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Taking Care of Business
The pen and paper aspects of DV -- put it in writing!

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Old April 5th, 2006, 10:15 AM   #1
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Favor for friends turns nightmare

I need some advice. I did what I thought was a favor for a so called friend but as it turns out I'm being ripped off.
A friend asked me to video her daughters H.S. basketball game in order to get some clips of her playing which could be sent to college's thru-out the country. The daughter is a senior trying to gain a basketball scholarship. The mother said she would pay me. I told her I would do even better and put together a great 4 min basketball recruiting video on DVD. I told the mother I would normally charge around $500-700 for this but I would only charge her $200 and $15 for extra DVD's. I told her I would give her 5 DVD's which was included in the $200. Of course, the only reason I was only charging her $200 was because we were friends.
Anyway, I spent 3 hours researching and calling college coach's to find out what they were looking for. I spent 2 hours filming and 10 hours editing and setting up the DVD. When I was done the mother watched it and loved it. She even had me burn more DVD's. The deal was she was suppose to pay me the following week.
Then later in the day thew mother called me and said her hubby was upset and screaming that he wanted some clips out and other to be put in. Keep in mind that at no time was the father involved in this. I was only dealing with the mother. They then told me they wanted it redone yet didn't offer to pay me more to do it. I told them it would take time. They insisted that I do it and were totally ungrateful to the fact that I only charged them $200 after spending many hours on it. They then told me that they were going to take my footage from the DVD and pay someone else to do it. By this point I decided I was totally done with it and them. Its been 3 weeks and they still haven't paid me. On top of that they kept all the DVD's and have hired someone else and are using my footage.

What can I do legally? Its more of a principle to me, not the money. These so called fiends have taken advantage of me and then they have the nerve to take footage, which I shot, to another editor. By the way, I never gave them the master tape so that editor will pull footage from the DVD.
These people owe me $245. I want to nail them. Ideas?

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Old April 5th, 2006, 10:48 AM   #2
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have you tried explaining the situation to the other editor? at the very least, he may be sympathetic and refuse the project. any editor with half an ethical brain cell would refuse this project. did you put a copyright symbol in the credits on the DVD? that would help.

if you have a friend who is a lawyer, a note on their letterhead advising them that they are stealing would help.

bring judge wapner out of retirement!

it sounds hideous. good luck.
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Old April 5th, 2006, 11:20 AM   #3
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To put it mildly: parents are quite sensitive over their children's imagined athletic future. People can become quite irrational. There was a recent case in France where a father was convicted of poisoning (and severely injuring) the opponents of his tennis-playing daughter.

Have you spoken at all to the husband? Or is this all still through the mother? If you are going to throw down with these people you should at least hear out the husband, at least to clear the air and also to show that you have been willing to hear both 'clients'.

You should keep all of your information documented just in case. That means, presenting them with a invoice for your time and costs. Writing them a letter presenting your side of this disagreement.

Of course, chasing them for your costs bites into your time and future opportunity. This may mean that going to a lawyer is a losing proposition (unless you have a lawyer friend who will do you a favour - as the previous poster suggested). Even going to small claims court representing yourself bites into your time. But if you think they might have a chance of hurting you or taking advantage of you with your footage (let's say their kid does go on to stardom and they include your footage with their promotional package / future DVDs), it may be worthwhile getting a judgment in small claims court in your books.

Of course, write this off as a bad debt in your taxes. Having the paper work helps there as well.
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Old April 5th, 2006, 11:41 AM   #4
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From an outsider looking in, I would wonder about the definition of "friend"? If I had a close friend that did this, then I would really be ticked vs. if this were just a minor acquaintance. If these are true "friends" I'm not sure I would want to keep the friendship alive.

In general, the few times I've done something like this for a close friend, I prefer not to charge ANY fee (although paying for materials by the friend is good etiquette on their part). I feel that if I charge a fee for this to a friend, close or not, then he/she becomes a client. And that starts to get into the territory of "don't lend money or tools to friends." If I do this for a close friend, then I expect nothing but their friendship and hopefully a future debt on their part or a past debt paid-off on my part. If they force some money into my hands, then I say no, and if they do it again, I graciously accept and thank them.

If you had treated them as clients, then you could have had a written contract (verbal is not very business-like), a deposit, and I would not have given them all the materials until I got the full amount of money paid. You could have included costs for post production, editing and re-editing labor.

To be honest, I don't think there is anything to be done here except realize that you have been used by your "friend" and have the honor to have paid for the the bad experience.

If you want to turn the "friend" into an enemy, then you could go to small claims court and present your case and see what happens, but no doubt you are still going to end up paying in fees as much as what you have lost in income. Basically you could argue that you had a verbal contract (I'm assuming that you had nothing in writing) and technically I guess you could claim copyright infringement against them for using your videos without your authorization (again, I will assume that they don't have anything in writing giving them rights to the videos).
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Old April 5th, 2006, 05:02 PM   #5
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My 2 cents

Be firm, and make every effort to exit gracefully, but don't fall. You're only hurting yourself and only yourself if you let their behaviour result in revenge.

Act honorably, and you can always hold your head high afterwards. Just take the lesson and move on.
"Ultimately, the most extraordinary thing, in a frame, is a human being." - Martin Scorsese
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Old April 5th, 2006, 06:22 PM   #6
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I would chalk this up to lesson learned. YOu should hear out the father, but keep in mind if they remain disatisfied they will only tell more people their side of the story and that's not good for you.

If I'm doing a favor for a true friend, then I won't charge them, If I have to charge then they become a client with a signed agreement and an upfront deposit etc.

My best friend asked me to tape his daughter's sweet 16, I didn't charge him for editing the piece but I asked him to pay the camera person to videotape the event.
Stephen Jackson
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Old April 6th, 2006, 11:44 AM   #7
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I think the problem was your discounted price. They (the "client") sees $200 for a 4 min product and a few pieces of shiny plastic and already feel like they paid too much. They don't understand the time, complexity and equipment necessary to make little Suzy look good in 4 minutes.

The way I have handled a similar situation is to state a fair hourly rate up front and then apply a discount with the final bill. I did a job for a brother-in-laws family recently. The finished product was about 30 min long. I had over 100 hours of shooting, editing and image scanning in the project.

I carefully documented all out-of-pocket expenses (tape, contract labor etc.) and all the hours I put into the project multiplied by my hourly rate of $65. I created a daily log on a spreadsheet program to keep track. The total came out to $7,800. Because they are family, I applied a 75% discount to my labor. They were very pleased with the finished product and a month after paying thier bill, I got another payment of $1,000 as a bonus. While, even with this added, I got less than 1/2 my rate - I got more than I expected, and my relationship with the client is even stronger.

I think that because they saw details of every minute I put in the project, they understood the value of the "discount" I gave them.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 07:49 AM   #8
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I think Mike really hit the nail on the head.

These folks are used to paying $20 for a 2 hour dvd at walmart. They don't understand the value of the work performed.

You can try talking to the dad, you may not be getting the whole story. But then again he may just be a hot head who doesn't know crap about building a reel.

It's only a couple of hundred bucks. Chalk it up to experience and move on.

I'm going to be doing some free/nearly free reels for actors with whom I've worked. After reading Mike's advice I'm going to stick a full itemized invoice in and then waive the fee. It's a great idea and is shows the value of the product.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 09:32 AM   #9
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If it was one of my close friends I'd have done it for free, but made 100% sure that they had a firm understanding of what they were getting.

If they weren't close friends, but someone I knew, they pay 100% or they can p**s off. I had my fingers burnt once, when my sister-in-law got married and the mother-in-law really b**ched about the time of it's turnaround. I didn't charge her a penny, and they still had the nerve to moan about a first class production.

I run a business, and won't loose sleep if people aren't prepared to pay for my services.
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Old April 7th, 2006, 10:00 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Rich Sheikh
What can I do legally? Its more of a principle to me, not the money. These so called fiends have taken advantage of me and then they have the nerve to take footage, which I shot, to another editor. By the way, I never gave them the master tape so that editor will pull footage from the DVD.
These people owe me $245. I want to nail them. Ideas?

Small claims court, or better yet get on Judge Judy..... By the way, I am an attorney, and there is nothing better attorneys like than to hear "it is the principle." That adds up to time and billing...

Small claims is the only way to go if you want a judgment that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. But don't feel bad. Even as an attorney, I do things for friends at a reduced price, and have had the same things happen. For the sake of your friendship, you need to clearly delineate the agreement in writing between you. This is where we see more litigation-- the verbal agreement between friends !!
Chris J. Barcellos
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Old April 7th, 2006, 06:47 PM   #11
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IMO not worth the time & effort ... once in awhile you have to eat it !!

i have 2 rates ... free and a HUGE per day rate ... nothing in between. for friends it's free .. if they don't like what i've handed to them they are free to take it else where - i don't do re-edits once they "like it" - no add ons etc ..
free= you can walk away anytime and no hard feelings as they have paid nothing ...

when i take a paying job - well they can have all the changes they want = they're paying for it .... in my experience the jobs that you do for persons not in the business are tough - they have no idea about the TIME you put into their project and they want all changes/add ons etc for free ..

next time always get X $$ up front ...
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Old April 7th, 2006, 08:48 PM   #12
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Rich, whenever I "finish" a dvd for someone that I am personally dealing with they get the dvd when I get the check. Next time when you hand over the dvd to the "friend" don't leave until they pay you. Friends or no friends you did the work = you need to get paid. Would they walk out of a stroe without paying for an item? Probably not, the same applies here. Since you know them personally you need to ask the mother for the $245.00. Explain the situation and I'm sure they'll understand, if not off to small claims court you go. Good luck,

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Old April 8th, 2006, 08:17 AM   #13
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I'd start by sending them an invoice. Include the number of hours shooting and editing so they see that. In addition you should note that all video and product are owned by you and you retain all copy rights until fully paid. Note the date the "final" project was delivered to them and the amount of time that has transpired without being paid. State clearly you expect full payment in seven days. Send this letter by certified mail.

At the end of seven days (assuming they haven't paid or otherwise contacted you) send them a letter stating that the use of the video, dubs, edited versions, disseminated is violating your right of ownership and use of the video. State that you retain your right to use legal means to collect this debt or their use of the video. Send this certified mail too.

If you have a friend who is a lawyer you may want to consder a "lawyer's letter." They aren't very expensive (especially if the lawyer is a friend) and can be quite threatening to the receiver.

At the very least you will have either justifiable annoy them or cause them anguish without any impolite threatening.

BTW if you have or can get an email address for them, send them a DAILY invoice in PDF form. Make sure the file is the largest their account can accept without bouncing (which may be between 5MB and 20MB). In addition send them a DAILY PayPal invoice reminder. Once set up, it'll take only a few seconds of your time in the morning. Be persistant, DAILY, Weekends TOO.

Now if you really wanted to be personal and threatening you might separately send them a letter stating that any public and/or legal disclosure of the theft of your services and use of video without license may cast a dark cloud on the basketball career of their daughter. Saying this will certainly peeve them but may very well undermine the more legal approach stated above.

I am not a lawyer but I've dealt with clients before. I was handed a check at the end of a shoot. The check bounced . . . some time later the client paid in three installments and felt so bad that they added extra money on the last payment.

Rules to remember for the future.
Have Client(Friend) pay up front or Deposit for booking, rest of payment on shoot day (for full job including the edit) or payment on (NOT after) delivery. They don't get the DVD unless they have payment. I do this even for friends. If they're getting a heavy discount I remind them that I might have to drop/delay the job for other higher paying work UNLESS they pay for that part of the job in advance.
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Old April 8th, 2006, 12:40 PM   #14
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also next time when you hand somebody a DVD/tape for approval ( you have received no $$) you might put a watermark ( logo/name very faint over whole clip) so they can't take it somewhere else to re-edit/copy .. make sure the watermark is near center - i know person that put it at bottom and client just did a letterbox to get rid of it .. once they pay - give them a clean copy ...

you don't send somebody a invoice every day .. does any company send you a bill everyday when you have been past due ?? .. you send them one with X days to pay .. then another when that becomes past due .. then you send a lawyer type letter .. then small claims ... if you send email/letter everyday don't be surprised if they take you to court ...
also you could PICKET in front of their house ?...
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Old April 8th, 2006, 10:46 PM   #15
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1. Contract. Draw one up. Clearly state the parties and their involvement, i.e. who makes the final judgement.

2. What is troubling is how you consider doing a 'favor', but then charge a 'fee'. As an editor, I know $250 is cheap labor. However, it may not be viewed that way by the clients, especially if $250 is a significant chunk of their weekly paycheck. There needs to be specific language to protect both parties, and to ensure everyone knows what is expected, and in this case, they knew that you were doing them a 'favor'.

3. Never offer such a low price again. You'll risk looking cheap, desperate or unprofessional. That places control squarely in your clients court, making them think that they can manipulate and abuse your services. Furthermore, you'll risk earning a reputation of being cheap.

4. Keep your head up, shoulders straight and shrug this off. There's many more clients out there.
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