Clients Can Be Dangerous
On Friday August 18th I learned a valuable lesson: Clients, Can Be Dangerous Too.
I have no idea of the statistics. Have no idea how often it happens. But I became a staticis all too fast and the injuries of my neck, shoulders, back, and arms bear the results.
At issue is the ever blurring lines of how much a client wishes or demands to produce on their own and how they value (or undervalue) our work as professionals. This was such a case. The client? A former defense industry HR trainer, retired. A 'my way or the highway' personality. I met him through a networking contact with a local chamber of commerce. I should have declined after our first meeting when he (a black man) spent most of the meeting recalling his run-in with white people 35 years ago in a much different Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. Being white and empathetic it struck me odd he would go to such depth to share a story and never clear why he would. It should have been a warning to stay clear of him. Desperate for accounts in our changing evolutionary marketing I should have paid attention to my internal discernment alarm.
The problems surfaced over time with his rants about doing business as a small business company infiltrating as sub contractors to large corporations such as Defense Industry clients. He had an innovative proprietary software program for HR training -- similar to power point incorporating Text, Graphics, Photos, Moviing Video, and Audio. His plan was to expand into sub contracting the video, audio, and translation work. That's how we were introduced.
We all have experienced the larger than life, loud, abrasive, hard edge clients. I have. I've had several in my time and though loud talking and abrasive they generally were just demanding but civil. I've worked in television station environments with tempremental news staff talent. One that used to constantly criticize the production department inbetween stories and threw pencils at the camera or teleprompter operators. I've had clients yell, throw tantrums (along with talent) and yet none became physically violent. Not until yesterday.
The issue is the blurring of the professional line between consumer, industrial and broadcast standards. I caught a glimpse of this three months ago (with the same client). On location he was so demanding he would not accomodate the time to allow for white balancing, focusing, or staging the industrial client for a take. It became a guerrilla-like shoot. In turnaround he demanded it be delivered in a windows media format. From Final Cut, no problem. But in his import, into HIS A/V Editing software (a $49.00 consumer PC version) the video had motion blur. Instantly he went into a tirade how I had 'ripped him off' with 'a bad job.' After a few calls to the technical suport line and a colleage it turned out the client had the wrong import settings and with a few changes his program accepted my work without a technical glitch. That should have been a second warning to back off - I wasn't paying attention.
The client paid promptly. I guess that was my determining factor. How much BS I'd take for the otherwise fast pay turnarounds.
As the project evolved he contacted my company to become a part of the audio process. HIs challenge was not finding a translator (for English to Spanish translation), and not knowing any Spanish Talent, to voice the industrial HR training. He also set a budget that was much too low. Initially I passed (smartly). He came back later giving room for budget expansion and I (needing the business) entered into the arrangement.
By my broadcast standards it was a fast turnaround. The translator took about a week (for nearly an hour long project). Problem was, the client thought it should only be about 20 to 30 minutes long. Next, the copy was gramatically incorrect. Mixing of past and present tense, run on sentences, and fragemented sentences. Finally, he wanted the delivery of the audio by page/reference number, since he did not speak spanish. The studio I chose had no problem with the work turning it around in a few days.
When it came time to deliver, the client wasn't available. When he became available he was hostile. He warned (Name) 'gets like this sometimes. Even my wife knows when to stay away.' That should have been warning to get away from him #3. Never though did I think he'd become violent to me. Till that evening when through his home/office door he pitched a fit the English and Spanish Translation audio files were on two separate CDs. He pitched a fit claiming it would 'double his work,' followed by accusations we had 'gone holllywood on him.' That's when he slammed the door. 'Well, at least the CDs were delivered,' I thought 'and this project is over.'
He called an hour later, apologized for his anger, and then went on to tell how the project was 'out of hand.' Going "hollywood'" was his terminology for how we used braodcast standards. His way of doing things was using the pinhole microphone on his laptop computer for audio. His talent did a half hour narration for $25.00 (verses the $100 we produced with some retired voice talent). Even that (I relented) was too low. The translation? We finally found one who would do the 66 pages for $150.00. $50 dollars more than the client estimated to spend. And I did the voice talent for the English version, to expedite and just flush this project as quick as possible. I had been in Radio (and often talent for TV). Again, to do the best job possible and get out of the situation with the volitility.
Friday I was blindsided. I was called to a meeting to see his finished work. The studio office was located on a converted back wrap around porch of the man's home. His 'talent' and 'copywriter' was on the computer with the completed program. The client left us going through the program while he left the room. We viewed the program which though amateurish played fine. The audio was crisp and clear (and improvement over his original design) and the video played fine (no artifacting) though I noticed he took jpeg stills of some of my moving video. He owned it so I had no issues over it.
But the english version had a clipping of the last frames or second of audio. That's when he came back and began to scream and shout. I have other area producers who say this is common. That clients just don't understand the process (or value us) as they combine broadcast or industrial elements into a consumer program. (If they just used Mac over PC or FCS over a cheap program - much of this would not be necessary). Antoher producer says "they can call me whatever in the book as long as they spell my name right on the check." Over time I've noticed the civility (and one time professionalism of our services) has deteriorated. Some clients (such as Advertising Agencies) tend not to ask for bids or rate cards on projects but rather offer a production 'range' or 'budget,' where we are offered a 'take it or leave it' option. Several producers in Dallas (and LA) have shared such being more common over the past few years. That and my lifetime of Agencies who are slow pays from 30 to 180 days. That's part of the reason I migrated into more 'prosumer' clients - for prompter turnaround pay requirements.
For the next ten minutes I was confronted with a hostile client who lectured me how worthless I was, how worthless the audio was, and his timeline deadlines not being able to take the project to either the client or his other business meetings for demo purposes. My calm response (worthless over ten minutes) was to contact our studio producer to troubleshoot the challenge. All answers falling on deaf ears of a very angry man and his copywriter (a woman) knowing all too well how (blank) gets.' I saw that same look on her face months earlier when he ranted about the racism 35 years ago and his experience. That's when I realized racism comes in all sizes, shapes and colors. I was on the receving end of the racism though it would take another ten minutes to realize how serious it could get.
Every reasonable option I offered was not good enough. The man cornered me in the cubicle workstation charging forward, yelling, screaming, and demanding I was 'ripping him off,' going 'too hollywood' for him. What set off my button was when the finger came closer to my face and thumping my chest. Listen, I haven't been in a fight since the 8th grade. I'm all of 6 foot and 140 pounds up against the mountain of a man at 6'5" and close to 280 pounds. Making matters worse I was due on a shoot at the top of the hour and things were deteriorating making no headway with the client. I offered to delay the billing, cut rates, and work it out. My breaking point is when he started pushing me around. I brushed past him suggesting I would be calling the police if he didn't settle down. Then suggested when he had cooled down to call me and I'd offer whatever solution it took - that I had an appointment and I turned to leave. That's when the unexpected happened.
From behiind me I heard the following words "Don't you walk away from me White Boy." I'm 48 years old, wear glasses, and never saw it coming. My view of the storm clear glass door became the ceiling as the man grabed me by the neck, then shoulders flipping me backwards to the ground, pinning me to the floor and in my face screaming I had to make it right then and there.
I'm not sure how but I made it to my feet and was in shock it all went down that way. I made it clear he wasn't to touch me again. But the man just lectured me for another ten minutes on a wide range of issues. Realizing I couldn't offer a viable solution I let him wind down and cool off, because he was blocking my exit from the home and there was nobody around to help me. As he finally cooled down he reminded me of news stories about abusive spouses, with dual personalities. After all that transpired he went into a guilt trip how he wanted us 'to continue to do business.' That I 'wasn't tough enough to do business with defense contractors,' and needed to learn to 'fight back.' It was the oddest reasoning but a man definitely out of control.
He demanded I apologize to the woman in the cubicle for 'starting' him up. I had no idea how I started him but if that were the requirement I went back to her, looked at her, and asked what had transpired. I apologized as he leaned near us, wished her well, and attempted to leave -- again blocked at the door. The man by then was somewhat embarassed by his actions and became apologetic. Demanding though I 'shake his hand' to 'let bygones be bygones.' I shook his hand but took the opening to get the hell out of there, into my car, and gone asap.
I called my audio producer who was disturbed to learn of it but not surprised. He caught bad vibes from the man in our meeting but didn't say anything. He interpreted the body language and talk as if this were a one time machiinist or trucker 'union' person (apologies to those in unions), with a chip on his shoulder, and an overly aggressive personality that 'might' be trouble. I wish my producer had said something earler. Which is one of my points in leaving this message: Trust your instincts -- and make them known to your colleagues if you ever have any perception a clilent should be passed over verses taking them on for business.
I learned I had no legal recourse filing a police report. I learned one must call and wait for the police on the spot. Makes no sense but that's the law these days. And its always a 'he said/he said' deal with little recourse. I'm not bloody, not black and blue, but I can tell you now on a Saturday morning it was hard to sleep last night and I am sore in my neck, back, arms, shoulders and even my thighs (legs).
The scary part though was an hour later when the man called my cell phone. He called to apologize in one breath, justify his actions in another, used his religion as a crutch, and his stress as a small businessman with the clients he was pitching as the factors for his outburst.
I'm not sure what it is but it seems people are more equal on the telephone than in person, as I finally had the opportunity to get some common sense injected into the conversation. It wasn't anything new - just what I had been repeating there in the home/studio office an hour earlier. I offered to have our audio producer contact him about the technical issues. Second, I offered to waive my talent fee for the English audio and suggested he use his PC mike to cut his own audio (as he ranted was not going 'hollywood.') Then the man offered to 'take me out to dinner.' I declined.
Finally, as he began to change in temperment again to justify his anger and actions I finally stood more solid ground talking about how unprofessional and out of bounds he was as a client. That I wouldn't tollerate it. I offered to eat the cost of the production and let him go his separate way - just to be rid of this guy. Finally, I cited all my pro bono work in a variety of different racial and ethnic communities. How I had never been so disrespected in my lifetime and never attacked by anyone. And that all he accomplished that morning was to cause me to second guess the racial motivations of people of color and hoping that would not become a permanent scar on my soul. I then forgave him, to which he said thank you sir. And I then fired him as a client. I made it clear I wanted no further contact in person, by telephone or e-mail. I made sure he understood, he said he did and that was it.
Later that afternoon, my audio producer called noting he checked his files, his audio pro tools program, and the burn of the back up CD. All audio was perfect. He had exchanged several e-mails with the client determining it was an 'inport' setting error, by the client, and attempted to help him troubleshoot the error. By the end of the day that client had e-mailed a response he would 'pay direct' to the producer, talent and translator -- and had the nerve to suggest they do business 'directly' in the future. My colleage called with the response (after the check is delivered and clears I wouldn't do business with this guy for a million dollars).
In closing, one of the people I've admired in my lifetime is Billy Graham. Religion aside, his ethics in business is what I've respected. He never attended a meeting alone with anyone he wasn't fully knowing. In Hotels and Public he always walked with a colleague or family member. If he were staying in a hotel he would never ride an elevator with a woman (or men later on) if he were by himself. If one entered he exited and took the stairs or waited for a colleage. He never put himself into a position to be misundertsood or taken advantage of...and that has been my greatest lesson with this situation with what turned out to be a dangerous client.
I own a home based broadcast studio and up to this point have allowed clients to meet here, and work here in my studio. I'm tempted to not be in such a situation again and rather meet only with clients in a public setting, or with the presence of a colleage or several for safety protection.
I'd hate for one bad experience to dictate my future business but I've noticed as the lines blur between consumer desktop video/audio/graphics and broadcast/industrial media services, there has been a decline of value of our profession among both consumers and agnecies alike. I'm unsure now of the present and future of my business within this climate and environment.
I wonder if I'm not alone in the concern?
Friday, August 17th, I learned Clients, Can Be Dangerous.
Glad you're ok. I would certainly alert the chamber of commerce networking group that got you in touch with this guy. The police may not be able to help you, but at least they can be aware not to help this guy out.
I've had the abusive client, but never anything like this. There really needs to be some way to publish his name somewhere so others can avoid a client like that.
Walter Biscardi, Jr.
HD Editorial & Animation for Broadcast and independent productions.
All Things Apple Podcast! http://cowcast.creativecow.net/all_things_apple/index.html
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Amazing story. I
I kind of agree with Bruce and think that a "contingent fee" (ambulance chasing) attorney might be willing to go after this guy on a civil basis, but then there's the old expression about letting sleeping dogs lie. Which means that Mark's comment probably makes the most sense.
Over the next few days you should be able to determine just how long term your injuries are. If the only lasting damage is psychological, move on. This guy easily could be enough of a whack job to pursue you the next time the chemistry in his head shifts. Let him obsess about somebody else and hope he forgets about you.
As to the discounts and shortcuts you've mentioned, it seems like more often than not the people who demand the compromises up front are the ones most critical of the resulting end product. Kind of like the client who insists on controlling the creative and at the end, when they're not satisfied, it all comes down to the fact that they don't like their own idea. Avoid these people. Run, don't walk.
There's also a sentiment I express to prospective clients: I am willing to come up with any number of ways to maximize your production dollars and the value you get from them. Lowering what I charge is NOT one of the ways I will do this.
[Nick Griffin] "I am willing to come up with any number of ways to maximize your production dollars and the value you get from them. Lowering what I charge is NOT one of the ways I will do this."
Now that's a fine "Nick Griffinism" if there ever was one. I'm going to memorize it. Thanks Nick.
Meanwhile... Steve, consider yourself lucky. The guy you encountered is probably capable of much worse and it would be unusual if this were his first episode of violence. Consider having him checked-out. Its quite likely that by striking you he violated conditions of a previous encounter with the law.
David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY
Glad you're OK.
Your experience really has NOTHING to do with "the business". You could substitue "home contstruction contractor" for video editing and the story would be the same.
This man clearly either has a chemical problem or is just mentally unstable. The second he touched you, he crossed the line. I can't believe you even took his call.
Run, don't walk from this guy. There's nothing good that can come of continued contact. Whatever money is at stake is NOT worth your life.
Make a police report. I don't care what they told you. You have a witness to this action. That's all you need.
Stay away from him.
[mark raudonis] "Make a police report. I don't care what they told you. You have a witness to this action. That's all you need."
Don't count on these people as witnesses. It sounds like they're just as terrified of this man as you were, but they've chosen to stay with him--probably out of fear.
This sounds like one of those stories that ends in disaster. If you decide to sue or to call the police, expect this guy to visit you somewhere. You don't sound like an agressive person so be advised that once people(?) like this get a taste of power, they will proceed to push that as far as thay can. They're called bullies. Bullies cannot be reasoned with. They are the poster child for the term - bi-polar.
Move on and don't let this guy determine how you conduct business. Keeping your calm was the best thing you could do and if he goes ahead a pays everyone direct and you only have to give up a few dollars to lose this guy, that's a cheap lesson. I'm sure that non of your associates will have anything to do with him.
It's a dry heat!
Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut Pro systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
Get a retraining order first thing monday morning.
And a Sig Sauer
It's a dry heat!
Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut Pro systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
One of the perks of the sheer variety of work I do is I get to peek in on many other people's specialties. I have worked on video programs about domestic violence and abuse before, and listened to the experts talk, so I'm going to put on my fake Doctor Phil bald pate wig here and tell you, man, this narrative had deja vu written all over it.
Guy sounds like a classic wife beater, if the original post is accurate, and I fear for the other colleague's safety. Spouse abusers and pimps alike alternate in their behavior between aggression, then apology, excuses (the racial thing is just an excuse) and bargaining and sweet-talk and gifts, until they again reach a triggering event and escalate the violence again. The cycle only accellerates with each revolution. That you are a man makes no difference in his behavior cycle. It is about asserting control thru intimidation and violence.
He got you suckered in initially because you were in a financially weak position and it compromised your boundaries and maybe judgement. He might have sensed that, but unless you're a really good poker player, again, there's not much you could have done differently at the outset. The abusers never begin a cycle with a new person on the violent side: they always start on the "Romeo" side. And that nice guy side may last for a good long time at first. It's only later that they morph into the monster, after getting some hooks into you. Sometimes the abuser is not really conscious of the cyclic behavior, they suppress the knowledge they are doing this, they have themselves convinced they are merely reacting to external, provocative stimuli. Others DO know exactly what they are doing, they are the more sadistic types. And if you're not an initially suspicious person by nature, it is not anyone's fault you didn't see into his soul in the first five minutes and recognize he was evil. So don't blame yourself. HE's the whackjob.
You should have filed a police report the same hour after this happened. Even if nothing resulted immediately from that, it would begin to establish a documented pattern of this guy's behavior. That can only benefit you later, should you file a tort or whatever.
Second, break off all contact with this person and do not respond to any further overtures or communications from this person in any way. You have to interrupt the cycle, not feed or enable him. Any outstanding contractual obligations should be conducted thru an intermediary, like a lawyer.
I am undecided as to the utility of blackballing the person, only because it could trigger more violence against you when he finds out it came from you, and that striking back in that manner is to an extent enabling the guy, giving him more contact to feed off of. Like Internet trolls, they get off on the continued dialog, even if it's just trading insults. The way to starve them is to not play along. This guy sounds like he'll burn thru all the local vendors soon enough without your help. You may in fact have already been the last guy in town that would work with him. So, my feeling is, ok to pursue police/court action regarding the assault, particularly if he re-contacts you, because the system will be the intermediary there, but let everything else go.
You probably will be reliving these events for a while, and armchair-quarterbacking yourself on what else you could have or should have or didn't do. These are normal feelings and reactions to have after such an assault. And you WERE assaulted. Heck, you were battered, too, to be technical about it: assault is the threat to commit the battery upon you. So you're going to make yourself upset for a while replaying everything in your head and judging yourself, and that's normal, but not helpful. Don't let yourself obscess on it. Do share your feelings with trusted confidants, get it a little off your chest, write it down and process it, so you can think clearly and start to put some emotional distance on it. Only then can you act like a smart businessman regarding the situation, and what if anything you'd do different with other clients from now on. Perhaps having a neutral place to meet off-site is a good thing for certain situations.
You may find that actively going out and doing something positive and charitable for someone else after something like this helps take the feeling of helplessness and anger down a peg. Your empathy is going to be heightened for a while, might as well put it to positive, healing use. You don't have to build an orphanage or anything, but just be open to doing nice little spontaneous daily mitzvas for people here and there: hold a door open, plug someone's parking meter for them, that kind of thing. Fight hate with love. Done any pro-bono's lately?
I don't know that what you told the guy about how his behavior may change your race perceptions was just for his benefit, in the heat of conflict, or if it really reflected your feelings at the time, but I would suggest that now, in the cool light of reason, you know in your heart this is not really the case; that this kind of violence and abuse really is independent of any race or class or even gender, it's just aberrant human behavior. The fact he used those terms on you doesn't make him right and you wrong. He used words on you as a tool and a weapon to manipulate you and he tried to pick something that would get under your skin, so to speak. If you are comfortable with who you are and what you believe, you will know what is true about yourself and what is merely a provocation designed to elicit an emotional response. So please, don't let that fester, and don't let one aberrant guy volunteer to represent an entire people.
Sorry there wasn't more marketing-specific help in my post, but what you had was not really a marketing or business problem, IMO. Except in the sense that, when you're hungry, the temptation to drop your guard and take bigger risks is always there. And there are predators out there looking to capitalize on that. At such times, it's good to call a time out, check your head here with us, or any friend or other colleague. Their detachment and distance form the situation can prove most valuable. Maybe at some apropriate time, writing yourself a little list of rules and keeping it by the phone or somewhere visible could be helpful. Little sayings, aphorisms, hard limits on billing, whatever. Stuff you know and take for granted but may forget you know when some guy is all in your face.
I bid you peace and good fortune, and that you get past this and continue with success. Let us know of any key developments, we're all pulling for you here, I am sure.
If we had a best post of the month award this one would be #1 with a bullet. Guess the Dr. Phil in you was REALLY paying attention during those abusive spouse video shoots!
I'm no Dr. Phil but I have an actual bald head! I agree to get seen by a doctor and talk to the police, to hear your options and rights. Years ago I received a threatening letter from a former co-worker. It was a lot of hot air about "knowing me making the Holocaust seem like a good idea" (I am not making this up), but talking to the local State Trooper set my mind at ease.
I will speak to the "clients thinking they can edit video" part of the thread. I often paraphrase Jeff Goldblum's line from Jurassic Park, "Just because you can clone dinosaurs doesn't mean you should clone dinosaurs."
In other words, just because you can buy a laptop and Premiere Elements or iMovie, doesn't mean you should assume you have the same skills as a pro. Also, and this comes from experience, just because your son/daughter/secretary's kid has a Mac does not mean you can forgo paying a pro to make your project.
Sure, some of the videos I receive, with the giveaway iMovie titles and iDVD movie theater menu are actually pretty good, but you get the occasional hack job. Sometimes I spend five minutes cleaning up some flash frames or bad edits and don't say anything to anyone.
One of the most common things I see is short cuts. Not Family Circus style short cuts through the neighbor's yard, I mean cuts lasting 1-2 seconds. If you are doing an action sequence or even dialogue, a 1-2 second cut may be ok. But if you are demonstrating something, for example surgery, anything less than 3 seconds is just too short. I will occasionally slow down a cut to make it better.
Back in the mid-90's we received the occasional video with lots of star wipes and Video Toaster effects, but luckily those have mostly disappeared.
Bad audio is another common nuisance of DIY videos. Many people buy one of those headset mics, suitable perhaps for a Skype conversation, but the recorded audio can be distorted, low in volume or full of hiss or electrical interference. Not much you can do about some of that.
The worst is when you need to call someone and say "the audio levels in your video are inadequate" or "the use of the Titanic music in the background is illegal (actual experience)." In many cases, the response is something similar to "uhhh...drrrr..huh?"
Another memorable quote from the past year actually, is "Mike, when you were talking in that meeting about submitting edited video clips, I saw Bob Smith's eyes glaze over. And Bob is 30 years old."
In other words, computer savvy does not equal video / multimedia savvy. Sometimes it does, but sometimes it is like saying "I play basketball at the YMCA, so surely I have the same skills as those overpaid NBA players." Well, maybe that is an exaggeration!
Wow. That is one scary story.
I must say, however, that I can't believe you continued to offer discounts, breaks, compromises etc. much less communicated at ALL after he physically assaulted you. You should have immediately called the cops, filed a report, and sued the living $%%# out of him.
Hind site 20/20 and all of that...
That was an awful experience and I'm sorry you had to go through it.
Clients that yell and scream have NO place in my business. Frustrating events happen, but it's how we handle them that defines us. If this weren't a family forum, I'd probably have some nice definitions for this guy based on how he handled frustrating events...
Try to turn lemons into lemonade. Write a script based on this idiot. Something ala "Cape Fear" or the first half of "Full Metal Jacket". Maybe you can make it a short, and start with "Based on a true story". People love that.
Worst case, you make it only for yourself and have a cathartic experience (base his anger on the fact that he was born with no...um...masculine appendage, or something equally funny). Best case, you create an award winning short that puts you on the map and you'll never have to work for somebody like him again.
John Davidson____ writer | producer | director____http://www.magicfeather.tv
Thanks for everyone for posting your support and encouragement. its meant a lot.
A few minutes ago I was able to file a Class C report (here in Texas) of the assault. The officer and department said it classified as a class A (prosecutable) and can (if I choose) bump to to a class A depending on the outcome of the Medical exam I am having tomorrow morning (8/21).
Moreover, this is on the record, I have a case number and the business card of my area's police representative. If the man calls further, shows up at my home/studio, or makes threats in public all I have to do is call 911 and give the case number. They can arrest and detain him on the spot (if needed).
There's really not much more to be gained by going any harder on him. I see this report as an 'insurance' policy I've done the right thing -- and have law enforcement support if ever needed. But suing this guy (at this point) doesn't really achieve anything other than ramping up his anger. I'm taking care of parents in their 80s, one in Hospice care (after a stroke) and NONE of us needs any more drama (or Trauma).
In Business I have re-examined HOW I conduct business and how I WILL conduct business from this point forward.
#1. I won't meet wtih clients in a home/office situation. I will agree to meet in public.
#2. My standards have raised from a C level to an A. That means they are A clients or they are not MY clients. (Referrarl, solid reputation, able to afford my work).
#3. I won't cut out PRO BONO but will be highly more selective for who, when, where and how much.
#4. This will apply to ALL clients - even those religious ones I once gave a free pass. No more free passes.
#5. Unless there is a major exception I will not allow clients in my home, home/office, and home/studio.
#6. When possible, I will secure employment in a production facility, television station, or salaried in a corporate/business environment.
#7. My relaxed freelance days (for any client) are over.
#8. My business plan goes back to mid to large sized clients/accounts
#9. I won't produce for any more small time unrelated industries (web pages, HR Training, video e-mail) entreprenuers and/or Multi-level-marketing people as a rule.
I know our industry (broadcast/business) has ventured into those waters -- but the consumer driven company (client) is one who never appreciates what we bring to the table (and probably never will).
I will work at Wal Mart for $10.00 an hour in the photo finishing department before I ever accept any client who will not pay my $125.00 an hour for post production and $175.00 per hour for Field Camera work. Because the average last few clients (in the drop your shorts categories) have wound up in the $10.00 (or less) category for what were supposed to be $100.00 per hour charges.
I used to bend backwards to grow and develop a client. There was once a time when it was advantageous (twenty years ago). But even then I did so in a television station, with a full crew (and staff behind me), a company that was loyal (and protective) of us, and clients who had to purchase a substantial advertising schedule to qualify for free (to low cost) spot TV :30 advertising. Nonprofits had to qualify for free PSA production too.
The key is not to let one's guard down.
And no more business with bullies. I won't hesitate to cut any client off for the least amount of it. Life's too short not to. More communication too with my co-op of producers.
If anything I feel foolish for having let so many wannabe's into my studio and producing break even work to develop something larger that never transpired.
A local MAJOR producer has done the same thing. Facilities that are 'closed' to the public, including their clients. I read a post in another topic of IF THEY TRUST ME TO DO THE JOB FOR THEM IT WILL BE FINE. IF THEY DON'T I DON'T NEED THEM. Tough words - right attitude. Protective. The major producer here was broken into awhile back where the thieves stole specific items. Their sales rep pretty much knew who it was for the way they acted during the facilities tour. But, with no security cameras, nothing could ever be proved.
There's a reason television stations are so heavilly protected these days. Same with companies and heavy industry. Living in the subburbs just lulled me into a comfort zone that should be re-examined. I have and have made the appropriate adjustments.
As far as the bully goes - there's a record of what transpired. Any other calls there will have priority response. And I'll be subtle to the producers I know to stay clear of this guy. At least a warning. I won't go near him at all.
For those who thought I was quick to give away the farm to him (when he turned hostile) I figured less than $400.00 was not going to break me and if I could get out of his home on that alone it was worth every penny. I kept my cool and eventually walked out. Whats the saying about a crash landing? Any crash landing you can walk away from was a good landing. So I landed well. And did the right move alerting the authorities. Filed the report.
Thanks to all for your well wishes, support and counsel. I've got more questions down the line on marketing but really appreciate this BUSINESS forum as a place to talk about these unspoken business issues and find solid support and counsel. Again, thanks to all.
Steve Myers Productions
Arlington (DFW) Texas
I found it highly ironic a large pro video facility was robbed and had no security cameras watching things. You often see that "shoemaker's kids run barefoot" thing happening in the biz.
Steve, I like that you are setting yourself written rules and priorities. I agree with a lot of the principles there. IMO it's a little stronger than I would have gone, but then again this event didn't happen to me and I don't pretend to know your intimate business situation.
Banning all clients from the home office is understandable after your event, and probably smart if you can swing having a formal office space for the paying customers. I don't know that the higher-end customer base you're now targeting will react well to a "black box" approach, but if you still work on giving them the feeling of being "hands-on", with you being very responsive, maybe they won't care where they get it done so long as you GET it done right. In the eighties you just weren't a happening concern if you didn't have a hip and highly decorated "creative space" for the clients to visit and feel special in. These days the "lean and hungry" aspect is up front - what decor your suites have and the quality of the client snack trays takes a back seat to results.
Let me make one other suggestion about clients to pursue: why not be your own client once in a while? What I mean is, consider using your home office base of operations as the center for your own self-financed projects. A documentary, or a theatrical short, whatever creative project you've always had an idea to do in the back of your head. Do a Roger Corman (in the financial sense) and cobble together some financing and start shooting that dream project on the side. Don't wait for retirement, you may wake up dead next week and hate that you never got it done when you had a chance.
That project is also going to benefit from your enhanced empathy and all the emotional and intellectual ferment going on in your head right now. You are like a charged-up battery right now and you don't know it: unleash that force on your dream project, see if I'm not right and that you'll be amazed how much you accomplish in a short time with it.
I do my best and fastest writing when I am spitting mad. Use that energy. Tap into your muse.
Thanks Mark. Will do (the self financed project). Had several planned (went on hold for the tyranny of the urgent).
On clients and the process. For the big ones (proposed this to one recently)- since they were so involved in the approval steps (copy, video, audio) I proposed to edit on location (in their offices). To expedite the process (of review copies). That $85,000 would have been really welcome - (could have passed on the $450.00 troubled client.) They liked the idea but passed (due to time restrictions and not willing to dedicate employee time to the project with an Oct 1 deadline - bid in late June).
I remember those 'creative spaces' of the 80s/90s. Pretty much disappeared past 2001.
For smaller clients (I could see renting office space by the day/week) in one of several 'public' places. Pre Cor America (here) is a facility with a few offices for rent, a conference room, and a phone line system (answered by a live voice sounding like a larger company). Identifies what line is being called and a script for the receptionist. Could easily factor it into the budget.
I need to retire $35k of debt. Sounds easy. Wish it were. I may leave the industry (for a while) to retire it (and come back later to produce for clients of my choosing). Or solely my projects. A friend's company in El Paso does just that. He makes his income off DVD sales. And Documentaries are really where I live.
Thanks for the suggestions. Shy of real counseling (and able to afford a good massage therapist) I am 'fragemented.' Feel a little better (inwardly) about filing the basic report. Don't feel like he just 'got away with it,' and yet didn't press deep (him not being questioned or harassed per se - as he might see it). Gives me legal options. Feel better about that.
Just not sure what to do for a living now. To retire that $35k. Tied here (caring for the parents). Had a rich relative pass recently. Will won't be read for another few weeks. Not banking on anything. Would rather have him alive. He was a good soul. And one good client could erase that $35k in a heartbeat. The good motivation though it not to settle for 'whatever' and retain some dignity in the process. Hard to do with pressing bills but still the wisest thing over all.
Thanks again for the suggestions.
ADD kept me from reading every word but you summed it up yourself. You had bad vibes from him from the get-go. Don't do bidness with people ya get these vibes from. Walk away, run away or let voice mail take their calls but life is too short to do great work for somone you hope will appriciate it.
nay... it's too damn long for that.
I had a grinder that simply could not come in without trying to leave with a freeby. He first started trying to charge it to his client and then trying to make me eat it. Dude represented 6 figures of my income so it was real easy to "suck it up" for a long time. It endied burn out and I just didnt like working for him anymore. Simple enough. I just stopped doing that.
I had another client that wa relativly famus and the every project I did for him made t to my reel because it was so glamoros or high end. The thing was, nobdy else in town would work for him because he was such a tirant in the suite. I'm a people person. I can get along with anybody but his dude really enjoyed belittling people. Again, easy to suck up for a while, impossible to do it forever. One day he decided to chunk a beta tape at a brother. Just before it hit me in the face, I raised my hand and the corner of it cut my wrist.
I let him know that at that point I was not an editor but a man and that because I could run faster than he could, he should get started right freakin now.
My point is the customer is not always right. As a metter of fact, they seldom are, which is why they come to experts. I have found doing business with only people you elect to mks for a better environment both at work and then at home and of course makes for a better product, which then feeds your bottom line in the long run.
Listen to those little voices when ya meet someone. They are ALWAYS correct. This is a built in defense sense that should not be ignored.