Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The Josh Pines Job Interview Technique
Today when one applies for a job you are rejected out of hand either by a computer, or in some cases, by a human resources person who is no where close to being qualified to evaluate your suitability for the job. The old system of working through colleagues and recommendations and then interviewing the human in person (or at least by telephone) is a practice that was abandoned long ago in America, never to return.
But in 1989, when my partner and I were trying to build a new production company in Los Angeles, we had the naive belief that it was important to find out who was right for the job and to interview them in person. This was usually easy to do because most everyone we wanted to hire lived in LA or SF. But there were two exceptions, and both worked at R/Greenberg in NYC.
This is the story of the interview of one of them, Josh Pines. The story has become for me the iconic job interview, the one by which all others are measured. I tell the story of this interview to potential employers (the very few that bother to talk to me, that is, before rejecting me) to see how they react.
deGraf/Wahrman (dWi) had been in business about a year, maybe a little longer, and with a lot of difficulty we were being considered for the very few entertainment projects that planned to use computer animation in their production. It may be hard to believe or relate to, but in 1989 computer animation was far from an accepted technique in motion picture or other entertainment industries (e.g. theme parks). There were very few projects, and we got awarded not one, but two of them, and so we had to grow and we had to get film capability in place.
Back then, film recording of computer imagery for motion picture use was rarely done. There was hardware you could buy if you could live with the record times, but everyone who had ever successfully used that hardware for this purpose, and there were three companies in the world that had, had written all the software from scratch. If one was starting from the raw hardware, I estimated that it would take at least six months before one could start recording film reliably and with the kinds of control we needed.
I am also a film snob, which means that I believed (and still believe) that most computer people know nothing about film and unfortunately (back then at least) most film people knew nothing about computers. But there were a few people who I felt knew film the way a film person did, yet also knew computers. One of them, who might be available as the others were not, was the person who had made the film recording work at R/Greenberg, and he was the person we invited to come set up high quality film recording at dWi.
So we flew him out to Los Angeles from NYC and he spent the day with us. I forget why it took all day, but probably because we had to fly him all the way out here, we thought it was right for him to have a chance to hang with us and see if he felt good about it.
dWi had just recently moved to their second location, behind the Margo Leavin Gallery in West Hollywood (what is popularly known as the Norma Talmadge barn, although I don't think that Norma Talmadge had ever actually owned it). It was a big wooden barn with a back patio with offices on two sides of a courtyard. One side had a second story, on that second story was a hair salon. dWi moved into the bottom floors of both sides of the courtyard.
The courtyard behind the Margo Leavin Gallery in West Hollywood, where deGraf/Wahrman was located. My office was on the left, the hair salon was upstairs on the right.
So Josh shows up suitably scruffy, like a good anarchist from New York City should look, and we talk to him. Then people go away for lunch, and we had another meeting scheduled with him later in the afternoon. When he showed up at that meeting, he looked completely different. During lunch time, he had gone upstairs to the hair salon and had his dark and scruffy hair chopped into a crew cut and dyed platinum blonde.
I thought it was very amusing. This is our kind of guy, I said to myself. I think it was also a way for him to communicate to us that if we hired him, that he was going to do things like this; things that many people would never consider doing. My interpretation was that he wanted to give us "fair warning".
So I always tell this story to potential employers to see if they understand the reason I am telling them this story. Its something of an intelligence test. In my own way, I am also giving them fair warning.