Uncomfortable situation with Client

Posted by Joe Riggs 
Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 28, 2015 03:48PM

I'm heading into a uncomfortable situation where I believe I need to ask a client for additional compensation and I'd love to hear your thoughts. Post production is very tricky on the real low budge indie level, there's so many factors involved if you do a flat rate.

So, initially we agreed on an amount, no contract was signed (yes, first mistake) but we have an email agreement, stating that I would edit until picture lock for X amount, with designated pay periods. First the process took way too long to reach picture lock for what it was, this is due to a number of reasons, one being the quality of the footage, but even more so was the client's own workflow decisions and hiring inexperienced crew for other departments.

I've been paid most of my fee with a small percentage left.

I've edited the project until picture lock, and prepped and turned over the files to sound. I probably shouldn't have even done that and I never agreed to do any online editing for that rate, which now looks like they are expecting me to put it back together. Additionally, they want to put in a few more shots.

Worst of all the relationship between the client and I has been strained for some time now due to how long things took and our disagreements in workflow (Client's workflow caused me to have to do and re do more work). Unfortunately, I really don't think either one of us wants to work with each other again, so I don't think I would be further damaging a relationship, but I'd still like to finish amicably if possible.

Worst case scenario would be if I will only do the online editing for additional compensation, they won't pay me the remaining fee, and I won't give back the project. I really don't want to be in that nightmare situation, in that case I'd probably rather bite the bullet do the work and get out of the project asap.

However, I certainly want to at least give it an attempt to get paid for the additional work, so what is my best route at this point?
Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 28, 2015 03:58PM
This is why my flat fee is always for delivery of first cut, and there after its a weekly or daily. I know that doesn't do you any good now. My explanation for this is I don't want to be in the position of having to choose between doing what I'd like to see done and paying my mortgage.

I don't understand you delivered lock. You turned over to sound, they need to pay that first. They will keep coming back and expecting you to do more for that little bit, first the online and then a trailer.
Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 29, 2015 08:29PM
finish the cut, but don't do the on-line.
i'm not quite sure what you mean buy on-line, you mean the prep or the conform, or the whole thing?
anyway, none of that is covered by the original agreement, so i'm not sure what the problem is?

Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 29, 2015 08:31PM
the golden get-out-of-jail card, of course, is if you've got another PAID job.
Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 30, 2015 05:43AM
Yes, to all those questions. In this case, I'm working with an inexperienced completely independent
client, so they probably think Editing is the entire post production process. It's disgusting for them to automatically assume that I should prep and conform, not that they even know what that is! I even outlined the post process for client in an email where is states I'm editing offline for X amount, so at least I have that.
Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 30, 2015 06:54AM
well, it's not disgusting if they are green and ignorant.
your email "stating that I would edit until picture lock for X amount, with designated pay periods" seems pretty clear.
especially if you've reached picture lock (or the first one, anyway!)
no need for the situation to get over emotional, it's in black and white.

if you don't trust them, then i guess you have to be paid up front,
or make it clear in advance that they wont get a master output until you get paid.

although i'm not sure why you'd want to keep working for them,
just get what you're owned, and hand over the project files to an assistant or post house,
or some other person who's dying for a break comforting and grading a zero budget film.

were you good friends before your worked together?

Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 30, 2015 11:58AM
Really enjoying this thread. Thanks all

Michael Horton
Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 30, 2015 05:21PM
I am too, but...it's uncomfortable! We've all been there one way or another.

Joe, what if you suggest to client you all take a break from the project for a week or so, so they can price out what things cost for the next steps, and move forward from there, knowing youve been a straight-shooter regarding your fees?

"But, we're on a deadline!"

If it's a festival deadline, it's very simple to generate a full picture lock export and burn festival entry dvd's, which are usually allowed, can be very presentable and give judges enough to go on to decide whatever they decide. Of course, an onlined piece has a leg up. Judges spend about ten minutes on each entry before filtering it in or out. If the show is too ragged, if the sound is unbalanced, or music drowns out speech, you're insulting them. Give them love. It may pay off.

"But, we have a broadcast date!"

Oh, fine! So here's the estimated cost for the online conform... inluding my final fee for storyline editing with production track/scratch mix/temp music etc.

Best, as always,
Loren S. Miller
Re: Uncomfortable situation with Client
April 30, 2015 08:36PM

were you good friends before your worked together?

No, was recommended by a friend of a friend, but the issue if there is one, is this business is so insidious that who knows what position these people will be in down the line, so if possible an amicable end would be preferable.

As Loren suggested, I'm just going to inform them that I've completed my work, I'll be happy to do additional work for X amount. They will probably be shocked by it but all I can do is be polite but firm.

Hoping I can position myself to attract better more legit clients and one day, get to the next level, where I can just focus on storytelling instead of being an assistant editor, editor, post supervisor, online editor...all in one, even with pay, it drains you.
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