Lisa is an engineering subcontractor working in FAA offices. She hid a video camera to document the groping her officemate does when no one’s looking. What else will the camera find at the FAA?

EXT. FEDERAL AGENCY HEADQUARTERS

Opening credits for all episodes: Capitol is in the background. Zoom in on a window of a federal building. Play goofy music.

Shooting the Scene

This was shot on September 11, 2008. It was a nice sunny day to go downtown. The date was coincidental. So was the building.

I didn’t care what building I used for opening credits, as long as it looked like an office. I scoped out Pennsylvania Avenue, Maryland Avenue, and the National Mall. They each had direct views of the Capitol. I needed to be on the west side of the Capitol so I wouldn’t have a view of a bunch of silhouettes in front of the early afternoon sun. The National Mall didn’t have any office-like buildings, so that was out. The office buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t as close to the Capitol as the ones on Maryland.

The office building with the best view of the Capitol in the background happened to be… FAA Headquarters. Shortly after lunch, hundreds of federal employees milled around. I stood on the sidewalk and aimed my video camera at the FAA building. On the seventh anniversary of the aviation attacks on the Pentagon. I was concerned that a security guard – or much worse: a former coworker returning from lunch – would approach and ask what I was up to. But this is Washington, where authorities are more concerned about my seventy year old mother entering a museum with a bag of airline peanuts than real threats that don’t achieve security theater. Nobody bothered me.

In Real Life

I didn’t work at headquarters. I worked a few blocks away. I don’t know who works behind the window shown in the opening credits. Could be a conference room or a storage room for computers from the 1960’s.

Nah, couldn’t be storage for computers from the 1960’s. Those computers are still in use at the FAA.

INT. WINDOW

Shot out of a second story window of Federal Agency Headquarters. Looking down, we see BARRY, a fifty-something government engineering manager in a suit, and JANE, a twenty-something professional-looking engineer, as they walk toward the entrance of the building.

LISA (OS – right behind camera)

Barry and Jane coming to work together? Glad I brought my camera.

Shooting the Scene

OS is Off Screen in screenwriter lingo.

As I held a camera way above my head aimed at Ted (Barry) and Eli (Jane), I stood on the top step of a ladder perched on the top of a staircase that led to an office building entrance. No window involved. Meanwhile, Anthony, who plays the New Guy, held the ladder steady underneath me. I was wearing a skirt. We had just shot a restroom scene where one of the characters makes a comment about my skirt and I didn’t have time to change out of wardrobe.

It felt like a ridiculous pose. I teetered up there as elegantly as possible, although I wasn’t worried that Anthony might look up my skirt. When he came to audition, I asked if he would be interested in the role of Charlie. He said there was no way he could touch a woman’s rear and be able to finish the scene. Not that Dave (Charlie) pulled it off without some embarrassment. I wish more guys were embarrassed about touching women’s rear ends.

The original version of this scene didn’t have the voice-over. During editing, several people critiqued the first cut of Budget Justified. They didn’t know what was going on in this first shot. They expected to see me, the lead character. After brainstorming, we determined that this shot needed a voice-over, hinting at what Lisa was up to.

The reason I’m not in the first shot is that this story isn’t about me. Yes, it’s from my point of view, but I’m not one of the thousands of federal employees and contractors still subject to the follies of government managers. The story is about how federal agencies’ management style, or lack thereof, affects the way your taxpayer dollars, and government employees, are used.

In Real Life

As I wrote this, I imagined the parking garage at my former employer, also an FAA contractor. Our building was in the suburbs where we had no contact with FAA employees. Management preferred it that way.

We were nowhere near a Metro station, so everyone drove to work. Well, everyone except me and two other people (out of several hundred employees). The three of us usually took the bus. But everyone else arrived through the parking garage. And usually not in pairs, as Barry and Jane do here. Parking was free; no need to carpool. So when anyone arrived together, it didn’t go unnoticed.

It took me a long time to feel like I had left that job, slipping out slowly, cutting hours to part time to teach at a local university. I had been well-integrated into the culture at Former Employer. I had lots of friends. Everyone knew me. I was one of the ‘popular’ people there. Not in the high school sense, but because all the staff wanted me to work on projects with them. They knew I always came through with what I said I’d do. Upper management knew I was competent and had faith in me.

That wasn’t quite the case with some of the lower management. Because I knew their foibles and they knew I didn’t care much to validate them. I never confronted lower management about anything they got away with, but neither did I pretend that everything management did was so very clever.

INT. HALLWAY

The entire screen is covered by rattling blinds as the camera is jolted away from the window. Quick PAN TO CHARLIE, a thirty-something engineer, standing right next to the camera.

CHARLIE

Hey Lisa. Whatcha doing with that box?

Charlie nods toward the camera.

LISA (OS)

Oh. It’s just a software box.

Charlie looks toward the window.

CHARLIE

I think our boss has a new girlfriend.

LISA (OS)

Which boss?

CHARLIE

That one.

Charlie points out the window at Barry.

Shooting the Scene

Dave (Charlie) and I stood in the conference room on the seventh floor of an office building downtown. The view outside was an alley. Not the entrance to a building. If you freeze the frame where the blinds are partly open, you'll get a glimpse of a brick wall.

Dave is much more quiet and shy in person. It was just the two of us in this conference room while we shot this scene. He didn’t initiate conversation, so I asked him about his other acting gigs while we set up. He spoke about the movies Meter Maids and Deadlands with enthusiasm. Even though acting is his side gig, he’s pretty serious about it.

Hopefully you’ve figured out that the premise here is that I’m hiding the camera inside a software box that I carry around the office. Most of the time it’s supposedly sitting on a bookshelf in someone’s office. Although in reality, the bookshelves were moved away so that we could put the camera on a tripod.

In Real Life

One morning as soon as one of my coworkers arrived at work, he came past my office and said, “I think your boss has a new girlfriend.”

This was a confusing statement to me. First of all, how would he have any information about my boss’s love life. Second of all, which boss was he referring to. It was a ‘matrixed’ organization. I had several project managers, I managed a project that was split into pieces and managed by other staff members, any of the supervisors in my department were allowed to ask me to work on something for them, and when my supervisor was unresponsive, his supervisors would come directly to me for support.

The most likely ‘boss,’ the one whom I talked to the most, was married. A quiet, decent man who didn’t go around harassing women.

It turned out that my coworker was indeed referring to my married boss. My coworker had seen Boss and one of his subordinates, a very ‘close friend’ of Boss, drive into work together that morning.

“You must be misinformed,” I told my coworker. Or maybe I said something more like, “What the hell are you talking about.”

In the weeks after that strange declaration of a new girlfriend, I noticed that Boss frequently snuck in and out of conference rooms, his office, and the entire building with his very close female ‘friend.’ I wasn’t the only one who witnessed this. According to conversations with others who worked with Boss, the activities between him and his friend/mistress had been off and on over several years. Sneaking around was more frequent shortly after each of his promotions. It would cool off as soon as she received her subsequent promotions.

I make light of Boss’s alleged love life here. I believe the situation was more complex. He and Mistress had been good friends for a long time. Since his marriage wasn’t ending any time soon, they knew where they stood with each other. It seemed to be more than a fling, but nothing that would ever become permanent.

Fooling around was part of the FAA culture with its contractors. One of Former Employer’s female managers almost lost a marriage over a fling with one of the FAA managers. One of Former Employer’s vice presidents had a fling with one of the staff and did lose his marriage over it. Someone got shot in the parking garage for having a fling with another guy’s wife.

Interestingly, Boss was only one of several guys in the office that Mistress had been seen sneaking off with at various times of day and night. I don’t think he cared. Made it less likely that she'd cause problems with his wife.

INT. WINDOW

Barry and Jane out the window, he puts his hand on her back as they enter the building.

LISA (OS)

Charlie, that one’s married.

Shooting the Scene

Dave ad-libbed at the end of each take. The first time, he said, “I don’t think he cares.” He was lighthearted and I laughed. The second time he said, “She likes them that way.” I could’ve left the ad-libs out, but the second one made a statement about Charlie’s character – he thinks women like fooling around with married men. And he wanted in on the action.

The sidewalk shown in this scene isn’t in front of a government building. It’s on K Street, near all the big lobbyists and big corporations. I liked how the busy street in downtown Washington gave the feel of a city that looked busy on the outside where a bunch of fooling around was happening on the inside.

In Real Life

Our offices were near the L’Enfant Plaza and Smithsonian Metro stations in Washington. On the National Mall nearby, people play Frisbee and go jogging alongside the long grassy field amongst museums and federal buildings. We were in a cul-de-sac near a super-expensive hotel and didn’t get much car or foot traffic. But we did see several limos. Rumor has it that Jennifer Lopez got out of one of them.

Many of the men I’ve worked with over the years had second-class-status opinions of women. Our culture encourages women to take the role of second class – to serve men’s sexual demands and to be household servants. I wanted to portray Charlie as someone who likes having women as second class coworkers and feels entitled to use lower status coworkers to boost his self importance.

INT. LISA & CHARLIE’S OFFICE

LISA, a Tina Fey type, glasses, late thirties, dressed Washington-professional (not Hollywood-“professional”) and Charlie walk into their shared office/cubicle. Charlie puts down his briefcase, Lisa puts the camera “software box” on a shelf and goes toward her chair.

Charlie is in the way. He motions Lisa over – entice her closer so he can tell her a “secret.”

CHARLIE

Why would they come to work together? Barry lives in the Virginia suburbs. Jane lives in Maryland.

LISA

Hm. Barry’s wife is in Texas visiting her mom.

CHARLIE

No wonder Jane got a promotion. Like I said. A new girlfriend.

He slaps Lisa on the butt. Lisa is peeved.

Shooting the Scene

Of course the real reason for getting Lisa to come over to him was so Charlie could get some of his own action. He wants to have what the managers take for granted.

I hope viewers of this episode caught the concept that my character was putting the camera (inside a software box) on a bookshelf and weren’t wondering why I was so close to the camera that all you see is my neck. I put the camera on a shelf several times throughout Budget Justified to remind the viewer that this is supposed to be stealth footage of something actually happening in the office.

My husband, Randy, was the cameraperson for this scene. I think Dave felt nervous about patting my butt in front of my husband. At first I thought Randy would weird out about. I was weirded out about it. Especially since I had told Dave to do it by writing it into the script. But Randy was cool about the whole thing. He knows I don’t make big video projects for the purpose of getting someone to grab my butt.

I could’ve gone through a search process to find a cameraperson to shoot this scene, but I chose Randy based on one criterion: He was there. Since the shtick for Budget Justified is that the whole thing is captured by Lisa’s hidden camera, the cameraperson didn’t need all sorts of complex camera skills. And Randy was there because this office is in my house.

The desk set is a bit fancier than what you’d find in a federal government office. The entire partners desk – desktop, file drawers, bookshelves, cabinet doors – is made of sturdy wood. The walls are painted dark green. There’s an occasional glimpse of white carpet, baseboards and crown molding. But it was the perfect location for shooting Budget Justified because didn’t need to arrange for access to the location every time we wanted to shoot.

In Real Life

Before the days of cameras in every phone, it was illegal to bring cameras to work. Perhaps because they didn’t want taxpayers to be able to check up on how their money was being spent.

Though I never had a hidden video camera at the FAA nor in any contractor's office, I kept a record of what was going on in a blog I started after about a month of witnessing consistent inappropriate behavior. Because I knew my reaction to Mr. Friendly’s advances was inconsistent. Sometimes I’d tell him to knock it off, sometimes I’d ignore him. I wasn’t sure if a reaction, even if it was to tell him he was pissing me off, was exactly what he was hoping to get out of me. Just like some of the FAA managers got a perverse kick out of insulting their employees, Mr. Friendly thought it was funny to upset me.

I hoped that if I could understand and monitor the trend of his behavior versus mine in the blog, I’d figure out how to handle him so I could prevent becoming fearful of coming to work. Plus I wanted to have a document outlining his actions.

Like several people I’ve worked with throughout my life, Mr. Friendly’s behavior was extremely accommodating most of the time, interspersed with occasional bullying stints. When I was in high school, I thought these people behaved this way toward me because of something I had done or something wrong with me. But as I entered college, I acknowledged that these were generally toxic people, no matter how overly-nice they acted when it was convenient.

Mr. Friendly had a knack for making me laugh. He was full of off-the-cuff jokes. He often told me about interesting things that had gone on in the office. He was always willing to tell me about office history and his version of office politics.

Our office didn’t have any actual projects going on. None of my coworkers had a role they were responsible for. Thus there weren’t many methods for observing office interaction other than going around the office bothering people with chit chat. Occasionally I had some data to look up, or came across a document that needed more context, so I was able to come up with legitimate discussion topics as excuses to drop by coworkers’ offices.

But since I was crammed alone into the corner of our floor most of the time, Mr. Friendly’s visits to my cubicle were my best source of anecdotal information. Not only was he my office entertainment, he was one of my very few knowledge sources.

INT. LISA & BRIAN’S KITCHEN

BRIAN, a big guy in his late thirties, wearing dress shirt and tie as though he just got home from work, cuts celery on cutting board at kitchen counter. Knife block, basket of tomatoes, and another cutting board nearby.

Lisa enters, still wearing the white boucle jacket and purple silk pants she had worn to work earlier that day.

LISA

Hi Brian.

BRIAN

Hi Sweetie.

Brian looks toward the camera.

BRIAN

Oh, there’s our video camera. I was looking for it earlier. Where was it?

LISA

I took it to work.

Lisa picks up a tomato and knife, starts slicing tomatoes to help with dinner.

BRIAN

Oh. Why?

LISA

There’s a guy at work. Wandering hands.

Lisa wiggles hands.

Brian looks at the camera, picks up a big knife, looks it over very carefully. A good weapon if he ever needs it. He sighs and puts the knife back down.

LISA

I wanted to document what I’m going though.

Oh really? Confused look from Brian.

LISA

To be able to stand back and take an objective look at what’s happening. Because sometimes I think he’s hilariously goofy. Other times I am pissed. I’m not sure how to feel about it. Or what to do about it.

BRIAN

Why don’t you tell somebody?

LISA

I’m a subcontractor. I’m not in a position to go around tattling on a fed. And if I send an email to my HR, I’m lucky if I get a reply. If I leave a voice mail, I never hear back. So am I supposed to email a complaint about sexual harassment? I don’t even want to think about where that might get forwarded.

Shooting the Scene

What better kitchen to use as Lisa and Brian’s kitchen in Budget Justified than Lisa and Randy’s real life bright yellow kitchen? But not simply because it’s in my house. As luck would have it, there’s no wall between my kitchen and living room. So we can watch Lisa and Brian talking toward the camera while they prepare dinner on the speckled stone countertop, rather than a shot of our behinds while we talk at a wall.

I had Andy Kiser (who plays Husband Brian) over to shoot his scenes on a hot day in July. The scene we shot before this was outdoors. I’d been wearing a t-shirt with a pink jog bra underneath. I removed the t-shirt and we rehearsed a few times while Husband Randy set up the camera.

When Randy was ready, he turned on the camera, then Andy and I did the scene for ‘real.’ Except it wasn’t for real. In the middle of the scene, I realized I forgot to put on the white long sleeved jacket I had worn for the previous scene. So in the outtakes of this episode, you’ll see that I abruptly interrupt myself mid-dialogue by slamming my hand on the kitchen counter and announcing my faux pas, “I’m not wearing my costume.”

Costume! Like I was producing some sort of Halloween movie. No real movie producer would call it a costume. I believe she’d call it ‘wardrobe.’

I included outtakes at the end of each episode because not only are they fun to watch, but seeing the actors being themselves makes them seem more human. Especially me. I’m supposedly playing myself but…I’m not speaking off the top of my head. The actors are better at being someone else than I am at being myself.

Perhaps some day the whole story will be rewritten, reshot, and reedited. But by then I’ll be so sick of the story, I won’t want to be there.

In Real Life

My husband, Randy, and I have more original nick names for each other than Sweetie. Of course they’re too ridiculous to throw in as dialogue at the beginning of a web series. I rarely call Randy by name (and certainly never call him Brian). More likely, I’d call him Huz. To get used to the concept of being married, I started calling him Husband after our wedding in 1994. I’ve called him Huz ever since.

Unlike Andy, Randy’s not a big guy. He wouldn’t make knife jokes when telling him about office groping. I didn’t want my fictional husband to seem too much like my real husband.

In Budget Justified, I often mention contractors and subcontractors. Like most government agencies, the FAA hires lots of contractors. Sometimes the contractors hire several subcontractors rather than employees to soak up the budget – I mean to do the ‘work.’ In my case, a huge international contractor hired a tiny subcontractor, or headhunter, to find me. Even though I sat in FAA offices with FAA employees, the contract between Huge Contractor and Tiny Subcontractor said I would be an ‘employee’ of Tiny Subcontractor for six months. After that, I was supposed be hired as a permanent employee of Huge Contractor. Or so they told me.

‘Employee’ is in quotes because I had no contact with any of the other employees of Tiny Subcontractor. Tiny Subcontractor was based in another state. The managers at Huge Contractor interviewed me. I was the only person in the office employed by Tiny Subcontractor. In fact, I had never heard of Tiny Subcontractor before, was not acquainted with anyone else who had ever worked for them, and never met any of Tiny Subcontractor’s other ‘employees.’

Tiny Subcontractor had contacted me by email to ask if I was interested in the job. I have no idea where they found me. Some of the FAA employees and contractors in that office had known me previously. The only contact I had with Tiny Subcontractor, even after I was fired, was by phone, email, or fax. Nobody ever answered their phone, so I left voice mail. They never called back. If I wanted answers, I had to send email. I received an answer to emailed questions only twice, and I had to wait several days before getting a response.

One might wonder whether they even existed. Oh, yeah, they existed. Like the rest of the FAA and its contractors, they took taxpayer money and didn’t do much for it besides shuffle the money around.

I thought that after I was formally hired on as permanent staff at Huge Contractor, I’d have official channels through which I could file a complaint – if they could be trusted, and if I had reason to believe I wouldn’t be subtly punished for complaining about a federal employee. But I wasn’t sure the atmosphere at Huge Contractor would facilitate such a complaint. On my first day of work, one of the Huge Contractor managers told me that the wife of one of my bosses was hot. I need that information because…?

She had previously worked in that office but stayed at home with the kids shortly after she got married. The manager didn’t call her intelligent or a valuable employee or even lovely. Instead, the adjective he chose was ‘hot.’ It struck me as a bad omen regarding the atmosphere of the office.

I didn’t trust that anyone at the FAA would handle reports of sexual harassment well either. After you watch Budget Justified or read the rest of this book, you’ll understand why.

At Former Employer, a subcontractor had complained about ‘sexual discrimination.’ One of the managers told me that the behavior she was complaining about should’ve been categorized as sexual harassment. English was not the complainant’s native language, so she wasn’t well-versed in the difference. Since the complaint wasn’t filed as harassment, the perpetrator wasn’t investigated. However, the woman’s subcontract was not renewed and she was ‘laid off’ a few months later. Problem ‘solved.’ She became unemployed, but the perpetrator still had a job. Thus I became very wary of reporting ‘discrimination’ to FAA contractors.

 

Purchase the book to find out how the FAA “solved” Lisa’s problem...

EXCERPT FROM BUDGET JUSTIFIED: Chapter 1 (of 50): Boss’s Affair
TRUE 
STORY
A Web series
Movie
and Book

A few years ago, Dr. Lisa Schaefer was hired by a government contractor. She was fired the day after a government employee masturbated in front of her. So what did she do about it? Produce a movie and web series about what it was like working there.

 

Budget Justified: The Waste, Fraud & Abuse of Government Workers” is a 270 page book written by Lisa Schaefer that goes into the story deeper than the webisode series/movie. Lisa describes how each scene of the movie relates to exactly what happened in real life while she worked in FAA officesas a government contractor. She also tells the reader about the behind-the-scenes action of shooting each episode of Budget Justified.

 

Read an excerpt of “Budget Justified: The Waste, Fraud & Abuse of Government Workers” below.

Format

Ebook $4

Paperback $13

Format

Ebook $4

Paperback $13

© Copyright 2013, RoleModel Enterprises, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
BUDGET JUSTIFIED: THE BOOK

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