Education – it's a life long process – Don't make the same mistake over and over and over.

Some few things I’ve done, projects I’ve shot, worked on, or been interviewed about since the last blog post:

Artist Study – Will Kurtz directed by Vincent Zambrano.

A little greenscreen work – Ask Ed The Head

Meeting/Education – NYC-Screenwriters_Collective

I’m interviewed – Char Hardin Podcast

Linked to a blog post – The Digital Debate Continues an interesting article that links to my blog post The Magic That Happens Between the Frames.

Rules are made to be broken. Yeah, don’t always believe it. Here is what happens when you break one of your own rules. I broke the NEVER work for free, never, ever, not for anyone, well maybe a friend, but not for strangers.

Now before you look funny at me, remember, when I was coming up in the business – everyone did the occasional freebie. People trying to break in, and those well established. You never knew when it would payoff, and you’ve become part of a great project, or you would help start someone’s career, which would leave you with a good new contact who felt appreciative to you. In general your efforts were well regarded, and your time was honored. Of course this was 20 some odd years ago, and excepting for the period during the strike, there was work, and paying work. Then someone wrote a book telling neophyte filmmakers that you could expect to get crew for nothing, just feed them well. So instead of this being the exception, it became the rule, feed your crew and they would be happy to work fr you for nothing. Which lead to a bunch of neophytes with inflated egos and illprepared directors making fiascoes. Then with the digital explosion, the norm is to be offered no money, and be expected to be happy that you can work for someone for free, and being fed well, or having travel expenses covered – that seems to be optional.

So forgive me if I slipped back into my earlier pattern when I read an ad , someone looking for help on a music video. I heard the song, liked it, thought it had a nice message. We talked for a bit. I’m always looking for new connections and projects. It would really be a one time thing. Can you hear the screaming yet? Yeah this is what you get when you respond to ads on the internet.

I’m thinking, okay, your concept is okay but not doable on a low budget. I can come up with a better concept, and one that doesn’t involve massive amounts of compositing and rotoscoping, and I’ll direct the video. So all is good, another music video for my directing reel. Then the fun starts. The talent/artist/singer can’t get it together with cast. I call an actress I like to work with, so now we are set. Except – the Stylist suddenly can’t do the job. The Choreographer drops out the night before. Frankly, there is only so much I can do. I’ve got an actress, I’m bringing a crew member. Talent has to supply some children, and find a bunch of actors and props.

Day of shoot, well, we are significantly short of actors, props and locations. Look it’s low budget, I remember working on this sort of thing when I started out as a focus puller 20 years ago. You do what you can, work with what you’ve got and make it great. We go through the wardrobe of the singer and her grown daughters until we find outfits that we can work with. At the end of the day, the talent/singer is so happy with my work as director, they want me to come with them to Jamaica. Now look, one day shoot out in New Jersey, that’s one thing, but I can’t disappear for 4 days without getting some money. I’ve responsibilities, and if I’m not there to take care of them, I’ve got to pay someone to.

So I couldn’t go to Jamaica, and sadly, the footage someone else shot there is pretty bad (and nothing like what I suggested be shot.) No performance, bad operating, bad choices, and the camera almost never pauses in its seemingly mindless hunting around looking for a frame or direction. This gives me almost nothing to work with. I use what little footage is usable, and edit the video. The talent insists on putting more of the lousy footage into the video, and I balk. I’m doing this so I can have a reel piece, why put in crappy shots that make the video bad? Then the talent decides they don’t like my cut, and they want to re-shoot the whole thing with their original concept involving rotoscoping green screen compositing and have it shot/directed by someone else and finished in 5 days, oh and can they have the footage I shot on the original.

I’m a nice person, really a nice person, and I like to help people out, but it is a little upsetting when I show up to shoot, and the talent tells me that even though the stylist did a bad job and abandoned her, she paid the stylist, and then that she paid the camera guy in Jamaica. Great, so the guy (me) who delivers on his promise, and gives you not only great footage, but comes up with the concept and does a great job directing the video, getting you to deliver a great performance, THAT guy (ME) he gets bupkis.

I only did this, put in time developing the concept, fulfilling my responsibilities, and having to change on the fly when others dropped the ball, to have a good reel piece. I made that clear when we started discussing the video. So I’m not working again for no money, I’m not sharing director credit, and if the video I shot and edited isn’t the one the singer is releasing, then the whole thing was a waste of my time, and no you cannot use the footage I shot/directed and use it in a video directed by someone else.  Without the video, then I haven’t been “Paid” and you aren’t getting the footage. Oh you can pay me $$$$$ for it, but not for free you aren’t getting the footage. in the end, I suppose it was predictable, but I kept a positive attitude, and did my best to make it happen. All that effort, by me, and others wasted. Annoying, and so annoying. I ended up getting nothing for my time, so that’s it, remember – Must get paid something, and have a frickn’ written agreement. People just don’t get what is involved if they aren’t paying you. Stop being such a nice guy. There is just no point to it.

That’s a refresher course, good to get reminded about this. It is so much better to shoot for people you know.

I did  a shoot for Vincent Zambrano, but he’s professional and paid me. It is a piece on an artist – Will Kurtz He’s really happy with the shooting and the edit, now bringing the dolly and using it without a crew is a bit of a drag, but it added so much to the video, I’m glad we choose to put in the extra effort. It does get interesting how things work (it’s called NETWORKING), because I originally connected with Vincent years ago through my friend and writing partner Joe Randazzo. Joe and I have co-written Resurrection of Blake House. Which if you have been following the blog you will know a bit about. Now along with the networking theme the short film Hellion will be screening before the World Premier of Mike O’Mahony’s Sloppy the Psychotic. It’s a very cool thing and once again ONLY through networking, which is why it makes sense to work with new people even if sometimes it means working for –  NO, NO, NO. Don’t go there. There is nothing to be gained by my working for strangers for free. Repeat this phrase over and over when you are faced with this offer.

Continuing the networking and education theme. NYC-Screenwriting-Collective in New York. I’ve just started to go to the meetings. Way cool. I like the format. It is moderated, and directed. It’s a friendly group, and even going as a reader and giving my notes on the scripts I’m reading, I get a lot out of it. I wonder about the feedback I’ll get on “Winter Money.” Got to let it out, and hear the feedback, find what works and doesn’t, and not be defensive. Tough to do, tough to learn, but oh so necessary. Network, learn, grow., and self promote – speaking of which. Char Hardin interviewed Joe and myself about our script Resurrection of Blake House, for her Podcast part 1 among other things. It’s a hoot, a three parter, filled with raucous laughter, a few obscenities, and lots of talking about screenplays, movies, the business and well go listen.

Thanks for reading.

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2 Responses to Education – it's a life long process – Don't make the same mistake over and over and over.

  1. Lang Vanish February 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    oh great ! I really like that article 🙂

  2. Magen Zertuche February 11, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it

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