I saw Spectre last night. It was utterly awesome, as I’d expected. Indeed, the Bond series goes from strength to strength. Perhaps it lacked the emotional range of Skyfall, and in particular, those moments of poignancy with which the film ended, but Spectre, just like its predecessors, is brim full of realistic and tasty ingredients – suspense, violence, innate evil, fast cars, gadgets, elegance, intimacy, torture and a soupcon of British humour. Director Sam Mendes lovingly recreates the old clichés and conventions, but despite all that I kept sensing that something hugely important was missing. I don’t mean Judi Dench. I miss her as M, of course, and I cried when M died, but Ralph Fiennes is a more than adequate replacement. And Ben Whishaw is superb as Q, this time a little more involved in the action. No, what I missed was timesheets and expenses.
I was so excited by the product placements in Skyfall that I actually wrote to the producer, Barbara Broccoli, to suggest that timesheets and expense forms might add some corporate plausibility to the image of MI6. After all, MPs at the House of Commons use our software, so why shouldn’t secret agents and their masters? Licensed to kill they may be, but surely they must account fully for each working day, and record their quite extravagant expenses properly if they’re expecting to be reimbursed.
I wrote to suggest three placement points and some clever and snappy dialogue to make them seem natural.
Memo to Barbara Broccoli, Producer, James Bond films:
Re: Placement opportunities for systems@work in the next Bond film
I have long admired the Bond franchise’s approach to product placement. Apart from lending credibility to the script at vital moments, they add further to the excitement (the audience wondering when, where, and how, the familiar products will make their ritualistic appearances). I understand that you make generous payments to the likes of Aston Martin, Sony and Omega to use and show their products. I can better that. I am prepared to let you show our systems and use our logos free of charge.
I see three opportunities for placement points in the forthcoming production where we can do something plausible and useful with timesheets and expenses:
- Near the beginning, when Q is doing his usual stuff with gadgets,
- Later, at an elegant location, when Bond is buying a Martini at a hotel bar, and
- Most appropriately, during the debriefing session at the end – M, Q, the Home Secretary, Moneypenny and Bond, all joshing on the subject of timesheets and expenses.
Moreover, I’ve taken the trouble to offer you, at no extra cost, some snappy dialogue designed to promote the benefits of timesheets and expenses without disturbing the excitement and momentum of the film.
(Q and Bond)
Bond What’s my mobile in this one, Q? Any chance I’ll get an iPhone?
Q: It’s still a Sony, I’m afraid, 007. Apple is too damn expensive.
Q: Explodes. Shoots. Plays background music. Bowls a good leg break. Everything you need, 007.
Bond: Very useful, Q, but what about expenses?
(Q angles the phone towards the camera so that we can see the screen.)
Q: Yes, 007, we thought of that. No excuses for late submission this time. The systems@work App lets you do your expenses both offline and online. Snap your receipts with the inbuilt camera and forget about the paperwork. Upload them at your leisure, if you get any, but only (chuckles) if they’re MI6-compliant. No pigeon houses or moat cleaning at MI6, 007.
General amazement ensues. Film continues.
Scene in Hotel Bar, Ritz or Mandarin preferred.
(Bond and slightly surly bartender.)
(After the usual dialogue that ends with ‘Shaken not stirred’, or, more recently, ‘I really don’t give a damn!’)
Bond: Bartender, you forgot to give me a receipt.
(Bartender resentfully prints a receipt and hands it to Bond, with noticeable curl of lip. He watches with surprise and then admiration as Bond uses his mobile device to photograph the receipt. We catch another glimpse of the time@work App and logo.)
Bartender: Wow, that’s utterly awesome.
Bond: Yes, it’s available from Version 4.9 of systems@work’s timesheet and expense software. I can upload the image and get paid before the film’s even over.
(Action resumes after brief pause for appreciation.)
(M, Q, Bond, Home Secretary, Moneypenny)
Home Secretary: Well done, 007. Good show.
M: Don’t let it go to your head, 007. You’ve forgotten something of very great importance to us.
Moneypenny: Is it my box of Milk Tray?
M: Don’t be silly, Moneypenny. You’ve got the genre wrong again.
(And then, mimicking Edith Evans’ tone as she addresses Miss Prism in the 1952 film version of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. )
M: 007, where is that timesheet? Where is that expense form?
Q: I warned you, 007. No excuses this time. I even installed the systems@work App on your mobile. You can use it anywhere, offline or online. Let me show you.
(Q accidentally shows us the logo and splash screen again.)
Bond: Back in your train spotter’s box, Q! You’re sounding like a salesman. I’m not stupid. I understood you the first time, when you showed me the App near the start of the film. M, you think I don’t take compliance seriously? Where would the Service be without compliance? I gave all my receipts to Moneypenny yesterday. And in any case, you both know I can’t use my phone. I used it to kill a sneering oligarch, and I’m waiting for a replacement. Actually, whilst we’re on the subject, can I get an iPhone this time?
M: Barbara, actually, can we all have iPhones in the next film?
Moneypenny: He’s right, M. Yes, 007, I’m your Proxy, and I’ve submitted your expenses and timesheet for you. But you’ve still got to confirm them in the system.
Q: Ah, yes, we configured it that way deliberately, to make life easier for our so-called indispensable agents. You can, I understand, omit the confirmation stage.
Home Secretary: Yes, it’s a useful feature. In the House of Commons we do all our own expenses now, ever since that tiny spot of bother a few years ago. We use expense@work, a sister product to time@work, another highly configurable software package from the software author systems@work. It’s easy to use and almost idiot proof (ha, ha, ha, it has to be, if I’m to use it!). Why should you have special license, 007?
(Bond reaches for Moneypenny’s PC, swivels the screen with a violent gesture and a look that suggests at once both defiance and compliance (Mr Craig is a master of this kind of look)).
Bond: Let me login and confirm them whilst there’s still time.
(We see Bond confirming his timesheet (see below for suggested content) and then, if he’s quick enough, his expenses, too. Music starts and film ends.)
Barbara, I’d be happy to offer a barter deal if you feel a large payment isn’t possible. I feel sure that timesheets and expenses could be of great benefit to your production staff and cast during the making of the next Bond film, and, if it would help, we can throw in free training for the stars.
With best wishes,
Adam Bager – Chairman, systems@work
Sadly, I never got a reply from Barbara, but I’ll write again for the next film. With good racy dialogue, such as the above, time@work could seem just as alluring and essential as an Aston Martin, a Sony mobile or an Omega watch.
Bond’s Busy Week