Friday, February 01, 2008

Royalty-Free Soap Opera

In the 1990s, the advent of royalty-free stock photography--distributed first on CD, then over the Internet--was a great boon to cash-strapped publishers and designers (or, basically, publishers and designers), who needed editorial images of people, places, and things, but didn't have the budget to commission custom photo shoots. At Micro Publishing News magazine, we were no exception, and we had a vast collection of royalty-free stock image CDs. At the time, one of the 700 jobs I had there was to write a monthly humor column, and, pressed for time and topic, I had an idea, the brilliance of which, a decade later, remains questionable.

When I was a kid, one of the big things was photonovels of popular movies (like Star Wars). These were basically "live-action comic books," or a series of still images from a movie overlaid with speech bubbles and, as far I can recall, various transitional narrative. It was kind of a cool idea at at the time, and buying one or two was the closest I ever came to getting into comic books (which I never did).

Anyway, fast forward to 1998, where I had the idea of trying to create the equivalent of a photonovel using solely royalty-free stock images (with a little intro to vaguely justify the premise). And thus was born my "Royalty-Free Soap Opera." Now, I have to confess, I still like the idea, even if my execution left much to be desired.

I did three installments before my editor--always who hated the idea--gently suggested I never do another one.

So, we delve into the archive for this item from January 1998.

Royalty-Free Soap Opera

Entertainment companies and special effects houses have recently begun talking about using “virtual actors,” or computer-generated people, to appear in films. I thought I’d beat ’em all to the punch and make use of my own “stock company” to enact this little “soap opera” comprising only royalty-free images.

Our story The Bold and the Italic begins in the glamorous world of cheesemaking. At the corporate headquarters of In-a-Gouda-da-Vida, a deal is going down that could bring ruin to at least two people.

The head of In-a-Gouda-da-Vida’s overseas division is Edgar Gorp, who has just received a tragic phone call.
Chuckie was one of the company’s best salespeople, yet the loss of the Fujiyama account could only mean one thing: no squeak toy for Chuckie.

Meanwhile, down the hall, Gorp’s partner, Harold Tiddles, has made a significant discovery.
He shapeshifts into the form of company president Jennifer Snorfman, intending to embezzle $60 in various international currencies to pay a parking ticket.
Little does he know, however, another shapeshifter works for the company, and has spotted the deception.
Meanwhile, the real Jennifer Snorfman dreams about the love of her life, a construction worker whose job consists of rolling on dirt to flatten it out.
She dreams of him often.
This is well known to Gorp, Snorfman’s husband, who divulges a clandestine plot to an office temp.
In the meantime, Tiddles, his secret identity as a genetic mutant having been revealed in an office memo, flees the building.
Unfortunately for him, another office shapeshifter has disguised himself as Tiddles’ tie, and strangles him.
Police later found, on a Manhattan sidewalk, a single silk tie that, oddly, was moaning. Tiddles was nowhere to be found. The tie was rushed to the hospital.

What will become of Edgar Gorp and his plans for the water? Is Tiddles dead? If so, is he at Barney’s? And what of Snorfman and her love? What’s up with that? Tune in again someday.

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