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Gary Chvatal
Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 5:09:50 pm

I don't do a lot of commercial production but was recently asked to do a small political spot for a local PAC.

I know political spots can generate a lot of revenue during the political season...but do any have reservations producing spots for candidates or issues that you are personally opposed to? I want the potential client to submit an outline of their ideas before I agree to do the spot.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 5:27:24 pm

This is a question every producer/editor has to asnwer for themself. But I wouldn't work on a political spot unless I agreed with it, and hang how much money was involved. Same with other things like making ads for products like cigarettes, for example. Others may take a more mercenary view and divorce their personal feelings from their pay check, and that's their own business. I just know I can't do that. Even if the money is good. It would be blood money.


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Todd Terry
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 5:34:32 pm

Mark is a better man than I am.

We've done tons of politicals, everything from the lowliest city election to national races.... often we know nothing about the candidates at all, especially if they are for races not in our area. Maybe that makes me a bad guy. Probably.

I struggled with the same question for a while, but finally realized that if you want to do political spots, but only want to work for candidates that you personally and completely support and whose views you follow... then you're not going to be doing much political work.

Some would say we've sold our souls to the devil... but unless it's a candidate that we just really REALLY can't comfortably work for, we'll pretty much take anyone's money as long as the checks clear.

There are a couple of upsides to doing political... one being that generally the political work that comes to us is usually funneled through a campaign consulting company... therefore were are usually just handed a script and told to do it, and don't have to be in much on the concept end. That helps a lot if it's a candidate that you're not 100% personally behind or have a vested interest in. We had a big highly-volatile mayor's race last year that we DID do a lot of the concepting and creative on... however I was personally very much for that candidate and was a staunch supporter of him (and he won, thank God), so that was easy.

The other great thing about politicals, is that they usually don't bat an eye at fairly decent budgets... and because of election laws and the money rules and regs they pay fast fast fast.

In the end, whether to do them or not is a problem you have to wrestle with yourself. I'm reminded of a great exchange on the wonderful show "Mad Men" where someone was berating the agency's creative director Don Draper over a particular client they accepted. They guy asked "How do you sleep at night???" Don's answer? "On a bed made of money."

Fortunately I don't think my attitude is nearly as severe as Don's. I don't have a bed of money, either.

All of us who do commercial production "whore ourselves out" to one degree or another. We don't necessarily use nor would personally recommend to our friends all the products that we help sell. If you can look at a politician as another product... do it. If your conscience won't let you, then steer clear.

I guess some in here will think I'm a bad bad man.



T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Nick Griffin
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 5:32:15 pm

Three things to remember:

1) Politicals PAY IN ADVANCE, not to say that you can't provide approval copies with t/c burned in, but NEVER RELEASE BROADCAST-ABLE MATERIALS WITHOUT BEING PAID, AND HOPEFULLY WITH THE CHECK FULLY CLEARED.

2) Once you work with a side: R, D, Pro, Against; you almost always are associated with that side and expected to stay with that side (should you plan on continuing to work with politicals.)

3) Politicals PAY IN ADVANCE - ALWAYS



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Todd Terry
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 6:02:00 pm

Nick's advice is very good, as always... but I'll just make an addendum or two...

YES, get paid in advance, if it is an individual that you are working for. That's less of a hard and fast rule if you are not working directly for the individual candidate or hastily-formed PAC. With only a few exceptions almost all of the political work we have done has actually been for an advertising agency or a political consultant. In those cases, these particular companies and agencies are big and well established and have been around for years and years. I think in the past we have always billed them net/30 just like any other client, and they have always paid that fast or faster. Many times they come in to view the spot for approval with a check in hand. Since that's the standard MO in the political world, most of them are used to it. Now, a brand-new first-time candidate who is not dealing with any kind of political "consulting machine" might not be aware of that... in that case, YES, get his money first.

Whether you are labeled as a "red" or "blue" or whatever side, largely depends on what your role is in the whole shootin' match. If you do creative, concepting, and ground-up consulting, then yes indeedy, you will probably be labeled one or the other. Political consultants, especially, always specialize in one side of the aisle or the other. Now, if you are "just" the production company, it doesn't matter. We've done spots for Democrats and Republicans alike. There's actually been a time or two that we've had one party's candidate in a primary, and (assuming they didn't win the primary) we've then done the opposite party's candidate in the general election. Even though what we do we like to think of as creative, unless you are in on the ground-up concepting of a whole campaign clients generally don't care who you have supported in the past.... provided that you do good work.

There's also been a time or two when we've been approached by a candidate who might genuinely be a good guy or gal... but let's say that they are a complete political newbie going up against a long-time incumbent and we absolutely know in our heart of hearts that they don't stand a snowball's chance of winning. Do we take their money knowing that they are throwing that cash away? Well, yes, we do... and I have to admit that I've felt a little bad about that on occasion. But they are going to spend it somewhere, and it might as well be with us, and we work just as hard for them and try to do just as good a job as we would any client. And, it may just be the first step in a long political career... everyone has to start somewhere, and a losing election is often the first step. A few years ago we worked our butts off for a newbie candidate in a local mayoral race, and we knew he didn't have a prayer of winning... which he didn't. But today he is a U.S. Congressman.

The thing I don't like with politicals, is when things get dirty... which they often do. If we are ever in on the concepting end, I try my best to "keep it clean" and stay as free from any mudslinging as possible.


T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com






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Nick Griffin
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 1, 2009 at 11:33:44 am

[Todd Terry] "Now, if you are "just" the production company, it doesn't matter."

What I've seen in and around Washington DC is a severe polarization. The agencies and consultants who work with one side don't want their spots in the hands of anyone who might reveal them in advance to the other side. Concept work or not typically once you are on a side the other side wants nothing to do with you.

[Todd Terry] "I think in the past we have always billed them net/30 just like any other client,"

In some cases that may be OK, but then again BE CAREFUL. The one and only time I was screwed for a few thousand dollar, last minute radio buy was by a candidate who basically said "trust me" then AFTER HE WON said something to the effect that I "knew the risk" I was taking because I'd always been paid in advance on everything else. Four years later when his supporters (who obviously had NO idea of what had gone on after the last election) gave me a retainer. We used the money, about four times the amount I had been screwed on, to fund internal "research" before a meeting with the candidate where I quit. He was mildly furious that his people had given me money without consulting him. I laughed all the way home -- to a home well outside of his jurisdiction. (Oh, yea. And he LOST in his reelection bid. Guess I wasn't the only one who knew what an a-hole he was.)

One thing that's been briefly mentioned, Politicals do have good budgets and the thing I liked the most was they HAVE TO spend the money they've raised -- unlike a business where the owners or stockholders can opt to simply KEEP the money they would otherwise spend on advertising.




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walter biscardi
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 6:32:23 pm

My own personal feelings are I would only do commercials I agree with.

And I agree with NIck, you get paid up front BEFORE you release the spot.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Owner, Biscardi Creative Media featuring HD Post

Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
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Tim Wilson
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 10:25:34 pm

1) Cash on the barrelhead for sure. Every candidate I've worked with has assumed this anyway, so it has never come up.

2) Heinous is heinous, and you'll know if you don't want to do a commercial for somebody.

Otherwise, I'm with Todd - you can't overthink this stuff. I did a whole lot of political work, including for my wife - still the only politician I ever entirely trusted. :-)

But that's the thing. You have to trust the PROCESS...which is tough, because the only people more mean, stupid, venal, greedy, ego-driven and short-sighted than politicians are voters.

Once I did some consulting for an election re: an area possibly incorporating as a town. One of the biggest fears was the peril of electing to a new town council their ACTUAL NEIGHBORS, known beyond any doubt to be MORONS.

In the heat of one meeting, this guy who was strongly in favor of creating the new town said, "I promise that, if this comes to pass, we WILL elect idiots. We always do."

Huge laughter from all sides.

Which is why you can't split these hairs too fine. Would you do an ad for a restaurant you don't like? For a car you don't drive? Do you make sure that the furniture store delivers on time? Or that the nightclub follows noise and occupancy rules? Or that the hospital has never fallen out of compliance with any regulations? Any funky insurance claims or drugs gone missing?

From the client's perspective, do they ask YOU what YOUR politics are? Do they have to pay you only if they win?

It doesn't work that way.

I had one election where I did a commercial for a candidate who lost his primary....then worked the general election for the person from the other party...who won. Both of them continued to work with me, and neither had a problem with me working with the other. It helped that they never ran head to head, but that's how it goes in the political world. You do good work. Word spreads.

I'm not saying that politics don't matter, or that all candidates are the same. I certainly know folks doing political work who limit themselves to one party, coalition or issue. If you want to vet potential clients as closely as you do candidates, that's fine.

But you can drive yourself crazy with this stuff. I know that this may put me in the "bad man" pile with Todd, but my iron-clad rules for clients have always been the same: 1) Will they pay me for this job? 2) Will they be glad that they worked with me? The rest tended to take care of itself. Like whether or not we ever worked together again.

The wheel of karma never stops turning. No act need ever stand alone. If you're sorry your work helped get somebody elected, volunteer for an organization that supports a cause you believe in. Offer discounted services to their opponent. Whatever you need to do.

But the wheel also knows that if you act in good faith, good faith returns to you. Trust the process.


Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

My Blog: "Is this thing on? Oh it's on!"




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David Roth Weiss
Re: Political Spots
on Aug 31, 2009 at 10:31:44 pm

[Tim Wilson] " the only people more mean, stupid, venal, greedy, ego-driven and short-sighted than politicians are voters."

Oh come on Tim, lawyers and agents make both politicians and voters seem like angels.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 1, 2009 at 2:20:06 am

[David Roth Weiss] "lawyers and agents make both politicians and voters seem like angels."

I couldn't disagree more. Lawyers and agents are just like you and me - paid to work for clients. All part of the process...and I trust the process. The worst lawyers and agents know that there are limits. They have to ask a favor tomorrow from their opponent today. If they break the process, it's broken for them too. The wheel of karma rolls.

It's also why people can successfully switch from prosecutors (go after bad guys - even if the case is weak and they might have the wrong guy) to defenders (give the small guy a fighting chance - even if they might be guilty). They trust the process, and the rolling of the wheel.

I knew a lawyer whose law degree was paid for by a govt ageny, after, as a scientist, he had secured a huge patent that they used. His first case won a huge settlement for them from a corporate bad guy, still the largest of its kind. A few decades later, in private practice, he sued this same agency on behalf of some citizens who wanted to limit the scope of its powers.

I asked him how he could do this, and he said he loved EVERYTHING about this area of the law, and could see, and live with, both sides of it. The govt agency continued to work with his staff on other issues while he was suing them on this one.

I found all this while working with both the agency and this lawyer. Both paid me well. Nobody involved saw any conflict.
The wheel, man. The wheel.

It's why agents can move into management, even ownership - negotiation is negotiation, regardless of the side of the table they're on. Give this time. Receive next time.

Voters don't respect the wheel. They'd rather it bend to their whims.

That's all I'm going to say about that...but regardless of our mutual positions, I've never had a bad experience working for a politician or lawyer, or the couple of times I've worked with agents...or AS an agent. Their checks and balances move in real time, around the rolling of the wheel, as it both goes around and comes around.

That's also why I won't work for some specific positions on some specific issues...but more generally for officeholders and other clients, including lawyers, the rest takes care of itself over time.

The sermon endeth. Go in peace to love and serve.


Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

My Blog: "Is this thing on? Oh it's on!"


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Christopher Wright
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 1, 2009 at 3:47:31 am

Once upon a time I was doing political ads in the same area at the same time for all three political parties (Elephants, Donkeys, and Greens). Each one wanted me to spill the beans on the other's campaign plans and I politely refused, and just shot and edited the different spots. Fortunately it never got sleazy or libelous on any parties side, although I did pointedly have to turn down one group who wanted me to stalk a candidate outside of his gated community in papparazi type fashion. The most bizarre incident was having Newt Gingrich on speaker phone with my client and the RNC barking marching orders.

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walter biscardi
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 1, 2009 at 12:08:04 pm

[Tim Wilson] "I couldn't disagree more. Lawyers and agents are just like you and me - paid to work for clients. All part of the process...and I trust the process. The worst lawyers and agents know that there are limits. They have to ask a favor tomorrow from their opponent today. If they break the process, it's broken for them too. The wheel of karma rolls.
"


Yep, have to agree here. I have had very good experiences with lawyers and have an excellent right now. It's Producers and Executive Producers who I have had the most trouble with during my years in business. There is absolutely no ethical fiber in some of these people and they will simply steal anything at the drop of a hat.





Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author.
Credits include multiple Emmy, Telly, Aurora and Peabody Awards.
Owner, Biscardi Creative Media featuring HD Post

Biscardi Creative Media

Creative Cow Forum Host:
Apple Final Cut Pro, Apple Motion, Apple Color, AJA Kona, Business & Marketing, Maxx Digital.

Read my Blog!

Twitter!


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Tim Wilson
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 1, 2009 at 1:50:20 pm

[walter biscardi] "[Tim Wilson] "I couldn't disagree more. Lawyers and agents are just like you and me - paid to work for clients..."

Yep, have to agree here"


Upon further review, I wouldn't be surprised if David's note about the evils of lawyers and agents isn't a little Hollywood humor, in which case mine was an even more hair-triggered response than usual.

In the context of business and working in the field of political spots, I want to also underscore Nick's point: candidates have always come to me with money in the bank, ready to pay on the spot. They NEED to spend that money.

Even the ones who have their pitches already in hand, handlers with strong opinions, etc. have typically been very open to my suggestions for "looking better" -- much more so than commercial clients. So as a producer, I found them very, very easy to work with.

It can be especially rewarding to work for people that you strongly believe in...but to my point about the wheel of karma, I had to be honest with myself about all this:

1) The hospitals I worked COULD have killed a lot of people in short order, let them die from negigence, crippled them with bad drug interactions, and a host of other real-world, right-now mistakes that could never be corrected.

2) The resorts I worked with surely served underage drinkers now and again. They were probably mostly fine with letting impaired drivers get back in their care.

3)Restaurants I worked with almost surely passed along virulent pathogens, just because they paid too little for their fish or didn't make sure their staff washed their hands before they washed the lettuce.

See what I'm saying? I could easily have checked this stuff - but I didn't. Those businesses had ethical responsibilities that they did not have lived up to - but I didn't feel it was MY ethical responsibility to check them out.

Maybe I was taking the easy way out, but seriously, I didn't have time to apply this level of scrutiny to ever potential job. It just wasn't worth it to me.

So for clients of every stripe, I set up a general sniff test. Since my first sniff test involves whether they're going to pay me, and candidates ALWAYS did, 100% up front, I was able to move through a lot of the other sniff tests with candidates in pretty short order -- with no more or less effort than I put into every other kind of client.

THAT's my point. Set whatever standards you want, but my recommendation, like Todd's, is not to overthink this.

FWIW, the only kind of work that I categorically turned down was weddings, and it had nothing to do with my feelings about marriage. It turns out that some of them folks would have been just GREAT for repeat business. :-)



Tim Wilson
Creative Cow Magazine!

My Blog: "Is this thing on? Oh it's on!"


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Bill Davis
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 1, 2009 at 10:14:04 pm


What ever label you put on them, pols, lawyers, agents, candidates, etc, etc.

At the end of things they're people. Which means you'll face a RANGE of human behavior when dealing with them.

Personally, I expect EVERYONE to have reasonable ethics - consistent with my personal standards - if I'm going to agree to work with them.

Cause I've learned the following in life.

If they'll lie in a spot - they'll lie to my face.
Even if they just "mislead" in their copy - you can be sure they'll be just fine in "misleading" you at the drop of a hat, too.

I'm too old and have worked too hard for too many years to accept associating myself with people I can't trust.

It's too damn stressful.

There ARE fine people out there. Some are redish, some are bluish and some are actually grown ups who've learned not give a rats behind about anyone's color (in any sense) - but in their personal qualities as a whole human being.

Those are the people I enjoy spending my time with the most.

Ideologues of ANY stripe are boring - and today, too damn many politicos are ideologues. People who have disengaged their brains in order to feel better about what others tell them they should feel, think and do.

That said, a smart "life fact" is that figuring out who you're willing to hang with ALWAYS matters.
I can earn more money. I can't get my self-respect back if my work helps get a married "Mr. Morality" elected and he subsequently gets caught red-handed with a hooker in Vegas.

Like they say - Integrity is acting properly when nobody's looking.

And it doesn't matter if nobody ELSE ever discovers my VO helped elect Senator idiot. I KNOW.

Integrity in politicians is important. And uncommon enough that I think its critical for all of us to think about it, value it, and practice it.

So, NO. I don't and won't put my talent and efforts behind anything political I don't feel fits my personal standards and ideals.

Period.





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Charlie Bregg
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 2, 2009 at 9:39:26 pm

Last year I shot and directed a number of and a creative direcor that I have been familiar with for a number of years and have great respect for. While I had a few minor differences with regard to the content and stated goal of the spots, I was generally in line with the spots' point of view and political position. I would not consider working on a political campaign for a cause or a candidate that I felt had no worthwhile agenda and was polar opposite with what I thought was a right minded position.


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warrick Heever
Re: Political Spots
on Sep 3, 2009 at 6:01:19 am

I am from South Africa and do political, I have no choice. I am morally opposed to it but have to feed my family. In one of the most corrupt countries in the world I see where our stolen tax money goes. On one side I see the very poor struggling to eat and dying of aids then I see politicians in $150 000 cars living it up. I unfortunately have to document them living it up and live amongst those that can't afford to eat.

I say if you have a choice and have other projects that can pay the bills,go with your gut. you are the one that has to sleep at night. I know I battle with it everyday.


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