Fired! Client wants ALL project related material
How embarassing and professionally degrading. For, what I am told are creative diffrences, I was fired by my client after they watched the first cut of a short 11 minute doc I was editing for them.
I was working as an "at will" contractor hired by a video producer to edit and shoot some footage. My rate was good (80.00 / hr) and it was understood I was to edit on my own gear at my home studio.
My client (or boss as he states it) tells me that he wants all the work product turned over to him by end of day Tuesday - which he says should include all raw footage on tape, edited footage on tape, any graphics I created, any sound effects and music tracks I used or intended to use - and the actual project files from Premiere Pro which is what I edit with.
That's quite a laundry list. Do I need to turn all of this over to him? Or is he just entitled to original tapes and the edited production. I purchased the royalty free music library for myself and many of the graphics and effects are pre-sets I created prior to this production.
His email to me is very specific: he wants everything associated with this production to be turned over so work can continue seamlessly with another editor.
From what you've stated so far it seems that you have no gripe with the client. If the client pays you everything you're owed to this point at the time you hand over the goods, then it seems to me you should deliver. If he's trying to get away without paying you for your time, then that's another matter entirely.
[shvr] "My client (or boss as he states it) tells me that he wants ... any sound effects and music tracks I used or intended to use"
While I would honour most all of the points of this decision based on payment to date as pointed out by David Roth Weiss, I would take exception on sound effects and music tracks. Why? Because likely you are the owner of the music and the one holding the licenses for such and you cannot legally give away the license unless you are the one doing the work. I cannot recall any license that would allow you to give away stock photos, stock footage or sound files which are not part of a *finished* work, and do this legally. It must be a FINISHED work or else (chances are great) you have violated your license.
That's a line I would not allow anyone to push me over.
Besides, if they do not like what you have come up with, then why are they wanting your third-party choices that are NOT part of the shoot you did, which is the real product in this scenario.
That's my opinion and that's what I would do in your circumstances.
Do you then charge for all the time it takes to put all these requested materials together to hand over? How much do you charge for that?
I've had this happen where the client hired me to edit a weekly TV show. They shot it with two cameras and dropped off the camera tapes each week and I edited a program together adding graphics that included stock Digital Juice animated backgrounds/lower thirds that I owned.
I charged an higher price for the first episode that would include making the opening, closing and all the other graphics elements that would be used over in each new episode. All future episodes were edited at a lower fixed price.
They eventually got their own edit system and wanted to edit it themselves. I had done 27 episodes at that point and they had a DV master of each show but they wanted all the separate graphics elements also. I refused and told them everything they have is on the DV masters and they can use whatever is on those.
[Ron Lindeboom] "It must be a FINISHED work or else (chances are great) you have violated your license. That's a line I would not allow anyone to push me over."
Good point. I'm going to draw the line at supplying my music library and also my 3rd party plug-ins for Premiere Pro which he also asked if he could "borrow" for the duration of the rest of the edit.
I'm now convinced the producer is simply trying to cut costs since all this happened just a day after I submitted my first invoice to him. He probably has found some kid to cut the doc for 20.00 an hour.
I'm tempted to go back to the producer and offer my services for a reduced fee - I could use the work, but something in my gut is telling me just be done with this job and move on. What to do....
"also my 3rd party plug-ins for Premiere Pro which he also asked if he could "borrow" for the duration of the rest of the edit."
That's a ridiculous request. Wonder why he didn't just ask to borrow your entire edit system?
I wouldn't waste my time with this guy's requests for any stock anything that you own, purchased or created not on the clock for this edit, as Ron states.
Once your invoice is paid and the check clears...AND NOT BEFORE...I'd give him the data including the PPro project that will look for the third party plugs everytime the thing is launched on a system without them (I hope it's Sapphire, or something nice and juicy that will be costly...)
This guy should also NOT be offered a discount. This will just continue if you do. It sounds like you've probably set the tone and pacing for the edit and some cheapo guy can just color by number most likely...
Ya gotta love these guys....
Creative Cow Host,
Yeah, what Tim says. ;o)
Don't offer a reduced rate under any circumstances. Not all work is good work and starting down the discount trail will open a can of worms that you'll have to eat day after day.
"Forget it , Jake, It's Chinatown..."
Even if this was a work for hire, there's no way they can claim legal rights to your original paid-for Jump-Backs.
Ditto the other comments on not giving them the stock footage or music,or plug-ins, they can buy that themselves. YOU did.
Personally I wouldn't even give them the project files, but only their original footage and a window dub of your version of the master,which is enough of a guide for your replacement to see where things were going, but not something they could rip off and use without paying you for it. If you take the view that the master is what they paid for and not just your time, then I guess you give them a master... but I would fight that, myself.
I had one of these happen once where the sessions all seemed to go fine, then the client turned around immediately and took the finished product to another place to re-edit it, saying something disparaging about it. I met that re-editor socially some time later, he seemed really apologetic and embarrased about it, kept telling me all he did was shave a frame off here and there, but he had kept about 98 percent of my edits the same, he thought my work was fine going in. The worst part was he felt bad he was ordered to take my name off the credits entirely. I said it didn't make any difference to me, as I'd been paid.
Sometimes, clients don't feel they've put enough of their own decisions into something, haven't "put their own stink on it", as we sometimes say around the office. It's an ego thing. If you get one of these, sometimes they feel satisfied if you deliberately botch some simple thing like the end point of a dissolve and they can "catch" the mistake and correct you. Suddenly they feel more in control and more part of the process. The things we do to make clients happy!
I'll tell you I think that you did one thing perfectly right: asking for extra money on the first one where you had to establish all the looks and the graphic templates, etc. That was very smart, and reasonable, if they were going to be re-used a lot in subsequent shows. That extra work on the first one makes the subsequent ones go much faster, saving them money.
I think the problem is the miscommunication in what the client thinks he is paying for and owns and what you think he should get.
Does the client have a right to just the final master tape or to all the individual elements/images/files that were used in making that final master tape when this has not been agreed to in advance? I mean what do you do, give him your hard drive with all the hours of digitized video on it or transfer it all to his own hard drive? Do you normally bill for digitizing video onto your hard drive or transferring it to his? How much or does the client expect it for free?
Questions like that start to emerge when clients want everything that they supposedly "paid" for. Are you billing the correct amount in order for the client to get everything they want at the end of a project or if they decide to go somewhere else to finish it.
[Randy] "Questions like that start to emerge when clients want everything that they supposedly "paid" for. Are you billing the correct amount in order for the client to get everything they want at the end of a project or if they decide to go somewhere else to finish it."
Well, I though my rate of 80/hr was good enough, but I didn't anticipate having to wrap everything up and put a bow on it for this guy. I think the mistake I made was to work for hire, with a generic contract that simply states I'm an "at will" employee: "an employee
JUST GET PAID.
Just get paid BEFORE you turn over ANYTHING. And this should include estimated time for getting everything gathered.
I say if the guy's not being a complete d*ck, give him the digitized footage -- PROVIDED he pays for the media or sends over a hard disk to load it onto. Personally I would NOT give-up a program file. Play it cute and export an EDL. You can then state that you've given him literally every bit of info needed to re-construct the piece. Give him copies of your plug-ins??? Ask him what he's smoking.
BTW, in case it's not painfully obvious, you won't be working for him again. This should be especially evident if he claims he'll call for something else in the future. And remember: JUST GET PAID.
[Nick Griffin] "And remember: JUST GET PAID."
Oh boy. Now he wants to renegotiate everything, including the money he owes me for the work I've done already. I had a feeling this was going to happen since he basically fired me after I sent him my invoice.
I don't know how I get involved with these types, but I do. Any strategies? I'm holding on to everything to this is sorted out (although he has a rough cut on DVD already - but I doubt he can use that.)
My contract with him clearly states my hourly rate - so legally I'm on solid ground money wise - but can I legally hang onto tapes until he pays up? He's sending a courier by tomorrow morning...
That courier better be bringing a certified bank check or money order (no personal checks) for your full amount, or you can give the courier a note to bring back that says you will be filing a mechanic's lein. (google how to do that in your area).
Do NOT part with any more materials until you get the amount you invoiced. He is the one under calendar deadline pressure for a compete program, not you. Wait him out and if he needs it bad enough, he'll have to cave. You are calling the shots now.
The invoice wasn't negotiable...it's the invoice.
He's an idiot for firing you THEN expecting a discount...
Company policy...all materials can be turned over to the client once all outstanding invoices are paid and checks have cleared.
...and I LOVE the EDL suggestion of Nick's...no project file.
Creative Cow Host,
Completely agree with Tim & Nick.
Jumpbacks, pre-set and previously completed animations, plugins, music. NO.
Source Tapes & EDL--yes.
Again don't hand over anything until you get a certified check. And you might start talking to a lawyer pretty soon.
Johnny Cuevas, Editor
I'm with Ron on the music, unless you get them to sign a hastily drafted Transfer Of Rights letter that let's them know the restrictions of the use and their responsibility to pay for that use. I'd also copy the music company and/or check to see if handling over the music files was allowed by the deal you struck with the music company.
Ty Ford's "Audio Bootcamp Field Guide" was written for video people who want better audio. Find out more at http://www.tyford.com
I have been in this situation once before and needless to say, I have never worked for this guy again.
Here's the story:
We were editing a rough cut for a TV program and they guy wanted the project faster. This was something, that was not possible, because we had to load hours and hours of footage into the system and then edit it. They guy expected this to be done in 2 days. If this project only had a few hours of footage, this would be a piece of cake. However, that wasn't the case. He got frustrated and told me to hand over all the project files, so that he could edit all night.
Before he left, I told him to pay me all amount owed, otherwise he would not get any of the materials. Well, he pays by credit card and once it was approved (in a few minutes), I handed everything over.
Now...I get up in the AM and see that the card charges have been reversed and my merchant's account is on hold. Frustrating? Yes, especially since the invoice was over $2000. So...I call this person up, ask him the reason. He said "Oh! I exported the cut and the audio is terrible. This ruins the entire thing. So, I tell him, that I will be over at the studio to take a look at the audio files. What do I find? In an attempt to raise the volume, he some how fiddled with the speed of the audio, making it jibberish. Now, this guy, doesn't know the JKLs of editing and tries to blame me for it. What do I do? Call up my credit card company. File a report. After a 10 day investigation, I get all my money back.
This time I got, kind of lucky. But, after this client, I have never worked for him, even though he has requested a few times.
[Chris Cardinal] "When that courier shows, wish him well and say you have one thing for him to carry -- another copy of the invoice."
Gosh Chris, I am humbled in the presence of greatness.
What a line! You should be a writer.
I spoke to the producer this A.M. and I told him that nothing will be given to the courier until I am paid in full. He said "Of Course." The courier will have my 'first payment' with him. I told him that this first payment must be for the full invoice amount, not a cent less or nothing gets turned over.
Well it got ugly - the producer claims that I misrepresented my abilities as an editor and that the first cut is useless and not what we discussed at all. I said editing is a process, and we can re-cut to make this film work and he's welcome to sit in my suite with me to fine cut the film. He again said that my rate is too high and that I committed fraud by misrepresenting my abilities.
I don't know what he means by fraud. I gave him references and showed him my previous work and he agreed to the contract price. Was he expecting a emmy / oscar winning editor for 80.00 / hr?
He is still demanding a rate reduction by 50% or he'll pursue legal means, claiming I comitted fraud. I told him that he is the one committing fraud by not paying me my contracted amount and a check is not delivered within 24 hours, not only will he not get the tapes and EDL etc, I will pursue a legal course myself.
So do I get a lawyer over a 2500.00 invoice or do I take him to small claims?
He can argue fraud but that is meaningless. Do you edit? Yes. Do you own the tools of the trade? Yes. Have you had previous experience that he was presented with for references, etc.? Yes. So where in hell is the fraud in this???
Editing is an art, not a science. He can bemoan your technique but that is hardly fraud. Even if you are the worst editor in the world -- which I highly doubt -- you have done due diligence to work on the project as per your agreement and with the tools of the trade needed.
Fraud it is not. Not in the slightest.
This guy is desperate and clutching at straws to try to scare you into giving him the work.
If you give it to him for anything less than the full amount owed, I will guarantee you that you will never see another cent.
I forgot to mention that were you able to dig into this guy's past, I would guarantee you that you are not the first person that he has done this to.
Clients work through relationships and you earn your way into their sphere of influence and circle of friends. Grinders always swim alone and if they are such great "producers," then why on earth was he without a support system and/or network and needed to hire someone he now claims is a total fraud??? I think it goes without saying, as to who is the real fraud.
The missiles are in the air.
Prepare for war!!! You client has fired the first blow and now you must take defensive action. Pull out all the stops and sue his dumb @@#$$ss.
Forget about hiring a lawyer and go straight to small claims court immediately.
However you need to know some critical information in order to file properly.
1) Full legal name of the defendant (your scumbag client) - I advise naming the individual (full legal name) as well as his company and other parties associated with the deal. Do some research on who are the principals in his company (wife, partner etc) and name them on the lawsuit. Most cities have a division where you can look up who are the principals in a company.
You must name them all individually in order to win a claim against one or all of them.
2) You will need to hire a process server or find a neutral party to deliver "serve" the defendant the court paperwork. You need to be sly about this as you will need to provide the best time and opportunity for the process server to "catch" the client and deliver the paperwork with that great line "You have been served".
3)Here in California even if the client does not show up for the court hearing and you win by default you still have to wait an additional 30 days before your claim if finalized.
4)Winning the case is half the battle collecting the money is the hard part. Unless you have the defendant's bank account information ie checking acount number (did you get any credit information on file prior to taking the job?) collecting the money you are owed is going to be an uphill battle.
The only leverage you have at this point in time is the client's tapes which you should put a lien on.
5) Research the proper paperwork and court procedures to legal file the lien on the tapes so that this does not go against you if he countersues you.
6)If you claim is finalized in your favor immediately file a lien against any and all property the defendant owns. This is your most power "weapon" in this "war". The defendant may ignore you and not pay you immediately but when they go to sell or refinance their property the lien will show up and they are F@#$%%ed. In most cases they respond immediately to clear up the mess. You will be able to collect interest starting from the award date to the date they pay.
7)The small claims process in not a difficult process but rather a drawn out process that will suck up alot of your time but you must be willing to go the full course.
8) Do not take a company,personal or certified check from this scumbag.
FYI certified check can have stop payment issued after they have been delivered. Cash or the following methods are advised.
A) Go to the bank where the client banks at and receive the cash in person.
B)Demand that the client pays with a bank check along with a letter on bank letterhead signed by the bank manager verifying the funds will be available for withdrawal by you when you present the check. In otherwords the bank is assuming responsibility for the check funds.
If the client will not do the two above items and will only pay with a company,personal or certified check then specify the tapes will only be released upon cashing the checks at their bank.
He can meet you at the bank to receive the tapes after you have received the checks.
Use caution during this meeting and bring along other person with you to 1)guard the tapes while you are in the bank 2)watch your back in the event things get out of control.
You have already lost this scumbag as a client so pull out all the stops to get what is rightfully due to you.
9) Don't give up easily.
I sincerely wish you the best of luck. Please keep us informed on how the progress goes.
PS- If the small claims course of action is too time consuming for you then consider settling the matter but this may involve giving in to the scumbag for a lower amount.
[tony salgado] "Forget about hiring a lawyer and go straight to small claims court immediately."
No, don't go immediately to small claims court. First step is to write a nice demand note to the former client that will put you in the driver's seat. Be nice, be contrite, give him one week to pay. Show the judge just how reasonable you are, that you are willing to give the client his work product, that your intention is not to hold him up. Let him be the dick. He will hang himself if you let him. Judges love this... Now, as soon as you mail that letter, by registered mail of course, go file in small claims court.
BTW, be certain to bring witnesses to court -- even your mother and your best friend will do. And, bring lots of evidence. Receipts, your camera, computer logs -- anything you can pile on will show the judge that you are a professional. Judges don't even look at this stuff, but they do note it, and they always rule in favor of the guy that supports his case with something other than his mouth.
Yes David is right try to settle before going to court. Offering the client a chance to pay in full is the first step. Verbal request do not carry much weight compared to written demands.
Mail(2) certified letters requesting payment in full along with a deadline for receiving the payment.
After that date instruct the client you will have to seek legal recourse to obtain full payment.
A demand for payment is required and offers the client a chance to settle up and if not then small courts is the next step.
In anycase a paper trial of all emails, demand letters, invoices etc is necessary to prove your case.
I think we should all join forces and contribute some money to buy this client and the client I fired below, a nice room to share somewhere away from all video professionals. They can spend the evening laying in bed, telling each other how inadequate each of them is to the othe, and they should have hired a professional.
The fact the client is now proposing a "first payment" is a good sign you have him by the short hairs as long as you hold on to the tapes and elements. He's now trying to gauge just how smart you are. If you take the "first payment" and give him the goods, it is really the "last payment" you will get. Not smart!
Hold out for payment in full, in advance, and you don't hand over the goods until the check clears. Time is on your side; past a certain point, this guy's footage will be worthless if he misses his deadlines. You are under no such pressure. Some bank to this day, must be 40 years later, is holding the master reels for Jerry Lewis's "the Day The Clown Cried" because of non-payment issues and related stuff.
I would file the mechanic's lein right away, it's probably cheaper and less hassle to file, and only start organizing for small claims but not dropping any money on filing or the process server yet.
I won a case in small claims once against a guy much like this. I was unemployed at the time, and could afford to make it my career for a couple weeks to pursue this. (You might want to keep working for someone else depending on your financial situation) At some point you have to decide if the diminishing returns are worth the effort on your part, doing it just for spite is not enough, nor is it businesslike.
After we won, we got the sheriff's office to help us collect by garnishing his bank accounts, but he didn't have enough in there to cover the full amount the judge awarded. We got about 80 percent of what he owed us and decided the effort of getting the rest was not worth it, though we let him know the next step would be to have the sherriff auction off some of his personal property for the remainder. It's unchristian, I know, but we did get some pleasure out of monkeywrenching his finances thru the garnishing: after weeks of not talking to us or the court, he called the very night we tapped his accounts to complain he was out of money for food, rent, utilities, gas, etc. and in danger of being thrown in the street. We said he should have taken us up on the offer to pay 10-20 bucks a week, no interest, to cover his debts back when we were playing nice. "Sorry, bud, it's nothing personal, it's just business".
You should thank your weasel for giving you all this business education in one easy, unforgettable lesson! :-)
Two things come to mind.
1) You will sleep better and respect yourself if you stand up for what's right and what's fair.
2) You can easily prevent the draining away of thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars from you and your business by not spending enormous amounts of time in a negative activity. When you're doing negative stuff it's just robbing you of the time you could be spending doing real work.
Pick one, 'cause you can't have both. Think about this before you launch your missles. If it were me (as I'm sad to report it has been on more than one ocassion in the past) I'd make all the moves that I was going to the edge but be ready to walk away before spending a lot of time researching corporate officers, etc.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING, as said a few times earlier in this thread by others, write a detailed, factual (and UN-emotional) demand letter outlining everything that has gone down, what your position is and what the contract states. This will not only help you should you have to move forward, it could be invaluable if he sues you. And by the way, if he sues you it probably won't be in small claims court so best have all your ducks in a row.
Best of luck. My sympathies (and stomach acid) are with you.
Thanks for all the great advice in this thread. I'm cutting and pasting some of the tips for future reference.
The producer came over and dropped off a money order for the complete invoice amount and I kindly handed over the tapes. I explained how the Premiere project files would be useless unless he had a duplicate file system set up on the next editing computer, but, not surprisingly, he didn't understand that.
He was not courteous and had to get some final digs in about how "unprofessional" I behaved and so on. I bit my tongue, only saying that I did my job at an agreed at price - and that's that.
Has he left, he warned me to "report my earnings" because he sure was going to. I said "don't forget to send me a 1099." And that was that.
Thanks again everyone for chiming in and lending moral support.
Looks like you got the last punch in afterall.
It's great you did were able to resolve this without having to go to small claims court.
That scumbug client realized you were holding all the cards with his tapes.
Thanks for the update.
[tony salgado] "That scumbug client realized you were holding all the cards with his tapes"
A moron with no judgement! you have more leverage indeed. Either he
reshoots or pays you! Send him a calculator to do the math.