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Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.

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Edward Harby
Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 5:21:43 pm
Last Edited By Edward Harby on Oct 21, 2015 at 5:29:18 pm

Before this project, I worked with this client (director/producer) on 2 other projects. Things were smooth for the first two projects. Yes the camera work was a little wonky but the length of the videos were so short that I could cut around it and still produce some quality work that the director really enjoyed.

By the third video, I was getting paid more to do a video that was way longer (3 minutes long, it's a music vide). It turns out the actor they got wasn't great (the director had a lot of bias using shots of her), and lots of scenes and ideas had to be dropped. No problem. They told me they reworked the concept and will be giving me gopro shots, lots of them and it'll be more about utilizing those shots and minimizing the actor. It turns out those gopro shots were just 3 shots and had very little to do with the concept of the video. The director had sent out the DP to shoot them and well, they were just landscape shots. That's it. I guess they didn't see the footage.

So I spent a week editing this, spending more time looking for shots that were in focus and not so much working towards the vision the director and I were really going for. We both acknowledge the footage wasn't great but once I got them a rough cut, the notes I got back made it obvious they weren't satisfied, that they expect me to miraculously come up with solutions to their footage. I had already worked on his beyond my expected timeline and although disappointed I couldn't make it work for the client, I felt they were the ones that didn't delivery me what I need to do a good job. But the director ended up calling me, again acknowledging that the footage wasn't workable but this time said that the project maybe a waste of my time, and that they'll be sending it to a motion graphics person to solve things graphically. I was told this would decrease my pay (although they wouldn't tell me by how much).

So now I don't know how much I'm getting paid and when I'm getting paid. How do I go about this? I sent them a rough cut, not necessarily something SUPER polished and not colored but they know the drill and knew at some point that this has become a waste of time due to the footage.

Help. It's a sticky situation, and I definitely shot myself in the foot by getting talk out of being paid hourly / daily. What do I do now? I would definitely work with them and accept less pay but I have a feeling they won't be contacting me again for future work, so being incredibly diplomatic won't necessarily benefit me especially that I strongly feel that it wasn't my performance that caused this, but rather than performance of the director/producer that hired me and produced the footage. I feel in a sense they hired me but didn't take into account that it's my time and effort they are paying for. That they simply can't just test drive an editor.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 6:46:38 pm

As soon as you got the GoPro stuff and realized you didn't have what you needed, did you let them know? It sounds like you may have needed to set their expectations better early on in your cutting. If you suspected they didn't look at what they gave you, you might have been better served to say something right away in case they wanted to scrap your part of it and go straight to the graphics person.

[Edward Harby] "being incredibly diplomatic won't necessarily benefit me especially that I strongly feel that it wasn't my performance that caused this"

Being diplomatic almost always benefits you, because you can walk away from a bad project knowing that you did what you could. Being diplomatic doesn't necessarily being apologetic or overly nice.

If you jumped into this without expressing concerns early, I would kind of just accept responsibility for not putting a halt to the work and take it as a lesson for expectations -- you can't change the performance of anyone else on the job, but you can take ownership of part of the calamity. I'd email the people that owe you money and say "Hey, I'm sorry I couldn't get your project to the state you hoped it would be in. We both know the footage suffered a lot, but I should have communicated to you better about how significantly the finished product would differ from the vision. I know you're probably in a tough spot for finishing this, so I'm willing to accept payment for half my hours instead of the full amount for the work completed so far. I hope we can work together again."

That is, if you want to work with them again. If not, leave the last sentence off.

Basically, I think when projects go entirely off the rails like this, it turns into an epic blame-fest. There's no point to that. Whether it was your fault or not, take some responsibility and find a way to end it. Then set yourself up against losing money in these situations in the future.

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:53:38 pm

"But the director ... said that they'll be sending it to a motion graphics person to solve things graphically. I was told this would decrease my pay (although they wouldn't tell me by how much).

So now I don't know how much I'm getting paid and when I'm getting paid."



You should know how much you're getting paid, going in. Always. Was this a "work for hire"? Is there any paper that has that wording on it?

Did you not have a contract, or at least a "deal memo", spelling out your day and hourly rate, and an estimate of how long the job would take? What are the terms in your contract or deal memo regarding severability in case of something like this? Did you at least get a down payment up front, to start the job? These are standard practice kinds of things a pro editor would do, before even turning the machines on. You don't do these things, and you risk getting ripped off. oral agreements are not worth the paper they are not printed on.


And here's the thing: you are SUPPOSED TO GET PAID, whether they love it or hate it. They don't get to take away money you earned, to give to someone else, if they suddenly decide to give the job to another editor. You are supposed to be paid for your time, regardless of satisfaction, except in the most extreme of circumstances, and what you describe is not that extreme, happens a lot when creatives differ. They might go thru several editors and writers and even directors on a motion picture production, but they each get paid for the time they put in. You don't tell the fired director you're diverting his pay to special effects technicians, for the amount he earned while on the job.



Your client does sound like a jerk. You're probably lucky to be rid of the project, and the client. However, if you did nothing in terms of contracts and organization to protect yourself, you have little recourse left. You can try small claims to recover the hourly fee for the time you did put in: it would help much if you can show a check for any of the time you put in, though, as well as written details of your deal. Whether the client loves or hates your work, unless it can be proved you were really, REALLY incompetent, then they owe you for the time you did put in. And you own them NONE of your work product until they pay for it.


Going forward, this is what I suggest:

Get everything in writing up front: call it a contract or just an informal "deal memo", but get a date and signature on it, and get a check or other traceable payment as a down-payment to begin the work. It can even be a token amount, five bucks is fine,check or paypal is preferred, but make them give you some money to start, and have them put a note on the payment saying "in partial consideration for editing services for project xyz". This becomes important in court later, if things go wrong.

In the memo, you will state that you get x amount to start, a progress payment for your hourly rate at the mid-point of the job, (usually the first rough cut), and a final payment after delivering between 1 and 3 changed/approved versions. All versions you submit for review and approval will be watermarked somehow, the watermark is removed by you on the final master when you get paid, and not before. The estimate of hours to complete is only a rough estimate. The client must be warned when you are going to be running into overtime, and they have the right to authorize the time or not. Projects sometimes change in mid-stream. If the new edit changes are in your opinion radical enough to warrant more than just a little overtime, you should close out the existing contract, get paid up to that progress point, and open a new deal for the new estimate. You don't deliver the final master until you get your final payment, it is due on delivery. If a project is canceled at any stage, you only get paid for the time actually worked up to that point. This protects you and them.

If you make mistakes that cost time and money to correct, you pay for that, such as misspelled titles. If the error is something that they gave you that they got wrong, you can bill them for fixing that, or not, if you're feeling charitable.

In the memo or contract is a paragraph called severability. It will say in essence that either party can get out of this deal at any stage, but you must be paid for your time spent up to the point of cancellation. You will put in writing that you retain your master and any project files, etc. you created in the course of the work. Any raw materials they gave you, you will return to them. They do not get to keep or use even an unfinished master, if they canceled on you.


***If you have or had a deal like this in writing, with a down payment, you are unlikely to EVER need help like what you're asking about, again, ever.***

Know your day and hourly rate. There are infinite threads in this forum on how to do that. Look some up. Don't as a rule take on jobs for less than your set minimum. You must stand firm on this. You are a buisness, not a bank giving interest-free loans of your own money.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 8:54:38 pm

Kylie, did you recently get "spliced"? Mazel Tov! :-)


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Kylee Peña
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:08:30 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Kylie, did you recently get "spliced"?"

The opposite, actually. Which is cause for double celebration IMO, so I'll accept your Mazel Tov and offer you an "¡Ole!" for my birth name in return!

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:10:47 pm

Make it a "ripple delete" then, and hope all the downstream changes are good for you!:-)


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Kylee Peña
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:16:44 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Make it a "ripple delete" then, and hope all the downstream changes are good for you!:-)"

This post was delightfully nerdy. Thank you!

blog: kyleesportfolio.com/blog
twitter: @kyl33t
demo: kyleewall.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 21, 2015 at 9:33:40 pm

They don't yet make Nonlinear Life Editors. I'm half afraid what the Apple version of one would look like, anyhow.


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Edward Harby
Re: Client's footage turned out to be not editable. Advice to getting paid.
on Oct 22, 2015 at 7:25:58 pm

Good stuff here. Just sent them an email. Hopefully things turn out for the best for the both of us.


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