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in need of some serious advice

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Rob Grauertin need of some serious advice
by on Dec 13, 2009 at 8:54:43 pm

So I, along with someone else, have recently been hired full time to work on a company's corporate video. Basically, they make a DVD catalog and make annual updates when they need to.

The people that hired us went on a 10-day shoot in the middle of nowhere and left us to finish a number of videos before they get back. Ideally, they want to come back and link the finished video to the buttons on the DVD menu's they have already created.

The problem is, the footage is barely organized and not even labeled, and I feel there is very little footage to even work with, despite the terabytes of unlabeled footage. They left us under the impression that all footage and all old projects live on this drive. After diligently working all week, I don't even know how they make a DVD because I don't see any of the old projects - the stuff that doesn't need to be updated this year. I checked other drives around the facility but came up with nothing. It's like they're playing a joke on us.

I'm afraid I'm am on the verge of being fired for not being able to get this done, however, I don't feel there is anything I can do about it. I don't want to walk out, leave them hanging, and say "Screw it, you're so unorganized," but I am so close to doing so.

Has anyone else ever been in this position? What to do, what to do

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Nick GriffinRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 13, 2009 at 9:37:45 pm

Rob-

Sorry to say this, but I think you're hosed. And it's both your fault and the fault the people who hired you. They didn't properly set things up for you and you let them. At some point you should have asked (demanded?) at least a couple of hours for you to go through the assets, their condition and their locations BEFORE they split town.

Now you're left to either point out that their stuff was not as organized as they thought it was or that they made a serious error in expecting an outsider to read their minds with no input. OR... they're grinding you, knowing that to get their project done in the timeframe given you'll need to devote 20+ hour days to sifting through their stuff to find what's there and what's not.

I may be wrong, but I don't see how this ends well. Sorry, and I do hope I'm wrong.

BTW- liked the pretzel video. For the kind of show it is it's clean, logical and holds together well. Not a glamorous piece but then again a whole lot of the work out there isn't either.


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cowcowcowcowcow
David Roth WeissRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 13, 2009 at 9:52:59 pm

As a matter of fact, I have been in a similar position and I would advise you that the only good way to deal with a situation like this is to pull the plug ASAP.

No matter how tempting it might be to try to pull something off and try to be a hero, you are better off to hold up post until the client returns to civilization. They might be slightly upset that the progress they'd hoped for hasn't happened, but at least they will realize that you made an honest call to get off the clock as soon as you realized their problem.

Hopefully, they will realize that they didn't give you the goods you needed to do the job properly, and they'll be grateful that you decided to shut down until they could be consulted.

I think you will find that if you follow this advice your chance of preserving the job for yourself is good, and maybe you'll find that their missing project files are organized and helpful. If not, at least you'll know where you stand and you won't be concerned that anything you did created the mess.

Hope this helps,
David

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
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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Rob GrauertRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 13, 2009 at 11:48:16 pm

Thanks for the advice fellas. In the future I will make it a point to confirm I have all the media I need. As a youngster in this industry, I guess some things I just have to learn the hard way.

Unfortunately though, David, even though I'd like to, I can't pull the plug. This isn't a freelance gig. I've been hired to work in the multimedia department of a company that makes shotguns. If I stop working on this project, I will be coming to work everyday with nothing to do until my supervisors return from their shoot - practically stealing the company's money since I have a salary. And besides, I know the footage exists because I've seen it from earlier versions of their DVD catalog. It's just a matter of looking for it, which isn't fun under a tight deadline.

And I'm glad you enjoyed the pretzel video, Nick. Made that in college in an attempt to emulate How It's Made. Movin onto bigger and better things now though, haha.

Thanks again guys.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Craig SeemanRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:00:49 am

Rob, you should probably focus on organizing all the material. See my post but ignore stopping to wait for them. Obviously you can't finish the project until all the material is organize. One missed deadline will result in much more efficient work in the future. If you're forthright with them, they may well appreciate that you're really thinking long term for them.



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David Roth WeissRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:03:09 am

[Rob Grauert] "'ve been hired to work in the multimedia department of a company that makes shotguns."

I understand that the temptation to go postal is probably strong, but as long as they don't store ammo nearby you'll be all right.

This is excellent experience for you -- conjuring up things out of thin air is always something that your clients will appreciate and they do pay a bit more for magic.

Meanwhile, why not show them what organization looks like? Perhaps they don't know it when they see it?

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
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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Craig SeemanRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 13, 2009 at 11:46:12 pm

There are a couple of rules you should come out this with as far as business lessons are concerned. The other posts do allude to them.

Never assume the client's description of the job is accurate.

Never agree to a time frame until you've seen the materials.


You should always ask to see the materials with the client present and discuss project organization. Once the client comes back and you can sit down with them you might find the first task would be to organize their material. If it's as big and bad as you describe I wouldn't commit to a time frame. You can tell how you think it should be organized if they don't have a plan themselves. They may appreciate your input.

The next phase might be to start on the specific projects. At that point everything is organized the way and they want and at this point you might be able to give an estimate for a specific project.

When you do meet with them give a "scope" of what you saw. Explain the organizational issues and how how you might improve things for long term efficiency and how that will save them both time and money in the long term. With the right conversation they'll appreciate that you've actually done some even if it's a basic scope and analysis. You're offering a solution to their problems and clients appreciate that. Tell them you stopped after the scope because you want them in on the decision process because this will be a long term and beneficial improvement for them. Played right, if they're night grinders, you could be a real hero. You're showing off both project managerial skills and deference to their input.

P.S. Make sure there are no shotguns in the room when you talk to them. Let them know that sometimes you have clean up the buckshot pellets before you cook the meal.


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David Roth WeissRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 12:04:56 am

Excellent advice Craig.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
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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Shane RossRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 4:57:19 am

EXCELLENT advice Craig.

I have been dumped into this situation more than a few times, and is the whole reason I made my GETTING ORGANIZED DVD. Because when I work on multiple editor shows, they are organized in such a way that we all know how to look for things...there is a uniformity to the organization. But when I land in projects or at companies that aren't used to this...have one guy who has ALWAYS done things this way, I find that I have NO CLUE how they did things. And finding stuff is a task and a half. I made this DVD in hopes that many people will use it, so when I landed at a company they MIGHT have used it and I could then find things.

I am always amazed at how people organize things. Or rather, DON'T organize things. And when I take a job at a company, I always ask for a day or two to familiarize myself with the footage and organization, or use the time to organize the footage...thus learning what I have.



Shane



GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Rob GrauertRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 1:37:46 pm

Yup, I purchased that DVD not too long ago when it was on sale. Most of the tips I have already been doing, but I definitely learned a few more great tips. I'm hoping after this project they will let me devote a lot of time to implementing that same system of organization as well as set up a data base with File Maker Pro.

As for the comments about stopping and starting to organize now: I completely agree and I'd love to do that, but I just can't. It probably will take months to organize the terabytes of footage. And these videos have to get done for the new year. They've done it in the past, so it can be done. It's just a matter of finding what I need, which I spend more time doing than actually editing. But what's the point of a DVD catalog that is months late?

I certainly value and appreciate all the advice though. Thank you.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Craig SeemanRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:27:10 pm

[Rob Grauert]
"I feel there is very little footage to even work with

I checked other drives around the facility but came up with nothing. It's like they're playing a joke on us.
...
I'm am on the verge of being fired for not being able to get this done, however, I don't feel there is anything I can do about it. "


The above is from your original post. Either you can or can't get it done. The above indicated you can't.

[Rob Grauert]
"They've done it in the past, so it can be done."

. . . maybe by the person who had done it previously. You have no idea what those circumstances were. Maybe they already knew where the source files were. Maybe they had more time.

You buy a new car and it drives well. It gets into a major collision and it no longer drives like new. You have no idea when the wreck occurred in this case.

If you can do this why did you ask for our advice?

If you don't address this situation and do fail they you certainly can be fired. The first the manager will tell you before letting you go is, "If you had a problem you should have spoken to us about it."





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Rob GrauertRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:50:23 pm

"If you can do this why did you ask for our advice? "

Because hours after my original post I eventually did find a drive with some footage that MIGHT work for the video I am having the most problems with. And that has given me some hope.


Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Rob GrauertRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 2:59:00 pm

And you're right, it was pulled together in the past because it was pulled together by those who are familiar with the content but didn't bother to organize it.

If I'm still experiencing the same problem for the next couple days, then I will tell them that can't do it due to the lack organization. But until then I feel I should work at it a little longer before finally deciding to quit..

I apologize if you feel I wasted your time, but that was not my intention at all.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Craig SeemanRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 3:09:09 pm

You should report the lack of organization immediately. You can add that you are attempting to work with things as they were left but you'd recommend an organization of the material ASAP.

If you what a few days to report that and the risk increases that the deadline is missed, you're still being remiss in not giving an immediate status report. If they know the circumstances you are working under you then give them an opportunity to make a decision that may address the issue. Withholding information under a difficult deadline is not a good employee decision. You are not being a "team player" when you exclude the rest of the team from the decision making process. If you wait, and they determine that your delay in reporting results in a missed deadline then you are responsible and they let you go, not simply for missing a deadline (which might be inevitable) but for exercising poor judgement by delaying the report.



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Rob GrauertRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 3:16:31 pm

That's actually a great idea - keep working but just let them know it will be hard to make the deadline due to the lack of organization. Sounds so simple, I dunno why I didn't think to just do that.

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Mike CohenRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 3:20:17 pm

Rob,
Chances are your employer already knows about this. Google yourself.

You may be in a situation where the employer knows they have given you a complicated project in order to test you. To test your ability to overcome adversity, and your ability to be honest with them.

Getting the job done sometimes involves asking for help.

Mike Cohen


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Mark SuszkoRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 5:20:50 pm

Welcome aboard, captain...



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Walter SoykaRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 14, 2009 at 6:07:38 pm

Don't believe in no-win situations.

This thread reminds me of a great Abraham Lincoln quote: "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Even if you don't get all the editing done by the time the crew returns from the shoot, if you can organize all the footage, the footage library will be infinitely more useful, and future work much, much faster -- and this could be a big win after all.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Chris BlairRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 17, 2009 at 3:40:13 am

I've read the entire thread and two things bother me about threads like this:

1. A young, inexperienced but well meaning Cow member posts a problem and asks for help, yet many of the replies admonish the poster for not being a "team player" or they're exercising poor judgement etc. etc. for not doing this or that.

Well....DUH. If the original poster had known that he/she wouldn't have posted asking for help! I originally joined Creative Cow about 5 years ago but experienced this exact same antagonistic attitude the first few times I asked for advice. I was a 20 year veteran at the time and decided it wasn't worth the grief. I eventually came back a couple years ago and got more involved and weathered the "storm" so to speak. There's still one particular forum on here that I continue to get hammered on about the suggestions I give to folks. It makes no sense to treat folks this way on a site that bills itself "the peer to peer support community." The original poster was polite about his request and I got the impression he was unable to speak with his supervisors because they were "in the middle of nowhere" for 10 days.

2. People reply to a post by critiquing the post itself rather than answering the questions posed. Things like, "you're in the wrong forum for that issue," or "if you don't know that then you're really in trouble," and on and on.

Give people a break....a lot of folks that post on here are thrown into doing things they have no clue how to do. Maybe you've heard that 10 million people have been laid off in the last year? That's a lot of work that's being transferred to other people. A manager or owner comes to them and says "do this and I need it next Friday." Never mind the employee has NEVER done "this" and has no one within earshot to ask. The last thing they need is for people on here to slap them on the wrist for asking something they "should already know..." or be reprimanded because they didn't give us all the details we need to fix their problem.

Ok...I feel better and I'm sure I'll get "admonished" for replying to this thread this way. But I belong to a lot of other professional video and marketing forums and this is the only site that exhibits this sort of thing.

As to the original post, my advice would be to work through the problem as best he can, be dogged about trying to reach his supervisors and managers while they're on the road to get some help, and do his best. That's all anyone can ask of someone. As to it being partly his fault for not checking his assets as others have suggested. It sounds like he's a new employee and a very young one at that, so to me that's just not relevant. You're telling me a 22 or 23 old recent graduate is supposed to know to ask these things prior to his bosses flying the coup for 10 days and not being reachable by phone or email? If anything, his superiors should've known they would have to help him along and should've made provisions for regular contact to check on the project.

I can't imagine leaving a new employee in this situation or going out of town for 10 days without ANY ability to contact someone back at the office working on an important, deadline oriented project. Plug...it's almost inconceivable that anyone could be so far in the middle of nowhere that they'd have NO contact with the outside world.

Ok...rant over....and go easy on me...please!??!

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Rob GrauertRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 17, 2009 at 1:43:29 pm

Thanks Chris.

While I have seen somewhat hostile responses on the Cow before, I don't feel I was treated that way. I do, however, feel that no one understands why I can't just stop working and start organizing their footage.

Like I said above, I was hired by a large shotgun manufacture (large meaning, many of their models are used by the military and law enforcement) and I work in their multimedia department. I don't work at a video production company, and this isn't freelance. It's more like a corporate environment (and I have to wear a button-down shirt every day). So If don't get the updates to the DVD catalog finished, saying "But look, I took the time to organize your footage" won't do me any good. The people who hired me and have the power to fire me aren't video people. To them, not getting this finished means I'm interfering with their sales.

#2, I'm just plain scared to do that. I am young. And I spent all my money to move away from home, by myself, to the DC area. I have no contacts to find work elsewhere, and I still have 11 more months left on my lease on top of car payments/insurance. I really am in no position to get fired. And while the lack of organization is keeping me from creating the best video I can create, I'm not making horrid video. Unfortunately it's just "good enough."

#3, I was always under the impression that this industry is just as much about problem solving as it is videomaking/filmmaking/story telling. So I figure I should keep working to solve this problem.

As for not checking the assets before my supervisors left: I agree, I should have done this, and I wanted to. But they were pressuring us to have a few videos finished before they even left for the trip (which didn't happen). So I kinda just started trying to edit right away. Also, like I said above, I have purchased Shane's "Getting Organized" video and much of it I was already doing...because it seemed like common sense. So I was in the mindset, "Well a schmuck, recent graduate like myself can be organized, surely these 2 guys who came from major networks are organized too," but I was wrong.

And my two supervisors are definitely in the middle of no where. They're shooting a hunting show in Arkansas, Louisiana, etc. Sometimes they are at a hotel that has internet, but phone calls are often very hard to hear and are always cut off eventually.

I appreciate your advice to keep working through the problem. I've been working hard and have been working 14 hour days, and it seems we will make the deadline. I will definitely talk with them about the organization when they get back. If they are not into it, then I suppose I'll be looking for a new job. I just can't work like this. It's not fun when you can't get into that groove where 10 hours of editing feels like 10 minutes.

Thanks again!

Robert J. Grauert, Jr.
http://www.robgrauert.com


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Chris BlairRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 18, 2009 at 2:44:36 am

Rob,

First...you're welcome. Second...I think as long as you continue to work the problem and continue to attempt to keep your 2 supervisors up to date about problems you're having as well as the progress you're making, you'll be fine.

Most business people I know understand that as long as someone is working hard, trying to find information, and making a sincere effort to get the job done, there's not much more you can ask of them. They also understand (or should) that they cannot expect to throw a new employee onto a disorganized project and expect them to complete the job in the same amount of time it would've taken them to do it.

If nothing else, it's a great first lesson out of college. I always tell our college interns that the work environment is NOTHING like what you experience in college. You have less time, usually less information, and often no formal training to do many of the tasks you're asked to do. So good employees figure stuff out. The first time through a project is almost always a nerve racking affair, but believe me, it'll get easier. Stick it out and it'll likely be worth it.

I've also told interns that I feel like I learned more from what could be considered "bad" jobs than the good ones. Why? Because I learned what NOT to do on projects, which makes identifying the right things much easier! I also always had more chances to try new tasks at the "bad" jobs because most people were just slogging their way through the day, while I was trying to learn as many things as I possibly could. They were all happy and willing to let me do whatever I wanted!

Anyway...you sound like a concientious guy with a good head. Chances are good it'll all work out in the end.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN
http://www.videomi.com


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Walter SoykaRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 18, 2009 at 5:10:45 pm

[Chris Blair] "Most business people I know understand that as long as someone is working hard, trying to find information, and making a sincere effort to get the job done, there's not much more you can ask of them."

Just to elaborate on this point a little more -- from your boss's perspective, you don't necessarily learn much about a vendor or an employee when a project goes well. When the wheels fall off, though, and you see how they respond to a crisis, you learn who you can really trust.

If you panic, shut down, avoid the work, and pass the buck, then you will fail -- but as Chris mentioned, this is clearly NOT the path you're on.

If you avoid panic,clearly identify the problem and consequences, keep communication open and honest, marshall whatever resources are at your disposal, develop and execute a plan to fix the problem as best you can, and come up with a plan to avoid the problem in the future, then you earn trust.

No matter what your line of work is, things both inside and outside of your control are eventually going to go wrong. It's how you respond to Murphy's Law that differentiates you from your peers.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Mark SuszkoRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:28:49 pm

This is why I referred to his task as the "Kobayashi Maru Test": it's not something you beat, it's a test of character, how you hold together when nothing else does.


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Nick GriffinRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 18, 2009 at 6:31:14 pm

Walter -
That's wonderful advice. Thank you for giving the thread such a positive and helpful twist.


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Simon StuttsRe: in need of some serious advice
by on Dec 19, 2009 at 10:36:34 pm

[Rob Grauert] "And my two supervisors are definitely in the middle of no where. They're shooting a hunting show in Arkansas, Louisiana, etc. Sometimes they are at a hotel that has internet, but phone calls are often very hard to hear and are always cut off eventually."

This may sound stupid, as I'm guessing you've already done this, but I've found that texting works wonders when the bosses are in bad cell signal territory. Text messages only need a second or two of stable signal to pull down into the phone. It's def helped me a time or two when I couldnt get the boss on the phone but needed to keep him appraised of the situation/get his judgement on something that was above my authority to decide.

Keep your head, and do your best. Hope it works out.


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