Corrupted media during shoot, dealing with aftermath
I just did a one-day studio shoot as DP. We were shooting skits meant to be screened during a live show. I was hired by a company that I've worked with many times in the past, which was hired in turn by the stage production. As this was a low budget shoot, I was also acting as data wrangler.
To make a long story short, I was shooting with my BMCC, and one of the SSDs got corrupted when connecting it to my Macbook Pro (it was playing back properly while still in the camera). I was making dual backups after every skit, so I noticed the problem right away, launched a scan with a data recovery app and warned the director. He decided to wait for the scan results before doing a reshoot. The scan failed, so I purchased another, highly recommended app and launched another scan as we resumed shooting. As this scan failed too, someone took the SSD to an IT firm to see if they could save it.
We managed to finish the planned shoot 90 minutes ahead of time, so we reshot the problem scene and finished early. End of story? Not quite.
The bill from the IT firm is 250$ just for the test and diagnostics. For delivering the files, they quoted 800$. The director insists on recovering the files, so we contacted another, smaller firm and they quoted 280$.
Now, the company that hired me wants me to cover this 280$ (the production will pay for the 250$ from the IT firm). I am obsessive about data safety on and off set, and I never leave anything to chance. In my opinion, this was an unfortunate, unpredictable hardware or software fault, not the result of human error. In fact, a less careful individual might not have realized there was a problem until the next day.
I understand that 280$ is not a lot, but as this was a low budget shoot, I charged much less than usual for my equipment rental, and I did not charge anything for preproduction. On top of that, recovering these files is not essential (because of the reshoot), so I feel it should be up to the production, not me, to pay for that luxury.
I do want to maintain a healthy relationship with all those involved, but feel that I am being asked unfairly to cover these costs. I do not want to open a door where anytime there is a problem with a shoot, I am expected to pay for it.
What do you all think?
You're not going to like my answer.
You're on the hook for the $280. You're lucky they didn't hit you up for the rest. They could have done you worse. And this is one of the reasons to have insurance for your business.
You're also making a mistake when you charge less than your rate because a project is "low budget". In such cases, if you still want to do a project for some reason and they can't afford you, you're better off not charging anything at all, and doing it as a charity or write-off, and had you done THAT, you'd not be on the hook for the $280 now. They paid for data wrangling, not mangling. Doesn't matter that the hardware failed you. It's on your watch. You own the problem.
Pay it and consider it a public relations fee that when stuff goes "Tango Uniform" on your watch, you don't run and hide: you own the job, and any bad luck that it brings. If you're going to be the data wrangler, invest even more money in another layer of backups, and if a hit like this happens in the future, you won't be the scapegoat: because you had more back-ups, you'll be the G.D. Batman.
Sorry, and hopefully, this will never happen to you again.
Well, to be clear, I was not paid to be a data wrangler. I was paid to be a DP. So no, they did not pay for data wrangling. I had to do it because there was nobody else on set to do it.
Maybe I failed to explain the incident properly, but having another layer of backup would not have helped, as the media was corrupted before the first backup could be made. A dual recording system could have saved the day, but that's easy to say in retrospect.
Anyway, my point is that the data recovery is not needed. We have the skit, as we reshot it, at no extra cost (we were ahead of time). So I did deliver 100% of what I am being paid for. That is what is bugging me. If the situation were reversed, I would never in my life consider asking someone I hired to cover for this.
Just because they re-shot or replaced the damaged footage, doesn't mean the damage didn't happen. The loss still caused them to spend un-anticipated money out of pocket. Additional time was spent, if not on the set, at least with the extra negotiations with the data recovery people. This was, as you say, a "low budget" deal... Were they supposed to just eat all that?
And it wasn't up to you, which takes they wanted to or chose to use - it was just lucky for you that there was another take at some point that filled the gap. I do feel for you, and I know your motivations were only good and pure, but you put yourself in a terrible position when you volunteered to do the extra work outside of being DP... like a member of a sports team that started trying to play two positions at once, you wound up doing half as well. You took this on without enough resources and people to do it right. Taking the money obligated you to get it right, regardless of how little they paid. As I said, had you not taken any pay for the work, you'd be in a better position right now.
This is just one man's opinion, and I'll sit back and see if it's a minority opinion, or a consensus. I can only tell you what I personally feel is right, under the circumstances as I understand them. And I think you got off easy.
I think it's a little harsh to ask you to pay for data recovery.
If your hardware had caused them to run into another day of production or hire a replacement camera, and incur more costs for cast and crew then yes, you might well get charged. But if this is a low paying gig that you are doing 2 jobs for, and they were easily able to reshoot the scene after you had told them of an issue. It's harsh, or BS.
Spose it depends on how much you want to keep working for them...
In the future if the shoot is this time sensitive and important then pass the cost on for a samurai recording device, spare camera, or capture direct through thunderbolt to your MacBook Pro with the bmcc....
I think Mark is right - even though it totally sucks.
I think you just need to figure out who is pulling the strings saying you need to pay, and see if you can convince them the reshoot covered it and see if they're reasonable enough to see it from your pov. If not, consider if the relationship is worth saving. It's not a lot of money, so maybe it is. Then again, are they just going to ask you for another low budget shoot? Is that really worth your time?
Sorry bud, hate hearing about that kind of thing. Sounds like you were pretty darn prudent though and it sucks if you still end up paying for it.
"|_ (°_0) _|"
I presume you had no contract, that is why there is a question about who pays. If you rent a camera and it breaks, the rental company will not reimburse you for the re-shoot, it's the producers responsibility. If a "DIT" destroys your footage on set, you cannot get the DIT to pay for a re-shoot, it's the producers responsibility. If someone get hit by a falling light, it's the producers responsibility. If the producer was too cheap to buy insurance, or hire competent people, any liability on set is his responsibility.
The producer may elect not to pay wages or rental fees, but usually (when there is a contract) he cannot "charge back" problems that occur on his production, that's what being a "producer" is all about, you own the production and you own all the problems. Vendors a labor do not share in profits, they also do not share in liabilities unless a judge rules that gross negligence was a factor.
"A Georgia grand jury on Thursday indicted film producers Randall Miller, Jody Savin and Jay Sedrish on charges of involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in connection with the February death of 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones."
When you are "in charge" you are also liable for all issues related to the production of a film.
So who's going to pay? For $280, you are. Lesson learned, and you were not sued, so you got away cheap. When I do "low budget" work, I offer NO GUARANTEES, because if I am not making a profit, I will suffer no losses. If your camera was destroyed on set, do you think the "producer" would compensate you? Fat chance!
When I get my rate, I guarantee performance, if the gear craps out, I offer a re-shoot on my dime (but only for me and my rig) if it's a big production the producer has to pay for production insurance, otherwise he's SOL for any other costs. I always consider risk mitigation, each job has expected liabilities, being a professional is to know in advance what they are and to charge accordingly or take steps to insure they do not happen. When problems arise it's because the client/producer/ etc is too inexperienced (stupid/cheap) to listen to me, at that point I have to take a risk or walk away,(I have walked away from a few jobs over the years and never look back) each job is different and only you can determine the risk/benefit to your business.
Best of luck on the next one.
[Malcolm Matusky] "you own the production and you own all the problems."
Nicely said! That should be a meme, or coffee cups, or t-shirts.
The only thing I'm sticking on is that the producer of this film essentially spent someone else's money on data recovery without stating that it would be coming out of their pocket at the time….Did the producer tell you when they sent the drive away that you would be picking up the tab?? Its a little unclear what the sequence of events are here, because if you okayed it to be sent, then perhaps you should pick up the tab and doing it for reduced rates for the next job would probably be the best way.
You hire a car from AVIS for an important journey to a shoot and it breaks down; you take that car to a garage for inspection and without asking AVIS you authorise the mechanic to start work so you can carry on your journey. Do AVIS pay for that bill or do you? Perhaps not the best analogy but it kind of works… maybe…!
I get that when it's your equipment, you are at risk for all faults and errors, I really do. If this shoot had to go into another day then yes you would have been at risk for a lot more than $280. But I can't help but think that someone else spending your money without it being okayed is not fair. Had the shoot been ruined - yes you would be in trouble and you should definitely invest in external recording drives for any future work of this kind.
It was the Director's call that he thought the "lost" take was good or important enough that he preferred it over the re-take. Nobody but the Director and Producer makes that call. Even if you think the re-take was "ok". Not our call.