Archive for ‘flaking’

August 11, 2011

On Integrity & Professionalism

Recently, I was slapped in the face with one person’s unprofessional behavior and dishonesty.  What’s more is that after expressing my disappointment in the situation, the offending party showed little remorse.  However, another person involved has shown what true professionalism & integrity are, which lessens the sting… sorta.  Here’s the story…

It started with a verbal agreement regarding compensation for working an event.  A few weeks before the event I was told (in person) that compensation would be $50 for the day, a selection of images for portfolio use.  I was also told I’d be in the designer’s catalog.  As an added bonus, I’d get a sketch of me in what I was modeling.  Typically, my rates are $50 an hour or $325 for an 8-hour day, which is how I’d have billed it since it’s cheaper.  However, because I’d be getting portfolio images & a tear sheet (plus a cool sketch), I made an exception and accepted the job at a significantly lower rate than normal.

Fast forward to the day of the event.  Call time was 12P & everyone was on time & ready to start getting to work.  In the beginning, things were running nicely, people were having a good time, & it was shaping up to be a great event.

Around 3P we started getting hungry, but there was no food.  Based on previous experiences, I expected there to be food provided at a 7-hour event, so I just brought a drink & a small snack.  Now, I wasn’t expecting caviar & chocolate mousse, but something to snack on throughout the course of the day.  Veggies, pretzels, cheese cubes, & sliced fruit are pretty typical of events because that stuff can sit out & is easy to eat.  But there wasn’t anything.

Normally, one would ask the person in charge what was going on, but he stepped out for an undetermined amount of time, leaving his event coordinator & assistant completely in the dark regarding wardrobe & accessories.  That meant that the models that were ready to shoot we weren’t able to, so 2 of those girls took a walk to find food.  Their options were limited at 3P on a Sunday on the Near West Side of Chicago & all they could find was Chinese, which they brought back.

As we were eating, the guy in charge came in & immediately reprimanded us for having food.  He told us we were unprofessional for eating food that wasn’t “proper model food”.  He then demanded it be put it away & said we shouldn’t be eating, but that if we were hungry we should’ve been eating something like fruit.  So, apparently, everyone should have just gone without food for 7 hours.  Talk about a morale-killer!  Besides, nothing makes people enjoy an event more than crabby models with no energy, or worse, models passing out because of low blood sugar.

If someone running an event wants his staff to eat certain things, it is up to him to provide that kind of food.  If he can’t provide food, then the professional thing to do is notify people that there won’t be food, & ask them to bring their own, limiting it to whatever he finds acceptable.   It is not unprofessional for models to eat behind the scenes, while waiting for styling and/or instruction, while still dressed in street clothes.

But then came the real knife-twist.  Shortly after the food was put away, we were handed a compensation agreement & asked to sign it.  It was different from what I’d been promised.  Suddenly, we had to choose between $50 for the day or 10 unedited images & 1 edit of the photographer’s choice.  No mention of the sketch.  I tried to ask the guy in charge a few questions, but it was pretty clear he was too busy to listen to me.  So, I sat & thought quite a bit about things, & really weighed my options.

If I walked, I’d have wasted almost 4 hours for nothing, literally.  No photos, no money, no sketch, no tear.  Leaving could’ve damaged my reputation with the other industry people who were there, & I’m not one to back out on my commitments; I act like a professional & respect people enough to stick with something once it’s started.  So I chose to stay, keeping my reputation intact & getting a little something for my time.

So I had to choose: a small amount of money, or one edited image.  I figured I could work with the photographer individually if I really wanted to, so I opted to take the $50.  Broken down, it’s $7.14 an hour.  If you factor in the $8 or so I spent on food & drink (which I wouldn’t have bought if I wasn’t working), the total compensation drops down to about $42.  Basically, I worked the day for about $6 an hour, & that’s not even factoring in the gas I spent on the nearly 60-mile round trip.

It bothered me that the compensation changed, & I wasn’t notified in advance.  I wasn’t even notified promptly at call time, which is when I would have been comfortable leaving.  Advanced notification of the change would have been the professional way to go about things.  Instead, it was just sprung on us nearly 4 hours into the day, when we’d already invested time & money.  But, I sucked it up & did my job as if I was getting paid my standard rate: with a smile on my face & without complaint.

After the event was over I asked the guy in charge about the sketch.  He acknowledged that that was, indeed, part of our deal & made a half-assed attempt to find it.  After a brief search, I was told he couldn’t find them, & that was that.  So no sketch now either.

Initially, I intended to just deal and learn from my mistakes.  But later I decided that if I didn’t speak up, no one would, & this schmuck would go on taking advantage of people because no one called him on it.  So the next day I wrote him a letter addressing all my concerns & asked to be compensated as originally promised.  I chose my words carefully & made sure it was written in a concise, professional manner.  I didn’t just pound out an angry note and send it off.

The next afternoon, I received a response.  He said that an agreement was made, but things didn’t go as expected, so the agreement was modified.  I signed it, & if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been used for the event.  He went on to say he was sorry I wasn’t happy, but the only thing he could do was live up to the written agreement.  Then, he had the gall to tell me that a lot of work went into the event, & he felt congratulations were in order.  He also thanked me, as if that would make it better, & told me that if I had a change of heart & wanted to work with him again, I should let him know.

Then, he called me not too long after responding.  I told him it wasn’t a good time because I wasn’t ready to speak with him, & hung up.  After careful consideration, I wrote him back & said that any discussion could be done in writing, as he had made it abundantly clear that he didn’t respect people enough to honor his spoken agreements.

He wrote me back the next day & said there’s nothing to discuss.  Shortly afterwards he posted on the private group for “preferred” folks involved in the event (which I am still part of) telling everyone, “Don’t ever believe that I don’t appreciate you all.  I am so glad that I choose each & every one of you to be a part of this journey.”  Uh huh.

There is a lesson here, though.  From now on, I will ask for a compensation agreement in writing, in advance, for every event I am booked for.   Upon arrival, I will not do anything without reviewing any paperwork that needs to be signed, & if that paperwork does not match up with what I received prior to the event, I will be leaving.

This might limit who’s willing to book me for events, as well as whom I choose to work with, but I’m ok with that.  I am tired of being taken advantage of, & I am no longer willing to allow it to happen.  If that means I book less events, then so be it.  As a hobbyist, I can afford to be picky.

I heard he “changed the agreement” when it came to numerous other involved parties, so the models weren’t the only ones who got screwed.  To top it off, it’s all just pouring salt in the wound, because everyone who worked the event was asked to promote the event through various means, invite friends, & really hype it up (and many of us did).  Some people’s names are attached to this person’s, and who knows what kind of effect that could have down the road.

Then there’s the true display of integrity & professionalism I mentioned at the beginning.  The photographer involved called me last night & we talked.  He had been unaware, & completely beside himself, that the person running things was using his product to pay people & that we were forced to make a choice so suddenly.  To “make it right”, he has offered all of the models involved a shoot at no charge.  He’s not comfortable providing the images from the event to the models, because it would violate his agreement with the event host, so he’s doing what he can to do something for us as a “thanks, & I’m really sorry you got screwed over too”. Yup, you read that right… he also got screwed.

So now what?  Well, I’m going to stay in touch with the photographer & start thinking about what I want to shoot, & communicate ideas back & forth with him.  Ideally, I’d like to shoot something he can use for his portfolio as well, because it’s only fair.  Chances are, I’ll wait until late fall to work with him, mostly because I’m sure he’ll be busy with previously booked work as well as with the other models involved.

A few people I’ve talked to about this have suggested I take legal action, because the “bait & switch” tactic he pulled could be illegal.  I’ve decided it’s not worth it to bother with screwing around with that, especially for such a small amount of non-monetary goods.  Chances are, this person will get what’s coming to him.  Word of unprofessionalism like this gets around fast in the modeling industry, as people don’t appreciate busting their asses to work with people who lack the integrity to honor their promises.

One can only hope that this person has the decency to not treat his paying clients the way he treated his staff.  I can’t imagine working with someone on what amounts to one of the most important days in your life & dealing with some of the unprofessionalism he exhibited.  Hopefully, when dealing with actual clients, this person is honest, sticks to his word, & is professional enough lets clients know if circumstances change & he cannot deliver as promised.  If I were in the situation to be working with him as a paying client, I most certainly wouldn’t take the chance.

I will definitely not be working with him ever again.  This person’s utter disrespect for the people he hired & abundant display of unprofessionalism has completely, totally ruined any chances of that.  I will continue to leave his name on my credits list in hopes that people contact me to check references.

UPDATE! August 30, 2011

I did finally get a money order for the $50 that I was owed.  I had to ask for it though, and was told on August 25th that the check had mailed the morning of the 24th.  I let this person know that it would have been nice to know of the delay, since the agreement said checks would be delivered by the 21st and not mailed on the 24th.  This is the response I got regarding that:

i didn’t mean to make you feel small. I appreciate you.

I told him, “Appreciation doesn’t pay the bills. Not that that matters, because going back on your word and not notifying people you’d made agreements with until well into the event doesn’t say “appreciation”. No, Robert. THAT says “I don’t give a crap about you and expect you to just be a doormat and accept it”. Nice try. I expect my check to be delivered by Monday the 29th. I’m giving you way more leeway on this than most people would…”.  Yes, cold and a bit heavy-handed, but frankly, I don’t care.  No one deserves the kind of treatment he has shown, and I’m not about to sit quietly and let him think that treating people the way he has done is ok, because it’s overwhelmingly not.

This was his response to me on the 25th, verbatim:

When i say I didn’t mean to make you feel small, I really was trying to let you know that you’re acting soooo small and UNPROFESSIONAL.

But you were even too small to even have caught on.

Now I’m BLOCKING you. And that’s what’s nice about facebook.

What ever it is that happened to you to make you so emotional is just not everybody else’s fault. And if emotionally you can’t handle life, go to doctor and get help, but whatever you do, DO NOT SLANDER OR HARRASS ME.

STOP EMBARRASSING YOURSELF. YOU SHOULD NEVER MAKE YOURSELF THE BUD OF OTHER PEOPLE JOKES. YOU ARE COMING OFF LIKE A CRAZY WOMAN.

LOVE ROBERT

Wow.  And yet I’m the unprofessional one, for desiring to be treated respectfully and compensated as promised, and for being the “squeaky wheel” in making sure that promises are delivered upon when the source has proved to be unreliable.  Right… anyway…

My money order came August 29th.  It was dated August 26th, two days after I was told “the check’s in the mail”.  It has been deposited.  Largely, I am happy.  I hope, however, that this person has learned that he can’t get away with treating people like shit.  If, that is, there’s anyone left in the area who’ll work with him…

April 22, 2011

Pre-Shoot Meetings.

Quite often you hear photographers encouraging other photographers to require a model to attend a pre-shoot meeting in order to tell whether or not she’ll flake, to make sure she looks like her photos, to make sure you’re on the same page with shoot concepts, or to see whether your personalities will “mesh” well enough so that the shoot will be a success.  Or you hear models (or the occasional white-knight photographer) telling others to go to a pre-shoot meeting to ensure the photographer isn’t a creep.  I have even heard pre-shoot meetings likened to casting calls!  There’s a lot wrong with all of that, so let’s start at the beginning…

The “So I Know You Won’t Flake” & The “Do You Look Like Your Pics” Pre-Shoot Meetings
I’m going to lump these into 1, because they’re both fairly short.

First, meeting with someone once before a shoot doesn’t guarantee they won’t flake on the actual shoot.  A flake is a flake, and they often don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong when they flake.  Also, being able to make a pre-shoot meeting doesn’t mean that something legit won’t happen to prevent a model from making a shoot.  Life happens, and sometimes, it interferes with things like photoshoots.

Second, if you aren’t sure exactly what a model looks like, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask to see unretouched “polaroid” type photos.  Most models will not bat an eye at providing these, if they’re not in their online portfolios or linked somehow already.  Those who do have an issue with providing polaroids… you probably don’t want to work with anyway.
Both of these things can be figured out by checking references and/or asking around in the local community.  When you check references, ask if the model showed up on time and was an accurate representation of the images she presents online.  If you have some trusted sources, ask them as well… word of a flake gets around quickly.

The “Yay, We’re On The Same Page” Pre-Shoot Meeting
If a photographer and I are working together on a concept that requires extensive planning, or I am art-directing a shoot, I will meet ahead of time to discuss ideas, if a phone call and/or emails aren’t cutting it.  I have done this a handful of times in the past 5 years, and will continue to do so if necessary.  However, the vast majority of the time emails (with the occasional attached image) and a rare phone call have been sufficient.

When I work with photographers on hosting workshops or events, I have no problems meeting in advance to discuss initial ideas, and I often try to schedule a ‘dry-run’ type thing a couple of days prior to the event if necessary.  I prefer to do this at the location hosting the workshop so that I can see the space I’m going to be working with and (initially) make sure the space is going to suit the group coming in for the workshop/event.  Of course, if I’m hosting at a space I’ve used before, it often becomes easier for both of us to plan via email or phone, with just a dry run a day or two ahead of time.

If a photographer looking to hire me or work TF* and wants to meet in advance, he will have to provide a darn good reason why a set of poloroids (I’ll even hold up the day’s newspaper, after I go buy one LOL) won’t work, and will have to work with my schedule.    I have no problems talking on the phone before a shoot (in fact, I absolutely require a phone number and email address to officially book a shoot).

The “Let’s Make Sure We Get Along” Pre-Shoot Meeting
A shoot is a job, even for hobbyists.  A model is there to pose and help the photographer capture an image in a way that suits his (or her) vision.  A shoot is not a social gathering or date, so there should be no reason to be so concerned with personalities “meshing”.  What matters more, during a shoot, is whether the model can follow direction given by the photographer, thus doing her part to help the final idea come to fruition.  Unless you’re doing a test shoot during your pre-shoot meeting, you won’t be able to tell that until the actual shoot.  Well, you won’t know this if you’re not asking “does the model take direction well” when you check her references, that is.

That’s right, another good reason to check references: asking if the model takes direction well, and whether she does what is asked of her to get the shot.

The “Just Making Sure You’re Not A Creep” Pre-Shoot Meeting
Now, I realize that “creepy” is quite often subjective, and based on individual feelings/thoughts.  That said, for those models who use a pre-shoot meeting to screen photographers their working with (instead of doing things like checking references), well… that’s not the right (or smart) way to go about things.

Make sure someone isn’t a “creep” by checking references with 3-5 other models they’ve worked with.  I wrote a whole blog on checking references here, in case you’re not sure how to go about doing this.  It’s a much smarter way to go about things, and, at the very least, you won’t have wasted both your time and the photographer’s time with a pre-shoot meeting.

Why A Pre-Shoot Meeting Isn’t A Casting Call

An in-person casting call (as opposed to something posted on a site like Model Insider) is a casting call.  They are usually held at a studio and are usually open to whoever is interested in the part (and meets certain requirements).  If, for whatever reason, a photographer is holding a casting at his studio, and I fit the bill, then yes, I’ll go.  I have in the past and I will continue to do so as long as I’m modeling.  There have been times when castings have resulted in, essentially, a waste of my time, but they were casting calls, and that’s part of the business–I go in knowing there’s a possibility I won’t get the job, or that once I get more details it’s something I’m not a good fit for, and I’ve accepted that.

If you want to hold a casting, hold a casting.  But don’t just sit your ass down in your local Starbucks and wait for one model to show up, and call it a casting.  That’s not only misleading to the model, but very likely a huge waste of your time too.  And who wants that?

The Bottom Line
Monday thru Friday, I work full-time in the Chicago suburbs, have a husband that works 16+ hours a day, and have a dog that needs to be taken care of (which usually falls on me because of my husband’s schedule), not to mention the typical household responsibilities.  On weekends I’m either shooting (or doing other modeling-related stuff, like organizing for a workshop), spending time with friends or family, or doing household things that didn’t get done during the week.  I will not drive over an hour (or more, with construction) into the city of Chicago or to a far away ‘burb for a 30-minute (or less) “great, we both like this idea” or “cool, you look like your pictures” meeting.  I check references, so I don’t have to worry about “are you a creep” meetings.

Many hobbyist models are in the same boat I am–working full-time, running a household and being responsible for a family, and shooting when they have time–so if you require a pre-shoot meeting, it might be a turnoff for them.  After all, there are plenty of other things they’d likely rather do than meet you for coffee to discuss things that either aren’t relevant to your shoot, work out details that could be done over email or a phone call, or prove to you something you could have found out by simply checking their references.  In short, they’re not going to want to waste their precious time on you, and will very likely just find someone else to work with.

June 8, 2010

Deposits & Cancellation Fees

After a string of cancellations, and much thought on the subject, I’ve decided that I’m going to start doing two things I’ve never done before as a model.  I am now going to require a deposit to re-book after a cancellation, and am also going to be instituting a cancellation fee.  For all shoots, even trade.  Even with those I’ve worked with before.

Bottom line is, I’m tired of setting aside a full day for someone and getting canceled on, and during summer, setting aside a full day for a shoot in IL means skipping a weekend with my family up in MI as well.  And that’s not to mention all the time I typically spend planning (finding pose, wardrobe, and hair/makeup ideas at the very least) for a shoot, and (in some cases) the money spent on new items for a shoot.

It’s just not fair to those who’ve be reliable, and I’m sorry, but a handful of folks have tipped the boat far enough where it’s just too frustrating now, and I’m done.

Here’s how it’s going to work.

  • If a shoot is canceled within 3 days, my re-booking deposit will be $25, payable via Paypal only.  Refundable the day of the shoot, or put towards MUA fees, photographer’s choice.
  • If a shoot is canceled within 24 hours, my cancellation fee will be $50, payable via Paypal only.  Non-refundable, and will not be applied to a re-booking deposit.

I’m also going to start being even more selective when it comes to those I book with.  Between upcoming workshops, a fashion show I’m in, and just my life in general, the free time I have is becoming less and less free, and, frankly, I’d rather concentrate on workshops and that stuff than shoot just to shoot.  Paid jobs, tear sheets, and the like will continue to take priority.

March 16, 2010

Why I require a phone number.

I had one shoot when I started modeling (early fall, 2006) where I hadn’t gotten the photographer’s phone number.  I’d asked numerous times, but never got it.  I did make sure to provide my cell number though.

This is the reason I now require a cell phone number in order to book a shoot.

On my way to the shoot, with about an hour of time-padding (allowance for traffic and parking), I ended up stuck on the expressway 1.5 miles before an exit, with no turnaround options (read: concrete barrier in the way).  There was a major accident just before the ramp that would have allowed me to navigate around it, and because of injuries and a spill, all 4 lanes and both shoulders were shut down for over an hour.  Between the newsradio station and the police, those of us sitting were fairly well-informed.

But that didn’t help me reach the photographer to let him know I’d likely be late.  I didn’t have a way to get a hold of him, made worse by the fact that we were meeting on-location in downtown Chicago.  I did have the photographer’s first name, the suburb he lived in (or where his studio was located) and what he called himself on the site we booked through.  So, during the hour I was sitting doing nothing but stressing, I called 411 numerous times getting numbers for anyone with his first name and any photography studio in his area.  I also called my husband and had him Googleing all kinds of things, looking on the modeling site we’d booked, and even going thru my emails for me to see if he could find a number I’d overlooked, or any info that would have helped me get something worthwhile from 411.  I called a bunch of wrong numbers, but got nothing that actually got me in touch with the photographer.

Once the highway opened up, I continued on to the location, showing up about 45 minutes late.  I parked and wandered the location for another hour, asking anyone with a DSLR if they were looking for me.  It was all a no-go, and I paid for my $25 in parking and headed home.  I was disappointed but realized I’d done everything I could.  I figured once I got home, I’d email and explain what had happened, and offer to reschedule provided I could get a phone number.

When I got home, there was an email waiting for me that read “waited 5 min for you and didn’t see you, oh well”.  It was sent about 20 minutes after husband and I had given up the search in my inbox.  Lovely.  I ended up being glad I was 45 minutes late because of an accident on the highway instead of being 6 minutes late because it took a little longer to find parking than I’d anticipated.  Evidently, even after waiting a whole 5 minutes, it hadn’t crossed his mind to call me and see where I was at.

Now I realize that it’s entirely possible that he didn’t have a cell phone, but if that were the case, I feel like he should have let me know that, and we should have figured something else out instead of meeting in a major, crowded place.  Perhaps “let’s meet at my house and drive to the location together” would have been a better idea than, “let’s meet at Buckingham Fountain”.

Either way, lesson learned.  Always, always, get a phone number before scheduling to work with someone.
Even if you don’t think something will happen, plan for it anyway.  Bottom line is, you need to be able to reach the other party in the event that something does happen… even if that something is, “I’m totally lost, help!”.
September 29, 2008

Shit Happens

I “flaked” on a shoot this weekend. That’s right, I said it. And I’ll say it again: I “flaked” on a shoot this weekend.

I didn’t, by my definition, actually flake (no-show, no-call). I did, however, cancel at the last minute. The very last-minute. In fact, my phone call to the photographer came about 5 minutes after I was supposed to be on set.

I was running about 20 minutes behind schedule due to some incompetent fools tieups at the bank. I got in the car and saw I’d missed 3 phonecalls from my fiance, so I called him back. I tell you, it’s quite upsetting to hear, “I just got into an accident. I’m ok, but I think the car is totaled. I’ll have to call you back, I’m talking to the police right now.”

Oh man. I called the photographer immediately, told him I wasn’t going to make it and why. Luckily, we’re more or less friends and we work together, so he knows I wouldn’t lie. Especially about something like this. He could also probably hear the near-tears-panic in my voice. Regardless, he was fine putting the shoot off until another day, and told me to go.

So I did. I had the sense to snap a shot of the car once it was up on the tow truck (my fiance snapped some after the accident and whatnot).

:sigh: Yea. It was pretty bad. All in all, my fiance’s ok… bruises, scratches, and lots of soreness. And everyone else involved was ok as well. But nothing broken, thankfully. The car can be replaced.

To all you photographers who think a last-minute cancellation excuse is always bullshit: Just remember, shit happens.

And to all you photographers who are understanding when shit does happen: You make this much easier. Thank you.

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