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Iga Mikler


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I just shot a project where the objective was to get a portfolio piece and credit, i wont get into the details but basicly i got screwed over big time. there were no contracts signed in pre or during production. though after we shot the material the director decided to go reshoot half of the project by herself(first time director) she was unhappy with the directing *i was very happy with the visuals and also did not understand what she was so unhappy with. Anyhow she took a small video camera and reshot the other material that was shot on 16mm. she shot it completely differently. she then edited it went back to online it and did a best light on her own without letting me know and released the footage to Television. Then followed the contracts,

one where it stated that i was the DOP and she did the supplementary camera work (i had not even seen the finshed work at that point) and i did have a discussion with her before she reshot the footage that i might not be able to have my name on the finished product because as a DOP i have responsibility for the entire product and i did advise her we reshoot it on film. so the producer had another contract in hand just in case, where it stated that i resigned my credit as DOP.


so i crossed out DOP in the first contract and put my name down as suplementary photographer.


at the same time i got another contract saying i have to delete any footage that i have that concerns the video, that i cannot use any of the material accept what is in the final project for my private use like portfolio. (i have of yet not signed this contract because it really feels wrong to sign it)


I did nothing wrong. The entire collaboration during pre and during production went great. we never had any fights or arguments with the director or producer until this beef with that the director completely cut me out of the picture to go reshoot herself.


what really disturbs me is that they are trying to be very professional about this project after the fact that its been shot, with all these contracts. But if you are trying to be professional you better be professional all the way and they have not.


To add to the story is that the budget was 10 000 dollars. i got 300 dollars for my work, 3 shooting days. I had got a 16mm camera for 300 dollars from a friend and lights for free and a juicy student discount on the film stock and lab process. i had the smallest crew ever, a friend of mine that worked for almost nothing..


I dont have any of the footage and i know i lost that battle, after trying to talk reason to the director and producer, the footage is owned by the client that only consent me to use the final version in my portfolio.


Now all i want to do is try to protect myself against these things happening again. like what if one does get into a beef with the director during production (it has happend in the past but i always finished the project) but what happens to ones name if the director suddenly fires you and brings someone else in to finish the project? or when you finish a project but they want additional footage and someone else films it and grades it. and it does not look right? that actually has happend to me in the past but i was away then.


I have invested 8 years in the field of DOP and worked very hard on projects for almost nothing and have come to the point where i am concerned about my reputation.


Living in Europe when you dont have union or agent to protect you and still student i am wondering what sort of contract i could draw up to best protect myself. Because this kind of disputes is taking up way to much energy. and this buisness is filled with a*** and all i want to do is protect myself and my name as best i can.


so any good advise on what to put in a contract would be very helpfull.


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There are all sorts of contracts you can devise, but even if a producer signs it, the question is how far do you want to go in enforcing the details of it -- particularly in a $10,000 project. If you develop a reputation of taking producers to court over the smallest of projects, you'll never be hired for anything. Lawyer fees alone will far outstrip what you made on this one, even the cost of the entire project.


Sometimes it's better to take the long view of "I'll be working on plenty of better projects in the future, best forget this one as quickly as possible, since most people are going to forget it as well..."


Basic contracts are generally the same -- the salary rate, overtime provisions (if any), length of project, and access to the footage for non-commercial purposes (i.e. demo reel.) Of course, it can be more elaborate than that -- travel days, per diem (if out of town), etc. But unless you are extremely successful and powerful, it's best to keep the contract simple.


If these producers are rather unprofessional and disorganized, odds are high that you won't be hearing much from them in the future anyway, and even if you did, you'll probably not return their calls...

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If these producers are rather unprofessional and disorganized, odds are high that you won't be hearing much from them in the future anyway, and even if you did, you'll probably not return their calls...


That's probably the most important thing to remember early on. And, I too have had projects like that (much to my chagrin when they pop up online with my name linked to them. . . and the "good, " or not to "crap," footage I shot is few and far-between. . .)

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