First, encourage your clients to create their own slide shows rather than doing them yourself. For most clients, you will not get a good value on your time by creating photomontages. Not only will it disrupt your concentration for knocking out main feature edits, it can create a lot of problems if things do not go according to plan. Even if you insist upon having all materials in hand 1 month before the wedding, Mr. Murphy can still pay a visit.
If you scan the pictures for your clients, you run the risk of damaging and/or losing their photos. If they scan the pictures, there is the risk that they will not meet your deadline for putting them in your hands. There is always something more important for them to do in their wedding planning, so scanning photos gets pushed to the back burner.
Then, when you finally get the scans a few days in advance of the wedding, what was not a priority to the client now has to become priority No. 1 to you. What happens, then, if you get a call that week for a high-dollar corporate gig that needs you Monday thru Friday? You will have to turn down the big bucks because you are creating a slide show.
On the back end of the wedding, some couples may want you to incorporate photos from their wedding into their final film or create a slide show with images taken by their friends. Many producers put in their contract that “editing begins on the main film once all photos are received from the client, and delivery will be 3 months after that point.” Even though you clearly stated it in the contract, many clients forget about that policy. When they get the photos to you, they expect the final film to be ready soon thereafter. After all, you’ve had 3 months to be editing!
Even though the client is mistaken about when delivery will be, once they get in their mind that something should be delivered, it is hard for them to not be disappointed that it will not be delivered at that time. As I mentioned in an earlier article, you are making an emotional contract with the client, and if they ever feel bad about the experience, it does not matter who is right or who is wrong, it lessens their motivation to refer you.
The second area in which you need to stay in control is in using titles in your main feature. Anytime you use a title within a video, you are risking a misspelling within that title. One simple misplaced letter means time spent re-editing, re-exporting, and reburning—time that could be better spent hacking away at your backlog. I suggest limiting titles to name, date, and location.
You should never volunteer to do a credit roll either, and if the client insists upon it, you should charge extra and then charge for additional changes that they request. With credit rolls, not only do you take the risk of making spelling errors, but you can also open up a Pandora’s box of family drama. I have had brides ask me to rearrange names in the credits because of how some of those listed might perceive the pecking order of their importance to the couple. This leads to more editing, encoding, and shipping, and it keeps you away from chipping away at your backlog.
Finally, you must stay in control by spelling out how much editorial control your clients have over their final product. If you do not define what a client can change and how much it will cost to make those changes, then it isn’t unreasonable for clients to expect that they can keep sending the film back for edits until it is to their complete liking. You must also specify how much time your clients have after delivery to request changes. Otherwise, they will get back to you at their leisure, keeping projects on your hard drives and in your mind for far longer than necessary.
I suggest that the only changes you allow for free are those necessitated if you make a spelling error, if you accidentally include footage that is offensive, or if there are errors in the workmanship of the DVD. If the client wishes to make changes that will affect the structure of your edit, you should charge an hourly rate for those changes with a minimum of 4 hours to be billed, regardless. Many times, charging for your extra time causes clients to rethink whether or not those changes are really necessary.
Whenever we take on projects that require participation from our clients, we lose a measure of control over our services. When it comes to closing the books on a project, having control over our services is equally important as editing efficiently. To leave the completion of a project in the hands of your client is to invite the project to seemingly never end. To maintain control is to take a step toward the backlog-free life.
Chris P. Jones (jones at masonjarfilms.com), an Austin, Texas-based EventDV 25 all-star, has been shooting weddings for nearly a decade and is a co-founder of the wedding filmmaking educational gathering IN[FOCUS].