Monday, November 26, 2007
Sex, Money And Drama
Becoming grist in the gossip mill can damage the career of a professional photographer. You can't always avoid the scandal, but you can learn how to recover from it with your reputation intact.
Money, Money, Money
The only people who should know how much money you're making on a shoot are your producer and your agent. On the agency side, the only people who know what your fees are for a shoot are the art buyer and account executive. Keep it that way.
Money is universally seen as a gauge for success. I've been on a few jobs where the model was making more than I was. I don't want anyone to know that. Also, the people you hire don't want their day rate floating around the set either. Fortunately, there's an unwritten code that no one talks about money. But even when you're buddying up at the bar at the wrap celebration, finances should never ever be discussed.
When Do You Fight, When Do You Walk Away?
I shot a Best Western ad campaign. The first two ads I did went over so well that they brought me back for one more. Unfortunately, the agency had lost the account and they were just fulfilling their obligation by finishing the campaign. So in comparison to the first two shoots, the budget was cut way back and the overall morale was in the toilet.
To save money, I produced the job myself. At 4 p.m. on the day before the shoot, I realized that I forgot to arrange for a location permit. I had a plan to get one the morning of the shoot, but if it failed, I was screwed. I took the account executive into my confidence, and she promised to keep it to herself.
At the preproduction meeting, the account executive threw me to the lions. She proudly told everyone that I hadn't procured the permit, and if I couldn't get one the next morning, we'd have to cancel the shoot and reschedule.
I desperately wanted an adult diaper and a shot of hemlock for my coffee. She was doing something that you'll see a lot of in the business. Aside from the backstabbing part, she was lighting a fire so she could put it out. She proudly offered to “take one for the team” and go to the Santa Monica film office first thing in the morning and pick up the permit. All this was to make her look like a hero.
I decided not to fight. The account was going away, and the agency was going to lay off a bunch of people. The job was going to happen, and I was going to get paid. There was nothing to fight for.
Knowing when to fight is a judgment call based on your gut feeling. Always take the heat if you or your team screws up; that's just professional. But if you're looking at having your reputation screwed up because someone is being malicious, dig in and fight. And be prepared to kiss the job and the client goodbye—which is okay to do.
Knowing how to walk away from a nasty client is as important as knowing how to get clients in the first place. Standing up for yourself in a bad situation may cost you in the short term, but in the long term, the industry needs to know that you'll be adaptable and professional—but you won't be a punching bag or pushover to accommodate someone's ego and malicious behavior.
Occasionally, You Get A Bone
A year and a half after the Best Western drama, I was out with a friend who was working at an ad agency in a recruiter roll. She took a phone call, and after she hung up, she apologized and told me that an account executive was lobbying hard for an open position in her agency. I asked my friend for the person's name. Then I told my friend what she did to me a year and a half earlier. I paid for drinks that night.
Louis Lesko is a fashion photographer based in Los Angeles. He's also the owner of Blinkbid Software, estimating and invoicing software for photographers.
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