Agony Jim: The Parable of the Noble Spark

February 6, 2014 / Humour

By Jim Watkins

Veteran producer and sage cum digital native Jim Watkins solves your advertising conundra.

Illustration ©  Zoe More O'Ferrall


Dear Jim,

Too often in this business you only hear complaints. As a corrective, I wanted to share with your readers a memorable and heartening experience I had with the electrical department on a recent shoot.

At lunch on the second day, due a series of events that I won’t go into here, the wardrobe lady caught fire. Fortunately a Spark was on hand. Without so much as tracking down his Gaffer to request instructions, he rushed to the rescue - slowly folding his newspaper, standing and stretching a crick in his neck before walking at a leisurely pace towards a nearby fire extinguisher as the blazing costumier wheeled and howled like a flaming dervish.

I saw this act of heroism with my own eyes on the (frankly gruesome) CCTV footage.

It was only on arriving at the extinguisher some minutes later that the electrician tragically realised he didn’t have his gloves, rendering it impossible for him to ‘work’.

Undeterred by this seemingly impassible obstacle, our hero sent a text message to another member of the department, and after some time spent waiting for a reply and then searching underneath the discarded Greggs bags on the dashboard of the lighting truck, the gloves were located.

Sadly, this was too late to save the costume designer, but in a show of profoundly moving solidarity for their fallen colleague, the electrical department remained behind to sweep up her charred remains at a reduced overtime rate of time and a half.

A triumph of the human spirit I’m sure you’ll agree.

Yours in teary-eyed reverie,
Zachary J. Frond


Dear Zachary,

An interesting account. You don’t say what your question is, should I assume it’s “what is the correct overtime rate for trying to put out a combustible woman?” This is a grey area, which to you means uncertainty but to a spark spells creativity. I certainly don’t think you can just pay them time and a half and leave with your knackers intact though.

I’m not fully up on these kind of details- or the detail of anything to be fair- I leave that to my executive assistant and personal wellness coach. So I asked her, who asked a production assistant, who asked the spark he identified as the most congenial to reasoned argument, Fraser “Mad Dog” McDuff for his view.

Mad Dog asserted that under section 35 of The Way Things Used To Work In The 1960’s document that governs such matters, the spark concerned is entitled to triple time, plus time off the clock and overtime at the Doctors plus a share of the hypothetical future earnings of the lady they near saved. So he is looking for around £5k. Pay up or the lights will go out!

Yours in commercials,

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