Interview of the Planet of the Apes
“Do come in Mr. Apes”, says a slightly overweight man in white shirt and braces. He isn’t all overweight. His middle bulges more than the rest. His voice has a lyrical quality and an air of cheery confidence.
He doesn’t get up from his position on the other side of a typical boardroom table. It’s all long, all baby food brown and all veneer with plastic coating. Safe, for now, from the uncoastered coffee mugs, glasses, pens and devices.
“Thank you.”, I say entering the room through the only door.
I take a quick glance around. The floor to ceiling street facing wall, the low bench with yesteryear awards and charity citations. Through the glass I see the building opposite, with offices mirroring this one.
I’m meeting with three people, lined up on the other side of the table. It has all the appearance of an interrogation, despite the friendly smiles of people you haven’t wronged yet. When you’ve done 20 years together and everyone is still smiling, then those are true friends.
It’s a professional set up and by that I mean we haven’t had to go on an impromptu tour of the office looking for a room. There’s water on the table, (no point trying to answer an in-depth interview question, while trying to cough up a locust). Coffee is too troublesome for interviews. That’s for when everyone’s getting on. Not instant though, unless we’re at a panel beaters.
A printout with my streaming link and some smattering of details is on the table, so maybe they know a bit about me?
“Please call me Planet.”, I offer to put everyone at ease as I slide into a fake-leather and chrome chair.
“Of course Planet. I’m Alan Porcelain, General Manager here, this is Gillian Boahtshead and this is Dan Topper.”, he says, gesturing right and then left.
“Pleased to meet you”, I say, swiveling my head to acknowledge them all in a smooth arc.
I’m pleased myself, as grocery money is moving out of the bank account without an equivalent or greater sum coming back in.
“Gillian runs our Commerce Department and Dan is our Creative Director,’’ says Alan.
On this second fact I control my double take. Dan looks like he’s only just started shaving. I did some research and yet he is mentioned….nowhere. It’s very early in this interview and already there’s some mystery.
First strike against me. Life experience is not a factor.
Gillian continues, “We’re interviewing you today because your CV is so unusual. Our CV reader screening processed you out, but your name and skillset was so unusual, we felt we had to meet you.”
Strike two. You are not at (or near) the top of the list.
She says it in such a matter of fact manner. Like getting a job is not a big deal, because she already has one.
“Tell us about yourself?”, says Alan.
“Well, I’m an American science fiction film, sort of based on the French novel ‘La Planéte des Singes’ by Pierre Boulle. I star Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison. Basically an astronaut crew lands on a strange planet in the future. It kind of deserty.”
“Deserty?”, says Alan
“Yes”, I continued. “The planet is very desolate and I assume that they shot me this way to save money. I was shot in northern Arizona near the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River.”
“You were shot?”, exclaimed Gillian nervously.
“Yes, on film. 70mm I think.”, I answered. “Anyhow the astronauts find a society in which apes have evolved to be mostly like our society and humans are more like mute creatures like primitive man. Admittedly the ape society is a bit primitive as well by our standards.”
I’m annoyed that I am repeating the word ‘like’, even though it is in context.
There is a polite yet protracted silence that Dan breaks with,
“So you’re not an ape then?”
“No, I’m a film about apes. Apes that are human-like as a reflection of our society and challenging the notion of what would happen if we destroyed our society and other creatures took over. In this case intelligent apes.”
“Oh sorry. We assumed you were some kind of simian.”, says Gillian.
“No, I’m a film.”, I say. “Spoiler is, in the end they find out that the planet was Earth after all. That is the kicker. There’s a past and a future and a now. That’s probably one of the major points of my script.”
“Why’s that?”, says Dan skeptically, with a tone that implies that it wasn’t anywhere near as creative as his bubble.
“Well…”, I answer as best as I can. “It’s around two thousand years in the future and in that way I’m a true ‘fish out of water’ tale. They’re stranded. That creates the initial tension. It just gets more baffling as the film goes on.”
I continue, “They run into the humans first and very soon some Gorillas on horseback attack where the humans are gathering food in a wild cornfield. My main protagonist Taylor is shot in the throat and this renders him unable to speak. When he is captured this fact is important, as the other humans on the planet can’t speak. He meets two scientists, Zira and Cornelius though he can’t talk to them because of his injury. He is put in a cell with a mute human female named Nova. When they find out he can talk it causes a ruckus. He escapes and at the end of the chase he sees the Statue of Liberty and this lets Taylor realise this is actually the future Earth not another planet.”
“I see”, Dan says; though I knew he didn’t.
“Probably you could watch me at another time, if you haven’t already.”, I say.
“Yes and No”, Dan says, and I knew at that moment that he never would.
“Well that’s all very interesting.” says Gillian, “Though let’s talk about the job shall we?”
“Our business is very customer focused, and a relaxed environment, although we work hard and play hard. There are lots of perks and benefits. You would be joining a fun, creative and vibrant team, within walking distance of public transport. In fact as you can see we are located in a quiet and scenic yet business oriented, inner city, residential, business precinct. You can take your career to the next level; this is a great opportunity. We are an established, yet fast growing company, Our mission is to make a profit whilst trying to be as ethical as possible, within the confines of a modern digital agency.”
She drew breath, “We’re looking for a diamond in the rough, a self-starter with good leadership, communication, organisational and interpersonal skills. A true professional. Someone that’s happy to be pushed in at the deep end and work in a fast paced environment. The perfect person would have the ability to multitask, fit perfectly into the company culture, be a team player, dynamic, with a fantastic track record and genuinely committed to the role. A good sense of humour, resilient. Someone who is passionate and enthusiastic also happy to work alone, be proactive, show initiative, be extremely hard working, a fast learner, flexible, detail and results oriented, able to manage their own time, able to think outside the box”
“What’s in the box?”, I ask.
“Which box?”, she says.
I reply, “The one to think outside of. What’s in it? If I knew what was in it I could tell you if I was the type of person who could think outside it. I thought it might be some kind of test question?”, I asked, trying to get a grip on the entire spiel. “I thought maybe you still thought I was an ape rather than a film about some astronauts that happened to involve a plot about apes. I thought maybe the relationship between apes and astronauts had made you think of some chimpanzees at NASA, trained to open the latches on boxes, as part of their training to go to space.”
I add, “Ham the Chimp from Cameroon was the first chimp to be sent into space in 1961 and it is possible that his mission and/or training might have had some influence on my plot. Either way when you consider it, we are way outside of the box and I guess that answers that question.”
Finally I turn it back into a question, “Is all of that what you expect for the duties of your Creative and Copywriter advertised in the ad?”, I ask.
“Er….no?”, says Gillian tentatively. That’s just what we expect of everyone.
“Oh. How is everyone doing at it?”, I ask.
“Really well.”, chimes in Dan. Sort of aggressively, like somewhere in the sub ganglia, a nerve has been plucked like a harp string and is still vibrating.
“Do you have any experience relevant to the job?”, says Alan, wrestling the conversation back on track.
“Well as a creative work, that is a film I am a container of copy, creative ideas, music, makeup, costume, project management, production, accounting and a myriad of other skills relevant to the job. In fact I have fifty three years of experience.”, I answer
Dan, being a young hipster, then asks me: “How old are you?”
This brings a dismayed look from Gillan and a hissing sound from Alan as he almost spits out the water he is sipping on.
“I don’t believe you’re allowed to ask me that. When you consider that I originally had four sequels (with two television series) and now there have been two reboots, the latest with several sequels, well I think my concept has been proven relevant to the cinematic canon.”
Dan decides to have another go. “Being based on a book, which is a creative work in its own right, don’t you feel like; as a film, that you are just an adaptation. In that case, a derivative work?”
“Well. We all work in Advertising here.”, I offer and that is the end of that question.
“What excites you most about this job?”, says Alan
This question is always interesting as the panel is looking to you to tell them how much you love them and Brand X, (the company) and by extension the members of the panel. If they’re a massive brand name then that’s easy. I want to work for “The Really Big Agency” because….
If not though; then this question can be tricky.
The honest answer in every case is social. I want to be able to live in society and afford groceries, a normal status and whatever perks I believe are at my current level of achievement. Also the unknown and a sense of adventure. We don’t know yet, so let’s find out.
I answer, “I love what I do and what I am (a science fiction film). In my research on the company, my impression is that you do too. I think that we have an industry outlook that is aligned and I think that I can add value as a member of the team, both in outlook and experience. I think the role offers an opportunity for everyone to grow with the right person in it.”
Dan has got a hardon for me, “Why did you leave your last job?”
“Well technically, I’m still doing it.”, I say and continue, “I’m still a movie and people still watch me every now and then. I don’t have to spend any hours on that as I am complete. Yet I’ve never stopped being me. That’s why I have the capacity to take on a new role.”
“What are your greatest strengths?”, says Gillian, being much more upbeat and interested.
“I think my overall concept, characters, A-list actors and a sense of wonder underneath the seriousness of the story.”
“And your weaknesses?”, she says, bookending the question.
“I’m a little bit corny and the makeup and special effects are dated, considering some of the amazing things that can be done these days. They did win some awards, though time passes.”, I say.
“What career achievement are you most proud of?”, she says, rounding out this series.
“Well, the fact that there are so many sequels, tv shows, merch and reboots. I started off with a bang and I guess I have just kept putting one foot after the other over the years.”, I reply. “A lot of people have helped and been involved along the way though, so it has been a team journey.”
“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”, she says, from the interview 101 playbook.
I know this one. “That’s the joy of it. After such a long career, surprise is part of the plan. I think that there are many new techniques, social and creative ideas I can add to the mix and I do have a priority order of items to build on my experience. This is a changing industry and some things are obvious and others depend on a list of third parties. That’s the surprise part.”
“Why should we hire you?”, says Alan
“Apart from my wide range of skills and experience, I’m unique. What I offer you can’t get exactly that from anyone else.”, I offer.
“Tell us a time you went above and beyond.”, says Gillian
“Well”, I say making a joke , “You mean apart from the bit about the spaceship.”
This is met with bewilderment and silence. It’s clear they have no idea about the reference.
Trying again I say, “The rights were purchased to the novel I’m based on long before it’s publication (in 1963) and the producer, Arthur P. Jacobs pitched it to a great number of studios without success. It wasn’t until he was in the middle of producing another film ‘Dr. Dolittle’ that he managed to convince 20th Century Fox to greenlight me.”
“From book to film.” says Gillian, clarifying for me.
“Yes”, I say, “They had to write a screenplay and the first attempt was by Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. For whatever reason nobody liked his script. I think cost was the big deal and his script would have needed a lot of sets, props and special effects. In subsequent scripts, the ape society was made more primitive, essentially allowing for the reduction of a lot of the cost. Serling’s ending was retained as the crux of the whole story.”
“The going above and beyond part”, I continue, “Is where the producers had to shoot a test scene using an initial version of the makeup. This included the actors Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson and just that alone would have made it a big undertaking. James Brolin was in it as well, though he was just a contract player back then. You can see it on the DVD version. That was a big effort.”
“What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received about yourself?”, asks Gillian, getting to the next question.
“In my earlier career I got a lot of positive and constructive feedback from my mentors and the industry.” I say, “I’m widely regarded now as a ‘classic’ film and certainly one of the best films of 1968. Pauline Kael, a critic at the time, said I was ‘one of the most entertaining science-fiction fantasies ever to come out of Hollywood’. Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times was very kind to me and said ‘A triumph of artistry and imagination, it is at once a timely parable and a grand adventure on an epic scale.’ I had a lot of success and I am very grateful for it. Even today Rotten Tomatoes says ‘Planet of the Apes raises thought-provoking questions about our culture without letting social commentary get in the way of the drama and action.’ I made $20,825,000 back then.”
“Would you like to ask us some questions?”, says Gillian
“I’d like to ask what the role entails?”, I say.
“We don’t really have all the aspects of the role set in concrete.”, says Dan
This isn’t necessarily suspicious. There are specific types of roles in creative, though with the ever changing nature of technology, it’s hard enough for the people doing it to grasp, let alone the management. Thus all advertising jobs have become either functionally vague or deliberately vague.
A lot of times it’s a fishing expedition, to see if there is someone out there, to come in and tell what it’s all about. No one internally ever wants to admit it though; and so a misty front is created to save face. This role has stumbled into being.
The downside is inefficiency, role overlap, no responsibility or accountability and it’s hard to plan. Thus everyone is always playing catchup in a world of rolling change.
I had a script, an exposition, and second and third acts. I had a conclusion with a twist. When my protagonist Taylor says, “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”, his bitter exclamation hammers home the gripping visual of the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand.
You’re left with the sadness of the human potential to destroy ourselves. Personally I also think it reflects the potential for destruction of the cold war at the time. Especially since one of my sequels deals with a leftover nuclear missile.
“Oh.” I answer, “well I’ve got a wide range of skills and experience. I’m sure I can cover most eventualities.”
Inside though I think, “If you’re not committed to some kind of structure or technologies, then you haven’t thought about or committed to a direction.”
Surprises happen, and in that case there are contractors.
Gillian decides to put it back on me, “Describe a time when you’ve had to resolve a complaint?”
I reply, “When taylor is put in a cell with one of the human’s whom he calls Nova, he realises that the apes have a rigid caste system. The gorillas are the military, the orangutans are the government and the chimps are the scientists. There is conflict between all of these factions in the same way that there is in our human society. Taylor makes a paper airplane to convince the scientist apes that he is intelligent. This raises the tension considerably and the apes decide they are going to castrate Taylor.”
“Oh my!” says Alan, disturbed by the turn in the subject matter.
“Yes it gets even worse, once they find out he can talk.”, I say warming to the subject. “They convene a hearing, not like a court as he has no rights. It is to determine what to do with him. They decide to lobotomise him. In the end he resolves the conflict by escaping and going to a forbidden zone that the apes are generally not allowed to go to. Thus he resolves the conflict by leaving. In this case he tried to resolve it, though when the conflict was too much, he made a sensible decision. However as we find out at the end of the film, this action never results in a satisfactory resolution for anyone. They knew Taylor’s point of view that there was a previous advanced human civilisation, it’s just not in their interest to listen.”
Dan brings it back to an area he thinks as Creative Director that is his to own, “What do you think you could contribute to our office culture?”
“Well, I provided a lot of prosperity when I was released and since that time, with all the spinoffs, tv shows, games, merch and reboots, I have been providing value along the way. The audience got a lot of enjoyment and really I became a big franchise. I have been preserved in the United States National Film Registry and have been considered as being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’. Several people won awards and also went on to have long careers in movies, film and television both in front of and behind the camera.”
There was a small pause all round and I could feel that moment approaching when everyone feels like they’ve said or heard enough for now. Maybe you get on a short list. Maybe not.
“Of course we’ve been interviewing other people.”, says Gillian, confessing an infidelity socially accepted in such circumstances. “We did interview a young film that’s just been produced. It hasn’t been released yet, so it’s totally untested and we don’t know how well it will do.”
“Many of the critics at the website the studio owns said it will be a real winner and gave it 5 stars.”, Dan continues.
“Yes.”, says Gillian, “We always like to get younger employees and train them up.”
“Isn’t that a logical fallacy?”, I say. “If everyone is an employee with no experience or skills. How much real mentoring does anyone actually get?”
“Well yes”, says Alan jumping in, “We of course have many experienced senior managers.”, probably referring to himself.
“Well thank you for coming in today.”, says Gillian, getting up and with that I knew it was over.
Pleasantries were exchanged and within six minutes I was down the lift, through the glass doors and out onto the busy city street.
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