Chris Henson, Creative Director
Most enormous organizations — universities, corporations, armies and cults — have their own video production teams and studios tasked with creating short training videos for new and current employees. It’s an easy way to get loads of important information into the soft, mushy brains of staffers in far-flung facilities while insuring a timely, consistent message throughout the hive mind.
Once in a while, the production team gets a wild hair and decides the only thing standing between them and an Oscar acceptance speech is a little bit of creativity. “You know what would make this boring 3-axis linear actuator modulation programming instructional video more interesting?” they say. “A little show-biz razzmatazz! It’s ripe for parody, I tell you! Ripe!”
Next thing you know, Brenda from payroll and Kyle from project development are sitting on a park bench, against an elaborate backdrop, acting out a scene from Forrest Gump. Only instead of the “Life is like a box of chocolates” line, Kyle must say, “Momma always said, life is like a 3-axis linear actuating modulator. You never know the amount of spindle variance you’re going to get on the rotational dandle arm unless you consult the optimum-core-phase-determinance-to-metal-alloy-capacitive-deractance ratio table in appendix 37-A in your programming manual.”
“And the Academy Award goes to …”
That must have been the thinking when the Internal Revenue Service recently spent $60,000 producing two virtually unwatchable training videos — evidently the brain-compost of someone born in the early 60s and slipping into early senility — that parody Gilligan’s Island and Star Trek. I don’t know if it’s the “acting” or the “screenplay,” but watching even a few seconds of either one makes me want to open an offshore account faster than you can say, “audit me!”
As is so often the case with astonishingly bad ideas, the real trouble begins when the boss starts asking questions. And when your boss is, I don’t know, every taxpayer in America, well, the only film industry speech you should be practicing is “do you want butter on that?”
Behold! Your tax dollars hard at work: