Eddie, Part II
Nick found Eduardo in a sunny café on High Street. Eddie had a laptop and a cup of coffee on the table in front of him.
“Hola,” said Nick.
“Hey, blanco,” said Eddie, shaking his hand. Eddie’s hair and mustache were jet black and he wore tan Dockers and a blue silk shirt.
“What’s goin’ on?”
“Have a seat,” said Eddie, pulling out the chair next to him. “Watch this.”
Nick sat and Eddie turned the laptop towards him, handed him the earbuds, and played a DVD. It was a ten-minute promotional piece for a medical university in Philadelphia. It was fast-paced with excellent voiceovers and graphics. Nick noticed that the lighting was flawless and that the video had obviously been shot entirely in digital, with no grain at all, which was rather unusual for that time.
“Very nice,” said Nick when it was over.
“Think you could make something like that?”
“I could, but I don’t have any equipment anymore.”
“I can get you equipment and a crew.”
“There’s a local educational NGO that could use a new promotional vid,” said Eddie. “I’ll be the producer. You direct.”
“You ever produce a video?” Nick asked.
“No. That’s why I’ve got you.”
“I’ll try to get twenty grand. Seem reasonable?”
“In this market, yes.”
“Then we split fifty-fifty.”
Whether or not that was reasonable, Nick thought, depended on who did most of the work, and he knew what Eddie was like. But ten grand was a lot of money.
“Ok, count me in,” he said.
“I’ve got a meeting with the director of the Wallace Foundation on Friday to pitch the idea. Come with me.”
Nick googled the Wallace Foundation that evening. Their website was elegant and reserved. The Foundation promoted public health and education through a variety of means—lectures, lobbying, publications, conferences, and financial support to other nonprofits. Invited speakers tended to be politicians and public administrators, and photographs of the events always featured elderly white men in suits shaking hands. A little alarm went off in the back of Nick’s head.
* * *
Nick rode with Eddie in Eddie’s Saab to the meeting with the foundation on Friday afternoon.
“So, this Wallace Foundation,” said Nick.
“Bunch of assholes.”
“Something doesn’t seem right about them.”
“Know how big their staff is?”
“Twelve people,” said Eddie. “Know how big their board of directors is?”
“Yup. Understand yet?”
“I understand that something isn’t right,” said Nick.
“It’s a social club. The board is all politicians, businessmen, academics, the prestigious types. Doctors, lawyers. They make tax-deductible donations to the foundation, then use the money to throw wine and cheese parties for themselves and do a little networking.”
“How do they keep their nonprofit status?”
“That’s easy. All they have to do is fulfill a vague mission statement. Hold a few public events, publish a book no one wants to read. Anyway, they pay the staff to do all that.”
“So they don’t actually have to do anything useful.”
“No,” said Eddie, “and they don’t.”
“Isn’t it? There’s all sorts of uses for a foundation like that. Want to go to Vienna? Hold an international public health conference there. Want to meet the Vice President of the United States? Invite him to your event. And then give him an award for championing public health and offer him a position on the board. You’ll at least get a donation and maybe a government grant.”
“And if your kid needs a job,” said Nick.
“If you’re a writer, you can have the foundation publish your book and send you on a
“Now you get it,” said Eduardo. “You fit right in with those assholes.”
“Vete a la chingada. How are you gonna talk them into a video?”
“That’ll be easy.”
* * *
The foundation had an elegant office above the Hudson River in Dutchess County, with plush maroon carpeting, cherrywood furniture, sculptures and paintings, and classical music from hidden speakers. The two were made to wait thirty minutes to meet William van Eyck, a white-haired gentleman with the sophisticated and reserved air of a patrician.
Eddie rolled out the Latino charm and made his pitch: fifteen-minute promotional video on DVD and the foundation’s website for grant applications, soliciting donations, and public outreach.
“I feel it would make the greatest impact if you yourself did the narration,” Eddie said. “You have plenty of experience in public speaking, and it would lend a personal touch.”
Van Eyck nodded approvingly.
Then Eduardo brought out his laptop. “This is a sample of my work,” he said, and played the same DVD he had shown Nick in the café. Nick noticed that Eddie had gotten someone to add his name to the credits as Executive Producer.
“Very impressive,” said van Eyck. “Very engaging…it really draws you in.”
Eddie left the prospectus with his card and the two went on their way.
“Think he’ll go for it?” Nick asked on the ride back.
“I think so. I know his secretary. I’ll have her remind him about it.”
“You didn’t say anything about price.”
“It’s in the prospectus,” Eddie said. “I put down twenty thousand for a fifteen-minute video, plus five thousand for every five minutes over that.”
“I think it’s gonna go over fifteen minutes,” Nick said.
“So do I,” said Eddie with a grin.
“What about equipment and a crew? We might not make much after we’ve hired them.”
“The nephew of a friend just started a small production house. I hear he’s got top-notch gear. He just graduated from NYU and his parents gave him the money for the start-up. He needs to build up his reputation, so he said he’d take the job for free if he could use it on his demo reel.”
“Yeah. I told him it’d be a great break for his career. Who knows, maybe it will be.”
Nick laughed and thought, if this guy wasn’t my friend, I don’t think I’d like him at all.
* * *
Van Eyck bought Eddie’s line. Eddie put Nick in touch with Nathan, the budding producer.
Nick directed the shoots, which went about as smoothly as he’d expected. The foundation board members were wracked with debate over who should be included in interviews, whose on-screen time was longer than whose, what topics should be included, and where scenes should be shot. Van Eyck had given no direction regarding final authority in such matters, and each member thought that he knew best. They added new interviews to avoid bruised egos or to use as bargaining chips for something else they wanted included. Nick found Nathan easy enough to work with—creative and hard-working, though amazed at the indecision and stupidity among people with PhDs. Nick accepted these problems with the familiarity of the common cold, and spent a lot of time keeping Nathan’s morale up.
After the editing, van Eyck took the rough cut around to all the board members for review. Each one suggested changes. Van Eyck then decided there should be two versions of the program, one for grant-seeking and one for public outreach. Then he wanted closed-captioning in both English and Spanish. Eddie and Nick expanded the project and the fee accordingly. Eddie finally turned over the finished DVDs after five months of work, much of it spent waiting for the board to make up its collective mind. The bill was thirty-five thousand dollars, which Eddie and Nick split between them; then Nick gave Nathan copies of the DVDs for his demo reel. Nathan looked at the DVDs with a grimace and sat silently, thinking.
Eduardo and Nick went out to dinner to celebrate.
“Whatcha gonna do with your cut?” asked Nick.
“Got a bead on a used Jaguar. By the way, I’ve got more video work lined up, if you’re interested.”
“Some of the board members expressed an interest in our services. I don’t think there’s one of them that isn’t on the board of two or three organizations.”
“What about Nathan?” asked Nick.
“Pues, we can always find another one of those.”
◊ ◊ ◊
David Bassano is a History professor at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. He is a human rights activist, an author of academic and literary works, and an avid hiker and cyclist. Trevelyan’s Wager, published by Harvard Square Editions, is his first novel. You may learn more about him and his work at www.davidbassano.com.