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-   -   Venting About A Lesson for Newbies. (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/taking-care-business/75958-venting-about-lesson-newbies.html)

Denis Danatzko September 21st, 2006 08:07 AM

Venting About A Lesson for Newbies.
Some may think I'm foolish, but I'm not too proud to admit mistakes. So, here's an example of how one learns in this business. This particular lesson was disappointing, to say the least. So, all you newbies, please, learn from my experience.

I recently finished editing a job I shot gratis for a non-profit in my area. I fully
expected to provide the client with 2 copies of the entire 3-DVD production. The only remuneration I expected was from the sale of the final DVDs to members of the client's organization. Given that I had no control at all over placement of cameras or mics, the DVDs turned out adequate, at best.

Not only did I spend over 8 hours on-site for the job, sitting through a dress
rehearsal to prep for the event, but also the travel, and time to set-up/break-down, shoot with 2 cams (1 locked down wide, another handheld for CUs), arrange for a still photographer (also gratis), and loan some extra audio equipment needed, but I've already spent well over 150 hours editing. (The audio situation was horrible, requiring lots of in-post tweaking, and all I was able to do was raise it from horrible to "bad"). I ended up with over 2 hours of video, including bloopers from rehearsals and a slide show of all the stills...a total of 3 DVDs, though not each is full. I just finished editing last night and was making the 2 sets of copies of the DVDs for the client when my phone rang.

By sheer coincidence, it was the client calling to ask how the project was
progressing. During our conversation, I was told the client had "just bought a
DVD burner" and was looking to use that to create copies for their members...copies that I otherwise would have been paid for and would have provided the only remuneration I expected to receive for all my work and materials. Now, it appears that I won't earn even enough to recoup the cost of travel and materials.

I had no written agreement with the client, and basically did it as a favor to both an associate in the business and the client. (Now I know why the associate didn't want to do the job).

I didn't foresee this, and I'm not sure I could have prevented it, (though suggestions are welcome).

So, because the gig was intended to provide me with experience more than money, I got even more of one, and none of the other.

Laugh if you must, but if we're supposed to learn from our mistakes, I may have just completed a graduate-level course. (With about the same amount of time invested in the lesson). ;)

That's all, but thanks for letting me vent.

Chris Barcellos September 21st, 2006 09:17 AM


I am going through exactly the same thing as you--- down to a last minute call no concern about my camera position, and poor sound. Haven't been hit with the "I'll burn my own", yet, but expect that is coming...

Greg Boston September 21st, 2006 09:18 AM


Absent any written agreement to the contrary, you own the rights to that material, not the client. You need to inform the client that you intend to charge for copies of the DVD set. If they burn their own, they are in violation of copyright law and you could sue for damages.

What's the difference between you and a wedding photographer who charges for copies of the pictures?

You could offer the client a 'buyout' price that lets them buy the rights to the material and they can make copies as they wish. This is like the wedding photographer who allows a couple to purchase the negatives to make copies as they wish.

If the client balks at the quality, tell them if it's good enough for them to want to copy it, it must be worth something. Hopefully you haven't delivered yet and can get some type of written agreement regarding distribution.


Chris Hurd September 21st, 2006 09:23 AM

Agree w/Greg. If you still have the video, then it's under your control. Now is the time to politely, tactfully, diplomatically explain the situation regarding your time and expense, and formulate a written agreement. The fact that nothing was in writing up to this point is actually to your advantage. Ultimately you're the one to decide how that video gets distributed. Keep us advised,

Steven Davis September 21st, 2006 09:25 AM

The wise Greg
As always, really good comments from Greg Boston.


I really do think that some of the best lessons are the hard ones. Fortunately, you'll be able to utilize the footage for your working demo. Which is always a plus.

There really should be a 'client' section to this forum. Lessons like yours are helpful to you as well as the rest.

So take heart, this client will eventually pass, and then you'll have another client.

My 2 cents, with exception to my clients that I have a history with, I'd shutter about doing corporate work without a contract drawn up by an attorney.

Greg Boston September 21st, 2006 09:30 AM


Originally Posted by Steven Davis
As always, really good comments from Greg Boston.

Thanks for the kind words, Steven. We are a family here and I believe in taking care of each other to the best of our abilities.


Denis Danatzko September 21st, 2006 05:03 PM

More lessons, and many thanks for all the replies,
and a measure of commiseration. (While "misery loves company", it loves income even more).

I've thought this over since calming down and reading all the replies, and have reached this decision:
I said I'd do the job for them for free, and, barring a life-threatening or planet-killing situation, I feel obliged to keep my word. (A quality I think is important to someone like me, just starting out in this business). Besides, the poor communication about remuneration was just as much my fauilt as theirs. (I majored in Speech Communication, so I really have no one to blame but myself for being so misunderstood).

I may end up getting requests for copies, though, because I burned my masters directly from within PPro 2.0, then used those to make copies via ROXIO on another machine. One of those copies came out blocky & choppy in a couple of spots near the end. If the same happens to them, I'll have my opening to charge for burning from within PPro.

Delivered the DVDs to the clients and reviewed some footage - and my editing approach - with them. They absolutely LOVED what I gave them. (While that is profoundly encouraging to a newbie like me, it still didn't put any $$ in my bank account). But, they also seemed to grasp pretty well the concept that I put LOTS and LOTS of work into this.

The icing on the cake was that I learned today they did not have releases from everyone who appears on camera, e.g. audience B roll, even though each is somehow associated with the client and they expect only their associates will want copies.That, and the fact that they used some recorded music during the event. (I don't know if they had permission or not, but that led me to exclude all traces of my name from the footage and credits).

So, I'll forsake $$ now for whatever opportunities the future may bring. (I just hope it's not an opportunity to learn about our legal system the hard way). I suppose if I REALLY wanted to force them coming to me I could have watermarked at least the stills in the slide show.

(BTW, the client was pretty much expecting nothing more than merely copying the footage to DVD. I added menus, chapters, scene selection, tweaked audio, cropped and/or adjusted some levels on the stills, and more, as well as pieced together footage from 2 cameras. (They said it "looks like a movie", meaning "edited" like a movie...not shot in 24fps).

This was a play, with acts and scenes. Would/does anyone really just transfer such footage to DVD and deliver it that way?
I can't imagine having my name associated with a final product that lacked what I consider such rudimentary features. Am I crazy? Am I simply "too new" at this? I suppose it depends on the job.

However, I'm wondering now if I may have set myself up for a different problem down the road:
The associate who recommended me to this client did so only AFTER HE had procured them as a client of his own. Compounding the difficulty is that this associate has been a bit of a mentor to me in this business and uses me on rare occasion as 2nd or 3rd camera.

If this client comes to me for their next job instead of going to my mentor, would that be "stealing" a client from my mentor? I certainly don't want to ruin our relationship, but if the client likes my work better than his, is it unethical to take the job from the client thus depriving my mentor of it? My inclination would be to suggest the client contact my mentor allowing him to bid on the job first.

I know it's premature to ponder this now, but I believe in being prepared.

This business can drive you nuts! How many others have found themself in a similar situation?

Chris Barcellos September 21st, 2006 05:12 PM


Originally Posted by Steven Davis
As always, really good comments from Greg Boston.

My 2 cents, with exception to my clients that I have a history with, I'd shutter about doing corporate work without a contract drawn up by an attorney.

In the realm of the shoemaker's kids having no shoes, I am an attorney, but as with Denis, this thing just came along on the spur of the moment, ER basis, and I jumped at doing it for experience in my avocation... People are asking for copies, so now I am spending editing time, and want compensation, which I think is fair... And for most part, they do too. I certainly wouldn't put as much time in on this for what I am getting out of it if this was my living....

Chris Barcellos September 21st, 2006 05:17 PM

"(BTW, the client was pretty much expecting nothing more than merely copying the footage to DVD. I added menus, chapters, scene selection, tweaked audio, cropped and/or adjusted some levels on the stills, and more, as well as pieced together footage from 2 cameras. (They said it "looks like a movie", meaning "edited" like a movie...not shot in 24fps)."

Wow. Same issues. I added menus to this musical revue type show, took the voice track from singers from sound system, which I had added to a boomed mic pickup from the camera, and blended to make a better sounding soundtrack, at least in my ears... They want the echoing, chair clanging, audience coughing track, and the mic track removed... at least at this moment... so you never know what you are going to find in that box of chocolates, Forrest....

Denis Danatzko September 22nd, 2006 10:57 AM

Go, Chris, go!

Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos
... People are asking for copies, ...

That's a good sign that you must be doing something right!

Congrats on the popularity/acceptance of the job.

Meryem Ersoz September 22nd, 2006 11:31 AM

maybe it's just me, but i think publicly releasing--and charging $$ for!!--work that you yourself would describe as "adequate, at best" is a mistake. since you do not stand to make much money from this project anyway, why not offer it up as a gift to the non-profit and get a testimonial from them (for your website, etc.) and ask them to refer future projects to you? they will be happy and you will have gained a lot of valuable experience. then you can add the good parts to your portfolio/demo reel.

and don't do any more work without at least a basic contract. a contract is essential. at the very least, it makes you think through what you're doing, from beginning to end, and it alleviates many, though not all, thwarted expectations and misunderstands. if you hold the client responsible for what *you* have produced, you are asking for trouble from the get-go....

Michael Hendrix September 22nd, 2006 11:46 AM

Denis, if you are not getting any cash for the project, you should be able to get a "gift" type receipt that basically says you donated X hours worth X dollars and you can actually right this off of your taxes. As usually, check with your account as to how this works.

Bill Mecca September 22nd, 2006 12:12 PM

oooooh boy! this is a can o' worms.

First off, I agree with Greg Boston et al, in yoru original post you mentioned hoping to gain $4 from selling copies. Was that explained to the "client" at the time?
Secondly alarm bells went off when in a more recent post I see you said the subject matter videotaped was a play. Copyright also comes up here. Is it a published play, did they purchase the rights to have it taped? again, I'm no lawyer, but its just something that made my ears perk up.

Mark Bournes September 22nd, 2006 02:49 PM

Greg is dead on about this situation. You can sell the rights package to the client, or they can pay you for the dvd copies. I wouldn't turn anything over until some kind of written agreememt is reached.

Denis Danatzko October 1st, 2006 07:02 AM

Good things come to he who waits.
I was resigned to the idea that I was not to get any money for this job.

However, after finally viewing the entire content of the final product, the client was so happy with it, I received a "thank you" card with a very nice hand-written note encouraging me to "keep in touch", and a check for an amount that was WAY beyond anything I might have garnered from selling copies of the DVDs. I shared that with the still photog, who also wasn't expecting any remuneration.

All the reps of the client were great to work with, and I got the sense they felt similarly.

So, not only did I end up with more $ than I expected, I also have a potential future corporate client who likes me AND my work. The same holds true for the still photog.

I couldn't have asked for a happier ending.

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