-trade.

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