Alphacine did a bad job...
Posted 27 May 2009 - 07:42 PM
Last Friday the 22nd of May, 2009 I sent 9 cartridges of super 8mm film to Alphacine for processing by USPS Priority mail. Each cartridge was placed back in its original box and taped up with a small bit of black gaff tape. Also, each box had the little prepaid sticker on it. On the lab instruction sheet I asked for a negative report. This morning Matt from Alphacine called with the neg report. I was unable to take the call so he left a message. He said the film looked fine with good exposures except for one roll that was half unexposed. He said it could have been rewound and salvaged but “…the people in the negative room left the lights on so it’s dark.” I am not even sure what this last bit implies. Before I could return calls this afternoon I get another call, and subsequently a message, from Heather at Alphacine who I assume is in billing because she wants to know how I intend to pay for the processing. I call Heather back immediately to clear up this misunderstanding. She tells me I owe $114 and some change and breaks it down for me after I ask what that amount is for. Then I explain that there must be some sort of mix up because I had prepaid processing. She said I did not because the cartridges were not even in their boxes that have the prepaid stickers, and she remembered clearly because she did not get much in that day. Then I described the box I shipped and how the contents where arranged and what the packing material was to help jog her memory but she said she could not remember the package. I assured her that I sent each cartridge in its box with a prepaid sticker on each box and then she flatly denied that I did any such thing.
About this time I start thinking to my self about how the video camera is starting to replace the film camera and how much I lament that fact. But I am at such a loss on how to defend the use of film when getting it developed is left in the hands of people like this.
I let Heather know that I will get a hold of the purchase receipt so we can clear this up, and she continues to insist that it is not a prepaid processing order. I ask her to please not be so definitive because I assure her that she will see that it is just as I say and that that is surely some sort of misunderstanding on her end. She is obstinate so I ask to talk to her manager. She says that her manager has just walked out the door, and that I can leave a message. I let her know that I will call back when I round up the receipt. The only problem with the receipt is that it is not in my possession because someone else on the production purchased the film. That could be where a part of Heather’s confusion lies. I even explained that fact to her before I got off the phone but she would not budge. Maybe the misunderstanding really is because she has some name mixed up but I don’t know how she is going to account for not taking the cartridges out of their boxes with the prepaid stickers right on them.
I have been doing business with Alphacine since Forde was acquired by them. I have never had any trouble like this. Has anyone else had any bad experience with Alphacine? And does anyone have any suggestions for how I should handle this moving forward?
Any comments are appreciated.
Posted 27 May 2009 - 08:33 PM
What sort of documentation did you send with the film?
And does anyone have any suggestions for how I should handle this moving forward?
Any comments are appreciated.
Your packing list SHOULD have mentioned that the shipment contained pre-paid stickers. I recall Super 8 cartridges often have serial numbers, so those should have been on the packing list as well. If the pre-paid stickers had serials that should have been in the packing list, and related to each roll of film. naturally you should have retained at least a computer copy of the list.
The list would of course also specifed what the lab was suposed to do with the film.
The fact one roll is half blank is a problem. did you send in any cartridges that were NOT wound to the end? I am sure that Kodak cartridges all have exposed stamped on the end of the film, properly packed third party ones should at least have the cut out on the perfs. Any lab I have seen a super 8 price for has a flat rate per cartridge, so you may as well have the whole roll processed, and winding to the end avoids the lab having to deal with a partly wound roll. That way once the cartridge is broken open, the film can just be wound on the processor roll.
If the packing list and the cartridges both have the roll numbers, the lab should be able to keep the rolls in order and splice them together in teh right order assuming that they are all going to be transfered (and I have only heard of one place that will workprint Super8)
Posted 27 May 2009 - 11:38 PM
It's not an excuse, but they are in the middle of moving starting today. Perhaps things are a little hectic over there? They shut down S8 and Reversal processing today, so maybe that's part of the problem with the "lights being left on." Not cool, but things may be extremely out-of-process as they have to move their lab. Can't be easy. Still, no excuse though.
Sux about them not being a little more helpful re: the prepaid carts. I dunno how that works, but it's obvious that there's a total miscommunication. Dunno who's fault that is but clearly they want their money.
Posted 28 May 2009 - 01:50 PM
Thank you both for your comments. Normally I am very meticulous about details on my lab instruction form. When working on paid gigs I even photocopy my instruction forms and the labels on the cans just to cover my butt. This time I was not so careful because it was only 9 little carts with normal processing and I have never had a problem with any lab before, including alphacine.
Adam, thanks for the heads up about the move. That kind of puts things in perspective and made me a little more charitable when i called back today. So, when I called back I asked Jean if she would look up the purchase of the film in their records to see if the cartridges where purchased with prepaid shipping. They were, so long story short I do not have to pay for processing twice. I just wish that this could have been done yesterday so I didn't have to be as frustrated as I have been.
I have been thinking about how one of the obstacles I encounter to getting film students to shoot film for the the first time is their unfamiliarity with working with a lab. I think for someone who does not know how a lab works it can seem a bit mysterious and even intimidating. I guess for someone who has never done it before it would seem kind of weird to send your negatives, which you are not even sure if they have an image on them, to someone who does not know how hard you worked on your film, especially if it is your first film experience. I admit that that was how my first film making experience went, and I had even shot quite a bits with 35mm still cameras before I ever made a motion picture. It is interesting because I relayed these thoughts to a friend of mine who is an experienced film maker (he even shot a couple of imax films) and he responded saying that his experience with any lab has always been positive in the way that they have always help to finish the picture and to support the film makers vision. And that is the way that I know it can be, a good ab can help finish an image beyond what a cinematographer could do on his or her own and that is just the experience, along with good customer service, that I am looking for in a lab.
In the end I will be going back to alphacine but I am a little hesitant and that saddens me. I think if I would have at least received an apology I would be much happier.
Posted 30 May 2009 - 10:27 AM