Are you a Technician? Or an Artisan.

I recently was given the opportunity to work on a very visible project with a large and respected company. They’d found me due to my work in the photography industry with TWiP — and other things I’m working on. They engaged me to be the point person and interviewer behind a series of high-profile interviews to be conducted with industry movers and shakers.

I jumped at the chance to align the TWiP brand with such a “legit” and established company. This was going to be a huge stepping-stone in the overall evolution of the TWiP and its sphere of influence. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as planned.


The Gig

This was to be a relatively simple production; two to three subjects sitting on stools (interviewer in one seat, and up to two interviewees on the two other seats), one camera, two lights. This was a straight interview-style production with very little post-production required. Essentially shoot, trim, add bumpers, export to YouTube — rinse repeat.

This routine was to occur over 6-8 short 20-30 minute interviews. Each evening, the final edited video was to be uploaded to YouTube so that I could create a blog post and share online the following morning — not later than 7am.

Sure, I can do that — no problem. 

Normally I engage a much larger and established firm to handle the logistics, shooting, and post-production. However, this time I just brought in a friend of mine who told me he could handle this gig solo. Though the client was providing their own gear for us to use, my friend reassured me that he’d bring his own back-up equipment, you know, just to ensure this thing went off without a hitch (awesome!). I was confident communicating to the client that my team would be expertly handling this project, and they could sit back, relax, and watch things unfold.

Turns out, my friend was not as adept at shooting, lighting, or editing video as I’d been led to believe. Day one of the shoot, he kicked off this comedy of errors by handing off the footage to a friend for editing, who then was not able to complete this short video in time for me to meet my 7am client obligation — a litany of excuses of course followed. And when I did finally get the video, it had typos in the lower-thirds, and other errors.

Remember, this was the first video we’d produced for this client, and it was *supposed* to be buttoned-up and stellar… first impressions and all that. This first video was supposed to set the tone for the remainder of the videos.

It set the tone alright, but that tone was off-key.

Seriously?! WTF!

This type of incompetent production style persisted over the next few days, manifesting itself in various ways. Everything including bad audio (with no back-up), the camera being set on auto-exposure resulting in a constantly shifting exposure during a static seated interview, unusable shaky b-roll, minutes of black inexplicably added to the end of videos, and on-and-on.

I’ve worked with my friend before, and he seemed highly knowledgeable about gear, lights, software etc. And in the past we had very geeky conversations about the merits of one piece of gear over another, software, bad clients etc. So, my incorrect assumption was that because he could “talk-the-talk”, that he could also “walk the walk.” Especially since this was such a simple shoot.

In retrospect, I think my error was in looking at someone who was clearly a “technician”, and making the assumption technical proficiency was somehow synonymous with “artisanship”, or production proficiency. Sometimes it is, this time it wasn’t. Just because someone knows HOW a camera works, or WHY LED lights are better than hot lights, doesn’t mean they know when, how and why to use said gear.

Luckily, I was able to smooth things over with the client, but they were understandably and justifiably upset that this super simple shoot did not go as planned. In the end I was able to make everything look reasonably OK.

Look before you Leap

Take my advice and learn from my mistakes, never (EVER) hire someone solely based on the fact that they “say” they know what they’re doing. Or based on the fact that they “seem” to understand a project. The traits of enthusiasm, and a willingness to learn are great, but not on mission-critical projects. Look at past projects, assess skill levels, and then (and only then) engage individuals or firms to work on your project.

Have you ever had an experience like this? Let me know in the comments below. Please share this post, to help get the conversation started.



  • Gigi Embrechts

    Today there is an attitude that you should say yes and then learn as you go, but before committing and putting someones project on the line you need to know “for sure”that you can get the project done. Otherwise both parties get hurt. I am sure you will not hire your friend again, no matter how good he gets. Jumping into the water before you know how to swim is never a good plan.

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