As industry leaders we receive calls and emails every week from couples disgruntled with another videographer they have booked asking us for advice or if we can re-edit their film. Sadly our industry attracts many inexperienced videographers who come and go leaving a trail of disappointed clients… Indeed a common pattern for start-ups is to build a website and charge low prices that don’t support a sustainable business model. They only look to cover their wages rather than allow sufficient investment for proper business management. Naturally these prices attract cash-strapped couples who believe they have found a bargain. But in reality most clients are so unfamiliar with film & video production that they are unable to question their videographer’s workflow and business management. Therefore to help couples (and aspiring videographers) to avoid the pitfalls that surround commissioning a wedding video, we have put together a list of the top 5 complaints we have come across over the years. In each case, we have tried to give a balanced view of the situation and possible remedies.
1. Lack of coverage – a common complaint levelled at all event photographers and videographers is that coverage of some aspect of the people, details or event is missing or insufficient. To be fair, its impossible to cover everything on a live event without a BBC TV budget, so it doesn’t necessary mean your videographer has been incompetent. However the level of coverage you should expect ought to be a reflection of the resources you booked. Frankly, most weddings need 2-3 skilled camera crew to capture the different angles, guest reactions, simultaneous elements and all the fine details. Possibly more cameras if your event has multiple locations and/or over 500 guests. Therefore if your videographer is working alone or with minimum resources don’t be surprised if some things don’t get covered. You get what you pay for!
2. Usage rights – a widely misunderstood aspect of intellectual property law is that any photographer or videographer covering your event automatically retains the copyright to their work. However usage of this material is something you should negotiate with them at the point of commissioning. In practice, the wishes of each party are quite simple; the couple naturally want the freedom to share their images and video however they wish with their family and friends. The creator will only be concerned to restrict the client from sharing them with a newspaper or broadcaster without their consent. On the other side of the fence the creator may want to use images, clips or highlights of their material later on to show prospective clients. This can be a sticking point for some clients who want absolute privacy. If this is the case, then you should agree this privacy up front. However do be aware that your photographer or film-maker may be more incentivised to do a good job for you if they know they can show it to other prospects.
3. Where’s my film? – quite understandably every client wants their film as soon as possible after their event. However the reality of the situation is that editing a film professionally is V-E-R-Y time-consuming and there may be a lot of footage to sift through. On top of that remember wedding videography is very seasonal, so its normal to have a backlog of editing once the Summer is over. Realistically we reckon our films take 3-6 months to deliver, so we forewarn our clients and encourage them to avoid further delays by providing their music preferences, credits and balance payments promptly. However we’ve heard of some film-makers taking over 12 months to deliver films, especially in the Asian wedding market which is notorious for multiple day celebrations resulting in epic length films! As long as your film-maker communicates with you regularly, you shouldn’t worry. However silence is usually a bad sign they’ve something to hide! If you suspect your film-maker is being evasive, then its imperative you obtain the original footage as a safeguard. You can then consider further action such as seeking arbitration through any association they belong to (eg The Institute of Videography). Failing that you may have to issue court proceedings to recover your money and pay someone else to edit it.
4. Our videographer has let us down! – last Summer we received about 25 phone calls from people who had been let down by their videographer at the last minute, despite booking well in advance. This is a common problem with one-man outfits; our understanding is many of them take on a more lucrative booking for a certain date and naturally want to get out of a heavily discounted one they might have taken previously. Although its morally scandalous, the problem is that most weddings take place on Saturdays between July and September, in practice only about 12-13 days. So the temptation for the videographer to drop a low value booking in favour of a bigger one is huge. To avoid this happening to you, first make sure you have a proper contract which doesn’t have any unfavourable cancellation clauses. Of course, any one-man outfit may suffer illness, so you should always check what their alternative coverage arrangements are in any case. At Bloomsbury we employ 12 camera crew so have cover for all our bookings, but its indeed a risk with smaller operations.
5. We don’t like the edit – we frequently get contacted by couples unhappy with the edit another videographer has provided. The usual question they ask us is ‘can you re-edit our film?’. Unfortunately not, we simply don’t have the time to edit other film-makers work and frankly don’t want to risk ‘opening a can of worms’. However there are some important issues here that need understanding. Firstly the quality of the edit will be partly dependent upon the time spent. Hence if you’ve paid a modest amount for your film, then its only fair your film-maker might spend say 2-3 days editing it. By contrast our films take about 7-10 days each, but our charges are more at the higher end too. If you are unhappy with your edit, most videographers will be prepared to make changes if you ask nicely. Avoid depreciating their work by telling them what you like about the film first and then saying what you’d like to change. Don’t write a long ranting email as it will only generate animosity! Be specific about the changes, list them with simple instructions and a timecode for each. If possible obtain a copy of the raw footage so you can see what is realistic (although for many this can be bewildering). If the film-maker wants to make charges, check the provision in your contract. It may be that you do need to pay for them 9if you make more than one set), so agree the charges in advance. Most film-makers are very conscientious, so if you are reasonable, you will come to a happy conclusion!