Being a professional videographer is about navigating unexpected challenges and learning to adapt. Each project brings its unique set of demands, and each client their unique expectations. I recently concluded a project with a European production company that perfectly encapsulates this truth. This is a story worth sharing, as it provides a wealth of lessons for future projects and professionals in the field.
Project Outline and Initial Challenges
This project started in April with a series of corporate interview shoots in Japan. The client first approached me with a request to conduct five interviews and B-roll in a day, using two cameras, lighting, and audio equipment. Plus, they wanted me to handle the interviewing. This was an enormous task for a single person to handle within a short period, risking a significant drop in quality. I insisted on a two-person crew – myself and an assistant.
Negotiating and Communicating Scope
Negotiations with the client were drawn out and complex, largely due to the client making incremental additions to their demands. After many exchanges, I was able to pin them down on a specific budget. However, they then asked that this budget also cover the shoot location costs. The cost of locations can vary dramatically, and they failed to respond to requests for information about the intended shoot location.
It wasn’t until close to the shoot day that the client finally provided details about the location. To fit this into the budget, I agreed to offer a discount on the promise of future work in May. But this wasn’t the end of the issues with the location.
The Location Challenge
The client asked me to confirm if the location they’d found online would be suitable. But without visiting the location – a service that would require additional cost – I couldn’t provide a guarantee. The client ended up booking a location that was less than 10 square meters and next to a busy road and train tracks, leading to significant noise problems during the shoot. We made adjustments to our audio equipment and repeatedly paused the interview to avoid the worst of the noise, but it was far from an ideal situation.
Dealing with Additional Demands
Following the shoot, the client requested additional services – items to be mailed internationally and large digital files to be delivered online. The challenges here were considerable, from postal and customs issues to the technical difficulties of transferring terabytes of data online.
I initially attempted to upload the files to a server provided by the client, but it couldn’t handle the data size. After a week of failed attempts in between other work, I paid for a premium online file-sharing service and compressed the files without compromising quality to send them to the client, at no additional cost.
The Importance of Valuing Your Work
Despite these challenges and the amount of extra work, the client continued to seek further discounts for the May shoot, citing financial liquidity issues. The client used the promise of future work as leverage to demand lower prices. This approach, coupled with a disregard for the challenges and extra work involved, undermined the value of our work.
Trust and Professional Relationships
Trust is a vital aspect of professional relationships. There were instances during this project where that trust was tested. The client contradicted their previous agreement regarding the June shoot’s pricing and consistently failed to appreciate the value of my work.
This experience emphasized the importance of trust in professional relationships and the need to be cautious about who we choose to work with.
Conclusion: Lessons Learned
This project was a challenging one, with many twists and turns. There were lessons on the value of clear communication, the importance of trusting professional relationships, the need for firm boundaries, and the right to assert the value of your work.
Navigating the various challenges that this project presented has been a learning experience. It reinforced the importance of setting clear expectations, maintaining professional boundaries, valuing our work appropriately, and establishing trust in professional relationships. Each project is a journey, an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. Despite the challenges, the experience was valuable, providing me with the insights that I hope will be beneficial to others navigating similar situations. I believe the best way to handle such challenges is to stay true to our professional values, deliver high-quality work, and stand firm on the worth of our expertise and service.