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a question of MONEY


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#1 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 02:37 PM

So, I haven't had the best summer in the world as far as money goes. I've gotten screwed over and ripped off left and right. Maybe I was naive to think this would never happen to me as a low-budget indie 1st, but what can I say, until recently I thought most people were inherently good. HA! Share the lolz.

If you recall the 35mm BL-4 feature that I was keeping the production diary on (see "Kiss My Grass: Grasslands"), I think I mentioned the erratic schedule and lack of call sheets, etc. At first it seemed like a typical indie...nothing I couldn't deal with.

Until now. It's been over a month and they owe me $525. ("They" meaning the ONE producer of the film) The sound guy and the 2nd AC/loader from the original crew, have not gotten paid either. We have no paperwork or invoices or anything to back us up...we'd been getting paid in cash. The producer does not answer his phone. GEE, I WONDER WHY? HMM...

The anger and helplessness is starting to build within me. I can't believe I was such a sucker and didn't have any deal memo or personal invoice or anything like that. I blindly trusted these f*cking people to pay me and now they have let me down and I'm sick of it.

What the hell am I supposed to do now? I have no legal legs to stand on...do I? Our only hope is that the sound guy kept the audio files...but other than that, I'm pretty much figuring I'll never see that money.

Any ideas? Drugs and alcohol have already been taken into account as a short-term solution. ;) But really, I just want that money. Apparently production's account has been overdrawn and that's why we came to a standstill and couldn't keep shooting/paying people. In my eyes, that doesn't excuse this producer's behavior. If I'd known this would turn into an involuntarily deferred pay job, I wouldn't have taken it.

UGH I'M SO PISSED!!! :angry:
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#2 Paul Bruening

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 04:13 PM

Sorry to hear about your troubles, Annie. Hope it works out or you can find a way to let it go. I believe this makes you a full fledged member of an ever growing club, if that's any consolation.
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#3 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:03 PM

Pay a "visit" to the producer with a couple of grips.
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#4 Chris Keth

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:09 PM

So, I haven't had the best summer in the world as far as money goes. I've gotten screwed over and ripped off left and right. Maybe I was naive to think this would never happen to me as a low-budget indie 1st, but what can I say, until recently I thought most people were inherently good. HA! Share the lolz.

If you recall the 35mm BL-4 feature that I was keeping the production diary on (see "Kiss My Grass: Grasslands"), I think I mentioned the erratic schedule and lack of call sheets, etc. At first it seemed like a typical indie...nothing I couldn't deal with.

Until now. It's been over a month and they owe me $525. ("They" meaning the ONE producer of the film) The sound guy and the 2nd AC/loader from the original crew, have not gotten paid either. We have no paperwork or invoices or anything to back us up...we'd been getting paid in cash. The producer does not answer his phone. GEE, I WONDER WHY? HMM...

The anger and helplessness is starting to build within me. I can't believe I was such a sucker and didn't have any deal memo or personal invoice or anything like that. I blindly trusted these f*cking people to pay me and now they have let me down and I'm sick of it.

What the hell am I supposed to do now? I have no legal legs to stand on...do I? Our only hope is that the sound guy kept the audio files...but other than that, I'm pretty much figuring I'll never see that money.

Any ideas? Drugs and alcohol have already been taken into account as a short-term solution. ;) But really, I just want that money. Apparently production's account has been overdrawn and that's why we came to a standstill and couldn't keep shooting/paying people. In my eyes, that doesn't excuse this producer's behavior. If I'd known this would turn into an involuntarily deferred pay job, I wouldn't have taken it.

UGH I'M SO PISSED!!! :angry:


Shoulda kept the last roll of film.
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#5 Sasha Riu

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 05:55 PM

Shoulda kept the last roll of film.




Did you double-checked if small claims court really demands a strong paper proofs in case like yours?!
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#6 Freya Black

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 06:19 PM

Maybe I was naive to think this would never happen to me as a low-budget indie 1st, but what can I say, until recently I thought most people were inherently good. HA! Share the lolz.

Until now. It's been over a month and they owe me $525. ("They" meaning the ONE producer of the film) The sound guy and


If you really learned that from this then you got an absolute bargain!
Shout out THANKYOU!
Believe me many people have paid a far higher price than $525!! :o

The anger and helplessness is starting to build within me. I can't believe I was such a sucker and didn't have any deal memo or personal invoice or anything like that. I blindly trusted these f*cking people to pay me and now they have let me down and I'm sick of it.

What the hell am I supposed to do now? I have no legal legs to stand on...do I? Our only hope is that the sound guy kept the audio files...but other than that, I'm pretty much figuring I'll never see that money.


Fair assesment, and what do you think you would do if you had those bits of paper?

Any ideas? Drugs and alcohol have already been taken into account as a short-term solution. ;) But really, I just want that


Get hold of copies of dogville and the third man.

money. Apparently production's account has been overdrawn and that's why we came to a standstill and couldn't keep shooting/paying people. In my eyes, that doesn't excuse this producer's behavior. If I'd known this would turn into an involuntarily deferred pay job, I wouldn't have taken it.

UGH I'M SO PISSED!!! :angry:


Kind of nuts that they just kept shooting till they got shut down. I mean they are shooting film did they not know they werent going to be able to pay for it?

Anyway the big question is what are you going to do next?

Seems to me you need to let the things you have learned sink in but not let them destroy you.
Then you need to pick youself up, get positive in spite of what happened and come up with a plan!

What do you think?

love

Freya
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#7 Darryl Richard Humber

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 07:43 PM

If you really learned that from this then you got an absolute bargain!
Shout out THANKYOU!
Believe me many people have paid a far higher price than $525!! :o



Fair assesment, and what do you think you would do if you had those bits of paper?



Get hold of copies of dogville and the third man.



Kind of nuts that they just kept shooting till they got shut down. I mean they are shooting film did they not know they werent going to be able to pay for it?

Anyway the big question is what are you going to do next?

Seems to me you need to let the things you have learned sink in but not let them destroy you.
Then you need to pick youself up, get positive in spite of what happened and come up with a plan!

What do you think?

love

Freya

It's happened to most of us at one time or another. After 20 years in this business, I got ripped off for around 500.00 in overtime last year. The time and expense to chase these bastards down wasn't worth the 500.00. I treated it as a learning experience and moved on. It won't happen again.Next time I do a crappy one day shoot that goes into the 20th hour, I'll get my overtime up front or leave (by this time, the key had left because of an early call and I had graduated up to key) You just get a feeling from some producers and I had it but stayed for the DP.
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#8 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 09:56 PM

I've still got a pending invoice for nearly five grand from a job in February.
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#9 K Borowski

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 10:52 PM

Any ideas? Drugs and alcohol have already been taken into account as a short-term solution. ;) But really, I just want that money. Apparently production's account has been overdrawn and that's why we came to a standstill and couldn't keep shooting/paying people. In my eyes, that doesn't excuse this producer's behavior. If I'd known this would turn into an involuntarily deferred pay job, I wouldn't have taken it.


How about a football-playing lineman with a bat?
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#10 Tom Jensen

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Posted 04 August 2009 - 11:18 PM

Time to move on and chalk it up to experience. It sounds like there is no money there and you can't squeeze blood from a turnip. You'll just end up driving yourself nuts.
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#11 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 03:00 AM

I'm still out $7500 from a UNION movie two summers ago.
I'm sure that doesn't make you feel better, but it could be worse....
We all get screwed now and again. Unfortunately, it's become part of the business. Hopefully it will be a learning experience and you'll find a way to not let it happen again. Oh, and when you figure out how to not get screwed, please let me know how you did it.
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#12 Freya Black

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:24 AM

I'm still out $7500 from a UNION movie two summers ago.
I'm sure that doesn't make you feel better, but it could be worse....
We all get screwed now and again. Unfortunately, it's become part of the business. Hopefully it will be a learning experience and you'll find a way to not let it happen again. Oh, and when you figure out how to not get screwed, please let me know how you did it.


I think Annies problem is that she is presently living very hand to mouth and she NEEDS that money to survive.
Thus the shortfall is very stressful.

So one way to not get screwed in a way that really damages you would be to have a diversity of income. Not having all your eggs in one basket so to speak.

Other than that my tips would be:

  • Look after number one FIRST! Thats not a selfish thing, how are you going to help all the people if you are an utterly destroyed mess?
  • Do NOT get into a cycle of forgiving people and letting important things float by. Do not keep redrawing a line in the sand. Not only is this not good for you, it's not good for the other party either as you eventually end up running out of sand and being forced to take action. See dogville.
  • Listen to the little voice. If the little voice is telling you "This might not be a good situation", then consider it well, even if you don't entirely understand why it is saying that. Analyse the situation.
  • Be aware of the warning signs. Consider the possibilities before they happen.

Annie was aware of the warnings even before things came to a head.
This is partly why she feels silly. She is saying to herself Fooool!

Whats important is to learn from the lessons as and when they come to you. Otherwise you may be doomed to repeat them.

love

Freya
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#13 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 10:21 AM

Freya,

You hit the nail on the head. $500 would be negligible if I were raking it in on union jobs, but I'm not. For all practical purposes, yes, I am in the union, but it has not done what it could have for me if I'd played my cards better or if things had gone easier for me a few years ago. To answer the resounding chorus of, "Then why did you join in the first place?" it's basically the same reason that poop like this happens to me...because I trusted other people too easily, and simply didn't know any better. Things were different in 2006 and this realization has finally and fully affected me. I can no longer mince words about this....I have had way too many people let me down this summer, whether or not it's been their fault or whether it's just been bad luck.

This feature ended up creating one of the worst cash flow issues I've had in years. I guess I've been luckier than I thought in the past. I thought this job would renew my faith in the independent film world and instead it has destroyed it. The only way I can really see a way to get the inner peace I am so desperate for after dealing with this poop, is to start shooting. I think it would help me to occasionally have more creative input and to feel like I'm doing something a little different from usual. As far as other eggs in other baskets, I feel you...that's why I'm also pursuing work as a recording engineer and musician. I've been playing music for 20 years and I realized a couple of nights ago that I can no longer ignore that fact and I have to do something with it...if only because my diploma tells me so (BFA in Sound Design).

I can say without hesitation that this has been one of the worst summers I've had in a long time. At the beginning of the summer I knew there were things I wanted for myself (read: Depeche Mode tickets! :wub: ) that I had to have... no matter how much I ended up making. I decided that I would rather live comfortably and have these things for as long as I could get away with, than spend my life cutting corners and making even more sacrifices than I've already made in the past few years.

I know how dangerous it is to live that way as a freelancer, but I figured my part-time work as a teaching assistant at New York Film Academy would help hold me up...and was completely caught off guard when they took half their summer staff off the schedule, including me, due to having far less students and classes. Unemployment covers a fraction of what I would have made if I'd been able to stay on with them. It helps, but it's not the same.

I am obviously continuing to work as an AC and am now hoping for a REAL feature that won't 1. suck, 2. rip me off, and 3. have such a messed up schedule. ;) But I also want to shoot, and I want to create, and I want to play. It's actually incredibly frustrating to realize this when I feel like there's basically nothing I can do about it given the state of the economy (which has finally hit me full force). I've been talking to some friends in the music biz, telling all my DP buddies that I want to start operating, and playing keyboards in 3 different bands, but nothing has come of it yet financially..and it might not, for a while.

Well, at the least, if there's anything this feature has taught me, it's that I have to be flexible with what I do, or I will get stuck. Maybe it's a sign from the universe of bigger things to come for me...who knows. It's just really hard to live day to day thinking about that money and wondering why the people who won't give it to me, are allowed to exist at all in this industry. It's funny to me (and a little sad) that the producer had this whole conversation with me about having "faith in the project". I'll tell you what I have faith in, buddy. MYSELF...NOT YOU.

Cool, I wrote another cine.com novel. Sorry guys! Enjoy the newest thesis statement! In the meantime, if you honestly think I can negotiate a small claims suit against this guy WITHOUT any paperwork of sorts (deal memo, etc), please advise. <3
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#14 John Sprung

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 02:03 PM

Yeah, it's always been like that. I have a few of these from 30+ years ago. The worst is when you really need the money, and you have to take something shaky like this because there isn't anything else.

One thing you might do is talk to your friends at the lab. Do they owe money to the lab? Did they get the negative out? Is there a new phone number for the producer? Are there any rental companies or other vendors you might ask? It might not be worth a whole lot of effort, but try these few little things to chase after the money. The probability of getting paid that way should be higher than the odds on a lottery ticket, though maybe not by much. You may get the satisfaction of telling this guy that you were depending on this gig to eat and pay the rent.

If you have to do this again, try to get paid every day. That way your neck isn't stuck out as far.




-- J.S.
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#15 Rob Vogt

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:55 PM

Without an invoice you'd be hard pressed to have a case. Even in small claims court. One thing you have though is the production diary online, which is dated, and somewhat proves that you were there. Since you were there, they would owe you some sort of money. How much and whether they paid you already is your word against his, and you have the burden of proof. Try to get on the people's court, they're local (NYC), and they pay the legal fees for you, I believe, in return for your air time. The only way to get on is if your case is interesting enough, which I think it is.

I hope you enjoyed Depeche Mode, I couldn't afford the tickets for my girlfriend and myself so we just listen their CD, which I happen to enjoy very much.

Edited by Rob Vogt, 05 August 2009 - 05:57 PM.

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#16 Sasha Riu

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 06:37 PM

Without an invoice you'd be hard pressed to have a case. Even in small claims court. One thing you have though is the production diary online, which is dated, and somewhat proves that you were there. Since you were there, they would owe you some sort of money. How much and whether they paid you already is your word against his, and you have the burden of proof. Try to get on the people's court, they're local (NYC), and they pay the legal fees for you, I believe, in return for your air time. The only way to get on is if your case is interesting enough, which I think it is.

I hope you enjoyed Depeche Mode, I couldn't afford the tickets for my girlfriend and myself so we just listen their CD, which I happen to enjoy very much.




Don't you think that few live witnesses (her coworkes) are good enough of a proof that she was working there and for the amount of money that she claims she did?

But than again, the court might asked her why she accepted to work off the books (cash) which I don't know if she wants to get herself involved in...

The question is, did producer rejected to pay her because production run out of money or they have money but they simply don't want to pay her?!

Maybe it's not worth to beat the dead horse....
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#17 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 07:27 PM

Working off of the books isn't really a problem for an employee so long as you declare it on your taxes later on.
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#18 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 07:29 PM

Sorry to hear about your troubles, Annie. Someone mentioned getting a couple of grips and showing up at the guy's office - actually not a bad idea. There's power in numbers, try to get in touch with as many crew members from the shoot as possible and see what you guys can do collectively. I'll bet it's more than just the camera department, and the DP may be able to get the guy's real address.

I know an old-time gaffer who I'm told once showed up at a producer's office, grabbed a computer monitor off of the secretary's desk and walked out, saying "when I get my check, you'll get your monitor back!" And apparently it worked...
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#19 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 05 August 2009 - 07:43 PM

Ha! I'm going to use that trick next time this happens to me.
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#20 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 06 August 2009 - 01:31 AM

I have been advised to take a roll of film when I go to pick up my AC kit, which has been gathering dust at the director's house. F*cking summer. I've been limping along without it on silly little video jobs, which is fine, but it would be nice to have my stuff WITH me again.

So yeah, I've talked to the 2nd/loader who they fired, and one of the sound guys, and neither of them have gotten paid either. Go figure. I didn't even think of the production diary- I guess it is worth something. Do I have the mental energy at this point in my life to pursue legal action? Not really...but if it means getting my money, then I would.

I'm honestly surprised that something like this hasn't happened to me before...I guess I should've seen it coming, and I guess it could've been worse.

Anyway...Depeche Mode, however, was absolutely unforgettable...best two nights of my life. (Yeah, I saw them twice...what can I say, I am devoted! ;))
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