Am I crazy here?
I received the following email today..
Good Afternoon, I have been tasked to research how much it would cost to
produce a command video for the U.S. Southern Command based here in Maimi.
We would need help from concept to final authoring. The video would be 8-10
minutes high lighting the command, our role in Latin America and the
Caribbean to include our component commands. We do have some footage and
still pictures to help create the project. Thank you for your help.
I replied that I would need to take a few minutes of their time to ask a few questions so I can give them an accurate quote. Here's their response:
Hello . This project is from concept to final authoring. Our
mission here at U.S. Southern Command covers all of Latin America and the
Caribbean. The script is not written. We do have stills and some footage
in various formats. I am not the decision maker on this project, just the
officer in charge of obtaining quotes and different companies in which could
possibly be selected. I do have three other quotes so I really do not need
anymore input at this time. Thank you so much for responding.
My question. How did they get three quotes based on the first email? How would you have responded? Am I crazy? After I received the second email I told them that it was like asking a builder for a price to build a house. It would be a 2 story house with some wood and stucco. The buyer would even supply some wood to use. How much would the house cost?
I'd send them back an email stating that you have the highest confidence you can create exactly what they need, and can do so without cost overruns. Budget will be $749,550 (due to the current high cost of C-47s). If you get the gig, figure it out then. ;)
-- you may not have taken the best approach with the client. They may just be trying to get a general idea of the costs, or they may be playing games (e.g. "get three bids, show the commanding officer how outrageously expensive this is to do out of house, and then we can buy our own FCP system and do it ourselves.").
The problem is, you don't know whether this is a genuine request or not. In this case, I would have looked at my schedule, figured out how much I wanted the project, and then bid accordingly for either a bare-bones or lavish production.
In this case, I would have looked at my schedule, figured out how much
I wanted the project, and then bid accordingly for either a bare-bones or lavish production.
how would you bid on either type of production? How many days of shooting? Where would the shooting take place? Paid or non-paid talent? Audio? Editing? What formats are thheir video in? How much video and stills do they have? How many chapters on the DVD? I mean without this info what would you bid have been? Then why bother?
I agree with Bob. This smells of "I want to give the job to my brother in law so I have to get two other bids that make his look reasonable." OR, it's someone completely out of their depth who thinks video is produced and sold in "units."
Not sure how you would approach this within the context of a military structure, but if it was a request from a business a good approach in the beginning would be to try to get in touch with multiple people in the organization. Explain that you have a wide variety of options to offer which could... save them a great deal of money... give them a cinematic look... or (fill in the blank).
Or you could just blow the whole thing off as yet another bizarre request from someone you'll probably never do business with.
Government buyers are required to get 3 quotes/bids for projects over a certain dollar amount. This definately sounds as if they have a company in mind they would like to use, but are just fulfilling their paperwork requirements. If you want to do the job, you can register with the government to bid on contracts and pursue it that way, but in most cases they want a firm/fixed price from vendors before they even have a clue as to the scope of the project. Good Luck.
[Greg] "why bother?"
In this case, from their nonresponsiveness, it smells like the fix is in, so I agree with that statement.
But this is actually a fairly common problem, esp. with a potential client who hasn't done any production. If you want to work with such a client, you have to do some education. Show some productions at various budget levels. But don't overwhelm them with arcane and fairly irrelevant details like the chaptering on the DVD.
As someone who requests proposals for government video related services, I can tell you not to lose sleep over that one.
If they were serious about finding a good bid, they would be happy to talk with you more about the scope of the project, or pass you along to someone who could supply you with more details. Rather than looking for real bids, this guy was just finding the lazy way to "check the boxes".
These are classic! I love to throw random range quotes at these guys just to get their response.
"Dear sir, I can create your video from start to finish with a total length not to exceed 15 minutes for $1,000. Other determining factors such as content, scripting, video capture and creative design will add to this base rate exponentially and could go as high as $13 million depending on the overall product and the speed at which it is to be accomplished. For a more accurate quote, we can arrange a meeting to discus the specifics that determine the overall cost and I can give you a highly detailed estimate.".
If that that doesn't drop them where they stand, then they would not be a good client anyway.
Gainesville, Florida USA
Was the original quote accurate down to the bad grammar and composition? And that guy is in the command chain somewhere...explains a lot of what I find in my morning paper...
Those military guys work in a kind of a bubble, which makes it hard to communicate as a civilian contractor. You also get this kind of thing sometimes with law enforcement types. Don't get mad at clients who don't understand and try to commoditize the creative process, they are trying to use terms and concepts they are already comfortable with. As has been said, you have to try and gently educate these kinds of folks before you can communiate anything useful. You might as well have asked them: "how much exactly will it cost for a brigade of troops to take an unspecified objective?"
I work in state government, have for over 2 decades, and the procurement process is certainly a strange game, Dilbert's happy hunting ground. So this all sounds very familiar. Any of the afore-mentioned theories could apply here.
Don't lose sleep over it, you were never a real bidder for that job, if it even WAS a real job... it will likely wind up done by a Halliburton subsidiary anyhow:-)
What always seems to happen for projects such as this one is somebody internal to the organization will take a stab at it because they have some access to hardware, but where it always falls apart is in the script. Because there isn't one, or somebody you can't contradict thinks he can write one. Due to their command structure, the writing will always be very poor, and imposed from above by people who may be brilliant generals but have no business trying to write a video script. The underlings dutifully attempt to execute the awful script, then everybody gets a dressing-down when the final product stinks on ice. Or they pretend it's perfect, but it then quickly disappears from view forever. The other likely occurance is that the project dies mid-way because the approvals process is overrun by the passing of realtime events.
If all they wanted was a video slideshow of their org chart, you could whip something up fast and cheap and even quote a fixed price. For anything more along the lines of "Why We Fight", forget it. Tell them the gubmint and military already has it's own internal media groups for just this sort of thing.
[mark Suszko] "you were never a real bidder for that job, if it even WAS a real job..."
Excellent point. Government contracts with external/independent laborers, which includes you are always done as a bidding procedure as mandated by law from the military right down to city hall. There must be an active attempt to get the best price for a given service and there is a magic number of bids they must have before they can effectively offer the contract to anyone. In your case, I
Thanks all. By the way Michael. I loved your answer regarding the price. That's classic! I'll keep it in my files for future use.
If you were intending for the tone of your post to sound overly dismissive and condescending toward the Military, then you succeeded admirably. It's rare for political affiliation and bias to show in forums so far removed from these subjects, but some people just can't help themselves when they see an opportunity to dig on the Government and Military. Your obvious disdain for Military organizations seems to have made you an expert in mental processes of DOD personnel. You make it sound as if you must dumb down your language to a 3 year old level in order to be understood by this person. I assure you that he would understand all aspects of your job infinitely faster than you would of his were he to attempt to explain it to you. Dismissing all soldiers as dim-witted and incapable of independent thought betrays a poor ability to form opinions based on honest investigation and sound facts on your part. Instead, you seem to embrace the latest anti-administration and anti-military rhetoric floating around and inject it into an area where it has no need to be.
Now, to dumb it down for you... keep your opinions on irrelevant things you know nothing about to yourself.
Bellypants, you read too much into my remarks, but if you don't believe my thesis, just drop by any local bar near a base, and you will get enough stories about such things to curl your buzzcut.:-)
Just the stories I got from buddies in the Guard were enough for me, and I have done a few things for them over the years, so I know whereof I speak.
I never said I didn't respect them as a blanket statement, only that, as in many professional organizations, they have people working outside their area of expertise or competence that think they know how to write scripts and plan videos but don't. And because the military frowns on you telling your boss when he's being an idjit, it's harder to solve this problem in videos made for the military. And if you don't think military procurement has any problems, well, we differ on our views of reality.
Best of luck to you.
Wow, lighten up fella. With a name like bellypants you should have a sense of humor. FYI, the Major turned out to be very nice, and apologized for the bid process, she also informe me that she was adding my name into the mix, when the project gets the go ahead. I'm not sure if i want to do it, but at leeast she handled thiis with respect.
Thanks to all again.
[Bellypants] "Now, to dumb it down for you... keep your opinions on irrelevant things you know nothing about to yourself."
No, you're absolutely right, you don't need things "dumbed down" in order to understand them, which was exactly the point I was trying to put across. Nobody likes to be talked down to, and the post I responded to had that type of tone to it... that you have to take things slower with the military types because they live in a world that is so far removed that they don't understand what you're talking about. As active duty military, and as someone who has done quite a few projects of this type for various military institutions, that generalization is just flat wrong. It's not even true of a majority of the people or organizations, but a very small minority.
I do, in fact, have quite a good sense of humor - as most of my productions would show - but digs on the poor dumb soldier and gub'mint contracts and so forth have been done and done to death long before I was even born. It's just tired and not funny anymore.
P.S. Before you ask questions as to my job in the Air Force, I have nothing to do with public affairs or any media producing organization. I do this as a hobby for experience. The projects I've done were on my own time with mostly my own equipment. Nevertheless, they are of quality work and the "client" (I use that term loosely) has always loved the product. What do I really do in the Air Force? Well, I'd have to kill you if you knew. So there. :-)
[Bellypants] "that you have to take things slower with the military types because they live in a world that is so far removed that they don't understand what you're talking about"
I might have missed that point, but what I was specifically referring too was the burocracy that slows the entire system down as compared to situations outside of the military. I certainly meant no disrepect to our military nor you.
Gainesville, Florida USA
...Says a guy who has been here all of two days. Don't pretend to know me or my mind, Mr. Pants.
What I suggest is you go back over the very first posts in this thread and read word for word what the military customer said in his quest for the (bogus) quote. Read how he spoke, see how he completely failed to understand what he was asking for, how he refused to even be reasoned with. I have met such people, in the military and outside of it.
I don't assert all military people are like that. I know the opposite to be true. I was saying that in an organizational culture that is so very top-down and insular, full of bureaucratic circumlocution, one often needs to translate things into English first. That guy did not know what he was asking for, could not communicate it and could not be communicated WITH to determine what the specs for the program were.
Communicating to establish the simple specs of the job, much less the needs analysis for the program, the creative treatment, the essentials in making a productive script before a single word is typed... all these things are hard to get across, because it's an alien language to them. As it is to people in many industries, but there in particular. Have you ever read real military memos, manuals, and documents? "The maintainer will then maintenance the aircraft" is a direct quote from one such I witnessed. You can't make up stuff like that.
You are reading your own insecurities into my remarks and taking them out of original context. Have some tapioca and switch to decaf. Pet the dog. Go to church. Walk the beach with Mrs. Pants. Whatever you need to get the rancor out of your system.
The one thing I agree with you about is that personal attacks are inappropriate here, so I'm going to stop; feel free to have the last word but I will not respond further on this matter. I know what I said and how I said it, I tried to clarify it for you and we are not having a meeting of the minds here, so further argument would be unproductive. Maybe over time, you'll come to realize I am not the guy you're complaining I am.
Just to clear things up, I, "Mr. Pants," am the one who actually wears them in my family. So, no more talk of this "Mrs. Pants" nonsense.
The whole Bellypants thing is a story best left for another time, and isn't very funny anyway. I have been an avid reader of the Cow forums for years, but have posted so infrequently that when I wanted to, I was in another place on a different computer and couldn't recall the screen name I used or the password, and the email account it would send the information to had been closed for months, so I had to register anew a few days ago.
I honestly don't have all that much rancor, just trying to show that one runs into that sort of person all the time in all sorts of places and organizations... which is pretty much what you already said.
I don't have insecurities with my chosen profession, or the organization I work for. I save my insecurities for my lack of hair, looks, and other middle aged married man sorts of things.
Thank you for the suggestions on how to chill out. While I do enjoy a good bowl of tapioca, I'd have to say the best way to calm down is a nice warm fresh piece of toast.