By Barry Poltermann on 17th June 2010
I am reminded today of the ‘Prime Directive’ on Star Trek, and want to muse a bit on how it relates to About Face’s work.
We are sometimes asked by clients to ‘stage’ things in some way… you know, ‘let’s bring in some props’, ‘let’s use some of our employees to stand in as customers’, ‘let’s use a showroom instead of our offices because we don’t want to see all of these cubicles”, etc.
This isn’t at all surprising, as we’ve all worked in traditional marketing. We certainly can’t fault a client for doing what’s always been done. This is standard operating procedure, right? So what’s the big deal.
But our answer at AboutFace must always be to politely decline.
Even at the risk of upsetting a client, we must remember and remind them that when we say that we do documentaries, we mean just that. We reflect the truth of our subjects and their organizations within our work.
Sure, you can argue that any ‘choice’ we make as directors and editors is, by it’s very nature, a manipulation. However, we don’t intentionally act to manipulate or ‘fake’ reality.
To get all nerdy, let’s quote from the Prime Directive:
No Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.
So, from this moment forth, let it be said, that the AboutFace Prime Directive is:
No AboutFace personnel may interfere with the normal activities of subjects lives, characteristics or cultures. Such interference includes manipulative propping, selecting wardrobe, faking locations or otherwise altering subjects actual world or directing subjects to act in such a manner that would be out of character for the subjects. AboutFace personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even at the risk of losing a client, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental manipulation of said subject or culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations, and carries with it the highest moral obligation.
If clients press on this one, politely remind them that we shoot actual documentaries at AboutFace, not “documentary style” ads or corporate marketing pieces.
Remember, there are literally THOUSANDS of marketing companies out there that are happy to stage/fake/manipulate/whatever on behalf of their clients and customers.
If we want to be able to say with a straight face that “we are different than they are” then, well… we must remain different than they are.