Lt. Zemisch orders his men not to shoot during Christmas
Greg Manchess

Thursday morning, March 27th, I had to teach an online class for SmArtSchool from 9a to noon. Just after, I checked my email. There was a message from Gamma One Conversions.

“The package is not here.”

Continuing my work on Rise As One, a time-critical assignment, where the smallest schedule shift could cause me to miss the deadline, the first set of paintings was now lost. Perfect.

Losing three hours on the phone, working with (see: screaming at) several Fedex representatives, we discovered that the package had never been picked up. It was still sitting at the Fedex station where I’d dropped it off, 2400 miles away from NYC.

This is the loose quality of thumbnails that the client allowed me to show them, to get a sign-off for the finish paintings. 
I thanked them for that…a LOT.
reference of actual British trench, used as a guide
 This thumbnail was basically flopped to get the two trenches calling to each other.

I cannot describe my frustration. But there was no time for that. I told Fedex to hold the package as I had another coming and we could ship them together. I got back to work, adjusting and finishing the first set. After showing those finished paintings to the AD, he informed me that the gallery shoot was now scheduled for the following Tuesday.

Wait a minute. That meant the paintings had to get shot and printed on canvas by Friday night as the photographer is closed on the weekend. And the first five paintings were still missing.

 The British troops celebrating Christmas Eve.

(You know that sinking feeling you get when you realize you’ve promised something you can’t deliver on, that you’ll be exposed for the charlatan you think you are, and the world will absolutely come to a flaming end…just because of you? Yeah. Me, too.)

My answer to the client? “Ok.”

While the Germans celebrate, Lt. Zemisch calls over to the British, wishing them a Merry Christmas.

It was late in the day Oregon time, and the Fedex cut-off time is 4:15 pm. I raced over to my station to pick up the first package that was delayed, and send several more paintings of the next batch. But as I approached the station, the truck pulled away…with my first package on it.

Signalman Brookes, in his dugout listening over the wire, can hear the Germans singing.

Attempting not to scream at the Fedex employee who was trying to be helpful, I had to race to another station hub where the first package was headed. It’s over a half hour away in traffic. Their cut-off is 5 pm. It was past 4:30.

This series of thumbnails are from the original set drawn early on to convince the client to use my artwork for the film

I pulled onto the freeway and into rush hour traffic. After a couple lane changes, traffic thinned sufficiently and I made it the the Fedex station by 10 minutes. They said they couldn’t send them together, but I was assured they’d both arrive at the same time on Friday to Gamma One. I went home to continue painting until late.

Capt. Hamilton returns the good wishes.

Gamma wrote Friday morning that they still didn’t have the package…this time, neither of them. I was livid.

During the night, Memphis had a terrible storm and delayed all shipments into NYC. It was now 3pm in New York. I’d lost most of a day to shoot the paintings, and two more hours on the phone with Fedex.

Lt. Zemisch ventures out into No Man’s Land with a lantern.

Luckily, during the first package loss, I’d made friends with one of the operators in Cincinnati, where I grew up, and she worked hard to track each package down and convince the drivers to drop off the packages that day. It pays to be amenable. Gamma finally had them, but it was too late to shoot.

The Brits see this and slowly come out, leaving their weapons behind.

I stayed focused, trying to think of anything else but the timing, and continued painting into the night. I’d never laid down pigment so fast in all my career. I had to complete 20 pieces by that weekend, or I’d miss getting everything done for the shoot. What would happen if I failed?

Failure was not an option.

A truce, sealed by a handshake on Christmas Eve.

Final Post: Finishing the next 12 paintings for the shoot…down to the wire, with less than 48 hours to go.