Saturday, December 31, 2016

"I need an Exacto knife, a ruler, and point me to your best copier"


AMC's Better Call Saul was set in an Albuquerque copyshop for scenes in episodes 8 ("Fifi") & 9 ("Nailed") of season 2.  Our 2016 Review used a screen cap from "Nailed" as the background to the graphic.  We were excited to see the copyshop setting used and how the show was using it capture a specific time period of technology. The time period for Better Call Saul is ambiguous and set in the past before Breaking Bad.  Saul is set in a time period before the internet, when information was still handed out on paper, and access to these services around the clock was so important for business that 24-hour service was standard in some bigger Metro-areas and in some smaller towns with a University nearby.  We will break down the copy shop scenes for authenticity, because we are pretty sure no one else is going to that. We won't spoil it it all for you. If you want to check out the whole scene, here's the closing scene from "Nailed".

Episode 8 ("Fifi") was where we heard the line "I need an Exacto knife, a ruler, and point me to your best copier", which led to Jimmy doing some old school cut & paste copy editing late night in Valliant Printing. The "Xerox Color" sign in the upper left puts the earliest date possible at 1992 when Xerox introduced their first successful color machine, the Xerox 5775.  Also, the scene doesn't reference any color postermaking, which became common after 2000.



We see a large work table in the customer area. Self-service customers would use that for organizing their documents. Self-serve copying was popular up until 2002. In the United States, this changed after Christmas 2000 when the sub-$1000 PC was released and PC's became common household items. The PC's at that time were usually offered in a bundle with a printer. This changed the need for self-serve copies as people figured out they could DIY simple jobs at home.


Jimmy wanted to change the unit number in an address in some court documents, so he was cutting out the old number and replacing it with a snip of paper with the new number. Very tedious editing by hand. Then copying the edited doc, and swapping the copied sheet into the court doc as a replacement. This method worked because the lines from the pasted in number would disappear on the copy, and the copy would be accepted as an original when slipped into in the original document.

Episode 9 ("Nailed") we see Jimmy returning after the switcheroo was made, Jimmy's brother and the firm's main partner Chuck is now suspicious, and Jimmy goes back to cover his tracks by bribing the store manager, Lance. We get to see a lot of the copyshop from several different camera angles. Open 24 Hours is something that was common in urban copy centers from in the '90's. That became less of a requirement after 2000 after office copiers got cheaper and connected to office networks.

 
And this awesome master shot. The shop looks and sounds like a mid-90's copy shop during a late night shift. Hardly anyone in it, but the sounds of document handlers circulating with every page printed is normal this era. Today most jobs are printed from a digital file, so you don't hear paper swooshing and popping as each page recirculated. Back then, each page circulated for each copy made. Long runs on fast machines would see the originals get bruised up.


Here Jimmy meets the night shift manager Lance. Lance is preoccupied with running the machine behind him and leaves the conversation to do something on the machine. The lower area on the front counter is wheelchair-accessible counter that came into use after the Americans With Disabilities Act signed in 1990. These became common in shops after 1994.


Jimmy's boss Chuck appears and argues with Lance. Chuck happens to be a person suffering from electronic sensitivity and has ventured into a place bathed in flourescent lights neon signs, and copier lamps from old analog machines. The shop shows a "Preprinted Forms" shelf in the background of the pic with Mike and Lance above that was for distributing tax forms and other official documents, usually, and this was common before internet or PC"s were in most homes and government offices that distributed the forms were online.  During that time, businesses would go to a local IRS office to obtain tax report forms like a 990. Some copy shops would offer forms for free as above.


The argument goes on until a self-service customer interrupts to ask for help. If we had a nickel....


The only thing that is off in the whole scene is the customer asking for 11"x14" paper here, and Lance saying it's in another tray. She was probably asking for Legal size, meaning 8 1'/2' x 14", and he should have corrected her. We also see some quirky stuff on the counter- an hourglass, cat statue. This was kind of hipster shop for it's day.

Overall, the authenticity is good for the scene and representative of a period we would estimate is between 1992-2000, and if we had be more specific, we say it's 1997. And as real hat-tip to the era, we think the opening line would have been more authentic if Jimmy asked for a glue stick instead of a ruler. These places were the glue-stick mecca of their time.

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