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When I’m not at MakeUseOf, I’m a freelance videomaker.
I say “videomaker” because I refuse to use the title of “videographer”, but at the same time, I do a bit more than just directing, shooting, or editing. I like to pretend that I’m a producer, but since nearly all of my projects lack the budget to hire a proper crew (not that I’m complaining), that’s not really the case either.
No, I’m a big fan of working for the underdogs – particularly those in the field of music. I like to say “yes” when no one else does. While other videos require thousands of dollars to develop, I like to say, “You have talent and are passionate about what you do! Let’s make something cool.”
However, when someone like myself gets a chance to work with a major artist on a major label, of course I’m going to take it. Then again, when you’re working with the big dogs, communication can be a problematic issue. The point of this article: following up on email is important.
Last year, I met a stylist who was somewhat in with the who’s who of the art and music scene, and being the 21-year-old I am who’s trying to make it in this world, I tried to connect with her as much as I could on a professional basis. When she eventually granted me the opportunity to work with the aforementioned artist, my only response was, “Yes. Please. Yes.”
The deal was simple. As someone who wasn’t as experienced as the high-profile videomakers in the area, I agreed to do things for a considerably lower rate (something that I’m not too proud of). While at the shoot, I requested that – in lieu of proper payment – I could get a copy of the final cuts when they were edited by the artist’s management.
In typical scenarios like this, one wouldn’t ever see the final cuts save for what was on YouTube, but in my case, it was agreeable. After all, I was doing them a favor, right? Furthermore, I really wanted the final cut for my portfolio – it just made sense.
Everything was confirmed via email, but one day, I discovered that the first cut had in fact already been uploaded.
So – quite calmly, I might add – I emailed the management, wondering why I hadn’t received my cut of the video. No big deal. They sent it to me. Granted, I believe there had a been a few week’s time from the point that the video had been published until the point that I received my copy. Of course, it was forgivable. I was happy that I even had the opportunity.
One issue that I wasn’t happy about was the fact that I had sent them a hard drive with all the raw footage, and since the hard drive was my personal one and not included in the budget, I expected it to be returned to me. I sent them an email about it, and they said that they were quite happy to send it to me.
A month or two passed. No more videos. No hard drive, either.
I sent an email, but I received no response. One day while browsing the Internet, I discovered that two more out of the four videos had been uploaded. It was then that I was quite frustrated, and yes, I sent another email. Again – no response.
One night, another month or so after my last email, I finally told them that I would be coming by their office that week to pick up my hard drive and the remaining videos. That got a response out of them: “No need to come by! We had actually mailed you the hard drive and thought it had arrived by now. Obviously, it got lost in the mail, and we’ll be happy to reimburse you! Oh, and we’ve forwarded your request for the videos to the New York office. The download link should be emailed to you very soon.”
By then, I was pretty upset. One, they had lost my hard drive (thankfully, I had backups), and two, they pretty much brushed me off. I wanted the videos then – not later. However, I waited. I waited a pretty long time, actually. Two months, to be specific. Then I decided that I had enough.
My Stupid Invasion
I don’t know why I did it. It was actually pretty stupid, because to be honest, I consider myself a relatively nice guy. I’m quiet. I’m calm. I have my moments where I have fun, and I have my moments where I’m not the nicest person, too. But generally speaking, I think most people would say that I’m okay.
One day – on a whim – I tracked down the location of the nearest management office which was relatively close to where I lived. I found the building, calmly entered, and found a gentleman – all alone – sitting inside. I introduced myself.
“Josh!” he said. “How can I help you?”
“Well, I’d like my videos.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Today actually. Right now. We’re going to take care of this right now.”
He was bewildered. Personally, I was bewildered, too. I had never done anything like this. I had just invaded the office of the management for several internationally-acclaimed bands and musicians, and I was the one making demands. In an effort to not back down, I plopped down on one of his chairs and took a seat.
“Josh, I’ve done all that I can do, really. I’ve contacted the editor in New York, and it’s really in their hands.”
“Sir, I don’t really care. You were my correspondent, and you should have been the one to get things to me. Call the guy who edited it right now, and let’s see if we can take care of it.”
He refused to call, but he did say he would give me the guy’s number. Thinking it would get rid of me, he wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to me. I didn’t leave. Instead, I made the phone call right in his office. Granted, the guy at the New York location was able to dodge me. He avoided the phone conversation entirely and had a go-between tell me he was in an important call, and if I emailed him, things would be taken care of.
Like emailing him had helped in the past. Geez.
So I sat there, letting the gentleman who was with me know that I wouldn’t be leaving until the videos had been sent to me. About half an hour passed, I believe. Honestly, I thought things would have been sent to me at that point. It was then I decided to make conversation.
“So, how’s your day going?” I said.
“It was good. Until someone decided to come in here and decide to overreact,” he glared at me.
“Oh. Well. Yeah.”
“Would you like me to get you lunch?”
“I can safely say that I don’t want Starbucks right now.”
I sat there with him in silence, twiddling my thumbs. Another half and hour passed. To be frank, I was scheduled to be somewhere at one o’clock. In my mind, this wouldn’t have taken nearly as long.
“You know we are really busy here, right?” he told me.
“Well, I’m busy, too. You still should have gotten the videos to me,” I responded.
“You should have told us!”
“I did. Quite a few times.”
“You should have checked in.”
“…It’s not really my job to monitor you like that. You should have done it on your own. You knew I wanted them.”
Like an awkward child who had just lost a battle for candy at the grocery store, I decided it was time to leave. I wasn’t happy. I had really should have scheduled this on a day in which I didn’t have to do anything. So I got up.
“My friend, I have to go, but as a note, I’m quite keen on people following up on what they say they are going to do.”
“I did all I could.”
“Not really,” I said. But then I tried to make some kind of amends. “Look, I hate that we had to meet under these circumstances, for I’m sure we could get along great outside of this situation. I’m sure you’re a great guy. You have a wife and kids?“
“I don’t think that’s really any of your business.”
I really don’t blame him for not telling me that. After all, I appeared to be insane. You see, I have this problem. Whenever I face conflict, I sometimes smile. It’s a coping mechanism. So I come across as crazy. In this case, I appeared quite crazy.
I left, told him I’d be in next week, and walked to my car with a rather sickening feeling. Granted, I got the videos that night – all of them. But my friends, I did learn something out of this besides the fact that walking into major music management companies’ and making demands is a bad idea.
I learned this: following up on emails is the proper thing to do. Furthermore, backing up your claims is the proper thing to do, too.
Following Up On Emails
I thought I would share my experience with you as someone who was on the bad end of poor communication. Look, I know we all get busy sometimes and our inboxes get cluttered, but here’s the thing: people matter.
You may occasionally think to yourself, “Oh! I don’t have to respond to that guy. I may have owed him this, but you know what, I bet he’ll forget.”
We all do it. In fact, as I write this, I’m remembering that I recently didn’t respond to an email as well as send something to some guy – better get on that. However, and I say this to myself, too, please understand that regardless of whether or not you have met a person face to face, you are dealing with an actual human being. Not some robotic avatar that only exists in the form of text.
The guy on the other end can sense the purpose of your email or absence of it. So, we should really take care of our email etiquette; following up is just a major part of it. We’re all real out here on the Internet. Except the hot young singles who live in your local area who are just dying to meet you. They aren’t real. Sorry.
Did this company’s actions (or lack thereof) justify my actions? Not sure, but it does make for a funny story. Needless to say, I won’t be working with them ever again…
Just thought I’d share.
What ways have you been taken for a ride via emails? Have you yourself not followed up on emails?