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The Reel Deal: The Need for Plan B
Posted Sep 5, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

One of my favorite quotes by John Lennon is "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." Lennon often said he wasn't able to appreciate the joys of everyday existence until he retired from the music business and withdrew from public life in the mid-'70s. Most of us don't get to retire at 35, but still, there's something to be said for stepping back and taking life as it comes. After all, how interesting would your life have been if everything had turned out exactly as you planned it?

Like our personal lives, our business lives can take unexpected turns too. How many of you grew up wanting to be a videographer? For many of us—myself included—being a professional videographer was a "Plan B" career choice. In hindsight, I've found it was the best choice I could have made for myself and my family. I get to do work I'm passionate about—creating family heirlooms and capturing other people's special events—and at the same time enjoy the independence and flexibility of working for myself, from home, while raising my children. And the money has been pretty good, too. All in all, it's been perfect for me—even though it did start out as Plan B.

How do we as videographers prepare for Plan B while on the job? We should all have backup equipment that we bring to each wedding or event. I keep an extra camera near me during the ceremony just in case things go awry. I've never had to use it, but I'll be ready when I do. I also keep spare camera batteries and tapes on me as well. I use wireless mics, but I also like to use iRivers as backup. I use off-camera lighting, but I'm ready with a small light I can use on my camera if necessary.

I also bring my cell phone to every shoot, along with the cell phone number of some key figure at the event, usually a parent or bridal-party member. (The bride or groom or other honoree isn't a good choice, because you shouldn't be bothering them on the day of their big event.) One time I was driving to a Bar Mitzvah, and the MapQuest directions I had were not accurate. I had the number of the temple office, but no one was staffing it on a Saturday morning. I then called the Bar Mitzvah honoree's mother's cell phone for better directions. It wasn't luck that I made it to the ceremony with time to spare; it was preparation. Now, in addition to MapQuest, I also use a GPS system in my van.

Another time there was an accident on the highway, and traffic was at a standstill. We had to get off and find an alternate route. The detour made us late, so I called the best man, who met us at the curb of the church, helped us unload our equipment, and parked our van in the lot across the street. We had approximately 15 minutes to set up for a two-camera shoot before the ceremony began. The bride arrived after we did, so she never knew. I got the church shots afterwards, and all was well.

Another time the groom was giving his welcome speech before dinner, and I realized I had missed part of it. Afterwards, I casually walked up to him and told him I wasn't happy with the audio and asked him if he would mind saying his speech again. Because he didn't use the house microphone, most people didn't even notice him saying it again with just my hand-held microphone. He did a brillant job, because I asked him to do it immediately after his speech. Had I waited until later in the evening, chances are he would have completely forgotten what he had said. Event videography is often highly stressful work, and keeping a clear head when things go wrong will serve you well.

Sometimes, all the preparation and composure in the world won't stop a mishap from ruining your shoot. What if, despite your best efforts, something goes terribly wrong? I have never been in that situation, but in case it does, I'm covered by Errors & Omission (E & O) insurance. This is a must for any event videographer (and most other independent businesspeople, for that matter). It will give you peace of mind, knowing that you are covered in case the wedding couple decides to take you to court.

I get my E & O Insurance (underwritten by Lloyds of London) through the Wedding & Event Videography Association (WEVA). Members get discounted premiums. The premiums start at $89.40 for $35,000 per occurrence, with aggregate coverage (the maximum the policy will pay out regardless of the number of occurrences) of $75,000. There are various levels of coverage you can choose. The highest premium is $657.75 for $500,000 per occurrence, with an aggregate amount of $1 million. E & O insurance is available from most major insurance providers, and if you don't have it, you should speak with your insurance company immediately about adding it to your policy.

Some sample claims could include equipment malfunction; a missed event because you got the date wrong, got sick, or got in an accident en route; or a lawsuit filed by a client alleging the video is of poor quality. The insurance also covers employees and the necessary costs to settle the claim, as well as the cost of your defense even if the allegations are groundless, false, or fraudulent.

It all comes back to the Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared. Chances are you won't need to use your E & O insurance, but the peace of mind it will bring you is priceless!

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