FILM #2: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1978)
Directed by Daniel Haller
Written by Glen Larson and Leslie Stevens
Back in 1978 I got a call out of the blue asking me if I’d like to work as a designer on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. I was really hot as an artist at that time in L. A., having loads of calls for work coming in from all aspects of the art, toys and entertainment businesses.
I was at the height of my demand as a movie poster artist. To me, doing designs for Buck Rogers was just another gig in a long line of freelance gigs.
Big mistake: Wrong attitude.
I met with the producers and was hired immediately. I began designing uniforms, space ships, weapons and insignias.
I began bringing them art on a weekly basis.
I also recommended my talented friend Ralph Massey to them, as they expressed the need for a good sculptor.
Ralph and I had fun on Buck Rogers but we were amazed at how clueless the producers seemed to be at times. For Ralph they were the amusing Clients From Hell. Over the years as a freelancer I’ve found that the worst client you can have is the one who says, “I don’t know what I want — but I’ll know it when I see it.” With that statement the possibilities can be infinite. It gives the artist no direction whatsoever.
One day Ralph told me he had brought in a clay sculpture for the show. The two producers asked him if he could change something in the sculpt.
“Sure.” Ralph quickly made the changes.
“That doesn’t seem to quite get it. What if you changed this part?” said one producer, pointed at a part of the sculpt.
“Okay.” Ralph made the change.
“I don’t know…What if you changed this part.”
This went on for about half an hour. Finally, Ralph said, “Would you guys like to make the changes? I’m going to go get a cup of coffee.”
The producers lit up, extremely excited.
“It’s OK? That would be GREAT!”
Ralph came back about half an hour later. The two producers looked sheepishly dejected. After the producers’ half hour of tampering, Ralph’s sculpture was now a sad, shapeless lump.
Originally, Buck Rogers was planned as three theatrical movies for Europe. Eventually, the project morphed from that into a TV series for America.
I was still taking on freelance jobs while I was working on Buck Rogers. I figured I could do both.
I couldn’t. The urgency of the freelance jobs was delaying my Buck Rogers work. During the second occasion I brought in my Buck Rogers art I glanced up at a big board in the production offices. My name was at the top of the board listed as the show’s designer. I was shocked that I suddenly had that kind of importance on the film project.
The third time I came in to show my work I was a week late. The producers seemed much less interested in what I had brought in. And then I noticed my name was no longer on the big board.
I had blown it.
I learned a very valuable lesson: If you agree to work on a film, DO NOT take on any other work. Devote ALL of your waking time to the film project at hand.
No one had to tell me. I knew my time on Buck Rogers was over. I wept during my entire drive back home, feeling pathetically sorry for myself for being so carelessly stupid.
I never made that mistake again. Fortunately, I was young and this was very, very early in my film career. Luckily, I eventually got a second chance to work in motion pictures — which is very, very rare.