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Taking Care of Business
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Old November 5th, 2008, 04:53 PM   #1
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Might have been ripped off...

I think I might have been ripped off. Not sure yet.

I shot some footage for a company long-distance, sent them the tapes and invoice back in June or July. It's not a ton of money but it's enough to pay a few bills.

Anyway, they haven't paid me yet (5 mos. later). I do know who they were working for, and they said that they've paid the full amount for the work.

What should I do? I did a good job, charged a fair rate, and feel a little frustrated. I can't decide if it's worth calling a lawyer. Plus my footage is already in their hands and in the final project, which feels a little bit like a violation of copyright or something if I haven't been paid for it.

Anyway, just wondering if anyone has any advice for me. We did go back and forth a bit about two months ago - I resent the invoice, he said he'd send it right away, and then asked me if I wanted to do some editing work on the project and get paid for the whole thing when it was done, I said sure, and then some big crisis happened and he disappeared. Haven't heard from him since despite several emails, and just found out recently that he finished the project without letting me know about it.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 05:08 PM   #2
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Were there any contracts involved before hand or was it all just verbal? Unless there is a written contract then it is tough to prove someone owes you money. You can try the lawyer route but then it's really just the lawyer who makes any money from the ordeal.

Try to keep correspondence with them and keep it professional and friendly. If it devolves into fighting and threats then it's a lost cause.

If at all anything, it's a learning expierence...
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Old November 5th, 2008, 06:24 PM   #3
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I don't have a contract with him, but I do have a pretty clear set of emails and documents laying out what I was expected to accomplish, an email from his client saying that I had arrived on site and began shooting, emails afterwards praising me for my work and saying he wants to do more work with me, etc.

Maybe I'm over-reacting. I do tend to get a little emotionally wrapped up in things because I have trouble trusting people sometimes, but it's sure been a long time and he hasn't given any clear communication on what to expect.

I don't like asking for cash up front with clients because I'm afraid I might lose the job or something, but this kind of thing really sours my taste for business and reduces my desire to work for people, especially long distance.

Guess I'm just blowing off steam at this point though - I should probably just chalk it up to a bad experience and let it go.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 07:22 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Philip Gioja View Post
I don't like asking for cash up front with clients because I'm afraid I might lose the job or something, but this kind of thing really sours my taste for business and reduces my desire to work for people, especially long distance.
As a matter of course, I'll ask for 50% up front. I'll bend this if I have good history with a client, but it establishes a pattern. Aside from getting me cash on the front end, it gets the client vested in the project. They tend to want to work faster. Partial payment also confirms that they're serious and not just wasting my time with blue sky.

That works for me, but I'm old and don't have loads of time to muck about.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 07:24 PM   #5
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Yeah, do not be afraid to ask for money upfront. I agree with the post above and this is exactly what I do as far as payment.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 07:36 PM   #6
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When money is tight, you have to give them a reason to pay. In my legal business I have a provision that client will pay 1.5 percent per month on unpaid balance. If you aren't doing that, they will pay the bills that do charge that, and leave you for next month. If it is legal in your state, send a statement adding the carrying charge. At a minimum they may react and that may result in payment.

Second, send monthly statements to your clients who owe you a balance, and don't hesitate to call and ask for payment. Its simply good business.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 07:59 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Philip Gioja View Post
I should probably just chalk it up to a bad experience and let it go.
That would be the wrong thing to do. How much money are we talking about? Is it low enough to persue in small claims court? If so, a lawer is not necessary. Certainly don't just let it drop.

I'm just stubborn enough that I'd make it my new hobby to call them daily. The squeaky wheel really does get the grease.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 09:38 PM   #8
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It's around $800. Hurts enough to be bothered by it but not enough to do permanent damage I guess.

I've never done anything with courts or with late fees. I only had to deal with this once before and that time it was not a 'professional' client so I wasn't shocked -- usually when I've dealt with other production companies I've not had any problems. How does small claims court work?

I guess I could put together a new invoice with interest added on and resend that - that's probably the most professional next step to take with this.
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Old November 6th, 2008, 03:02 AM   #9
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I don't have a contract with him, but I do have a pretty clear set of emails and documents laying out what I was expected to accomplish, an email from his client saying that I had arrived on site and began shooting, emails afterwards praising me for my work and saying he wants to do more work with me, etc.
Even if you don't have a signed contract, it should be worth showing those emails to a lawyer and asking for advice.
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Old November 6th, 2008, 03:34 AM   #10
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Phillip,

Why don't you post info about where the folks who owe you the money are located?

Maybe someone here lives close by and would be happy to act as your agent in person for a cut of the proceeds?

In my experience, it's a whole lot easier for a client to stiff you if there's no chance you'll show up on their doorstep. OTOH, when someone walks through the door, it's a whole different ball game.

YMMV.
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Old November 6th, 2008, 06:04 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Phillip,

Why don't you post info about where the folks who owe you the money are located
Bill,

While I may agree in principle, DVINFO won't allow that to happen. I've seen this same idea put forth on other boards. Some folks even want to set up a 'deadbeat' database online. Posting information like that can open the door to legal issues. I know Chris well enough that he's not interested in prevailing in a court of law... he doesn't want to be put there in the first place having to pay to defend himself or the site.

I guess if people really want to know who is not paying so that they can avoid doing business with them, a private email from the OP might suffice.

regards,

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Old November 6th, 2008, 06:23 AM   #12
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I don't want to be responsible for any 'extracurricular' activities going on or anything. Not that you would, Bill, but I would feel weird sending someone I don't know after someone else that I don't know that owes me money (-:

I put together a new invoice with the interest added, and if nothing happens from that I'm going to look into small claims court. If I'm not mistaken from some things I was reading last night, as long as I can get his papers served to him, he's required to show up here where the claim is filed, and if he doesn't then he's the default loser. Then I just have to figure out how to collect.

Sigh. Guess this is how you transition from wannabe artist to cold, hard business person. The money up front plan is looking pretty good right now.
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Old November 6th, 2008, 06:56 AM   #13
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Having worked in this industry for many years, I can tell you that some clients pay quickly and others don't.
For example... I voice national spots for a well known boat manufacture, and the check nearly always comes the next week. On the other side, I have voiced small market radio spots where the agency takes 6 months to pay. Many of the agencies I have worked for over the years have a 90 day pay cycle.

My suggestion to you is... simply pickup the phone and call them!
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Old November 6th, 2008, 07:04 AM   #14
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Yeah - I tried that. Problem is, although he makes it look like he has a large business and a national videographer network, I'm pretty sure he runs it out of his house by himself. His phone system is very slick and makes it seem like you've reached a legit business with a lot of departments, but it doesn't let you do anything other than leave a message -- even the sales line.

If I was comfortable that it was a large organization or solid business that I was working for, or if I knew I could talk to someone directly, I'd feel a little better about it.

He does have pretty impressive sample videos on his website, so it at least appears as though he's been in business for a long time and has been successful. He says he won an Emmy award for something. Maybe he really is super-busy and hasn't had time to take care of it. I have talked to him on the phone several times about payment arrangements and 'future work' (months ago), which was usually prompted by me sending emails asking him for his plans for payment, but he hasn't followed up on any promise he's made.
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Old November 6th, 2008, 09:37 AM   #15
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Just make sure that if this does make it to small claims court that you ask for the original payment. Since you do not have a contract or any emails saying that he agrees with paying interest. I am pretty sure a judge wont let it fly.
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