Professional Practice: Production Prep and Etiquette - February 28, 2018
PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: PRODUCTION PREP AND ETIQUETTE
~FEBRUARY 28, 2018~
In New York, I was often worried that I was doing something wrong. I constantly learned on the job what other’s standards and expectations were of me and my work. So often someone would say something to me, and I would pretend like I knew what they were talking about, only to google it immediately when they turned their backs. However, as I have stepped out of the city and started working more in smaller markets, I am continuously confronted by the reality that most people working in the creative industry have little to no standards for professional practice. My theory is that we have allowed our culture to tell creatives that they should get a real job for so long that we have internalized this belief that what we do is not actually work. Therefore, we don’t treat what we do with the same dignity, as say a banker would treat handling someone else’s money. I won’t go too much more into that here, but rather I’d like to relay a particular incident and give a potential remedy scenario to illustrate my point.
Last week a model friend of mine in Atlanta posted a story to her Instagram feed. In which, she told of her firing on set by the client in front of the entire crew midway through the shoot. The client’s reason was that my friend’s “look” did not fall in line with her brand. This is a model with close to 10 years of experience in the industry; someone that would not be fired for unprofessional behavior on set.
There is so much to unpack here. First, no one likes to be fired. Least of all, no one likes to be fired for something as personal as the way they look. Further, if you’re going to be fired, you definitely don’t want it to be done in front of all your coworkers. If we compared this to an office scenario, an employee or contractor would be brought into a space away from the rest of their peers. Trust me. I know from experience a few times over. Understandably, a lot of studios don’t really provide for many private spaces. However, a little bit of human empathy would go a long way. It’s not impossible to pull someone off set, or step into a dressing area to give the model a little bit more of a buffer from the embarrassment and hurt of a public dismissal.
However, the most glaring problem I see in the scenario by far is how the model was booked… Maybe I’ll do a post entirely on how to go about booking models… But for now, let’s assume that at the very minimum the client reached out to the model’s agency and asked for a model. Great start… However, there is much more nuance to booking a model than just calling up your agency and saying, “I have a shoot on said date. Please send me someone.” I hold the agency accountable here as well. Both should have offered/ asked for the art direction or brand direction. Thus, the agency can present models that match the direction, and no one’s time is wasted.
The second part of this process would be to hold a casting or a go see. If you or your brand is too busy to do a casting or a go see, then you need to hire someone like a casting director who understands the art direction and brand direction to narrow down models that will eventually work with what you are trying to achieve. Asking someone to send you a model without you seeing him or her in person first is like going on a blind date where you are going to be bound to each other for 3 to 6 months (typical terms of any art work done for a campaign). No one in his or her right mind would do that. So, why would you do that with your brand?
With a go see or a casting, you have effectively cut out any surprises on shoot day. You should be noting the model’s presence, how they interact with your team, and current measurements, if not having the models try on the pieces they will eventually be wearing. The only surprises you should be expecting on shoot day should be the odd blemish, which can be easily dealt with in Photoshop. You should not be deciding on set that your model will not work for your brand. I repeat. You should not be deciding on set that you have hired the wrong model. It is also the responsibility of the model and agent if anything does happen to physically alter the look of the model between the time of the go see and the shoot day. For example, the model books a hair campaign and has a drastically different hair style from when you saw him or her last.
Further, it should be noted that in most markets, a confirmed booking means even if the shoot gets canceled or you change your mind about something, the brand is still liable to pay all or at least a percentage of the booking. This goes for all creatives and assistants on set. So, as in my friend’s scenario, she was confirmed for two days. Yet, the client decided to fire her in the middle of day one. Thus, the client should be held accountable for paying her full day rate for, not only the half day she was there, but also the second day as well, even though she was not used. This is where most people in lesser markets get tripped up. Why pay for a day that the model wasn’t used? This is why. You are not only paying for the product/ talent of the model. You are paying for their time. And with a canceled booking on the day of, or within 24 hours of the photo shoot, you have effectively bought their time for that day that could have been sold to any number of other clients. It is not feasible for the model or anyone else to effectively pick up work or rebook another client within 24 hours of a job.
Of course, you want to get the best talent for your project, but you aren’t ready to confirm a booking. What do you do? There is a system of holds and first options in place, so you don’t find yourself paying for talent you don’t use. Again, I will do another post entirely on booking a model, and will go into this further. For now, know that there are ways to hold a model without confirmations.
Finally, I don’t want this to sound like the rantings of an outsider, lamenting on how much better New York or LA is compared to other markets. However, I am adamant that with a little effort to hold each other to higher standards, we will all benefit. Also, if you don’t know or are unsure about something, ask. Look things up. Call a friend. Don’t pretend that your ego is bigger than the well being of a project, or better yet, bigger than the well being of another person. At the end of the day, the ignorance or negligence of this client negatively impacted my friend’s confidence, and that’s not cool. She did nothing wrong. The client and her agency were the ones at fault and should be held accountable.