Producers that don't pay!!!!!

Posted by Jeff C 
Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 12:51AM
Hello my fellow peers,

The name of the thread says it all. Unfortunately there probably isn't a single person on this forum who hasn't dealt with this at one time or another. Just wanted to share with you how I am dealing with my current situation. I think all of us editors need to stick together in times like these. I am throwing this out there so that if any of you end up in a pinch, maybe this will help. Enjoy!!!!!

Note that the names have been changed to help the guilty.



Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 01:08AM
I hope this was a joke. I didn't enjoy's disturbing. When you take on a client for 30 days @ $1,000, you get what you get. You priced yourself right into this situation. Consider yourself lucky you got $500 and "Lesson Learned".

Since you posted this up for all to see and comment on, I will give you my 2 cents. I think the way you handled this is really tacky & bad form. Nobody would hire you / work with you if they ever found out you wrote up this PDF. We all have had this happen...but deliberately trying to embarrass your client no matter what is really bad form and bad for any future business. Word of mouth spreads very fast in this business. I personally did FREE Compositing / VFX for a film that went straight to DVD and 2 years later, I never even got my copy of the DVD and movie poster I was promised. I didn't "send them my wrath". This is an unfortunate part of the business. There are dirt bags out there. You are going to have to learn how to deal with it or consider a career change.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 01:25AM
You know what Joe, point well taken and I will take it down. I am just sick and tired of getting burnt and I have a bunch of other editor friends who are going through the same thing. I thought this would help but if it comes across like that then I take your word for it as I do truly value your opinion.

I consulted several people before sending this out to them and they all felt it was very justified. I guess because they know me that is why the felt it was ok to do.

As far as working for that little, to a certain extent, you are right however when you have NOTHING coming in you have to take what you can get.

Thanks for checking this out. I appreciate you posting your honest opinion.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 01:30AM
> When you take on a client for 30 days @ $1,000, you get what you get. You
> priced yourself right into this situation. Consider yourself lucky you got $500
> and "Lesson Learned".

I don't agree with that view...$1000 for this kind of project is less than peanuts, but it's not a license to shirk half the payment. We shouldn't "expect" to get screwed. It's not a healthy approach even to no-budget projects.

But I do agree that this does not appear to be a great way of handling this:

a) You're publicizing the dispute, which in my opinion can actually damage your own case. You're even using your real name.

b) You wrote the letter in a very unprofessional style, to the point of calling them names. I guess it was deliberate, but that doesn't hurt their image; it hurts yours. It's a hissy fit.

c) If they're withholding payment, you might have withheld deliverables. Did you deliver them final editing materials? And was there an actual agreement about when you'd get paid? I've had clients who paid me in reasonable time, but had to wait months for their clients (agencies) to finally pay off the project in full.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 01:55AM
Yea, shaming them with your name looks bad for you. You could put an interest clause, which would even things out for you.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 01:56AM
I wasn't working full days on the edit but regardless I did spend a decent amount of time on the project.

I was promised and promised every time we spoke that the money was coming and sometimes they even said "the check was coming at the end of the week for the full amount". When I finally received my check, it was for only half the amount. We had numerous calm professional talks but it got me nowhere.

I don't think it is a bad thing to "embarrass them" by calling them out on their BS. Because I used the word "tools" well okay maybe that is a little too far. I just think some people dance around and are too polite and passive aggressive. Me on the other hand I am extremely direct and to the point. I am known not to don't dance around or mince my words. Some people can't handle that and that is fine, but where I come from you speak your mind.

Out of context and being put on public display, yes I guess it looks bad on my part. And I do accept that. I am fully confident and can admit when I am wrong. However I don't think I have to sit there and take it from them and worry about what I look (to them). After all they haven't paid their crew so I think it looks far worse as having a reputation for not paying vs having a reputation of someone who is very blunt especially when they get screwed. Was this in poor taste to post publicly, I guess so and I corrected myself and thank you for calling me out on that and keeping me honest!

As far as deliverables are concerned, I provided links so that they could show their investors other than that I did not deliver anything to them. Which next time I will be watermarking.

It was literally one of those run and gun jobs. The hired me the day before shooting and I allowed the chaos of production to delay getting me a solid contract. Fool me once!!!

Thanks for taking the time to listen and respond!

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 02:50AM
Derek, fyi i did not use their real names I used my real name because I had nothing to hide
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 05:07PM
Try getting burnt out of $26,000. I am still recovering from that one. Long and hard road.

Listen to THE EDIT BAY Podcast on iTunes
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 06:47PM
It does not help to call these people "producers" in the first place. They are not.

Part of the producer's job is to understand the financial side of the business and run a fair and ethical operation.

I have worked for plenty of real producers who ran honest operations. And were proud of it.

These other people are scam artists.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 08:09PM
Wow - Shane. That's a bad one. I'm currently pursuing a mere $3,000. I have, in the past, found that these people respond to a piece of paper which trumpets the words "YOU ARE BEING SUED" which is, apparently, what you first see when you open a letter from Small Claims Court (under $7,500 as I recall)

Unfortunately the charity (yes) that owes me $3,000 is registered in New York State so I have to pursue them through other more expensive means ... which brings me to a question: because my nonagenarian lawyer died recently, I am without attorney. This seems like a good opportunity to ask if anyone can make a recommendation ... ? I'm serious.

Maybe that's too much for this board legally, so, if you can, please send me a private email.,


Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 09:26PM
This is horrible. Maybe in the future you can insist on getting paid weekly or in installments and if they miss the first scheduled payment bail immediately and withhold materials. Going a month without payment seems like a long time. You can also do a little research on the producer as well. Does he or she have the funding already or do they have to wait to be paid from the client.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 22, 2011 11:39PM
If they're withholding payment, you might have withheld deliverables.

I tried not but..........

When you do not get paid for a job There are only a few reasons in my opinion.

1. You did not have a proper contract / agreement in place before you started. Having a good clear agreement is POINT A. If they don't sign you don't do.

2. You could not deliver.

3. You are dealing with a shower container who wanted something for nothing in the first place.

Assess the client thoroughly and I would recommend a "skin in" approach to your future projects. I have always worked on a 50/50 basis. 50% down and 50% on delivery.
I show none of my spots without something that protects it unless they are previous clients or sure clients. i.e. allowing them to only preview at 420x236, a 10-20% opacity watermark across the entire horizontal size.


Make your deposit non-refundable once work has begun, and give a concise description of what it considered work.

RESEARCH what the company has done for about 20 minutes on the web you will be surprised what you can find.

Say things like, " we can get started as soon as i have your signed invoice ", " Yes sir, once we have the contract signed we can start on the script or planning" ...ect. This will let them know you lean on that contract and that you feel its important.

LASTLY, NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER go public in perpetuity. But if they haven't paid in 30 - 45 days and they are dodging engagement with you, spend 135. to file and have them served and charge them a small fee for even having to file in the 1st place.

If they want net30 or 45 then i give them work net30 or 45. I will not start without a deposit.

""" What you do with what you have, is more important than what you could do, with what you don't have."

> > > Knowledge + Action = Wisdom - J. Corbett 1992
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 23, 2011 04:12PM
Shane that is a travesty. I am very sorry to hear that.

I had sent the "producers" the project file. However I sent them exactly what they paid for which was half. I deleted the video and only gave them the audio on the timeline. Just heard from them and they are scrambling to get me the rest of my money. Time will tell.

Shane and Harry, best of luck to you guys in getting your money.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 23, 2011 06:38PM
I have always tried to take a longer view of this. If they are screwing me, it is probable that they are screwing other folks as well.

I simply won't work for the offender again. I assume that the other pros that are treated this way also will not work with them. Now I don't know about you all but for me the best work I do is for people with whom I work on a repeated basis. We come to know each other, I can anticpate what they need, they come to know what I can do to help their project.

If a producer is constantly screwing his associate they are doomed to the uncomfortable position of never having an experienced crew. That, in turn, dooms them to the kind of projects that bottom feeders can find.

Unlike some of the stories here, my losses have been measured in hundreds of dollars and not thousands or tens of thousands. I consider myself lucky in that.

I do have one solution posed to me 30 years ago by a mentor of mine. I have never resorted to this, but find the idea amusing.

Show up one day in the office of the scum who owes you money. Have with you a cooler of ice, beer and sandwiches. And a comfortable lawn chair. Set up in their office or lobby, explain you have a two week supply of consumables, and are NOT leaving the office without your check. Also point out the office does not seem to have any visible comfort facilities.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 23, 2011 07:05PM
"Getting stiffed" is the #1 reason why I opt for RFT work (full time Studio Staff) and not depend on freelance to feed my family. I have been burned...and I don't like it. I keep a full time gig and I only pursue and take freelance work from people that I have either worked with before or people that I have been referred to by people I have worked with before. First question (even before I hear what the project entails) is always "how long do they take to pay". I deliver high quality product in a timely manner so I expect to be paid in a timely manner. Any longer than 4 weeks wait for final payment and I do not work with those people again.

You just cannot withhold deliverables. That will screw you...especially if it's a high-profile client. You will be blackballed (bad mouthed) and nobody will hire you down the road. You can only do that with lower tier / local clients who don't have deep pockets. It's a very small community. If I am doing VFX for an L.A. Movie and they need the finals to make the DVD distribution date, they will sue me if I do not deliver and that is bad press I do not need (even if they win, I look like the bad guy for not playing along).

It is a horrendous evil that unfortunately exists and will not go away. Your job is to learn from getting burned and set yourself up to succeed in the future. "Being Broke" is no excuse...that's BS. If you get a reputation as someone that is easy to "get over on", you'll never be respected and you'll never get better and make SERIOUS $$$.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 24, 2011 03:50AM
What is this the editor wall of silence? I didn't have a chance to see the doc Jeff posted but people like this need to be exposed. There should be a list of these deadbeats so others don't get screwed.

The reason this has happened to every one of us is because there is little to no consequence for the producers, especially if they get all the deliverables. If necessary, withholding the deliverables is the one card we can play and it seemes in Jeff's case that is the only reason he may even receive the rest of what he is due.


Once you received the check, what steps did you take and what was their response? Then, after you sent half the project, what was their response? It sounds like they changed their tune.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 24, 2011 12:11PM
Hey Jef could you PM me and get me the pdf?

I am tired of people being afraid of voicing their opinion. I think what you did is great but I'd like to read it first.
Why could employers spread rumors about us.... and not the other way around?!
I want to know which employer's bad and never work for him.
We have to stop to be afraid to speak up. We're not in the 30's anymore. The employers are not our masters.
And I think some employers might appreciate guys like you: with the guts of speaking up. It shows a lot about your personality and I like that.
And as far as rumors going around, I've been working in Hollywood for the last 8 years. I always expressed my opinions about my employers. Sometimes directly to their face, politely and respectfully. And I am still working... So this "rumor spreading" thing is to put in perspective. Bosses don't call each other saying "is this THE guy...."
ANyway, PM me
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 24, 2011 09:59PM
Joe and Xavpil I can send you the pdf. I have no problem with that. Not sure what you mean by pm me. You can email me at and I will send it to you I have zero problem with that.

I couldn't agree with you guys any more. I ALWAYS voice my opinion. I am very straight forward. I come at the person head on if I need to. Like I said before I think too many people dance around and are too passive aggressive about sticking up for themselves. I made a promise to myself a long time ago that when I lay my head down at night I will ALWAYS go to bed with my pride and my respect. I do not ever let anyone get away with anything. Even if it costs me a job. Simply put I would never want to work with or for anyone who doesn't understand what I did and why I did it. Or be punished for what I did. I think it was a knee jerk reaction to post publicly which Joe called me out on and I accept that. However I couldn't agree with Joe any more about having a list of clients that we should keep away from.

Look if we don't confront them head on, call them out, embarrass them and hold them accountable for their actions, they will NEVER STOP. I promise you this. They will def. think twice about trying to screw me any further. I would rather have no work and have my pride then worry about hack producers spreading around rumors that I "embarrassed them" because they didn't pay the crew. No one gets a free pass. I wasn't raised by my parents that way. Not to mention that my Sensei would kick the living Sh%& out of me if I didn't stick up for myself and my crew.

When I was in production I had an issue with one of the ADs. I confronted him head on, called him out and verbally ripped him apart for how he treated my production assistants. At the end of the shoot each and every one of them came up to me, pulled me aside (some of them a bit emotional about it) and thanked me up and down for sticking up for them. They said that they never had anyone put their neck on the line for them and protect them the way that I did. I take pride in that. I learned very early on that you are only as good as your crew and that is it!!!

I am from NY and if you don't stick up for yourself and hold your ground, you are weak and now a target for this sort of thing to happen to you over and over again. I have ALWAYS stuck up for myself when needed and did not worry about how I looked in the process. I would rather look like an editor who doesn't put up with Sh#$ rather than an editor who is a pushover. On the other hand I am always willing to accept my flaws and mistakes when called upon them. I am very confident and can and will accept when I am wrong. I can accept that it was in poor taste to post it publicly as Joe was quick to point that out. However I am not the least bit worried about sending that letter to the producers.

Thank you all for listening and being honest with me!

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 24, 2011 10:39PM
here in Australia, i believe there used to be a "grey list" which was compiled by one of the guilds
it was a list of producers who didn't pay, or didn't pay on time.
you could get the low-down on producers before you decided to work with them.
it was fairly hush-hush, (our libel laws are stricter than the US) but those in the guilds knew of it.

it was before my time, but i reckon it wouldn't be a bad thing to re-introduce it.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 24, 2011 11:35PM
Although I have good relations with most all my producers, I concur with Nick, we need an "Angie's List" for deadbeats.

- Loren

Today's FCP 7 keytip:
Summon your Video Scopes with Option - 9 !

Your Final Cut Studio KeyGuide? Power Pack
with FCP7 KeyGuide --
now available at KeyGuide Central.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 25, 2011 12:03PM
Thats a great idea.

""" What you do with what you have, is more important than what you could do, with what you don't have."

> > > Knowledge + Action = Wisdom - J. Corbett 1992
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 25, 2011 02:42PM
Although it's a tempting idea to create a list of deadbeats, the list creator would almost certainly face libel problems. There's also the issue of people like me slapping a client on the list because I didn't like him/her chewing bubble gum.

So the whole thing becomes risky and difficult to police. But, if it were possible to overcome those points ...

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 25, 2011 05:43PM
I think if it was something on the down low among this set, and it was considered more a get-your-money-up-front list, then a strict black list. More, sharing information among gentlemen, same as sharing bugs in software. Strictly an informational service.

The problem is that these companies change names pretty fast. Perhaps its a two strikes page. Perhaps if their was a list that generally ranked clients. So that if somebody worked low budget, but was known to pay on time, and was a positive collaborator. People knew that working with this person could be rewarding. So everybody goes on the list, but not everyone gets favorite nation status. We could differentiate between over-generous collaborators and dictatorial geniuses too.

Last year I had these two kids from India, making their christian themed "Be honorable movie." Shot on RED, it needs a re-cut, they're roomate or little brother cut it. We agreed on a rate they left me their drives and said, they'd be back Monday with a contract. I was going out of town on Saturday, but I delayed my family vacation. But before they walked out they very pointedly said, we've shaken its a deal you can't back out. I turned down a union assisting job, the day after they left.

They never showed up it took me 2 months to get a hold of them. And then they were like, there's no money you have to do the show for less. I turned down a union gig for this heart-ache.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 25, 2011 06:43PM
re: a "Grey List"

obviously it needs to be a very local affair, and very private.
the internet is not the place for it, and one could say that possibly the internet has made this sort of thing harder to implement.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 25, 2011 10:58PM
I "deadbeat list" is so wrong it's scary. Lawsuits abound. You cannot publicly "out" these people, I am telling you. It's not professional even if it is warranted. You will only screw yourself in the end.

Good luck those with short tempers.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 25, 2011 11:09PM
> one could say that possibly the internet has made this sort of thing harder to
> implement.

Completely agree on Nick's point.

The internet actually has the worst of both worlds: There is a record of who posted what, so there's a digital paper trail. You can't contain internet information in any realistic way, so even if you write and then remove a file/list/posting meant for a small group of viewers, the document can still propagate and float around somewhere out there beyond your control. So there's no protection of anonymity, no way to limit the extent of the information flow.

If Editor A posts something negative about Producer B, the readers have no way of knowing Editor A's credentials or experience. If it happens to be Editor A being disgruntled and misrepresenting the situation, the reader has no way of knowing how honest Editor A is about the situation. So there's no accountability or standard of trust, either.

This is the kind of thing that should remain in the realm of word of mouth. Literal word of mouth. Off-the-record communication, and only with people you know and trust, in confidence.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 26, 2011 02:02PM
You can always just post to this site:


I love the idea of a list of good producers, it might raise the profile of LAFCPUG members. The downside is of course usually these guys do two shows on the up and up and then screw everyone. So then your on the hook for recommending a putz.

The following is my business practice, it may be stating the obvious.

I generally make them pay for the first week up front or 30-50% down if they are a new client, that doesn't have some sort of PO system. Its safe to say, that if they can't come up with the money then, they never will. Until I receive the balance, they only get previews with burn in T.C. There is always a 10 sentence agreement about time frame and the number of rounds of notes when its a project on a flat fee.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 26, 2011 11:15PM
Invoice for 50% down to start should be the NORM for new clients. Invoice for 25% along with an approval H264. Invoice for the final 25% along with the final approved deliverables. This way, if the clients want to be dirtbags at the end, at least you got 75% paid. I would not move forward until the approval invoice is paid.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
July 26, 2011 11:32PM
This list will not be a problem if it comes from court records which indicate a collection issue between an editor and a producer who hasn't paid. Then you're just circulating public information and the disposition of the case: dismissed, continued, settlement, etc. This would be more like a legal post industry newsletter. It's a way of self-policing and might be a useful survival tool.

I agree, circulating an "Angie's List" could open one to libel. Interesting problem.

Ah, well, there's always word of mouth.

- Loren

Today's FCP 7 keytip:
Summon your Video Scopes with Option - 9 !

Your Final Cut Studio KeyGuide? Power Pack
with FCP7 KeyGuide --
now available at KeyGuide Central.
Re: Producers that don't pay!!!!!
August 23, 2011 11:39AM

Well I finally got my money. Looks like the letter worked. Paid in cash!
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