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free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?

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paolo zuniga
free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 1:16:43 am

Hi, my question has to do with the right to use content as an unpaid freelance video editor. In order to get more experience in film editing, I recently completed an short-film edit for a "client" - someone I met locally who asked if I'd help him complete his short film by editing it. He was nice, I agreed. After sending him a nearly complete edit to get some feedback, he felt that my pace was not fast enough, even though I was working for free and worked on it for many hours over the course of two days. Ultimately, he decided to take over as editor of his film. My only reason for working as an unpaid editor was so that I could use the the 3min film in my editing demo reel. Now, according to him, I have no right to use the edit I completed and/or any other material from the film. We did not have a "work for hire" contract established.

My question is, do I have any right to use the video edit I worked on for my personal editing reel? If he wants me to refrain from using the edit, should I ask him to send me a work for hire contract and pay me for my time?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated! Thanks


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Glen Montgomery
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 1:34:33 am

Use it, use it, use it. The whole point of working for free is to get the experience and example for you're reel.

Editor / Motion Graphics Artist, Denver CO
http://coldpost.tv/


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paolo zuniga
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 2:18:48 am

That's what I though as well!

I guess I just want to make sure that even if I don't have his final approval, I'm still in the right to use the edit work I've done for my personal reel.

Thanks!


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Juris Eksts
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 9:37:57 am

Lots of different thoughts on this:
(I'm assuming that because you want material for a reel, that you're just starting out on the career path, and that you want to be an editor)
First is that this will be a good lesson, - agree everything in writing before starting a project.
Second is that even if the job was a freebie, the material does belong to the director, so no, you have no rights to use that material. So he/she would have the right to sue you if you used it. But, if there was no budget to pay you, they may have no budget to hire a lawyer, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Thirdly, that the career of an editor is largely built on relationships, so maybe it's not a good idea to start that career by getting on the wrong side of people. He/she may or may not have contacts in the world you're trying to make your own contacts in, if not then it may not matter, but if he/she does, then you could find you have an uphill battle before you begin.
My tuppence worth.


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Alex Elkins
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 1:05:31 pm

I think you need to appeal to the better nature of this director and explain that the only reason you agreed to work for free was to have something for your reel. If he's not happy with the result then that's a shame, but he shouldn't bar you from using your own work.

If he still has a problem then explain you'll need to bill him for your time.

It seems like he's concerned with the perceived fact that he thinks you having your 'bad edit' online could affect people's reaction to his film. The only actual fact is that this guy needs to grow the hell up and stop pretending that his poxy little freebie short film will be seen by anyone other than his friends and family.

Alex Elkins
Twitter: @postbluetv
http://www.postblue.tv
Post Blue showreel
Latest work: Greyhounds in Motion at 500fps
My Vimeo Pro page


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Mark Suszko
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 2:31:18 pm

IANAL, but my impression of the legal situation is that this editor has no legal rights to the footage unless he has something in writing.

Consider it tuition in the school of life, and a mistake you've learned the hard way not to repeat.


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Todd Terry
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 3:00:47 pm

Yep... sorry, but you're not in a good position for this one.

You have no rights to use the footage. Not only does the actual footage belong to someone else, but there may be other ancillary rights (performances, etc.) that you do not have rights to, either.

You also do not have the right to now, after the fact, asked to be paid for the job. You agreed to do the work as a freebie. That's about the end of that road.

The best you can do is ask nicely for permission to use the project. Apparently you've already done that and they have said "no."

You could have just gone ahead and used the footage, following the old axiom "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission" (I hate that phrase). But... you did ask permission, and were denied. Therefore the rights-owner has clearly defined his position on your usage of the footage.

At this point there is nothing you can do about it, except go ahead and use his project without his permission... which would most certainly set you up for legal action since he has already clearly forbade that... there's no way to plead ignorance of his position on it. Will he actually do anything about it? Hard to say... but I know if I were in his shoes, I would.

Yes, just chalk this one up as a life lesson and move on to the next job. Keep this in perspective with the rest of life... we're not talking about a huge gig and you weren't cutting "Gone With the Wind," you said it was only a two-day edit... so just move on. And when that next job comes, make sure you get in writing all the permissions you think you'll need.

T2

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



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Steve Martin
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 3:56:38 pm

I concur with Mark & Todd.

Not having a clear understanding of what happens if (when!) s*it hits the fan is probably the single most source of questions on this forum. Not having that understanding in writing is a close second.

Consider this an important lesson and move on.

Best of luck to you!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!


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John Naughton
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 4:54:25 pm

Hi, I am new to the COW but have 17 years experience.

I was in this situation one time, long ago when I was editing for an independent producer. In that case, the producer was concerned about the footage being sold from under him as stock. Work and ideas get stolen all the time. If you put yourself in his shoes, I think you can see his hesitation.

Keeping the relationship is always most important. Smile and let it go.

John Naughton
Silver Edge Productions LLC


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paolo zuniga
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 5:31:02 pm

Thank you all for the feedback/insight! Very helpful.

Ultimately, using the footage isn't a big deal for me. As an aspiring editor, I've got other material I'm working on that I can add to my portfolio, some paid, some free. It was more about the principle. The fact that I worked hard on it and when I asked if I could use the work I've done thus far, for FREE, he reacted in such a threatening manner.

So anyways, I very much agree that I should take it as a lesson and move on.

BUT.. do any of you have suggestions on how I can prevent this from happening again?? I know things will happen sometimes, but are there any tips I should keep in mind for future work?

thanks again!


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Todd Terry
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 6:53:00 pm

[paolo zuniga] "do any of you have suggestions on how I can prevent this from happening again??"


Yes, Paolo, and it couldn't be easier.

You just talk it over with the client before accepting the job. That's it.

Let him or her know that you'd like to use the footage you're about to be working on for your reel. They may say "Sure! That's fine." Or they may say "Sorry, but no you can't use it." If so, then it's up to you to decide whether or not you want to take the job under those parameters.

Same goes for pay. You'd never take a job not knowing what you were going to be paid. "Sure, I'll dig this ditch for you, we'll talk about how much you're going to pay me for it, if anything, after I'm done." No one works that way. In your previous experience with this film, you apparently did talk about your rate... which was zero. You offered a free job, and the producer took you up on it. That's pretty much end of story there.

So, simply enough... in the future just talk it over with your client in advance so everyone has the proper expectations about who can do what. And get it in writing, at least in some form. It doesn't have to be a "real" contract, but some documentation of the expectations of both parties are in order.

T2

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



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paolo zuniga
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 7:08:09 pm

Got it. Thanks so much for your help. I've definitely learned a lesson in this.


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Scott Sheriff
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 4, 2012 at 5:52:08 pm

Todd and Mark are on the money here, and whoever marked the reply that said to "Use it, use it, use it." as a 'solution' should rethink that. It is a recipe for disaster.
To post copy written work without permission is foolhardy, doubly so when permission has been expressly denied. Equally foolhardy is to advocate doing this in a public forum read by clients and peers.
You have no rights to use the material, and now the owner has voiced his opposition. While ignorance is a poor legal defense, you don't even have that now. So to continue at this point would show a willful and deliberate act on your part. To use (post) this as others have suggested here opens you up to 'take down' actions and a civil lawsuit, which you would most likely end up settling, or lose if it went to trial. Even if you don't have any money to lose now, judgements usually have a seven year time to collect. A judgement against you will cause financial difficulties for years and make it tough to get business insurance, show up in background checks for employment and make it difficult to get loans.
Maybe you could just continue on, and hope that the director doesn't have the will, or resources to push the issue, but the best advice is to avoid this situation entirely.
Demanding compensation after the fact is another bad idea. We play in a pretty small sandbox, and things like that can make you look like a completely unprofessional amateur. If you don't care about reputation, you could try a small claims court lawsuit, but after the fact claims like these almost never work and can open you up to a countersuit.
There are much better uses of your time, like trying to work out why the director didn't like your cut, getting up to speed on contracts, looking for work, etc.
Do yourself a big favor and consider this a lesson learned and move on.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Nick Griffin
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 5, 2012 at 10:27:50 pm

[Scott Sheriff] "There are much better uses of your time, like trying to work out why the director didn't like your cut"

I fully agree with Mark, Todd and Scott. Paolo, IF (perhaps a big if) you still have a relationship with the director/producer ask specifics and see what you can learn. You'll either know more about the style he had in mind, that he has no cogent idea what it was he was looking for or perhaps that he simply didn't like his own footage and blaming the editing was a simple out. It's always best to get and keep people talking. It might even earn you a second chance.

And yes, Glen's suggestion is NOT a prudent way to proceed, to say the least.


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paolo zuniga
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 6, 2012 at 12:43:21 am

Thanks, Nick. That if is indeed a VERY big IF. The short film was pretty much a personal project (he was producer, director, lead actor (1 of 2 roles) and now, editor) for the purpose of kickstarting his stagnant career as an actor.

Anyways, from what I gathered, he felt that my choice in shots in the edit didn't really showcase his talent. I made it known that my main goal was to create an edit that told a clear and engaging story, obviously, using the best takes. He didn't care for that and decided he could do a better job.

Live and learn! Thanks again for the advice!


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Todd Terry
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 6, 2012 at 3:26:45 am

[paolo zuniga] "he was producer, director, lead actor"

Ahhh... that explains a lot, Paolo.

As some fellow COWs know, in a previous life I was a working actor for quite a few years. And have been a director in my day job since then. I would never attempt to direct myself. And certainly not edit myself.

A few actors can direct themselves, and do it well. Clint Eastwood can. So can Woody Allen. Even George Clooney has proven to be surprisingly pretty darn good at it. Many others, not so much.

And often many actors who are also good directors are only good at directing others... and have a tougher time turning the lens on themselves. A friend of mine who is both one of the best actors I know and one of the best directors I know couldn't direct himself out of a wet paper bag. I've seen him try, he just can't do it... doesn't know how to make the right choices for himself.

I'm sure this guy was looking at your cut with a very narcissistic eye... not one of objectivity. Don't sweat it, and move on (which by now, I'm sure you have).

T2

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



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paolo zuniga
Re: free edit work.. can I use in my demo reel?
on Apr 6, 2012 at 6:06:08 am

That was pretty much the case. Oh well, great lessons has been learned. Now I've got time to focus on my other editing projects.

Thanks again!

paolo


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