"We are what we pretend to be – so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."
Thus the late great American author Kurt Vonnegut defines the moral of his seminal novel Mother Night.
It's about an American presumed Nazi propagandist during World War II. Only the reader knows he is in fact a double agent, recruited on happenstance by a secret agent for the US war department who approached him in a zoo.
The snag is that besides the reader, this agent is the only one who knows.
The book ends with the American, sitting in an Israeli jail awaiting not just trial, but desperately any sign from his mysterious recruiter that can attest to the true nature of his dealings with the enemy.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I made the infamous WebComm Christmas Video, which I'm sure is already be familiar to you all from several posts already published on this blog.
And here's a confession: I am no more a movie maker than I am a war criminal. I'm simply an ex-journalist – not even in television, but print media – who just happened to waltz in to the zoo known on Rue Montoyer 75 as "The Editorial Room".
In the Land of a Thousand Blogs
It was an ordinary brainstorming session: dreaming up new social media products and gimmicks to promote the Parliament. Someone suggested a competition on Facebook. The reward would be a trip to Strasbourg to see the EP in session.
"What's in it for us?" someone asked.
Oh, they have to write a blog about us.
Now, here's where I should have kept my mouth shut. But as I had not yet learned the philosophy of my boss – known henceforth simply as Le Boss – I spoke up.
Nuh-uh, I said.
In the Land of a Thousand Blogs, the viral video is king. We should make a movie of their visit.
"Great", Le Boss said. "You do that!"
Growing up in public
I tried protesting most vehemently that I certainly don't have the chops to do it and besides, don't we already have two units with film equipment as well as skill in our DG?
Too late. A semi-cheap camera the size of a matchbox was bought and a pilot movie commissioned.
Oh, and now that we have a movie director in our unit – albeit untrained, untried and, as far as anyone knows, unskilled – couldn't he make the Xmas video? Just a simple matter of organizing and perfectly recreating 15 of the most famous TV show intros in the world, right?
And by the way, those videos you make of Facebook fans visiting Strasbourg? You know, the first movies you ever made in your life? They'll be scrutinized and picked over by 200 000+ Facebook fans and Lord knows how many more on Twitter.
Arthur Rambo and I
Right about now, anybody would start regretting ever walking into that zoo. Perhaps even consider fleeing the country, starting up with a fresh identity as a gunrunner on the Horn of Africa. Dear reader, I was no different.
See, WebComm is a very special place indeed. Whichever meeting you walk into, you are sure to be dumbest guy in the room. I know I am. The colleagues who work here are consistently the best and the brightest.
But this is not all there is to it, as I was about to find out when I sat down across from Le Boss.
I can't do it, I said, well aware of the high standard set by my colleagues, the annoying little do-gooders.
"I don't care if you fail", Le Boss replied, much to my surprise.
"Fail as often as you like. Just as long as you fail fast and you fail cheap."
'Tis the WebComm Way.
My love affair with a small brass man
His gamble paid off. It didn't fail – and it didn't not fail both fast and cheap.
What makes a movie maker? 'Cos after having pretended to be one for a couple of months, I've made four videos, half in collaboration with and colleague and composer supreme, Kurt, making them complete in-house productions. Thanks to some user-friendly fruit-referencing technology and Le Boss' sheer bloody-mindedness, the unit now has extended our working resources into movie-making.
And we'll keep the videos coming, you can be sure of that.
The hero of Vonnegut's story ends up awaiting trial in Israel. My ending is not quite as dramatic, but I don't mind telling you it was with great pride I ousted Mr. Spielberg as Best Director at the WebComm Movie Awards 2011.
Oh, I know it's all pretend. But that doesn't make this kiss any less loving or real: