Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We Take Time Out for this Important Service Announcement

I worked on this PSA which is running on TV now.

The producers/directors were really nice folks from DC who normally work at high stress making campaign videos on even-numbered years, and do stuff like this on odd-numbered years. I got the impression that they mostly do Democrats' campaigns 'cause they kept talking about working with Clinton, but I'm not sure how it really works. Maybe, up there, an agency doesn't care whom it's working for; or, on the other hand, maybe agencies have to pledge allegiance to one party or another because suspicions of double-crossing could run high. (Down here, I've seen it both ways -- a company that handles only Democrats, and another company that was known once to have competing candidates in their business at the same time -- one in the conference room, one in the editing room, neither knowing the other was using the same company.) Despite the suspected leaning toward Democrats, I think I overheard one of the DC guys saying that he would probably vote Republican in the next election. But in the next breath he said that he didn't know what to do about Iraq, that probably we would have to buy someone off over there. From recent reports, it looks like we're already buying off moderate Sunni tribes who are fighting al Qaeda. Anyone remember what happened the last time we paid for Sunnis to fight an enemy of ours?

Early that morning, we local crew members arrived in our respective cars well ahead of the out-of-town folks, who ran late. I got out of my car squinting into sunlight spread into a blazing wide, white wall by light fog hanging over the fields. I started putting on sunscreen before saying "Hi" to any of the others standing by their cars, but before I had been there long, the farmer came right up to me in silhouette against the white fog and gave me a warm welcome to his farm. That really started the day off well. He was really patient with me wrapping an ace bandage around his belly under his shirt and clipping the transmitter there. His son, who appears in the video, was a wonderful kid, very cooperative, had pretty much the same forthright way with people that his dad had.

We spent forever on that shot where they are spraying the tractor. The DC folks sent out their assistant to buy various sprinkler heads for the hose, and we stood around waiting for her to return. They never did get the light to catch in the spray as well as they wanted.

All day long, the headphone feed for audio track 1 in the camera was flaking out. I couldn't bear to listen to it. Luckily, we didn't really need two tracks and two mics for just one guy's voice, but I recorded two mics/tracks anyway and only listened to track 2. I'm really glad I didn't have two or more people talking on camera because this would have required both tracks to be monitored. It was a rental camera from DC, and they never check those things out before sending them out again, probably. Especially not the audio parts.

I had the second foray of my life into migrant farmworker housing. That was where the bathroom was. The dwelling was a cinderblock building with a concrete floor, maybe a fraying cable-knit rug in the living room, awful smelly couches losing their stuffing, television playing telenovellas even while noone was home to watch, sagging beds -- cots, really -- with paint chipped on their metal frames, mildew in the corners of the hallway near the bathroom, merely a shower curtain over the bathroom doorway and no curtain over the shower stall itself, scary holes chipped into the corners of the bathroom walls and the shower stall harboring rich black growths of mildew, toilet and sink all dirty with chipped porcelain, no soap, a mildewy pull-string on a bare lightbulb overhead. Maybe there were no screens over the open windows.

At siesta time, the farmworkers came back to this dwelling, riding in the back of a pickup truck. I had expected them to be young scrawny guys, the kind of folks I imagine might be relatively willing to tolerate these accommodations as long as they could head to town on the weekend to let loose a little. But they were middle aged, a bit on the rotund side, all with straw hats and matching blue button-down shirts and blue jeans, all pretty clean looking. In my quick sighting of them, they did not appear to be the types to let loose much at all. I imagined them going out to eat on a Saturday, cheaply, and sitting around with beers watching other people let loose, but not doing much themselves. They would know how to pace themselves. The austerity of life would help with that -- with so little to do, nothing around but the fields you work in, you don't feel a need to rush off to do something else. You take your time, pace yourself so you don't wear out too soon. When you've been doing this work a few years, as I think they have, you get more done while moving slower anyway. At midday, they lie around on whatever bed or couch they find at the house and watch the blinged-out babes on TV. Same for evenings, I guess. I don't know how they get food on the farm. I don't think I saw a kitchen in the house.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

I read this when I got up this morning and couldn't yet comment because I needed to digest!

First comment: I pink puffy heart farmers and conservationists -- sustainable agriculture, baby!

I love the land. I make new land by using yard waste, and I am thankful to the land for giving me some green beans to eat today, and some cucumbers and summer squash to eat in the next few days. I love the smell of dirt, of leaves, of water, of rain, of pine straw, of the heat... :::sigh:::

So thanks for helping with that PSA. It made me happy.

Comment the second: I am both jealous of and saddened by your description of the migrant worker camps.

I value having the opportunity to see how others live, be they the rural Mayan family I stayed with in the late 1990s or the Vanderbilts at the Biltmore. Both are really compelling to me. I've not had the opportunity to go to a migrant worker camp, so reading your vivid description is second best to going. Thank you!!

What deplorable sounding conditions, though...