Creative Control – Client or Producer?

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    • #37577

      Hey there,

      I’m a little young to the business side of videography, and I’ve only just begun to get into contracts, rights and all that legal jargon. This is mostly because my strengths are in Cinematography, but unfortunately to make a living these days I need to put on a producer hat most of the time and… well that’s not my strength at all. So I was hoping to get some feedback on a recent problem I had…

      My most recent project was a music video (still editing). From the start, I had my client sign a contract agreement regarding prices, and deadlines and whatnot. My director and I sat and talked to him for a few hours about the look and message of the video, and what he wanted to accomplish, the equipment we’d like to use… everything we could think of in order to ensure we were on the same page. We then wrote a treatment, describing in detail how the video will be edited in its finished form, and after three revisions, it was approved. We also did this with our schedule and budget, all were approved.

      After shooting the project, we edited a first cut, color corrected, and added in rough visual effects. We showed the client and he gave us a LONG list of changes, very specific ones including time code (which was helpful, I admit, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit smothered). A lot of his decisions ended up entirely changing the project from its original treatment which we agreed upon.

      After having a long discussion with him, it’s now become clear that he originally was looking for more of a political video than your standard rock video with performance shots… which was really the bulk of what we recorded! We’re now stuck with having him send us a package of stock footage, and he’s having us replace the shots that we recorded on location with shots he found in a documentary… which is kind of painful to do to work you spent hours composing in the field!

      I’m sure it’s not a matter of the video quality being poor. He even said it himself that we did a fantastic job with what we shot, but he’s not happy with the video’s message…

      So, my fellow videomakers… I’m curious, how can this issue be avoided in the future? Was it my fault for not getting this out of him before hand? Should I be more specific in my contract about creative control? Or is this normal and I should just learn to expect it?


    • #166617

      In the end, it is the “client’s” video and what he wants should be your primary concern – Bottom line is whoever pays gets creative control.

      That said, if he’s not paying for all this editing, then you have some decisions to make (like whether you continue).

      I learned from a “client from hell” that a time limit is now built into my revisions clauses and the client pays for each hour of revisions after a certain amount (like 4-8 hours). My contract now is very specific about what gets delivered and for how much. (I got it from someone on a message forum and modified it to suit my work). As for who’s vision gets produced, in the end, it’s whoever is paying (in other words, you want creative control, do it on your nickel).

    • #166618


      To Master Birdcat you should listen (using my best Yoda voice.) In every proposal and contract I put forth for a project there is always the stipulation that, ‘any changes or additions beyond the original project scope and approved budget will be treated as a separate project and will be charged to the client as such.’ The joy/pain of being an Executive Producer is being able to make the big calls and pay for them. Remember, the client doesn’t own anything until they’ve paid for it in full.

      Besides, music video clients are more of a PIA than charities and churches (which is saying something!) I generally try to avoid them as much as possible. Even when they do have money and are willing to pay (on time), they usually have ‘delusions of grandure’ and will run you through a whole bunch of BS before the project is complete. More often than not, the aggravation is not worth the money.

    • #166619

      For stuff like this, I’ve made up a storyboard form that I send out before I show up to shoot. I try to get them to lay out the entire project, and then I stick to their storyboards when I shoot and edit. That way when they want changes, I feel more justified in charging the hourly rate, because I was doing what they asked me. πŸ˜‰

    • #166620

      Thanks for the tips! Now that I’ve lived and learned, I can be sure to set the rules straight for re-visions. I’ve just got a lot of stock footage to edit…

    • #166621

      you say he’s providing footage from a documentary he found, does he have the rights to use said footage? Be careful.


    • #166622

      What Johnboy said!

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