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Old January 10th, 2009, 11:18 PM   #1
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The Worst Project Ever!

I've noticed that many of the wonderful people on this forum have a huge wealth of knowledge, gained through years of education and trial and error on various projects. I'm sure most have been incredible...but I'd like to hear about the time you just wanted to walk away shaking your head. Tell us about the project you'd love to forget!
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Old January 10th, 2009, 11:30 PM   #2
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Okay...I'll start!

When I was in college we were given the task of producing two half hour pilot shows. Both projects had potential, however one quickly became a flaming wreck. The ill fated project was titled "Ultimate Comedy Fighting". Picture "Whose Line Is It Anyways?" meets UFC, except without any real action, or comedic talent. We brought in some improv artists as talent, and begged two other broadcasting students to fill in for the talent that didn't show up on the day of shooting. It was supposed to be an improv competition, but the students quickly made fools of the hired help. In addition to that, the producer/director neglected to shoot any footage that could be used to bridge segments. We started shooting a few hours late, and wrapped early because no one cared anymore. If I had a tape of it...I'd find a way to incinerate it.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 11:53 PM   #3
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See, this is what I like about being an amateur. For me, a flaming wreck is merely a learning experience.
Equip: Panny GH1, Canon HG20, Juicedlink, AT897, Sennh. EW/GW100, Zoom H2, Vegas 8.1
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Old January 11th, 2009, 12:34 AM   #4
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Hi Matt...................

Bit quiet there in Welland in the middle of winter?

Don't know how much mileage you're gonna get out of this one, but let's see.

As for "walking away", well, when you're shooting wildlife (or attempting to) that just about sums up 3 shoots out of 4, tho' here it's probably worse at 9 out of 10.

People involved?

Even worse.

Guess my worst experience with people involved was doing my video course at the Poly in London.

It rapidly became apparent that I knew a significant amount more than the tutor in just about every department (I was a "mature student" looking to make the move from still to video and had already got pretty heavily into it).

Needless to say, the entire course started to turn into farce, as the other students watched to see whether or not I would second guess the tutor at any particular point, and would bail me up on break periods to get "the good oil", which I was loath to provide under the circumstances.

Most discomforting.

I'd only done it to get familiar with all the gear they had available, and it turned out I knew more about that than he did as well.

Don't get me wrong, we all learnt a lot.

Me: how to run a video crew of disparite individuals with varying competence levels but some humungous strengths they didn't know they had.

[Not really all that different to my day job as an IT consultant, the staff were just a lot more tempremental, and that's saying something]

Them: don't know, but we made some damn good video's.

They all left the course looking happy enough though.


All part of life's rich tapestry.

Decided that working with animals was a lot less stressfull, and you DO NOT have to take into account that the storyboarder has serious PMT's and the sound guy is bloody deaf!

Let's see what else pops up.

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Old January 12th, 2009, 04:22 PM   #5
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@ Chris: I found school to be an interesting experience...but I didn't learn too much. I would have to say that I could have learned everything that I know know(and probably more) in two weeks of hands on face to face training. I wish I had simply offered someone in the industry a chunk of money to "hire" me, and give me on the job training. I'm the type of person who learns the most by doing things, and sitting in the class reading about F stops and 3 point lighting didn't do much for me because I couldn't visualize it. As you said, school was simply a way to get your hands on the equipment, and in my case, the instructors were almost useless when it came to asking questions(they generally just told you to try things until you finally made it work). As one of my favourite radio broadcasters(Tom Leykis) says "In media, those who can, do and make a hell of a lot of money....those who can't teach broadcasting!"

That being said, I didn't finish the program I was taking(Radio, TV, Film). Like you, I went back as a mature student and as such had bills that needed to be paid, and school doesn't pay well! I wish I could just find someone to train me, but it seems without finishing the program there is no hope of that.
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Old January 12th, 2009, 05:14 PM   #6
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ok, no name mentions here...

My wife and I agreed to produce a short film for a budding writer/director. We spent days with them working out/explaining storyboards, shooting schedules and going over every last detail we could imagine. The director swore up and down they had locations locked, the talent rehearsed and ready to go, we just needed to light and roll.

Show up on set for the first day of shooting and there are people in the makeup chair that arent in the shot list. The newbie director insists they are. I whip out the shooting schedule and i get a "oh, that. that doesn't mean anything. we can work them in"

We start setting up the first scene and the director leaves the set for 3 hours! in order to find costumes for people that are in scenes we haven't even discussed!!!

I decide to go ahead and shoot what we have so we knock out a complicated car driveup-talk-through windows-get out to talk and smoke-get back in and drive away scene.

Just wrap it and the director shows up. I tell them what we did in their absense (which followed the shooting schedule precisely). They look at me for awhile and say "thats the wrong actress. Thats the adult version of the character. This scene is the child version"... i reply "then why was the adult version in the call sheet? and where is the child?"

The director looks stunned, whips out a cellphone and calls the child actress who was completely unaware there was a shoot. She's unavailable, so the director flails around, then recruits the daughter of a stable hand working near the film set and says "we'll use her".

I'm like "uh. whatever" and set up to reshoot everything with a different actress in the back seat. 2 actresses walk out of makeup and i'm like "who are they?". Turns out they are from a scene scheduled for weeks later on the far side of town. I started losing my patience and asked "how can we shoot them? that scene is across town... and we don't have the other characters here anyways. We need to shoot what we have here". She gets on her cellphone and during the reshoot is talking on the phone trying to recruit people for this OTHER scene. Meanwhile the director is ignoring every take as we shoot, but as soon as we cut, demands to rewind and watch each take several times, never offering anything more than "hmmm. can i see it again?"

So as people grow impatient, the director responds by getting mean and yelling at people for random unrelated stuff. "THATS THE WRONG HAT!!!!! ARE YOU STUPID? WHY ARE YOU WEARING THIS HAT????" "um. thats the hat you gave me". "BUT THATS NOT FOR THIS SCENE!"

We finally get the scene shot and move to the second scene and despite a big note on the schedule "MAKE SURE THIS LOCATION HAS AFTERNOON LIGHT" with a reply "yes yes yes yes, it does" the scene is in total shadow. Blinding sun over the roofline and thats it. I try explaining that this light isnt going to work at all and the director yells "i'm tired of your excuses, just fu**ing hit record!"

Fine. Whatever. I hit record and capture some of the worst looking shadow boxing ever.

Show up to the third location, which had a note "do we have access?" and "yes yes yes yes"... turns out, no. Its a security restricted port and if anyone asked at all, or even thought about asking, the answer would be a resounding "no".

The van with the actresses is an hour late. Why? because 4 more people from scenes not even discussed yet were having their makeup done so we could "fit them in". I'm parked in a carpark near the unavailable location and when i inform them the site is locked, the director (who had lied about scouting the light and access of the site) says "fine. lets just shoot it right here."

So instead of a period train station... its a parking lot, in total shadow, against a modern looking building, next to a port access road for heavy vehicles (a constant stream of them) and two doors down from a machine shop with endless power tool and clanging sound.

I start to explain how without a picture OR sound, that there isnt much point... and the director flips out. Screaming at the top of their lungs "g*d dammit! I'M SICK OF YOU! SHUT THE F*** UP! IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK JUST ROLL THE F***ING CAMERA!!"

My wife, who has been quietly working away in the background the whole shoot calmly walks over to me and the director and says "thats it. I'm very sorry, but you are mentally ill and we are leaving".

The director looks at me as if there is *any* chance i'd cross my wife on this point.

We apologize to the crew as the director screams at my wife, then realizing its not working changes to pleading and finally crying and begging. As we drive away the director is standing in the street, blocking the trucks and shaking their fist at us. Within the next 15 minutes we got texts from most of the crew thanking us for ending the hell. hehe.

Now THAT. is my worst project ever.

A LOT of lessons learned. valuable ones. But that didnt make it suck any less. I had bought shoulder mounts, lights, a letus enhanced all for this shoot, only to be told that nothing I think matters and i am just there to hit the record button. doh.
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Old January 12th, 2009, 07:46 PM   #7
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Andrew.... what a major OW.... and WHAT a wife!!! You are a lucky man.

I think as I listen and learn firsthand that anytime you are expected to shoot or record sound for anyone you should make it a requirement to visit every shot location with your director and make sure everything is copacetic ahead of time.... (Does that noisy irrigation pump run all day? Can it be turned off?, Is there a reason we picked the flight pattern for this airport?, What time of day did you plan this location for? etc)

Thanks for an instructive horror story.

ps. Kiss your wife for us all.

pps... At least he didn't utter those dreaded words: "We'll fix it in post!"
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Old January 13th, 2009, 02:16 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Matt Ratelle View Post
I wish I could just find someone to train me, but it seems without finishing the program there is no hope of that.
Matt I've found that I've never been asked if I graduated or not. It is a non-issue. Just saying that you went to film school at whatever school is usually enough to get your foot in the door with alumni from your alma mater, but your personality and willingness to learn will score the most points. Word-of-mouth matters above all else in this business... especially in smaller markets like the Niagara Peninsula.

BTW, I'm originally from the Welland area (Dunnville to be exact) and my brother attended Niagara College for broadcasting and quit the program for the very same reasons. I think the common complaints result from simply being geographically located so far away from Toronto where other schools have access to on-set job placements and guest lecturers from the film/TV industry.
If it is any help there are a couple pro videographers I know out your way and I work on Anna Olson's series for Food (2nd season just wrapped) that shoots with two Varicams in Welland.

I also shoot music videos in your area from time-to-time so message me if you want to be on a list for P.A. work. Here's one I shot a couple weeks before Christmas. We could have used another crew person!
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Old January 13th, 2009, 02:23 PM   #9
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Hi Tim,

I saw your website, do they hire you as a shooter & they have the gear? If you need to rent cameras/lights let me know. We have the F900s, EX3s, F350. I am not in charge of the camera dept but I can guarantee you we can give you a deal.

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Old January 13th, 2009, 05:22 PM   #10
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Undoubtedly it would have to be the dive I was supposed to take in the English Channel to video the wreck of a freighter that sank in the late 1970s.

Shortly after jumping in and starting my descent, I noticed a strange reflection in my transparent housing. Except it wasn't a reflection but water sloshing around inside. I aborted the dive and held the (very heavy) housing out of the water while signalling the skipper with the international distress signal (a big arcing wave). At that point, the camcorder was still dry. He waved back and resumed reading his newspaper. Eventually, he got the message but it was too late - the weight of the housing, NiCad battery pack, camcorder, fighting the waves etc got the better of me.

The camcorder was destroyed. I missed the dive.

The reason - I didn't seat the O-ring properly that morning because I had an almighty hangover due to about 8 pints of Guinness the night before.

You live. And you learn.
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Old April 5th, 2009, 02:14 PM   #11
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There's been some great answers so far! Thanks everyone!
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