Friday, October 9, 2009

The Best Job In the World

Remember way back in the beginning of 2009 there was a slight buzz over this job that paid $100k for 6-months of enjoying the Great Barrier Reef, trying out free spa services, and basically sitting on your ass all day? Oh, and feeding the fish was one of the grueling responsibilities, too. Apparently Australia's tourism industry was suffering and they came up with the idea of paying someone a ridiculous amount of money to be pampered, enjoy the high life, and keep up a blog that would ideally increase interest in visiting that continent that we love to call a country, and vice versa.

Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity.

I had just spent three months in Australia as part of Stanford's overseas study programs. It was one of the best experiences of my life--all 22 years and 4 months of it. Along with 47 of my peers, I traveled all up and down the Australian East Coast, from Stradbroke Island to Brisbane to Cairns back down to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef and then to Sidney. Hands down, our time on Heron Island was the most memorable. Sure, we still had class regularly (every morning at 8 am to be exact), but our days still consisted of independent morning snorkels, mid-day volleyball with the professors, evening tanning sessions on the beach, and the occasional night snorkel (those were fun, if not a bit eerie).

We spent a total of two weeks at Heron and I imagined that my experience with The Best Job in the World (aka: Island Reef Job) would be quite similar, plus 5.5 months and minus 47 peers and 5 professors. To apply, all you had to do was submit a 60 second video (not a second more) telling why you are the man (or woman, in my case it was the former, so please: no misogyny accusations) for the job. Piece of cake, right? Wrong. In my defense, I have no video editing experience and did all of this in one night, and I think I did pretty well, considering. But some of the people who applied must work for Pixar, I swear.

My mother told me about the job, coincidentally, right after I had stumbled upon it myself. It had been posted on Yahoo!, so I knew there would be a lot of contenders. I would have started on it earlier, but that time-sucking leech of a burden you may know as college was well under way. In fact, I think the deadline was right around mid-terms. So, as things like this usually do, the time kept ticking by and ticking by and soon I was in danger of missing the deadline. So I dedicated a weekend, locked myself in one of the classroom buildings with my computer, a rented camera, and some (limited) food. The plan was to come up with a powerpoint on myself and do a presentation (on myself) in a comical, in-your-face sort of way, and film it. I had done something like this before in Australia (Blubber Love Academy) with good enough result. The presentation, as you'll see in the video, I was pretty proud of but wish I had used an HD-camera so that all the little details would shine through. In the end, my hope was that whoever was viewing these videos would first be intrigued by my charisma and overall presentation and then on subsequent views be able to unravel more from the video, like a colorful ball of yarn with a present in the middle.

I shot it myself using a tripod and basically went through the whole presentation multiple times from multiple angles. The editing was the hardest part by far. They were pretty serious about the 60 second limit and I remember getting it down to 80 seconds and not knowing how I would compress anymore. It's interesting because the fast-paced on-crack nature of the final result is because I went over it many times deleting almost all the spaces in between. So there really is no time of me doing nothing. I forget exactly how I got down to 60 seconds, but I kept chipping away over and over until it meet the criteria.

I finished the video about 12 hours before the upload deadline. Then guess what happened? It wouldn't upload. The servers were being flooded. The worst part was that I'd have to wait about 20 minutes of it acting like it was uploading just to see the error screen at the end. During this time, I read FAQ posts on the site that said, despite the technical difficulties, videos that did not make it up by the deadline would not be considered, no exceptions. It was a bad 12 hours. I was already sleep-deprived and fell asleep a few times beside the computer. For about 6 or so hours it wouldn't upload and I was really beginning to think that, after all of that, I just wouldn't be able to do it. Finally, it randomly went through.

But my worries weren't over.

The FAQ also made it clear that the time limit was to be strictly enforced. Any videos that were over 60.00 seconds were disqualified. The scary part about this was that the site recognized that some video programs would record a second or more difference from what they were using in a video's length but, for fairness, they had to measure everyone's under the same standards. In other words, I could have a program that said my video is 59 seconds, but if the program the judges are using says it's actually 61 seconds, it's disqualified. So, even after mine uploaded, I was fearful of the dreaded rejection email.

In the end, I received an email saying that my upload had gone through successfully. I could tell you in detail what happened after that, but this post is about the creative process and obviously I'm not chilling somewhere in Australia right now, so you can guess the outcome. Long story short, my video wasn't short-listed as part of the 50 that viewers would vote on. Nevertheless, here is the video for your viewing pleasure...and hopefully I never run for office.

-Justin C. Key

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