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cancellations galore!!!


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#1 David litz

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 04:18 PM

Man, this year has been full of cancellations! 5 day shoots turning into 1 day shoots, jobs going away altogether, etc. Sometimes with plenty of notice, sometimes during the shooting week!

I try to have agreements/deal memos whenever possible. However, a lot of times I go on "good faith" that a job is going to happen. You know the drill...a producer calls, asks your availability for a block of days, and you say "sure", only to have most or all of the shoot "go away". Lately, even steady clients have been backing out of jobs at the last minute.

Do you think new clients would balk at signing deal memos with a DP they've never worked with? More importantly, if you started forcing deal memos on your old "hand shake" clients, will they resent it? The kind of jobs I'm talking about are reality TV, corporate videos, things like that. I usually never get burned on bigger jobs like features.

Any advice? I don't want to alienate producers with deal memos, but I feel I have to start protecting myself against cancellations. It is eating into my income.

Thanks!
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#2 Michele Peterson

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 06:24 PM

I've encountered several producers/PM's that seem to disappear rather quickly as soon as I bring up getting things in writing. I have several people I know and have worked with in the past that I can trust not to BS me. They are also the ones that don't call me until they know the project is ready to go.

I'm always open to hearing about a new gig unless I already have a commitment to another in writing. Especially if I've asked for theirs or sent over your deal memo and they haven't gotten back to me in a reason amount of time, then it's their fault for not locking me up when they had the chance. I'm not going to wait around for something that may not happen. You've got to look out for yourself first. With the economy the way it is, a lot of people seem to be losing funding that they thought they were going to have and shoots are falling through.
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#3 Paul Bruening

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 06:59 PM

It's scary news like this that makes me want to crack bad jokes to compensate.
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#4 Jim Keller

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Posted 20 October 2008 - 07:07 PM

Speaking as a producer, any producer who isn't willing to put something in writing is up to no good.

Remember that to sell the idea of a deal memo to your clients, use the "this protects both of us," line. Emphasize to them that if you've got a deal memo in place, they've got your time locked in, but if they don't, and someone calls who is willing to put it in writing, you've got to go with the sure thing.

I'd recommend, however, having reasonable cancellation / reschedule terms as part of the deal memo. Financing does fall through from time to time, through no fault of the producer (especially as the venture capital gets more scarce due to turmoil in the markets). Dates do need to change, through no fault of the producer. Making the terms reasonable for the producer, but insisting that things be done above-board and with a paper trail will probably move you up in the estimation of the producers you want to work with, and hopefully scare of the no-good ones.
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#5 Serge Teulon

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 12:25 PM

Firstly, David, I'm really sorry to hear what has been happening to you. Its an absolute bummer these things! I hope it gets better for you.

Secondly and in regards to the all the previous posts.

I assume you are all based in the US.

In the UK, with the mentioned type of work, in this instance we work with a pencil to start off. This doesn't mean that you are booked, but on standby.
This offers the clients and yourself a middle ground where there is an intention but a committal.
A 2nd pencil can be taken. This normally means that you can go back to your 1st pencil and push for a decision, that's if you want to.

If the process then becomes a positive one you receive a confirmation. After this point if the client backs out then you have every right to charge a cancellation fee.
It certainly seems to be a "friendlier" way to establish work, rather than ask for memos?!?

Edited by Serge Teulon, 21 October 2008 - 12:27 PM.

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#6 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 04:56 PM

In the UK, with the mentioned type of work, in this instance we work with a pencil to start off. This doesn't mean that you are booked, but on standby.
This offers the clients and yourself a middle ground where there is an intention but a committal.
A 2nd pencil can be taken. This normally means that you can go back to your 1st pencil and push for a decision, that's if you want to.

If the process then becomes a positive one you receive a confirmation. After this point if the client backs out then you have every right to charge a cancellation fee.
It certainly seems to be a "friendlier" way to establish work, rather than ask for memos?!?


It is the same here in the US, when you are confirmed it is called an "ink". BUT:

If the first job that "inked" you -after the decision was pushed by you- goes away, there was the second "pencil" offer (that you couldn't get because the first one "inked" you), then the first prod co is technically liable (enforcing is optional, depending on relationship with client/ prod co).

Canceling an "inked" job with more than 24 hrs is kosher, EXCEPT if there was a second "pencil" offer one couldn't take due to being booked already, see above.

If any client or production co. cancels within 24 hrs of start of job, they are liable.

And yeah, things are pretty dire right now. This week I have one 1/2 day and that is it!

Things better get popping soon or else I will go into . . . fast food?
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 06:49 PM

I envy your 1/2 day, the only bookings I have up coming are in January!
I try not to hold companies liable; I know things happen. Normally if the job goes away entirely then i might press, but if it's just moved, well then, might as well not bug them too much about it.
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#8 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 08:28 PM

I envy your 1/2 day, the only bookings I have up coming are in January!
I try not to hold companies liable; I know things happen. Normally if the job goes away entirely then i might press, but if it's just moved, well then, might as well not bug them too much about it.


Oh man, I am sure will pick up soon -that is, I hope!

I got a call from some banker trying to get me a business loan last week -hey I thought credit was tight? But maybe not at his interest rate.

Anyway, I told hem business was really slow and I just couldn't sign my life away -all that talk about living within my humble means.

And he said, "I'll call you after the election." To which I responded "why?"

He said, "no matter who wins, things will change for the better, they have to."

So there, maybe he know what he is talking about. :( I certainly hope so, because January through March are my slowest months every year.

Best of luck,

S
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 08:30 PM

Here's hoping! I'll buy the first round once things do!
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 08:38 PM

I and most others in my circle handle bookings this way... a client (usually the Production Coordinator at a company) will call and ask if I'm available for X date or dates. I check my calendar. While I'm doing that, I ask what the job is (in case it's something I truly do not want to do). If I find out during that "stall time" if it's something I want to do, I'll let them know if I'm available.

If I am available, I'll say so, but usually the response to me is that I'm now "on hold." Ok. I can live with that because usually the job does happen. However, if someone else does call for that day, I let that second client know that I'm on hold, but I will call immediately to find out what the status is. And I do. That call generally results in a, " can you give me a few minutes to check with the Producer and I'll call you right back and let you know." And they usually do.

Then if the first shoot is still on, I'll call client two back and let them know that I'm booked, but if anything changes at all, I'll let them know. I'll also let client two know if the rest of that week is still open in case anything else pops up.

If client one can't commit, I say I have someone else and client one is usually okay with that.


If a booked job cancels anytime after, say, 1pm the day before a shoot, I'll charge a cancellation fee. Sometimes I won't IF the job is actually just rescheduled for another date VERY SOON... AND if I haven't had to turn something else down. I do try to be flexible if the client hires me a lot.

It's a fine line to walk when you don't want to set bad precedents for letting people book you or hold you without paying for it, especially if you are losing a day with someone else and potentially slipping down on that list. But you don't want to be such a hard case about it all because client one can just as easily find someone else who is more... flexible. It's not always an easy issue to deal with particularly in this freelance world of EPK, corporate, and documentary which has absolutely no contractual protections from any union (in most cases).

You just do the best you can.
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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 09:30 AM

And he said, "I'll call you after the election." To which I responded "why?"

He said, "no matter who wins, things will change for the better, they have to."


Only if Barrack wins. If the Republicans win the the USA will be stuck in the sh*tter for another four years.

R,
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#12 Serge Teulon

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 10:36 AM

Ok, so its not really that different from what happens over here. Its just different words used.

I am though a bit surprised, that you guys in the US have to be as "flexible" as us here in the UK.
I thought the whole union thing made you solidly supported. Where as here there is always a feeling of that you are on your own.

I don't know about other UKers, but some of the stories and attempts that I've come across are absolutely shocking!!

I know how it all works but as I feel a rant coming on....I always find it quite frustrating how the power always seems lie with the client.
What does that say about your talent?? Does it count for nothing??

The team player side of myself says lets arise a global cameraman union so we don't have to deal with ppl constantly taking the piss!

End of rant.


Aaaaaah....and relax. :ph34r:
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#13 Michele Peterson

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 12:11 PM

I thought the whole union thing made you solidly supported. Where as here there is always a feeling of that you are on your own.



Unfortunately, not everyone is in the union, and not all clients (especially corporate/industrial video client) are not signatory to the union.
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#14 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 12:13 PM

What does that say about your talent?? Does it count for nothing??


Motion picture unions in the US are good for making sure you get paid according to how many hours were worked, make sure you get insurance if you qualify for it and things like those. Definitely not for getting you jobs or making sure you get paid for jobs you didn't get whatever the reason.

I guess we are just lucky to be hired, unions or not. I get that feeling ALL THE TIME. No matter how hard it is, one can almost look over to the people waiting in the wings to move in to one's position, and think, WOW! I am lucky to have the job. The fear and loathing!!

There are truly so many people trying to get into this business, at least in the US, that producers never have a shortage of willing (read desperate) hands.
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#15 Paul Bruening

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 08:39 PM

SMPBF
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#16 Serge Teulon

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 06:29 PM

SMPBF




.....................................
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#17 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 09:40 PM

I know how it all works but as I feel a rant coming on....I always find it quite frustrating how the power always seems lie with the client.
What does that say about your talent?? Does it count for nothing??



I've had that discussion often with others like me. Ultimately, a client will get what he pays for. The Cameraman who agrees to work 10 hours for $200 is likely new, less experienced, and is willing to agree to almost any price and conditions just to get work. Cameramen/women who CAN charge more are likely experienced and unwilling to work for much under their established rate, mostly, because they don't have to. Having experience usually means you have lots of clients who gave you work in order to get that experience. And to have that may clients means you've been doing it awhile, so you've had time to build a reputation and earn the right to charge the going rate.

That said, when budgets get tight and a project isn't deemed as "important," I've seen clients go with the cheaper guy knowing that they'll get an "acceptable" finished product. And sometimes, acceptable is good enough.

But sometimes, they do recognize what experience buys them and it's worth it to them. For instance, just yesterday I was put into a situation where I had just about 30 minutes to shove office furniture aside and set up a greenscreen interview. The "me" from years ago would've struggled with the logistics of that, but working under parameters like that has become somewhat de riguer so while I got a little warm from moving so quickly, I knew I could pull it off. And we rolled exactly on time, and it was actually set up and ready to go a few minutes earlier. Now, setting up a single talent head & shoulders green screen shot isn't rocket science, but not too many $200/day kids out there could have delivered. It's on days like that I feel as if I've earned what I charge. We like to say that good professionals aren't paid for when things go as planned... we are paid well for when things don't. That's when our "worth" kicks in.

But yes, sometimes "talent" isn't necessary for a client. Sometimes all they really care about is having a warm body who knows how to push the right buttons on the machine and set up some lights. There's not much anyone can do about that unless you're willing to settle for less money than you're worth. But once you've done that, they'll tend to expect it all of the time. I'd personally rather do a job for free as a favor (like the Make A Wish shoot I did a couple weeks ago) than go work for less than I ask for. But that's just me.
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