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

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Old June 17th, 2007, 05:12 PM   #1
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Wedding Horror Story

I've done weddings before where things didn't go quite as planned, but the wedding that my company was supposed to do yesterday was aboslutely insane. Here is what happened-

Two weeks ago I got a call from a potential client. The client said they didn't want anything fancy, just they wanted their wedding recorded with decent quality and they wanted it cheap. I just happen to have a video package for this type of client, a single camera ceremonly only package with minimal editing delivered on DVD. I went over what the package covered with the client, and they said that is what they wanted. Also, I informed the client that I would not personally be shooting the wedding- rather a camera person I hired was going to shoot it for me. I have a pool of talented people I work with(they are probably better shooters than myself) I only personally attend weddings for the highest paying clients.

I e-mailed the contract to the client immediately, the client knew via our previous discussion they needed to mail me a signed copy of the contract back and that payment must be recieved in full before the wedding. A week passed, I hadn't recieved the contract from the client or payment, but I also hadn't recieved any notification from my e-mail that the client didn't recieve the contract. I called the client to see if they recieved the contract and if they still wanted the wedding video. The client said they had not recieved the contract, but yes, they still very much wanted the video. It is now only one week before the wedding. I checked the clients e-mail address to make sure I got it correct and re-emailed the contract. The client said they would call me in an hour if they didn't recieve it.

One day before the wedding, I still have not recieved the contract or payment from the client. I call- the client says they never recieved the contract. I tell the client that I needed a contract and payment before the wedding, and that I'm sorry, but I'm not going to be able to shoot the wedding. Well, the client gave me a huge sob story and appologized profusely. Finally I agree, I will send my camera guy to the venue and he will bring a copy of the contract with him- but he will not shoot a single frame of video until the contract is signed and he is paid in full. Sense it was too late to wait for a check to clear, they would also have to pay cash. The client was extremely thankful and said that would be great.

The day of the wedding my camera guy calls me to check in at 7pm. He had arrived at the hotel one hour early, he was supposed to make contact with the client at 8pm and the wedding was to start at 9pm. We were to shoot the ceremonly only, and the camera guy was to be there from 9-11pm. My camera guy checked with the hotel, they verefied the wedding was to take place at 9pm. So far so good.

Eight o'clock rolls around and my shooter calls me, still no sign of the client. No guests or members of the wedding party either. The hotel staff is almost done setting everything up, but no one involved with the wedding has yet made an appearence. As soon as I get off the phone with my camera guy the client calls me to inform me he is running a little behind, but he will be there by 8:15. I confirm the wedding is still on for 9pm and remind him again that he needs to sign the contract and pay the camera guy before the ceremony. Then I called my camera guy and informed him that I just spoke with the client, but he should be there in 15 minutes.

Nine o'clock my camera op calls me again. Still no sign of the client or wedding party, although a couple guests have arrived. The hotel staff also has no clue what is going on. I try to call the client, but there is no answer. I tell my camera op just to hang out for a couple minutes.

Nine thirty- the client arrives and tells my camera guy that the wedding is going to be starting a little late. He also says that he can't sign the contract right now, but that he would gladly sign it and pay afterwards. My camera guy tells him no, he needs to fill out the contract and pay in full before the ceremony. The client then tells my camera guy that he needs to go up to a private hotel room for contract negotiations and the money is up there, so that is where he needs to go to be paid. My camera guy declines and says that he can fill out the contract and pay him in the banquet hall. The client dissapears.

Ten minutes after ten my camera guy calls back. They pushed back the wedding to 2:30am. He is slightly upset with me, cause he was under the impression that he was only going to be there from 9-11pm. I told him that is what the client told me.

The client then calls me, very angry, insisting that he told me the wedding was going to be at 2:30am. I reminded him of our prior conversation earlier that evening in which he assured me the wedding was going to start at 9pm. He also tells me I never told him he had to pay or sign the contract before the ceremony. I tell the client that he told me the ceremony was going to be between 9 and 11, and that is what time the camera guy was to be there for. I told him that if the camera operator agrees to stay late, he is welcome to- but he is welcome to leave because this was not at all what was discussed on the phone.

At 11pm my camera guy calls again, says he wants to leave. I told him that would be fine, just let the client know that he is leaving because we were hired to shoot a 9pm wedding, not a 2:30am wedding, and that the client is still refusing to sign the contract.

At 11:30pm the client calls me, very upset. It is his wedding and he can have it wherever he wants. He tells me he was on his way up to the room to get the money and the camera guy just dissapeared when he went up to the hotel room. He tells me that it is somehow my camera guys fault that the hotel kicked them out and wouldn't let them have their wedding at 2:30am there and when he hires a camera guy he is supposed to have a camera guy when he decides to have a wedding. I tell him thats true, but he needs to inform me ahead of time when that his, and when he hires a camera guy to be there from 9-11 that is when the camera guy is going to be there. He then wants to know if he can find a new venue if I can send the camera guy back and promised me that he would pay me 3 times as much as the agreed upon amount after the wedding. I of course declined.

After two more angry phone calls telling me how I personally ruined his wedding and explaining to me how he never told me or the hotel that it was at 9pm and it was always at 2:30am he finally stopped calling.

Just thought I would share my little story- I found the whole thing quite amusing.
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Old June 17th, 2007, 07:31 PM   #2
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Wow... This story make me think that I should not allow clients to do things last minute. I have had a couple senerios where the client wanted to pay the final balance the day of in cash. That worked out fine.

But what you are talking about is rediculous. I'm glad he didn't get a wedding video. People like that do not deserve professionals at their venue.

I'm glad you shared your story. Me being so new still, I learn a lot from posts like this.
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Old June 17th, 2007, 07:54 PM   #3
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ive done 6am weddings under religious grounds, but 230am? what is that?

ive had a similar story with an Afghan wedding where we were all ready to rock and roll and sat back waiting about 3 hours before anyone showed up (anyone i mean ANYONE...)

I know alot of guys who wont do last minute jobs.. i myself do them IF and only IF the client takes an hour to go through the documents with me.

I wont hit record unless i have the papers.. the money can wait, but without the docs, they can forget it
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Old June 18th, 2007, 07:11 AM   #4
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What a nut case, I have had some good ones but that tops them all. We are all lucky that is not more common. Keep the faith there are still lots of good young people out there getting married every weekend.
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Old June 18th, 2007, 07:30 AM   #5
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It sounds as if the whole wedding plans were a mess and this person just wanted to blame you to make themselves feel better. From your story you can see the warning signs off the bat. I applaud you for sticking to your guns. I would actually send them a bill for your cameraman's time.
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Old June 18th, 2007, 07:37 AM   #6
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Ten minutes after ten my camera guy calls back. They pushed back the wedding to 2:30am.
This is the point where I would have told the camera operator to call it a night and head home. There's a point where you back away and call it quits, and for me that would have been 9pm, the time when the event was to have begun in the first place. That's a client no-show in my book. During daytime hours I can forgive a lengthy delay, but a 9pm start for a wedding isn't what I would call flexible.

I've done plenty of all-night shoots; the raves I covered in the '90's started around 10pm and went to dawn the next day. But that's expected. That's when they're supposed to happen. You know it going in. However, a wedding starting at 9pm smells like trouble, and when the party is a no-show at 9pm, then it tastes like trouble. It was practically an unreasonable expectation to begin with anyway. Part of running an effective wedding videography business is knowing what kind of jobs to turn down. I never would have accepted a 9pm wedding.

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Old June 18th, 2007, 10:52 AM   #7
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I hope you paid the camera op something for his troubles! I've been the op before and gotten dragged around. (but not like THIS!) It'd sure make it easier to swallow, and more likely I'd work for you again if you offered ME something.

I'm just sayin'...
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Old June 18th, 2007, 11:54 AM   #8
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I think you handled it like a true professional and did all the right things. I've gotten a few 'last-minute' weddings over the years, and almost without exception, they were flaky clients who should have been turned down flat. I'm kind-hearted by nature and believe that everyone deserves a fair shake, but not if they can't come up with some good-faith effort on their part. Sorry about the hassle; its a good learning experience for everyone that reads this post.
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Old June 18th, 2007, 12:30 PM   #9
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Just think, if they hadn't started before taking vows, these wedded idiots are now probably busily trying to reproduce more copies of themselves, defective brain cells and all— so future generations of wedding filmmakers are equally harassed by equally stupid offspring!
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Old June 19th, 2007, 12:05 AM   #10
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Hey great story! Thanks for sharing! I totally would not want to deal with a situation like that!!
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Old June 19th, 2007, 08:20 PM   #11
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Wow, that's a crappy night. Sorry for your troubles, man.

My worst experience was when I agreed to shoot a wedding for a fellow videographer who had gotten a hernia a few days before the wedding. The bride was upset that he couldn't film it himself, since she didn't know me, but he had to go in for surgery and simply couldn't do it.

I called the bride in advance to introduce myself and ease her mind. Her attitude was very cold and impersonal; a definite sign of things to come. I showed up at her hotel on her wedding day with my assistant, to shoot the pre-ceremony stuff. We had been there five minutes (was just about to start shooting) and she told me to leave because "she wasn't in the mood for video"; another sign of things to come.

So met her and the photographer for the photoshoot, and she did everything in her power to avoid me and not even look at me. It was obvious that she was really annoyed that I was there, which is stupid because it's not my fault the other guy got a hernia. I'm just there to do a good job for her, and she's acting like I don't exist. Whatever.

I film the photoshoot, and the ceremony, and the reception. About 6 hours later my assistant and I are tired and famished, since we had been filming non-stop and hadn't had anything to eat. I looked around and half of the guests were already gone. Most of the rest were outside getting drunk and swearing, not doing anything worth recording. The few that remained inside were just sitting at tables talking. No one was on the dance floor.

So I told my assistant we should get some wedding cake and take a 5-minute break. We had been sitting for about a minute, when the bride and a few of her girls went out on the dance floor. I had like 2 bites of cake left, so I was finishing those before getting up to film. Big mistake.

The bride is dancing for like 10 seconds and then comes over to the table and asks if my cameras are recording, which they obviously aren't. I told her no, that we had been taking a quick break. She starts screaming at me, and informs me with a number of choice words that I should always have a camera running. I try to explain that that's not how it works. We don't film every single second. She continues screaming obscenities, demanding that I "turn on my f*cking camera". I calmly tell her that if she would just go back out on the dance floor, that I would gladly film her dancing. She refuses, and continues demanding that I turn the "f*cking camera on. Had I been thinking more clearly (her instant outrage took me quite by surprise), I probably would have turned it on just to record her acting like a complete b*tch. But I thought it was more respectful to not film that at the time.

To make a long story short, she spends another 5 minutes screaming at me, and then resorts to bawling and insisting that I ruined her whole wedding day. She even makes a comment regarding my "right" to eat any of HER wedding cake. The whole scene was unbelievable.

Finally she stormed off in a bawling rage, threating a lawsuit from her new big-shot lawyer father-in-law, with her girls running after her trying to console her. I wanted to follow, and smack the living crap out of this spoiled little brat, but we do have laws in this country.

Instead, I hung around to see what would happen next. I didn't dare leave, since I was contract to work until 11pm, which was still 30 minutes away. The wedding coordinator came up at one point and said I should probably just leave, but I insisted on staying unless the bride or groom personally asked me to leave. I wasn't about to leave and have that become part of the issue later.

11pm finally rolled around and I left. I get a call from the other videographer 20 minutes later asking what was going on. The bride had apparently called him and told him that I refused to film anything and that I had left with the tapes. She told him a number of other lies as well.

In the end, I got paid for my time and turned the tapes over to the other guy. I advised him to just give her the tapes and give her a refund, and let her find someone else to edit them. Basically, I could tell that she wasn't going to be happy with anything, so why get in deeper?

Anyways, that was probably my worst wedding story. I highly doubt I'll ever "cover" for a fellow videographer again.
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Old June 21st, 2007, 09:03 PM   #12
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I'd like to think that I have all my bases covered in my contract, but after reading these stories, I think I'm going to look into incorporating my business.
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 12:33 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Travis Cossel View Post
Anyways, that was probably my worst wedding story. I highly doubt I'll ever "cover" for a fellow videographer again.
Holy crap. Since we work the same town let me know her name and I'll be sure to avoid her when the second marriage comes around. :-)


EDIT: Wooooo 400 posts!

Last edited by Jason Robinson; June 22nd, 2007 at 12:34 PM. Reason: additional information :-)
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 05:48 PM   #14
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Adam's story is a real kick-in-the-balzac. I doubt anyone can top that. I was reminded of the time when a client asked me to keep rolling on a circle dance (Armenian) that went on forever; nobody entered, nobody left the circle (Thunderdome?). So I figured, 2 or 3 minutes would be overkill, and I'm doing the editing. I tried to explain that I move around to get better angles, but the client wasn't hearing it. I'm running low on juice at that point, so I pretend to keep rolling, but shut the camera down and 'fake pan' around the room. Guess what, the client never knew it from seeing the finished product.
My point? How many of us go to a professional (plumber, mechanic, doctor...etc), and tell them how to do THEIR job? Anyone? Bueller?, Bueller?
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Old June 22nd, 2007, 08:28 PM   #15
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Wow, that's harsh.

I had a similar bride once, but not nearly so over the top. Just wanted me to film without pause. She kept her eyes on me the whole time. While dancing at the reception, she would mime hand cranking a camera to get me to shoot every time I stopped.

At one point, I had gone next door to take shots of the dessert table, and as I came back into the main room I was accosted by a guest who demanded "what are you doing, it's supposed to be constant filming!" When I asked where he got that idea, he sheepishly told me that the bride had sent him to look for me.

I finally had to tell her to relax and enjoy her wedding. That I knew what I was doing. She claimed that the company owner had told her she would get an extra long video, and that I would shoot constantly, which turned out to be a lie.

It was awful, but after reading the stories above, I don't feel so unlucky anymore...
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