Monday, April 18, 2011

The Non-Fist-Pump Weekend...

I've been doing wedding and event videography for a few years now and one thing that I've had to get used to is the sometimes forgotten fact that videography jobs are fluid by nature, especially when problems surface. The contract may have times, stipulations, and a myriad of other agreements, but both parties involved know (or should know) that nothing ever works out the way it appears on paper. When it works out in your favor, you do a fist pump, hop in the car, and cruise on home. Unfortunately, this was not a fist pump weekend.

So the job this weekend was simple, spend all day shooting two performances of a dance recital and selling DVDs before and after each show. Compared to the two-day wedding shoot that is coming up, it's a cakewalk, or at least it was supposed to be. I was told to show up around 8:30 AM, sell DVDs until 12:00 when the first show started, shoot for two hours, sell again until people cleared out, and repeat at 4:00 PM. I was already feeling a bit off that morning. I will be the first to admit that I am no salesman by any stretch of the imagination, so a day of selling DVDs had my nerves up a bit. Taking a small detour (more commonly known as a wrong turn) along the way and showing up a few minutes late didn't help either. When I finally did get there, the first thing I noticed was how many people were already there and waiting to get in. Large dance recitals like this are always packed, so it didn't seem that odd.

Just as I got organized and ready to sell DVDs a lady came walking up to fill out a form. In the same moment, the stage crew opened the doors to let people take their seats. I think I made an offhand comment about how early they were opening the doors, and that's when the bomb dropped. The lady looked up from her form and said, "Well, the show starts at ten." I can't say for sure what my face looked like, but I'm sure it was something like this:

As the terror settled in, I realized not only did I need to get the equipment setup to shoot, but my second camera op wasn't going to be there until 11:00. At this time, there was no way he could make it more than ten minutes earlier than that, so I would be flying solo. Who's fault was it? Who got the times mixed up? It didn't matter then, and it doesn't matter now because the answer to, "Who is going to fix this?" was Zack. As I abandoned the sales table and started to setup the cameras, I got a phone call from one of the recital organizers. He was concerned because he hadn't seen me come in and thought I was not there yet. When I explained that I was already there and told him my situation, I got the, "Oh, OK" response. Which, for those that don't know, translates to, "Oh, well I'm gonna call someone with more authority than me and let them know." Sure enough, about a minute after I hung up, I got another call from the owner of the dance studio wanting me to meet her back stage and talk about the situation.

I think this is a good place to stop and make a few things clear. First, while I was stressed and having to hustle to make sure things were ready to go, I was by no means panicking. I've been in situations like his before, but that doesn't mean that it's fun. Secondly, there are many ways that a client can react to problems, the two most popular being getting upset or trying to handle things rationally. Luckily for me, this client was one of the latter.

The original plan was to shoot the entire first show, then get a list of performances that needed to be re-shot during the evening show. I knew well in advance that I would probably be asked to shoot the entire second show anyway. However, when she suggested that I just skip the first show entirely and shoot only the evening show, I had to kindly suggest something else. When you promise a client double coverage as a safety net, they will never be happy going without it because the thought of, "well, maybe it would have been better if we shot the other performance..." will always creep into their heads. Instead, I suggested that I shoot by myself until my second camera op arrived and then we would just shoot the entire second performance, since I was prepared to do so anyway. I think knowing that I wanted to make the best out of a rough situation and that I was willing to take the extra time to make things right helped put my clients mind at ease. I never had to discuss it with her again and about half way through the first show things started to smooth out.

So, what is the point to this ridiculously long story? Well, I guess I have three pieces of advice to pass along.

1. Don't panic! Panic spreads like wild fire and leads to bad decision making whether you're the videographer or the client.

2. Don't take short-cuts, especially when it's the client that is giving you the opportunity. It's their event, but it's your reputation and your name that gets stamped on the product. Always give yourself the best chance at ending up with a great final product.

3. Stop worrying about who's at fault for a bad situation. The old saying is true, actions speak louder than words. So, do you want to talk about who's fault it is, or do you want to show some accountability and get the job done right?

Thanks for reading.


  1. I think you handled that beautifully. So many times I've been working on some event or project or what have you, and things fall apart, sometimes because I screwed up, sometimes because someone else screwed up, and sometimes just because it is the nature of the universe that things get screwed up from time to time. My philosophy is, we can sit around and figure out who's fault this is, or we can fix it and move on. I'm glad I'm not the only one who refuses to be the proverbial headless chicken at times like this. :)

  2. Exactly! I won't try to say that I never get flustered or never let the initial shock get to me, but you just got to get it together and move on...