Friday, August 24, 2012

Sometimes, it's better NOT to do the job

I've had a couple of rather peculiar situations that didn't work out this week, and it's probably for the best.  Figured that it might be useful to you guys to share them.

The most recent, was also the most confused.  I'm pretty sure I'd had nominal contact with this guy (we'll call him Fred, for the sake of the post, it is in no way his real name), exchange was pretty much, 'here's my stuff', responded to 'I like it, we'll be in touch'.  Okay, cool.

On Wednesday evening, I get an email with a strangely spelled title to the effect, 'can you shoot tomorrow?'. He could be on a mobile device, so I'm a bit more forgiving with word replacement/misspellings than I probably should be (with the good clients, this has honestly never been an issue - they take the time to communicate clearly).

The email was entirely empty.  I had no idea what time, place, equipment needed, anything - not even a rate. I send a couple emails asking all of these questions, finally getting a time, and approximate location.

(Location was stated as being by such and such statue.  A quick search on my part revealed it's location.  However, if you are running a job, rather than a geotagging game, providing an address or cross streets will do wonders for your credibility.)

I began to suspect this might not be the most lucrative, trouble free gig ever.  Because there's always pressure to keep getting gigs, I said yes anyway.  I'm not sure why - I have a week's worth of corporate photos to edit, and a solo show coming up very soon - but I said yes.

In the morning, I get another empty email asking for my phone number - which is in all of my contact information...

The phone call was a rushed, confused mishmash.  Fred was worried that I might not be able to handle the difficulty of his production needs (a single wireless lav and camera operation for a guerrilla performance in the street) and might want to use his regular guy.  He'll call me back in an hour.

Sure, whatever.  I edit more corporate photos from the lovely gig with great people - which was also last minute, but they managed to not only give me all the information needed, come up with a look, but also provide lunch.

No phone call.  Ah well, no big loss there.  I have one more set that I'd like to shoot for my solo show, and I'm running out of time, plus a thousand of these other photos to go through.  When SO (significant other) gets home from his normal job, I ask if he wants to go on this short hike and have dinner in the cute little town around it, making an evening out of it.  We do.

When I get home, there's an email from Fred.  From a few hours earlier.  Asking me if we can meet at 96th street instead, and go from there.   Not only did he never call back, this email was sent two and a half hours after his show (it was supposed to be a four hour gig total) was to have started.

Had I gone down at the appointed time in spite of the lack of communication, my whole shooting and editing day would have been killed.  I would have waited around for at least two hours before he even arrived.  And  no doubt been poorly micro managed.  The four hour gig would have been at least a full day at my end, including travel - bets that he'd pay for that?

I replied to the email politely, suggesting that he may have contacted me in error, as this couldn't be for the gig that he dropped me on.  I always try to be polite.  So far, no response.


The other one is just classic.  I do music videos.  Truthfully, I really like doing them, because the opportunity for creative outlet is huge, and short stories are just fun.  The rates for these are all over the map, mine included.  It depends on the flavor, how much is involved, etc.  I personally tend not to be cheap, because I refuse to do 'guy rapping in a series of unremarkable locations with poor lighting and framing with a fish eye effect slapped on'.

Artists deserve better.

Anyhow, the other phone call was from a woman who never gave me her name.

'I like your music videos.'

'Thank you!'

'I want one for me.'  (Full disclosure - at this point, I couldn't tell whether the voice on the other end was extremely tired, or very stoned.)

'Fantastic! Once we do the basic consultation and figure out what your needs are based on your budget, we can work up a contract, figure out a deposit, and get moving on the storyboards.  What genre of music are you, and what do you see your creative tastes and sensibilities as?'  (I do favorite visual artists, movies, etc, to plan a unique look for each piece.)

'Uh.  How much is a video?'

'That depends upon what the creative vision is, whether there's animation, or a lot of post effects.  For my full creative help (producer, director, dp, and post) the rate is usually X.  If you have other artists in mind, or friends who want to take on producing, dp, or post roles, then I can lower my rates.'

Silence.  A long silence.

'Gee, that's a lot.'

'It's a lot of work.  To do a project right, it's usually a month or two from pre through post production.'

'One day shoot?'

'Yes, for a one or two day shoot.  At least if you want a complicated, amazing looking result.  Sometimes longer, if there are a lot of effects or animation, as I mentioned before.'

More silence.  Enough that I wasn't sure if she was still on the line.

So I plunged in. 'If you pick a location, and just want me to show up and shoot it, and turn over the footage, we can do that too.'

'I want someone to do one like (names a stop motion video that I worked on for two months, with fully articulated custom puppets) in like a day for a hundred bucks.  Can you do that?'

'I wish!  That wouldn't cover the cost of materials for making one of the puppets, let alone labor time.  And the shooting alone took almost two months.  That project from pre viz through completion was closer to eight.'

'Someone can do it.'

'If you find them, do give me their number!  I'd love to hire them myself.  All the best of luck to you, and have a wonderful day.'

I'm pretty sure she was very, very stoned.


  1. Update - that other email was indeed for me. Fred decided to postpone his performance until today, without informing me of the change in any way, or seeing if that would work for my schedule (it doesn't).

    A freelancer is generally not an 'on call' position, nor do we have ESP. I think I dodged a bullet here.

  2. I would say you definitely dodged a bullet. Chances that any other part of his act were together were slim. I, too, find that the jobs I pass on are sometimes my best choices.

  3. Getting older can be great sometimes - when I was younger and more desperate, this would have pissed me off to no end.

    Today, it was mostly funny. (A little annoyed at the distraction, but the situation itself was chuckle worthy.)