There really are some amazing twits out there. I got a call from some pompous jerk at Universal who must have really put some people's backs up major league, because he didn't go back to the folks (who I knew...there were only three of us in the world who could do this stuff, and we were all in LA and all friends) who originally created the art on film. "If I send you an 8 X 10 transparency of some backlit art, can you match it, but change the lettering?" Why come to me, when the people who created the art could just re-shoot it?
Matching something using photography is just about impossible, because you are dealing with variables that are ephemeral: each batch of film is slightly different, and reacts differently to chemicals and temperature which are impossible to keep constant. I could come within 10%, and probably within 5% if I was lucky, and it would cost $5,000 (this was 1989).
"Fine, I'll courier it over."
This was "Back to the Future II," and there was an interesting story behind the making of the film. Well, I recreated the art and matched it (there was a speckling pattern on the surface of the lettering that had been made by "spattering" an airbrush using low air pressure, and I couldn't match that exactly, of course...but the look was the same). I finished the job and shipped it, and twit liked it.
He then called me a few weeks later and asked if I could make the "II" a "III" and how much would it cost??? Here is where the "interesting" part of the story of the film comes in: while they were shooting the film, things went so swimmingly, that they were able to shoot enough stuff, come up with new ideas, and shoot TWO movies for the price of one.
You never get something for nothing in this world. The director, actors, all major players and union members were paid TWICE for their efforts, because the studio ended up with two movies...which they were certainly going to make twice as much money on. Part of pricing commercial artwork is not its intrinisic value, but its USE. If a huge corporation is going to get a lot of use out of a logo, for instance (NBC, etc)...it could cost them hundreds of thousands, when the actual work might only be worth $5,000.
Universal were happy to pay $5,000 for major movie title artwork, so I told the guy that it would cost another five grand to make the change.
"WHAAAATTT!!!!!!??" He ranted and raved (maybe he had a payment due on his BMW), but couldn't get round the argument that they were paying for two major films. Why didn't he just go back to the original designers and have them do it for a few hundred bucks? (I knew they wouldn't...they would tell him the same thing I told him).
He had pissed them off and they didn't want to work with him anymore, but he couldn't handle paying another five grand for the "III" so he uttered that hackneyed threat above, and took the work back to the original people who did it (I called them and told them what had taken place).....they stuck him for double!!! I love it!
I hope the creep is selling useds cars or something equally suited to his unique abilities. Universal is a good company, I'm sure he didn't last long there.
The next big job I got was The Abyss, followed by Terminator 2....the biggest film to date. I worked in this town just fine!