Saturday, July 5, 2014

Failure Coach LII


The Philadelphia scholarship presentation was a big hit. Jan had been reluctant to partner with Tony Blank and the Ambrosia team but once she got over the awkward relationships she discovered the worker bees allowed her to exponentially expand her reach with writers and editors. Ambrosia also purchased two tables of ten for the gala event for $1250 each with Abbeshire & Bluestone managed to fill 50 such tables, the revenue of which covered food and table décor. Alan Edgewater covered a number of incidental expenses and Irene Siena and the AEFFSF paid for travel stipends and allowances for scholars and 15-20 special guests.      

“Pittsburg State is not in Pennsylvania,” Alicia Apricot would have to have to say on more than one occasion. “And my Pittsburg doesn’t have an h on the end of it,” she advised Johnny Appleseed as the two renewed their acquaintance. Johnny enjoyed a certain amount of status as the elder statesman among the scholarship winners. Andrew Valentine was the first to offer a welcome to Gloria Beck once he realized who she was. Andrew and Johnny shared some comments about coach Siena with his widow Irene. “He was much more than a coach to me,” Johnny said. “I wish I had an opportunity to play for him. He was such a supportive and encouraging force. I really enjoyed getting to know him, if only for a relatively short time” Andrew added. Alan was good at working crowds but always recognized the value of establishing a rapport with the speaker line up. Irene Siena had a natural motherly instinct with Johnny of course, but also with the growing family of scholars and board members. On this night however she had the air of a corporate executive in a sharp business and pearl necklace. She was the first presenter and offered welcome and a few “housekeeping” remarks about parking validation and restrooms before a boilerplate description of the AEFFSF mission and goals before introducing Alan Edgewater. Alan with microphone in place was able to rise and begin talking as a spotlight followed him around the room. He finished at the podium. He talked about betting on the future and in particular about the “…the promise of the scholars being honored this evening.” A cue that seamlessly caused the lights to dim and the video to roll.

Alan, Irene, Johnny, Andrew, Alicia and Gloria were seated at the front of the room behind name-cards marking their places flanking the speakers’ podium. There were two large screens and a film crew orchestrating the combination of live action, PowerPoint presentation slides and the crowd pleasing seven-minute video.

As the video faded to black and the house lights came back up, Alan joined the applause and smiled as he introduced the scholars and asked them to stand. A spotlight moved from Johnny, to Andrew, to Alicia and finally to Gloria. Alan allowed enough time to applause and announced, “Dessert and coffee will be served. Enjoy your evening, ” as  the wait staff moved quickly into the room to serve dessert and coffee.
The entire show was edited into a 12 minute piece (including the 7-minute segment) in a Philadelphia studio and made available along with B-Roll for media use. Some media outlets found additional footage of Gloria Beck to add regional relevance to news stories about the thespian’s scholarship award. With that Gloria was the star of the show. The availability of actor head shot images helped make Gloria the star in print too. The kid from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania appeared in newspapers in Philadelphia, Allentown and in New Jersey’s Star Ledger almost overnight whereas more generic stories appeared via UPI and Business Wire on in national media across the country. A minority-owned production company located in Newark, New Jersey contacted Abbeshire & Bluestone the following Monday morning about producing a show for PBS with a grant they had received. Dan Bluestone was all over that one (with some guidance from Jan.) The fearless foursome introduced in the 7-minute video became a launch point for a bigger story on college, careers and the arts. With Dan’s help the production company was able to produce a show that showcased a cappella Andrew, a scene from Streetcar Named Desire in which Gloria played the intrepid Blanche DuBois, Alicia Apricot in a hard hat on a job site and Johnny Appleseed in a law library. The 30 minute production was a hopeful story the future of education and the arts with a dose of business reality in approaching college. The show would be part of a series exploring the nature of education. The AEFFSF would get a mention but the individual stories were compelling enough.

Daniel Bluestone loved it when a chain-reaction of events would spin into new production and spark creative energy. He loved the art of juggling production elements and building content even if it would end up further manipulated by an independent production company or for local broadcast news. This gala evening and the AEFFSF story was starting to look to him like a perennial flower for his agency. It was a beautiful mixture of documentary and commercial story telling. Dan could not help thinking, “This is really turning into an intriguing human interest story as these kids move into the real world as AEFFSF protégé. Small towns: Red Bud, Arlington, Galena and Lehigh Valley. Different ambitions: Lawyer, Musician, Construction Manager and Film Actress. All of middle income backgrounds. All given an unexpected jump on life with freedom to pursue a formal education. And so far, it looks like they all will achieve a measure of success.

As a side note: Dan enjoyed spending time with each of the scholars and was impressed how they seemed to naturally blended together as friends by virtue of a shared set of circumstances. It was Dan who hosted the group on a field trip, prior to the evening gala, to visit the new home of the Barnes Foundation which opened in 2012. The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” Andrew Valentine emerged as an impromptu docent tour/guide  at The Barnes. “This collection is one of the finest of Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast.” He read from a brochure adding matter of factly, "...from about 1910, when he was in his late 30s, Barnes began to dedicate himself to the study and collecting of art. He commissioned one of his former high school classmates, the painter William Blackens who had been living in Paris, to buy several modern French paintings for him. In 1911, Barnes gave Glackens $20,000 to buy paintings for him in Paris. Glackens returned with the 20 paintings that formed the core of Barnes' collection."  
Later in the week, Jan noticed an increasing interest in AEFFSF among colleges and universities too. Somewhere along the line the Abbeshire & Bluestone PR contact information for inquiries started to become a referral for schools looking for innovative ways to promote their schools. It seems that AEFFSF scholars all generated great features about the schools. Jan and Dan knew this was true for Oberlin. “Small world.” Dan said to the Temple University Director of Admissions he met in the edit suite in Philadelphia. He just happened to be there to approve a student recruitment film at the same time Dan was directing the gala video and B-roll media packages.    

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