Mark Frauenfelder

Editor-in-chief, MAKE; founder, bOING bOING

In May 2002 I got a call from my friend Alberta who asked if I'd like to be in an Apple TV commercial. Alberta had a friend who was an art director at Apple, and he needed people in Los Angeles who'd switched from a Windows machine to a Mac. That was me.

The next day, I got calls from Apple and Chiat/Day, and they e-mailed me a thick stack of forms to sign. Most of them swearing me to secrecy.

The day after that, I drove 15 minutes to a soundstage in Hollywood. At least 100 people from Apple and Chiat/Day were on the set. Errol Morris, the director, was hiding inside a white tent on the far end of the warehouse-like soundstage. I could hear his voice booming through an amplifier. Someone on the set told me he was using his invention called the Interrotron to interview the switchers. "Just wait until you see how it works," she said.

My taping was scheduled for 12 p.m. I was a little early, so I grabbed a bagel from craft services and looked for a place to sit. All the chairs on the set were occupied, but not by people. The Chiat/ Day workers had set their laptops and backpacks on all the chairs with hand-drawn signs that said "DON'T TOUCH." I asked a young woman in a smart gray outfit where I could sit. "Someplace outside," she said. "We'll get you when it's your turn." I went out and ate my bagel standing up. I saw Daniel Clowes, the cartoonist and New Yorker cover illustrator, leaning on a rail, and we chatted. They'd flown him in from New York to tape the commercial.

So 12 p.m. came and went. I was reading a month-old copy of LA Weekly when someone found me at 2:30 p.m. and told me to go to the makeup trailer. The makeup artist powdered my face and plucked some of my eyebrows with a tweezer. When she finished I walked into the soundstage and found the woman who'd called for me. She was on her cell phone. She saw me in her peripheral vision and stuck her free hand out to keep me from talking. I heard her say, "Danny is in the green room. He's ready." A moment later Danny Elfman emerged from a door and walked to the Interrotron. I went back outside.

At 6 p.m. a man from Chiat/Day found me and led me to a white curtain next to the white tent. I was facing a teleprompter displaying Errol Morris's face. It was larger than life, like the Wizard of Oz. He was grinning aggressively at me. A camera behind the teleprompter was taping me. Without introduction, Errol launched into the interview with his electronically amplified booming voice. He challenged every statement I made by repeating it in the form of a sarcastic question.

"I had everything set up on Windows," I said. "You had EVERYTHING set up on WINDOWS?" he asked, incredulously. Using Windows was "like being stuck in a bad relationship," I said. "A bad RELATIONSHIP?" This went on for 20 minutes. I was woozy. When the interview was over Errol thanked me, and his teleprompter visage blinked out. I never saw him in the flesh. I felt I'd done an awful job of articulating what the Mac meant to me and was certain my spot would never air.

Later, I got a call from the Apple art director, and he told me that Steve loved my interview and insisted that it be the first to air, over the objections of almost everyone involved in the production. "Steve is telling them, 'It's gotta be Mark,'" the art director told me. I didn't understand. What did Steve see in my interview that nobody else saw? Thank you, Steve; I miss you terribly.

Photographer: Corbis
 
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