Friday, September 20, 2013

Don't hate, facilitate.

Okay, well, I'm not sure where to begin with this one.  Earlier this summer, an old friend of mine reached out to me to see if I would be interested in editing something for a buddy of his.  (I'll call my friend Francis Talk, and his buddy is Yuri Nasole.)  I'm just going to kind of rant here.

So anyways, Yuri gives me this detailed email with a schedule: the rough cut for him in about a week, another draft for the client a couple weeks later, and then the final version about a week after that.  So after taking a look at their other work on their website, I decided to take a chance to see where this would lead, and I actually held off on making plans for the summer.

Francis was supposed to drop off a hard drive with the footage earlier that week, but I didn't hear from him.  On Saturday, while I was at the park with my family, I get this text from Yuri that since Francis can't drop off the hard drive (no sh**, really?) he can do so since he is on his way to NYC.  So rather than enjoying the afternoon, I'm now having to scramble and head back home to meet this guy.  After a while, I realized that I can probably just meet him at the mall since that is right by the tunnel.  So we meet there and he hands over this LaCie hard drive with a USB 3.0 micro output.  It had been raining torrentially hard just minutes ago, but he's holding the thing like a loaf of bread.  I stuff it into my pocket and go back to my family.

We stayed home that night and the rest of the weekend.  One of the instructions was that they wanted everything to be 1080p 24 because they "like the film look" and don't like the "video look".  But for some reason they shot half of it in 50 fps so I would have to convert it.  Fine.  I have the Adobe Suite so I used Media Encoder to convert everything.  That pretty much tied up my computer.

Here are some of the "style suggestions" I received:
Sound bites should be no longer than 30 seconds or so.
Each interviewee should not be on camera on the same shot for more than 10 seconds.
Optional: Add some light flares or soft glow effects throughout.

The following week, I go through the footage during downtime at work.  I'm taking mental notes, doing some basic assembles of the interviews and paring down the B-roll.  After a couple of days, I'm getting confused as to how to get this down to 9 minutes or so, and I'm not sure how to deal with dozens of hours of footage in such a short amount of time.  So I look back at their website to familiarize myself with their style, and then it hit me.  Some of that footage is from their old projects.  And they didn't tell me.  So I email Yuri Nasole to confirm and he says, oh yeah forget about that other stuff.  So yeah.  They told me they were giving me a hard drive containing 160GB of footage but failed to tell me to ignore 100GB worth of it.

And how much of that 60GB was actually usable, by the way?  They shot with 3 DSLR cameras.  How do I know?  One way to tell is the folder structure on the hard drive.  Another is that I can see the other cameras in the footage whenever they would walk into each other's shots.  They also had no lights and used monopods instead of tripods.

And they kept starting and stopping their recording whenever they felt like it.  There was absolutely no way to efficiently synch this footage.  And much of it was junk anyway.  Like, why are you framing that soda can in the foreground?  How does that pseudo-artistic junk pertain to the message?  And why are you shooting these people chewing away during their lunch meeting?  How do you figure they or anybody else would ever approve of that going into their marketing video?  And really, 30 seconds of b-roll is enough, right?  Argh!  I could go on and on.

So let me go on and on.  One of the cameramen was supposed to convert time-lapse footage for me, but it never came.  Apparently, he was busy working on other projects.  And how did they shoot their time-lapse?  Clicking still frames every few seconds.  Loudly clicking.  Which is being picked up by the other cameras, making the other shots unusable because of that audio.

So after wasting most of the week, I redo the entire project and stay home again during the weekend.  I get him the rough cut by the deadline.  I send him a hi-res version via Dropbox and a lo-res version through sendspace.com.  He emails me back to thank me and that he will "watch it tomorrow".  So after he's wasted my time, and after I've hustled my ass to meet his deadline, he can't take a few minutes to watch it and get back to me.

So I don't hear back from him for a couple of days.  Then on Wednesday, he emails me and wants to know when is a good time for a phone call so we can go over the changes.  So we schedule it for Thursday at 4pm.  The appointed time comes.  And he calls me from his car.  While driving.  In traffic.  And then he asks me if he can call back later that evening because, you know, he's in his car driving in traffic.  So I said, okay.  So while I blocked off time to talk to him, time that could have been used more productively, he couldn't plan ahead so as not to be operating a vehicle and endangering his life, and more importantly, the lives of others at that specific agreed upon moment.

So later on, I head home and after exiting the subway, I get this voicemail that says tomorrow would actually be better for him so he'll call me tomorrow instead.  Tomorrow comes and he calls me.  This time he's not driving a car.  He's in some kind of cafeteria.  And it's loud.  And I can't hear a damn thing he's saying.  I'm not sure why he couldn't just email me days ago when I first sent out the rough cut.

So after a whole bunch of "what?", "sorry?", and "can you repeat that?" I get his feedback, and pretty much, he wants to overhaul the entire thing.  He wants the sequence backwards, wants to change the music and lower third graphics.  I tell him it would be best if he gives me copyright free music that he already has and already knows that he likes.  (I don't mention the fact that obtaining music costs money.)  He agrees to do so.  He also volunteers to give me a graphics template.  I tell him that it's no problem to make all those changes and I'll confirm when I receive the music and graphics.

I also bring up the fact that the audio quality is terrible.  At one point, they had interviews with people in the middle of a party.  They pinned a lavalier on them instead of using a cardioid or something.  And I'm pretty sure nobody was monitoring it, or they might have figured out that the audio sucked in that room.  Why don't we step outside for a few minutes while we conduct this interview?  Because otherwise, we would be just wasting our time, the interviewee's time, the client's time, and more importantly in this case, the editor's time.  So he tells me he realizes that the audio is terrible so "just do what you can".

Days go by, and I don't get anything from him.  Then the second deadline comes, and still I get nothing.  At that point, summer is nearing its end so I made last minute plans to go on vacation.  Of course, the hotel rates were not ideal, but we went anyway because we had no choice.  And I took my laptop and his footage with me.  My vacation comes and goes, and I don't hear from him.  Then the final deadline comes.  So I said screw it.  I don't know what happened, and I don't care to know.  Either they had a copy of the footage and they worked on it on their own, or the project is FUBAR.  If it was the latter, I wasn't going to facilitate the project for them for the amount of money I was getting ($500 for the entire project, which was nothing compared to what I would be getting if it had been at my hourly rate).

So about two weeks after the final deadline, I get this voicemail from Yuri Nasole.  "Hey, I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you, but I've been busy with other projects."  Huh?  Why even mention your other projects?  Like I'm supposed to be understanding of your ineptitude because you had other priorities than the one you took me on?

But wait, there's more!

He goes on, "Luckily, I was able to get an extension by promising the client two extra short videos at no charge."  Goodie for you.  And then he asks me if I can get the final version turned around quickly.

But wait, there's more!

He then asks me to re-upload my draft because somehow the link doesn't work anymore.  Because he didn't actually download it or anything, I guess.  The project being so important that he just leaves it wandering around in the internet somewhere ready to come back to him at his beck and call.  And then he says, once he's seen it, he can get back to me with his notes.

But wait, there's more!

He then adds an encouragement that we should get this done quickly so that we can work on other projects.  Apparently, he's got so many other opportunities waiting in the wings.  That certainly makes it worth my while having to deal with this hot shot professional producer.

He also asks me for some raw material and how big they are so he can clear space on his Dropbox account.  So I tell him it'll be about 14GB and that I don't have enough space in my Dropbox, but if he gives me his account info, I can upload it.  He gets back to me with his email.  So I'm thinking, um, I already know your email.  We've been emailing each other.  And I know how to send out a link once it's uploaded.  What I actually need is your account info, i.e. your username and password so I can actually upload it to your account since I don't have enough space in mine, as I have previously stated.

So while I'm going through this material, he then texts me and says, "Never mind.  It turns out Francis actually has those files so don't worry about sending them."  This was on a Friday night, and I went out to dinner with my family.

He then adds, "In the interest of time, since Frank Talk and I are used to working fast together, can you please send over the project file so he can drop it into his timeline?"  I text him back and say it is not a problem and that I will do it once I am home.

Later that night, I sent the both of them an .XML file, which should open in whatever version of FCP they're using, as well as Adobe Premiere.  I don't hear anything back.  No acknowledgement.  No confirmation.  No "let me see if it works and get back to you".  No "it doesn't work you *&%#$&(*^" or anything.

So around 4pm on Sunday night, I get this text from Frank.  He says he can't find this footage of so and so, and can I please upload it to Dropbox.  I tell him no problem.  I will need somebody's account info.  He texts me back with his email.  So finally, it hits me that I need to spell it out for them, and I text him back that I will need a username and password to an account that has enough space.  I finally get the account info and proceed with the upload.  This ties up my computer for the night.  Actually, it ties it up for a couple of days, even though I have FiOS.  Again, I get no acknowledgement or confirmation that they are seeing the files and are downloading them.

I check the files, see that they have successfully uploaded and that they are being deleted soon after.  Then after a couple of days, I am no longer able to access the account.  I guess they got what they needed and changed the password.  So now I'm not able to unlink my computer from their account and every time I log on now it's looking for me to enter their username and password, which is really freaking annoying.

But wait, there's more!

Days go by, and late Thursday afternoon I get another text from Francis.  "Yuri Nasole is going to be in your area this evening and wants to know if he can swing by and pick up the hard drive."  I text back, "I won't be available but I can FedEx it to him if you give me the address."  He replies, "He really needs it today.  It's urgent.  If you're going to be home late or whatever, it doesn't matter.  He can swing through late.  Or if you can drop it off at The Swinging Hip Cat Place Downtown because he knows the owners there.  The point is he needs you to accommodate him somehow.  He needs that drive tonight."

So again, Yuri Nasole's lack of preparation is turning into my emergency.  I could have given him that hard drive days ago.  Actually, weeks ago.

I really don't know how these guys can sustain this kind of workflow.  They are probably wasting too much time on projects than they should.  And it seems like they are too busy acquiring more jobs to actually oversee them.

Anyways, my mistake was in assuming that they knew what they were doing.  And I guess it was wrong of me to bite my tongue instead of telling them outright how it should be done.  If this had not been a friend's referral, I would have said if you need this done by this time, you need to give this right away and you're going to have to let me do this my way to meed the deadline, etc.  But whatever.

I text back, "I won't be in the area, but I can swing by the house in the morning and bring it."

"His house?"

Huh?  I'm gonna swing by his house in the morning?  Don't I have work to go to?

I text back, "I can stop by my house on the way to work, pick up the drive and meet him at NYC.  Or meet him at the train station at 8:30."

"That works.  He can do that."

"Which one?" I ask.  "The train station?"  No reply.

I then get this email about meeting at the train station.  And then I confirm it.  And Yuri confirms it.

So I'm busy working on a project when I get a text later that night.  "I'm at the station in a car with blinkers on."  So I'm thinking, what?  I look at the time.  It's 8:30pm.  I double check the email.  It says "8:30pm".  So now I'm thinking, what?  I guess when I said that I wasn't going to be in the area that evening, that I'll have to swing by my house to pick up the hard drive in the morning, somehow it still was possible for me to meet him with the hard drive that night at 8:30pm.

So long story short, I again have to scramble and met the guy an hour later at a Dunkin' Donuts.  I get there and he's sitting at a table munching away at a croissant or something.  Not even looking out if I was actually going to show up.  So I hand him the hard drive, this time wrapped inside a bubble wrapped envelope, with the USB cord neatly rubber banded to it.  He says, "Thank you" and I move on with the rest of my life.



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