Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Boondoggle of all Boondoggles -- Homestore Part 6

It appears my 5 part series on Homestore has turned into a 6-parter. I apologize.

Having traversed the country and shot all the various homes, we still needed one more crazy house to complete the series. The research was exhaustive. My partner, John Shirley, vowed that we would finish this project in style and combed the Internet for outrageous homes in Hawaii.

My dogged persistence must have rubbed off on him. Because he found us our last house.

September 19, 1999 -- Waipio Valley, Hawaii

After a silky smooth direct flight to the Big Island, we board a van, pinch ourselves and head to our hotel, the swanky Mauna Kea. I've been to Kauai, Maui and Oahu many times. We love it. But there is nothing quite as amazing as being in an expensive Hawaiian resort on the company dime.

Somebody (Chiat/Day and Homestore) was paying me to be here for a week!

"Yeah, hello Room Service, I'd like a pitcher of the papaya juice."

"The small one or the big one?"

"The $48 one."

"Excellent sir, and how many glasses will you need? 4? 6?"

"Oh no, just the one."

The following morning, we drive to the other side of the island, exit the van and enter a monster 4x4 truck, the only vehicle powerful enough to make the treacherous descent down the narrow mountain road into the Waipio Valley.

Crossing taro patches and knee-high streams we criss cross 6 miles into the rainforest where we meet Linda Beech, a 73 year old former TV actress who owns the Waipio Valley Tree House.

Along the path of this incredible journey we had met many characters, one crazier than the next. But Linda was crazy interesting. She had a PhD. in Philosophy, had travelled the world extensively, was a regular actress in a Japanese sitcom and exhibited the kind of fortitude you just don't expect from a septuagenarian.

I could not possibly do Linda Beech, the 1900-foot waterfall in the backyard or the entire experience, any justice.

But this snippet might.

Epilogue 1

Months after completing the film, we find ourselves in Park City, UT for the Sundance Film Festival. Hollywood assholes are crawling the streets, making deals and shmoozing. We, on the other hand, the Chiat/Day crew have the slopes to ourselves and are living the good life. The movie premieres to excellent reviews and the grateful Homestore client reciprocates by staging a private party at one of Park City's most exclusive restaurants.

It is here that we -- a team of less than a dozen -- drink more than $2000 worth of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Epilogue 2

While the film makes its way through art house theaters across the country, the commercials remain unseen. There is no money in the budget for media, we are told. And now it becomes painfully clear why. As mentioned at the very beginning of this series, Stuart and his gaggle of unethical Yes Men, have been syphoning money away from the company and into their very own personal bank accounts.

And what money there is, turns out to be ill-gotten.

Once again, the Fickle Finger of Fate has intervened and dropped a turd in my career punchbowl. The commercials, which were years in the making, were only seen in a few test markets. And never given the exposure they deserved. You can see most of them online or in my portfolio if you're so inclined.

But the truth is we got so much more than a few clever TV spots for our reel.

We witnessed the Shakespearean rise and fall of a company and its pigheaded founder, who is due to be released from Federal prison some time in 2015.

We had the opportunity to travel across the country, meet fascinating people and make a film that merited two thumbs up from Roger Ebert and The Other Guy.

And we came away with a story, of an adventure few in advertising can rival.

I'd give anything to do it all over again.

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