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fuzzynormal

How Not To Work With A Client

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Here in Greece there are no contracts, except working for television, which again, there is no health insurance.

People believe that a guy with a dSLR is a video professional, and that attitude has passed to the professional level.

The contract I have now is for a documentary series. In the begining, they were considering not using a sound man (=me!), nor a field producer.

Then, they talked to me about sound, the budget for sound was atrocious, but I cut a deal working for less hours and I didn't want to be excluded from TV for the first time after coming back from my Bachelor of Arts in Film amd Video.

Then I learn from a producer inside the production company (it is a media group with TV stations in the while Balkans, press, music production companies, exclusive contract with Vice, e.t.c a huge organisation for East-Southern Europe terms) the company that took the first contract with the cable TV station (different media groups, by the way) willing to earn as much as possible, tried to do it without a field producer ("we will makenthe calls from the office"), a sound man ("you can do it with one wireless mic"), no lights ("with a couple leds you will be fine), and 2 Canon 5DmarkIII !!!

When first conducted me were like "can you do a bit of field production too? You will get a few hundrends of euros per episode and we will be ok", I refused, because there was no possible in anyway, we found a very good and experiences producer (that earns more money than me eventually!), and we go with a full van, dedos, kino flos, a JVC LS300+the 5Diiis, a full sound kit and most of these for free.

I also help with lighting, do a little sound post and the DP does color corection for free.

You know what they asked us yesterday? "Can we do it 5.1 sound, and why we don't have 10 bit image?"!

Right now, in the whole Greek market there are 2 good productions with 5-7 times our budget, and they are really doing a great job. The last 4 years were none such productions.

Imagine what is going on with the small and uneducated clients. It is a massacre!

I am starting to sell extra virgin oil of the Koroneiki varity in Europe, to bring some money to the family budget!

I learned today that a guy(that I know) does BOTH video and photos in weddings, and he charges 300-600 euros for photo/video, ALONE! One friend does photography lessons, and there are 3 middle aged women, never hold a camera in their life "learning the basics to do video in weddings", and in his class, from the 15-20 people, almost all are going to work in weddings!

Today I talked with a band for an event coverage and a small clip in the end, and they told me they paid the last 3 years, from 80-200€!

It has become a hobby, and I am working since 1999, my first jobs were in film, have 1 bachelor and 2 diplomas, I feel I am overqualified!

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I have had the same thing in a different industry. It is soul destroying when you end up doing twice as much work as you quoted for. Especially when you do what was agreed and they dont like it, then do it until they like it. Then they say forget that part altogether. That is why I never ever deal with clients anymore, I am too nice and end up being their internet monkey scared to ask for more money to cover my time. Now I trippled my rate and will probably add a third on in spring and there are proper contracts,  with all face to face and calls communcation going through my business partner. Stress is a thing of the past. 

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Soul destroying is an apt description of all this. I once swore off low paying jobs but with the economy this bad, and having just let go an errant business partner not too long ago, I had to bite the bullet to take whatever I could for now.

Some clients I should have just priced them out of being able to afford me in the first place but it's usually only after a while dealing with them when you're able to tell what sort of person they are and how they view you. Imagine being accused of overrunning and taking too long to direct the client was tooo cheap to get proper actors. 

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In my first job in TV, as a runner, I got to experience the best & the worst directors. The good thing is, that the really bad directors eventually get caught out & schooled by either the cameramen or the producers.

The worst I've experienced is a director that just couldn't control a 5min interview with 3 cameras. They had no idea about editing, so if anything wasn't to their exacting standards, everyone would have to roll again - of course the logical thing to do would have been to just re-film the offending culprit. So basically, something that should take a grand total of 15-20mins to do would take 40mins & they'd have to do about 10-15 of these interviews in a day. Of course, this meant that the shoots would wildly overrun & everyone would have to spend an extra 2-3hrs filming. Eventually the Producer noticed that the shoots were taking far too long & came to show people (this Director) how to do it - needless to say we finished 2hrs early that day & that director got made redundant a while later.

Some people manage to scrape through a career & eventhough their CV looks impressive to the inexperienced, years later you realise that these inept people have been working on shows that are used by young directors to cut their teeth on.

Should you put up with these people? Well, I've seen cameramen walk. Yep, just pack their stuff up & walk. It's quite an amazing thing to see a whole crew walk away from a director. Admittedly it doesn't happen very often & is a very risky thing to do (unless you have lots of work & can for go never working on that programme again), but sometimes you just have no choice but to get the hell out of there.

Just remember, bad directors don't last very long & you'll find that the best crews just won't work with them.

Personally, I'd take a stand - ask for an advance on your payment, get the cash in your pocket & then have a polite word with them. If they don't change, walk!

Just remember that their ineptitude could end up reflecting badly on you - these sorts of directors will place the blame on the people around them, so just make sure you're not around for that...

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10 hours ago, Axel said:

Mutual interests? Labour of love? I hope this won't go sour. Without a contract, anything could happen as soon as creative conflicts arise. Which is not exactly unheard-of.

Fell into it by accident and am trying to make the best of it. We will find out soon enough. Good call, though, I am going to check in about credit and payment asap since delivery is fairly soon.

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12 hours ago, Axel said:

To reinstate it for yourself you have to turn down every client who - directly but in most cases indirectly - treats you like dog's poo. Difficult move if you are starting up. But a defining move.

I can testify to this.  You get what you ask for.

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11 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

I can testify to this.  You get what you ask for.

1000%.

But a higher level client might be hard to work for and thus not have vendors on hand. So they're looking for another person to take advantage of. And it's you. But there are ways to leverage a good credit without going straight back to the client who provided it. 

I hope.

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I think unless you aren't gaining anything from the shoot, expertise, prestige or money wise, get out.

In general it makes sense to set up a proper contract that identifies the stages of work. Prep, shoot, edit, rental costs, travel, etc. Allocate time to the individual stages/ deliverables. Have a rough time/money estimate in the end to get signed off before starting to work. If you can't calculate time it takes, work over weeks or month ----> hourly/daily/weekly rate or combo.

Two important things to state in the contract is time range in when this Is due to happen and that individual stages are dependent on clients support and info. Examples are if the thing drags on. Tell them time is running out. And refer them to your high hourly rate after date x. If they don't deliver things, you can't edit e.g. music, text. Refer them to the hourly rate, get last stages paid and if necessary time wise get out.

If you are working with someone awesome and you can learn, be generous but don't let your self be exploited.

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50 minutes ago, HockeyFan12 said:

1000%.

But a higher level client might be hard to work for and thus not have vendors on hand. So they're looking for another person to take advantage of. And it's you. But there are ways to leverage a good credit without going straight back to the client who provided it. 

I hope.

My buddy does have some good clients. One success story was when he invested a lot of unpaid private time in second-guessing the 'corporate identity' of the firm who made the announcement. He met the woman responsible for public relation with concepts ready to present. But he was wise enough to make her feel it were her ideas. They accepted his offer (reasonable, but not cheap) without batting an eye. The communication worked from the start (what's the right idiom? They were on the same wavelength?). He had thought out everything in advance, he could control the situation. The client came back several times despite cheaper competitors. If the client feels you are just some guy with a camera you will not be treated with respect. A successful professional must be a prostitute sometimes. The good ones make their sugar daddies think they love them. 

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10 hours ago, Axel said:

My buddy does have some good clients. One success story was when he invested a lot of unpaid private time in second-guessing the 'corporate identity' of the firm who made the announcement. He met the woman responsible for public relation with concepts ready to present. But he was wise enough to make her feel it were her ideas. They accepted his offer (reasonable, but not cheap) without batting an eye. The communication worked from the start (what's the right idiom? They were on the same wavelength?). He had thought out everything in advance, he could control the situation. The client came back several times despite cheaper competitors. If the client feels you are just some guy with a camera you will not be treated with respect. A successful professional must be a prostitute sometimes. The good ones make their sugar daddies think they love them. 

A friend worked with a high end agency where many of the directors are Academy Award winners and so it's already the upper echelon and everyone pitching for the job is superb and qualified ($100k/day day rate level, probably far more at times). What often gets them the job is remembering everyone's name in the room and treating them with respect and charm. The director who charms the agency will likely charm the client on set. The ad directs itself at that level, to some extent, so having that impressive figurehead and liaison to the client is as important as skill. Guys like Scorsese and David O. Russell will often secure jobs based on their awards. Brands (Scorsese does perfume ads, Russell KFC) want that prestige, and that reputation allows you to act up a bit. But if you don't have it, you'd better be charming.

Yours is good advice; research the company and its corporate culture first and find things you like about it, which impress you, and present yourself as being impressed by them and wanting to be a part of that culture. If it's too far a stretch to do so, perhaps it is not the client for you.

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16 hours ago, Axel said:

If the client feels you are just some guy with a camera you will not be treated with respect.

Plenty of small business clients here have this mindset.

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Yeah...this is an extremely tricky subject.  Thanks for sharing your experiences.

There are SO many people out there ready to throw you numbers only to pass or not even be serious in the first place, that it's actually healthier for you to consider each client to be full of BS.

This kills me.  I'm an optimist to a fault. I always try to find the good in people and this echelon of the industry is destroying that aspect of my personality.  I hate it.  I loathe it.  

"Honesty"...,it's such an underrated tool in your skill set.  Practice it and yes, you will get fucked over.  Many many times.  BUT, you will also stand out from the crowd.  The people that cherish honesty will spot it from a mile away and want to keep working with you.

This industry is really despicable but there are great people hidden within.  Find them, hold onto them, work with them continually and avoid the snakes at all cost.

I wish I had a secret for spotting a snake before it was too late but that's something I'm still working on, myself.  Avoid them and you will find really great people.  Build connections with them and no one else because connections with snakes lead nowhere anyways.  

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I never write scripts i let them do it or explain it to me, than i ask lots of question on (locations, extras, props, transportation,budget ect..)

that way i can find the weak spots, and offer alternative so that everything goes smooth.  

 

 

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2 hours ago, Sebv said:

I never write scripts i let them do it or explain it to me, than i ask lots of question on (locations, extras, props, transportation,budget ect..)

that way i can find the weak spots, and offer alternative so that everything goes smooth.  

 

 

This is why you'll go far. 100% on point.

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I have a contract either signed or by email  or verbally recorded that specifies an (generous) amount of hours dedicated to the project. I specify that before  these hours are reached, they will be informed that they are running out of time  due to contract and must either get their shit together or put more cash in the meter.

The truth is noone is watching what you do in the edit and planning, so  it is always a useful tool for disorganised clients.  sooner or later they see cash flying out the window and you  can all  reset and power on.

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6 hours ago, HelsinkiZim said:

I have a contract either signed or by email  or verbally recorded that specifies an (generous) amount of hours dedicated to the project. I specify that before  these hours are reached, they will be informed that they are running out of time  due to contract and must either get their shit together or put more cash in the meter.

The truth is noone is watching what you do in the edit and planning, so  it is always a useful tool for disorganised clients.  sooner or later they see cash flying out the window and you  can all  reset and power on.

I actually got the credit and money promised, I was just faced with so much additional work.

I dunno. In my market you need to make $150k/year to get by. I'm not there yet and I'm worried.

I guess I have to take the risk, brush up on my presentation, put together a website and up-to-date reel, and charge a lot more, $1k/day for post sound right or too low?

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@HockeyFan12

Quote

$1k/day for post sound right or too low?

If you are self employed and complete all the work alone, people I know charge about 125 Euro/hour (taxes, pension, medical assurance, gear money, etc.) - my experience when assisting. Agencies charge much more than this and pay camera men, cutters, colorists, etc. much (!) less....It's always the best to handle the clients directly and not via agencies.

It makes sense to invest substancial sums in your own marketing / promotion. Before assisting in many projects, I never would think, that it would be better to invest (eg to visualize ratio of reinvestment) 5.000 bucks in marketing and only 1.500 in gear. But that's what I've experienced in assisting projects from 3.500 to 70.000 Euro. More than 70% of filming business is about self marketing and clients management and not about filming...At least in my eyes...

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the money you are mentioning are just insane. 

A usual working day here is 12 hours, if you can charge 12 X 125 euros (I do not even mention the other crazy number just above) is 1250euros per day! while this is usually the pay for 2-4 WHOLE episodes of a TV production (for location sound) and with no pension/medical insurance/gear money. They just pay for your physical presence, expected to have most of the equipment, and you pay your own taxes. Of course we are talking about the poorest western world country, but still, 1250 euros per day for a technician that is not the chief producer, director, or dp, is unheard of.

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