Videomaker’s Annual Video Horror Stories

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    • #49148
      AvatarJennifer O’Rourke

      Videomaker has annually posted Video Horror Stories features, appropriately around October, for a Halloween fun. These stories range from newbie videographers just getting their feet wet to the pros who have been at it for a long time, and they validate that things do happen when you have a lot of gear to manage, locations to navigate and people to deal with.

      For those of us with a passion for video producing, pitfalls and calamities happen, and its just another day on the shoot.We can’t help it – we’re responsible for a lot of gear, and sometimes, well, things happen. In most cases, we’re able to deliver our video on time and in good order, and in most cases, our client or viewing audience never knows about the drama [sometimes trauma!] that went on behind the scenes.  But we know better and we like to share. I’ll start with a story of my own followed by Real Horror Stories from the writers you read every day in Videomaker. Please add your own story to the growing list!

      Oh, Crap!
      I once had a News Director tell me news shooters were like fire-horses: their adrenaline starts racing, their hearts start pumping when they "smell" fire, or in our case, news.
          It was 9:00 in the morning on a boring summer Saturday with promise of a heat wave that I'd hoped would keep everyone indoors – including me, when the police scanners started crackling about a toxic spill at a Naval Air Station 60 miles from town. The Assignment Desk dispatched me right away with "I'll send you details when I know them," as I raced out the door with camera and gear-bag in hand.
          By the time I got to the military base, I had to go through a lot of security protocol before I was allowed entry – then I was escorted several miles to a remote area of the base where a great river ran through. Apparently, the "toxic waste" was a spilled collection of six porta-potties… instead of taking them to the proper waste treatment area, some delivery person just dumped them into this beautiful river – one that, at the time, was on the list of America's Most Endangered Rivers.
          The Naval authorities had grunts (low ranking personnel) in the process of channeling the soiled water and waste using the same booms they used in the Gulf oil cleanup and the airmen were completely shrouded in protective clothing. I, on the other hand, was wearing my usual jeans, T-shirt and gym shoes, so I was trying to keep a safe distance while still getting good coverage of the activity. As one airman tugged the boom line on the left, another was pulling the debris to the shore on the right and I decided to get a better low angle shot. I perched on my heels, and bent down to about two feet from the ground when the unthinkable happened. As I focused for a close-up of the boom line it got caught on a reed that was growing out of the river. The airman to my left gave it a tug and instead of gently disengaging, it flipped its "catch" into the air which sprayed dirty water and human waste completely down on top of me.
          "Oh, Crap!" doesn't even describe what I said, felt, saw or smelled at the moment and I was immediately rushed to a toxic cleanup area they had prepared in advance – just in case, where I was hosed down, then stripped to my unmentionables and hosed down again. They took my camera and cleaned it off and I left the scene quite embarrassed.. chagrinned.. and wet, but with an incredible exclusive story.

    • #201330


      A client had hired me for a short promo of a band. I met them at night in a field by a railroad and planned to shoot them with a bright light in a chinese lantern ball hung from a bridge, they’d play, it would look weird and great, i’d go home. Upon arriving I discovered that I’d neglected to bring the cable that connected my power source to the lamp. I had NO LIGHT. The band milled around while I pretended I had everything under control. I cranked the ISO on my DSLR to a place nobody would have thought possible five years ago, turned the shutter speed down and the band played, lit by the moon and far off street lights, exposed far better on video than my eyes could make out in the dark. It looked beautiful and in the end, they thought me bold and daring.

    • #201331


      One of the worst situations is working with someone who’s never been near a video production until the day they spent exuberant amounts of cash self-producing their own idea. When business is bad though, you’ll sometimes compromise on the projects you’ll agree to. You do what ya’ gotta do.

      During one such hardship, I worked a [discounted] gig on a straight-to-DVD niche project. I put up with panic attacks, needless revisions, drastic over-cutting, several rounds of the blame game, and endless attempts to use the same inappropriate and annoying music. Virtually every suggestion I offered was dismissed. At one point I was even told that I owed them extra time simply out of commitment to the project. I needed the money though, so I bit my lip and learned to be the good little button pusher they thought an editor should be. The creative process was lost and the final product suffered.

      I quoted that because they went back for yet another round of re-shoots. I’m sure the project is either still in development, or has been abandoned. In retrospect I don’t think they learned anything. Tons of time and money wasted because someone knew better. If you hire professionals, trust them. As for me… never again.

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