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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old September 14th, 2005, 02:39 PM   #1
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Two freelance questions...

1) I shoot freelance for a local wedding videographer. He hired me initially with no experience, but it worked out very well and I have been doing this for about 5 months now. I've shot about 14 ceremonies and 2 receptions. I've also started doing some editing for him. Is it unethical to keep any of the footage that we shot together and use it for self-promotion when I decide to go out on my own and do my own weddings? Does he own it in every way because he paid me to shoot it, or do I still hold the copyright to the actual footage? I have never signed a contract... he just cuts me a check at each wedding, and I give him my tapes. By the way, I use my own tapes that I have paid for myself, if that makes any difference at all.

I don't want to be unethical, and I want to do what's right, but I would also love to have some great footage to build a demo reel with for myself later. It would stink if I am getting all this experience, but can't use any of the footage for personal promotion later when I am not working for him anymore. A friend said that if I use MY OWN footage and not his, then it should be ok. But, when he shows his demos to potential clients, at least one, if not both, cameras were operated by someone other than him. What are your thoughts?

2) He wants to promote me to camera 1 very soon, but I am reluctant. I'm cool with getting paid $125 as camera 2 to show up an hour early, shoot some indoor/outdoor b-roll, some b/g pre-ceremony, and the ceremony "steady-eddie" style from the balcony or cross-shooting. But, camera 1 pays exactly the same, but requires going to the rehersal and owning more equipment (like a wireless mic, backup camera, etc.). Also, camera 1 almost always shoots the reception, which pays another $175, but then requires even more gas to drive there, and even more equipment. On the other hand, being camera 1 would mean even more great experience.

So, basically, for those of you that shoot freelance or hire freelancers, is it worth it to do what I described above for $125 (ceremony only) as camera 1? Is that a good rate, or should I ask for more? I don't want to sound greedy, but I want it to be fair, so that's why I'm asking for your opinions.

I hope I don't sound ungrateful, because I feel blessed that I even have this freelance work. I'm getting some great experience with an experienced professional, and I really think this will catapult me into a higher level when I book weddings on my own.

Thanks for your time to read such a lengthy post!

Dan
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Old September 14th, 2005, 03:19 PM   #2
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The person/company who hired you owns the footage and copyrights. You have no legal right to the material. Your the hired help and there to do a job. The footage belongs to the person with contract from the client. Now, with that being said, I'm sure that if you asked that person if you could use some of the material at some point then they should be more than willing to allow that. They should understand that you shot it and need to cut a demo at some point and most people/companies are ok with allowing that. The key is to make sure that you ask them. Being freelance means that your in a buisness relationship with them and you want to keep things open and honest. Don't try and claim the material as yours or try and get access to it without their consent.

$125 for just the ceremony and this is your first year in wedding? And you only have to have a tripod and camera? Sounds like the people your with are treating you very well. Especially since there is oppourtunity to advance to another camera position. Sometimes you need to look at the experience you gain more than the dollar figure, and the pay actually sounds really good. I don't know what you think your worth but considering you walk in, shoot the material, and walk away with no editing involved you should consider your pay excellent. You may think that if you do your own weddings you'll make more, but you'll appreciate your position a lot more when you have to spend 20-30 hours editing your first few weddings in addition to the hours required for the dvd build.

As for the tapes, consider it a cost of doing buisness and don't quit the job over a small thing like that. If your concerned about the cost then talk with the company about it and work it out that way. They may not even know that it's an issue with you.

The grass isn't always greener on the other side. To me it sounds like your already in good position. Just be patient. Take advantage of the shows you get and put in extra time when you can. When you do begin your own productions in a couple years you'll be glad that you spent the time with the other production company first. And if you have their blessing when you make the jump then they could provide you with referrals, and that's always a difficult thing to get when you first start out.

Ben Lynn
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Old September 14th, 2005, 03:47 PM   #3
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Awesome reply! Thanks for taking the time to reply with such detail.

Thanks for clearing up who owns my footage. I have been told both sides, but not by industry professionals or lawyers. I do agree that I should ask and be open, but I wanted some an opinion here before asking. If you all say that the footage is mine, and he says no, then I can argue my case. But, if the footage is his, then I'll go by whatever he says. He is a great guy and would probably have no problem letting me use what we shot together. I believe in being ethical and honest regardless of whether or not he sent me referrals if he's booked that particular day, although that would be great :)

I'm not necessarily unhappy at all with getting paid $125 for camera 2, and I'm definitely not saying I'm worth more. I was more so wondering if one should get paid more for camera 1 since there is much more responsibility. But, if $125 is already higher than average for camera 2, then I imagine it's good for camera 1. I agree that the experience I'm gaining is priceless! He is being very patient with me as well. I have made some mistakes, and he just tells me how I could have done better, and sends me on another wedding. He's a good guy.

As far as the tapes, I have no problem with using my own, and he has offered to pay me back for them. I only wondered that if they were my tapes and not his, then would that change who owned the footage on them. Rediculous, I know, but I wasn't sure. Besides, he uses Sony tapes and I use Panasonic, so it benefits me to use my own regardless.

Thanks again for the reply.

Dan
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Old September 15th, 2005, 05:21 AM   #4
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Hi Dan.

Be careful what advice you get on the Internet. Without a specific work-for-hire agreement, you own the footage. Whether you can use it or not is a different story, since you have no release agreement from the B&G. If his contract allows him to use material for a demo, that right may be assignable to you as well. IANAA.

I think there is nothing wrong with him using your camera footage in his demos. You work for him, and the work is representative of what he provides to the bride. Who is behind the camera is meaningless to the bride or from his point of view as producer/director.

I think you should look at pay as $125 for cam2 with easy setup, or $300 for cam1 and more work. You are trying to micro-analyze the "wording" of how you get paid. He could just as easily say cam1 pays $175 for wedding and $125 for reception. But you probably have to do both anyway, so whats the difference? As far as whether it is worth it, you have to decide. It sounds like you could use the extra experience (can't we all??). And nothing says you can't "try it and see how it goes" or do both as available. You should be able to work out equipment issues, but if you want to make a demo reel you will need full complement of equipment to work on your own anyway.
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Old September 17th, 2005, 02:53 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Shallenberger
1) He hired me initially with no experience, but it worked out very well and I have been doing this for about 5 months now.

2) He wants to promote me to camera 1 very soon, but I am reluctant.

So, basically, for those of you that shoot freelance or hire freelancers, is it worth it to do what I described above for $125 (ceremony only) as camera 1? Is that a good rate, or should I ask for more? I don't want to sound greedy, but I want it to be fair, so that's why I'm asking for your opinions.

I hope I don't sound ungrateful, because I feel blessed that I even have this freelance work. I'm getting some great experience with an experienced professional, and I really think this will catapult me into a higher level when I book weddings on my own.

Dan
First, I would consider your relationship with your 'employer'. It would seem that you have been 'taken from the cold' and coached. This is rather rare for someone to take an unseasoned cameraman and use them for productions of this nature.

The amount of experience you are gaining here money cannot buy. By the same token, he is obviously pleased with what you are doing by considering 'a promotion'. I would jump at a chance like this if I were you, even if it does mean spending another year with him. The experience you gain will be invaluable!!

Who knows what the future will hold - maybe a 'joint venture' in future shoots or for work YOU bring in. Having a good working relationship with someone like this can be very beneficial for both. If he is the great guy you make him out to be, don't bite the hand that feeds you. Rather try and creep deeper into his heart and the possibilities become endless. I would rather work with someone I know anyday than with unseasoned individuals.

This industry needs more seasoned professionals than is currently available.

Build a good relationship with him and I'm sure that things will improve - and the paycheck. Just remember that he does the editing, and thats where the money must go in my opinion. That is another possibility you should bear in mind - work a while longer and ask if you can start helping with editing, a wedding videographers biggest time consumer! That way you gain even more experience.

Cheers
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Old September 17th, 2005, 07:54 AM   #6
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You shouldn't feel bad about asking for a small amount of footage that 'you' shot to be used for a demo reel of your own. Not so much a demo for shooting weddings, but camera operation in general. If you've shot any other types of material, put that in the reel also. At this point in time, it would be better to promote yourself as a freelance videographer available for hire just like you are doing for this guy.

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Old September 18th, 2005, 04:13 PM   #7
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Bob, I don't believe your correct on this.

You don't own the footage just because you shot it or because it was shot on your camera. When you're hired as a freelance shooter you don't own any of the material that you shoot. The production entity hiring you owns the material. Period.

Your right about being careful, and your advice is very dangerous. Your giving advice that could get people into legal trouble and endanger their business relationships.

Ben Lynn
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Old September 18th, 2005, 05:24 PM   #8
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Ben, I am not going to debate this with you, since it is pointless. But in the absence of a specific written agreement, I am right and you are wrong. :)

Hopefully Paul will show up with his big bat.
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Old September 18th, 2005, 09:59 PM   #9
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Bob - Thanks for your input. Whether or not I own the footage, I'm going to ask for his permission and blessing regardless. I'm sure it'll be perfectly fine with him. I think if I go on my own, he would be happier that he played a roll in grooming me into someone capable and independent. Also, when I mentioned him using my footage in his demos, I didn't mean to imply that I thought anything was wrong with it. I only meant that it's appropriate to use footage from another cameraman to complete a wedding demo, and therefore possibly justifying me doing the same thing... using his footage at our weddings for a demo for myself.

Jeremy - Thanks for your response... I totally agree with you. It is uncommon to take someone in with nearly no experience, and use them for full production. I feel blessed that I've been allowed this opportunity. About the editing being where the money is, though, I have been asked to edit for him, and I have completed one and I'm in the middle of another now. He pays $300 for editing, which when compared to the shooting rate vs. time, $300 is low. BUT, I am happy to do it, at least for a little while, for $300 just for the experience.

Greg - Thanks for your advice. I never really thought of prmoting myself as a freelancer in general. I know that this guy I'm working for now asked me to not work freelance for any other professional wedding videographers, but I could pursue corporate opportunities. Worth a shot!

Ben - Before I would take any footage for myself, I will definitely ask for permission. But, if there would happen to be any issues, I will talk to a lawyer before just taking it for my own demo. Thanks a lot for your input!

I might not even need to ask for/use any of this footage. I have a personal friend I have shot two weddings with now, and he has said that I can use any and all of the footage from those weddings for my own self-promotion. So, if I shoot with him a few more times, I should have more than enough footage to choose from when I decide to go it alone and make a demo.

I am so glad I went this route (working with an established pro) instead of thinking I can do all this completely on my own. By the time I am on my own, I will have so much experience behind a camera and editing. I can start out charging full price rather than doing freebies to gain some experience and demo material. But, most of all, I will have experience working closely with brides, grooms, parents and families, and actually being at weddings & receptions. This is hard sometimes doing it this way... I can't imagine just jumping in on your own, although there are plenty of successful professionals out there that did just that. But, this is working well for me.

Thanks all!
Dan
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