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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old September 27th, 2004, 04:01 PM   #1
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Creative control - you VS client, or you WITH client

What is the creative workflow and producer/client relationship in your wedding video business?

How do you include the client in the creative process and what creative decisions do you allow them?

Where is the cut-off stage where you do not accept any more requests/changes/decisions from the clients' side? How do you handle their insistance on such changes? If the client is unwilling to pay? If the client threatens with abandoning the project?

The reason I am asking these questions is that I had to deal with a client who little by little took creative control over the project, having more and more requests which resulted to 5x the work, unhappy client and a product which does not reflect my creative vision.

For those of you with a knee-jerk reaction - I know I allowed this to happen, I know I should have said no, even at the cost of walking out from the project... yes, nice theory. My question is related more to the prevention of such a situation than to the ways of resolving it when it has become critical.

What I would like to know is how do you elegantly and successfully manage the creative control power struggle* and end up with a happy client and a reel you love?

Some ideas I and my partner have come up with are based on improving the contract we sign prior to shooting:
- outline the client's creative input (what scenes will be included, in what order, what music, other specific requests)
- outline costs for screenings, following changes (1 screening of rough cut, 2 hours of additional editing, $xx for additional screenings, editing)
- outline change of deadline if additional changes are requested
- write a treatment before the shooting starts and have the client sign it
- have all requests in written form signed by client, with outlined extra costs/deadline updates
- instead of having "can't"s and "wont's" in the contract, we will have a short clause saying that if the client requests something which is not inclided in the package, additional costs will apply (attached rates).
- separate the payments in the project in stages so that we can terminate the contract at any point without significant losses

UPDATE: if you feel comfortable with sharing a contract you believe is successful please email it to aaandre at gmail dot com and let me know if it would be OK to share it with the rest of the people in this thread. Also, as an incentive for your time, I will send you a gmail invitation if you'd like one (have 4 left). Let me know.

Thank you!

-- Andre

*The "creative control power struggle" always exists, the question is how to manage it.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 04:25 PM   #2
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WHAT was it?

For weddings/plays/graduations type events, I claim 100% control.

For corporate work, it would vary depending on the project.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 04:49 PM   #3
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A clarification

This was a wedding, but I would like to hear about approaches to different kinds of event projects.

Also, please provide some detail about what you do and how.

If you "claim 100% control" - what does it look like? Do you put it in the contract? How is it formulated? Are the client's requests ignored?

How do you assure that the client is happy at the end? Or is it a "take it or leave it" situation?

Please answer the questions in the message at the top of the thread.

Thank you!

-- Andre
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Old September 27th, 2004, 05:16 PM   #4
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First...for weddings, my contract is very specific that I retain total control of editing. I do condensed edit for my weddings and my clients know that. They have either seen someones actual finished product or they see one when they come to my viewing room to talk to me about booking. AFTER we watch a sample and we talk a bit about about their event and make sure I'm the guy for them we go over the paperwork. There are certain things I make absolutely sure they understand, no questions asked, including the part where it says I have the total control of the edit. I will reedit at no charge for a spelling mistake I make. If the client wants additional editing work done I charge $125.00 for the 1st hour with a 1 hour min. and $37.50 per 1/2 hour thereafter. In 21 years of wedding videos I've had perhaps a handful to redo. In the last 5 years I've had perhaps 2. If they are willing to pay, fine, I'll do it otherwise, its a big NO!

Corporate work is a different thing entirely. Each job is priced out depending on the clients needs and each job has a different and seperate contract to meet the requirments of the job. BUT as an example, I do training films for 1 account. I shoot on location, bang out a TCd VHS version for them, they call the time for the scenes they want, I edit accordingly. Another client pays me to edit the way I think it should be done, then they look at it and if additonal work needs to be done, I do it. They want it that way and are willing to pay for it.

Every job and every videographer is different so I don't think you'll find a pat answer.

Don B
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Old September 27th, 2004, 07:18 PM   #5
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I don't have one of our contracts handy but, yes, it states in our contract that we maintain 100% creative control over what goes into the final product.

Yes, we try to ensure the customer is happy. But they have seen our demo and know the type of work we do. Many are also referrals from previous customers so they've seen our work there as well.
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Old September 27th, 2004, 09:53 PM   #6
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I have it in the contract that I have the final decision for how the edited product should look (misspelling, fonts, small things can be changed no biggie). Additional hours after the first edit are billable.

So far I think that the biggest help for me has been the time that I spend talking to the client before the wedding. We all do that to some extent (or should depending on the production level) but I'm now very careful with speaking to them in detail and it makes a difference. I'm not a producer for every style. My style is very professional and straight forward but that's not for everyone. If I talk with a client who is looking for something different then I find out early and refer them elsewhere. It saves us both headaches and we both go away happy.

So in addition to updating your contract, learn from what happened and look for some of those signs early on next time. Spend extra time finding out exactly what they are looking for as you talk to them and it could save you the trouble you went through.

There will always be some who slip through regardless. But that's when you need to go to the contract. A contract is your backup, not your first line of defense. Make it solid and save it for when it's needed.

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Old September 28th, 2004, 06:38 AM   #7
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im with Dom on this...

basically i let them offer suggestions at teh time of booking or submitted teh application form.. yes, i have htem physically sit down and go through a form with outlines EVERYTHING...

if they cant decide they take teh form home.. during edit they can change their minds.. or if i feel the music choice doesnt flow with the pace of the scene (ie a lovey dovey slow song for an action packed photoshoot) i will call them and tell then that their choice didnt flow with the actual event, threfore i changed it to something suitable...

My own errors are my responsibility, however i had one client once who didnt know the spelling of half their bridal party.
I gave them a week to get back to me with details..
They didnt. Tough cookies.. i have a business to run and i theyre gonna fluff about thats their problem..
out of courtesy, i ended up fixing it but only after they waitied until my other projects were complete.

I offer preliminary viewings to my high end packages but the ones that whinge about what they want and dont want are the ones that pay peanuts.. they have a champaigne diet on a lemonade budget.. mind u these are people who pay thousands for a cake... so that should give u an idea as to their mentalities and priorities.

All power is to the studio. in my contract it clearly states that they must mark the area that they understand that its in our discretion as to how we work.

simple really.. if they want a good job done, they know what they have to do..

then u have ur couples that insist on having everything on one dvd.. im usually againt anything over 90minutes.. hell over 60minutes is to long, but sometimes people want it all.. but they are warned that the longer it runs, the worse its gonna look...
they sign acknloedgement of that information..
One couple did exactly that and took a 3 hour dvd encoded at 30000kbps and watched it on a Plasma screen.. it looked like poo... they then decided i was right and that i should split it across 2 discs..
when the $$ came up, they refused to pay..
I then took out the agreement and handed them another copy..

Cover Your Ass..

there are MANY people who will try to milk your service for everything its worth.. couples are the worst coz they budget for still photogrpahy more than video.. then realise AFTER THE FACT that video was more important.. especially during vows..

as for Corporate.. i take a laptop and do a ruff cut there with them. Its usualy no probme to set markers and points and take notes.. from there i take it to the studio and finish it up.
I ALWAYS cover my ass...

as for payment.. i do what the photogrpahers do.. and that is to charge UPFRONT before i even hit record..
Corp is 50% upfront, 50% on delivery. If its a regualr client they can pay me on delivery..

i know i maysound bitter, but i get at least 10/15 queries a day half of those are people wanting discounts on already discounted rates.. the other half want demos, which is ok.. but theres a doozy..

I work for a huge Pro Video Supplier.. we stock about 80% of video business... ive had 3 different videoguys come up to me and with MY OWN DEMO and ask me how they can rip material from it.
I asked them where they got those copies from.. and theyre like, "i have a customer who wants me to do their video like this...

Now these guys DONT KNOW i produced that stuff.. coz its a conflict of interest if they knew who i was and what i did.. but the audacity...
So i asked the boss if i could spring it on them.. and he said yeah sure itd be a laugh..
So i did..
I pulled out my dvd portfolio and said.. "is this how u want your video.. and then it dawned on them that the stuff they were tryin to copy was mine.. when faced with it.. they really didnt know what to do or say..
and the one guy wanting to leech.. i just asked him what he wanted to do with the atual footage once he got it from the dvd.. and he said he wanted to put it to his own demo..
Needless to say, the Dept of Fair Trading is onto him now..

I have to say, the wedding video industry here in aus (actaully the video industry itself... ) only has about 10% decent guys working their own piece.. the others a cheap half cock hacks who have no clue.

and coz theyre so half cocked, they make it difficult for those of us who take some pride in what we do.

Do what u do, but do it well. Cover yourself, be business minded and youll be ok
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Old September 28th, 2004, 12:42 PM   #8
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Usualy my clients choose me because they've alreay seen some other weding I did. On "location" I might get some "advices". From the simple "could you get that?" to the rude "get up, I'm not paying you to sit!" (when there's alcohol...)
On editing, there's no one siting near me.
I also got asked if I provide the "orignal/master" (the material before eding). That's a NO!

About payment: if I don't know the person I'll ask for some small upfront, just to make sure they won't shop arround anymore after we close the deal (learned from mistakes). The rest I get on delivery. I figure no one would change theyer mind and give up theyer weding video! It never happened, anyway.

I'm sure this question has been posted before, but I'd like to see some contract samples, if posible. Any links? I couldn't find any on DVInfo. Maybe I didn' use the searching feature very well...
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Old September 30th, 2004, 07:35 AM   #9
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"Usualy my clients choose me because they've alreay seen some other weding I did"

:)

Pretty much the same here.. they know that if they give me freedom, theyll get results..

another selling point is my filming style.. im a lil crazy.. i have fun and i end up in the strangest places, but people see what i do and see what lengths i go to to get a god shot..

Im far from normal ;)
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Old September 30th, 2004, 07:03 PM   #10
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How did you start?

Most of the replies so far recommend to working with clients who come to you because they like your work and are willing to surrender to your creative choices.

How did you arrive to this place? How did you start out when you did not have work to show?

Free weddings? Half-price?

Even then, how did you convince your future customers that they can trust you?

Thank you.

-- Andre
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Old October 1st, 2004, 10:52 AM   #11
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I had two lines in a local newspaper. Clients called and asked the price. (they) Didn't need to know more. I met them in their wedding day... No joking!

Then I got some experience, got some skils at editing, got into DVD stuff... Got the price up. At this point people caled me based on the two lines from the local newspaper and asked about the price. Tell them the price - never heard of them....

I gave up on the news paper. Friends of old clients called... I had to raise the price slowly and raise the quality faster. Every client got the feeling that he got more then he paid for. Their friends that latter became my clients were willing to pay the new sligthly bigger price (because they noticed the job I did and find out it was a special introductory offer...). So on and so forth...
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Old October 1st, 2004, 11:59 AM   #12
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"How did you arrive to this place? "

Where i am now?? well id prefer to be doing this full time, but i have a larger masterplan than filmin weddings. How i go here.. well i have a loooooooong history with audio.. bout 12 years now.. shit actaully 13.. lol started Djing, got into production, ended up doing alot of post work, remixes, mastering. Moved to engineering and sound design for SW, HW and Game design, ended up doing post prod work (efects, mixing, mastering, scoring for short films, commercials etc)
Watched and learnt all i could with Avid systems (pro tools was my tpy back then, so i learnt avid pretty quick for some reason.. could be coz theyre form teh same family.. ) never like prems glugginess back then, and everythign else sucked.. so i stayed with audio coz i had more control..

Got into editing for my own wedding about 3 yrs ago... had used Vegas when it first came out (pre realtime preview days) and not even a qarter of what it is today) and picked it up due to its "soundforgish" look and feel

Helped afew people out with some shoots, ended up pickin up the Camera Jive.. and bug..

Got married about 3 ys ago and it was a choice of hiring a pro, or buying a cam for the same price.. so we bought a cam..

Ended up editin it and people were impressed.

during my drunken stupor at my wedding i came up with afew surprising elements which i use as selling tools today.


"How did you start out when you did not have work to show?"

I was dumb and bought an inferior cheap camera when i started charging people.. I did my fist wedding at half price... after that i did afew parties here and there all word of mouth.. things picked up and i took out a loan, i always had a business name for the music so this was an evolution of the service.. so i used to film peoples gigs for their own portfolios etc etc..

I was then volunteered to do a friend of a friends wedding.. it was a big job.. pretty much a baptism of fire.. 600 guests, huge serbian traditions...

from there it jsut evolved on its own.. i do more video work now than audio..

"Free weddings? Half-price?"
Nothing is free.. cheap yes, but free, no.. remember that the investment youve made with ur camera and editing suite has to pay itself off somehow..

"Even then, how did you convince your future customers that they can trust you?"

I came into the industry from the backend of it.. most video guys start filming first then learn how to edit.. others do it as a hoibby first.. i did it the other way around.. then i didnt liek the footage i was workign with so i ended up using my own.. but as im running a business, thats at the forefront of how i set up my relationships with these clients.
Also and a paramount difference i have to alot of people here.. i didnt turn this into a business because i enjoyed it..
Sure i njoi filming, and i like editing, but i wasnt a hardcore hobbyist who had big dreams. I did invest in an expensive cam then decide i could make afew bux from it.. as alot of video guys have done..
I bought a consumer cam and did afew projects for my own work, the interest in my work grew, so the investment into it grew. It blew out to an uncontrollable level, so a business decision was made and that was to kill off the Sound Department, as this (video) offered a better working lifestyle, ie, filming twice a week, editing weeknights, working full time being a Pro Video Supplier...
Its still evlvig but the ultimate goal is to film once a week, edit within that week, look after my son and have a decent life..
At the moment im still working 20hr days.. but its slowly changin

A good secure contract, no surprise charges (regardless of your own loss) and a good rapport <as well as a good showreel> is what hooks them.
Trust.. well if they have everything on a legally binding document, whats there NOT to trust?? when they know they can sue you, they know youre gonna behave, when they know ull do what youre paid to do, they usually relax a lil, thats when the freedom to create comes into play..


Ive bored u enough, but there u have it......
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Old October 19th, 2004, 05:27 AM   #13
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"How do you include the client in the creative process and what creative decisions do you allow them?" --> You don't!

It may seem a bit drastic. But believe me, if you open the door they will want the whole house.

Like said here before, you should show them some of your work so they can feel the type of shooting/editing you do.

If they ask you to include their favorite song, ok. But don't get the snowball get bigger. If they want you to use that and that and that one, stop it right there. Don't be afraid to loose tha type of clients, because before you know it, they will be handing to you 10 my favorites CDs of music and 10 foto albums for you to scan, and siting next to you telling how to edit a wedding.
If they go to your competition, fine, they will loose his time, not yours.

In the end: one song and a couple of fotos that's about it. You have to be very firm. You don't, and you'll be receiving phonecalls everyday asking if you just could add this and change that.

Good luck,
Arnaldo
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Old October 19th, 2004, 09:26 AM   #14
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100% creative control mine- however I meet with the couple (usually twice) before the date and get a good gist of the couple's taste stylistically. Usually it's not that far off from what I'm already doing as my other work ist he reason they book me in the first place.
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Old October 19th, 2004, 11:08 AM   #15
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100 % creative control also...although I would change something they disliked as best I could if it takes less than 2 hours of work.
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