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The Client From Hell

It could be worse -- or better By Charlie White
By popular demand, it's time to take a look at the flip side of The World's Worst Editor. My last column looked at our hapless hacker -- I called him Ed -- a digital video editor who didn't know if he was on foot or on horseback. I asked you, readers, to regale us with tales of the other, even darker side of the edit suite: the Client From Hell. Wow, did I hear some whoppers! Let's just hope that these clueless clients don't ever find themselves in the same edit suite with Ed. Someone could put an eye out, or, I don't know, something could just explode. But, as I mentioned in that same column: This is my client. He smells bad. He has money. I like him.

Dave Friend from Minneapolis starts off our harrowing tour of the Dark Side of the client world:

"Consider the newbie client who, being faced with what they want on a slate for the first time , considers, reconsiders and then changes their mind for four (yes, 4) hours. (Naturally this was a "fixed price" job.) The editor finally had to get the Account Exec involved to explain that the only person who would ever see the slate was the person that would eventually make the dubs -- the very same editor currently being driven insane."

Which brings up the most-often mentioned trait of the Client From Hell: Acting like an idiot. Usually along with that, there's that pesky problem of paying attention to all the wrong details. Yes, this is also one of our Worst Editor Ed's problems, but it seems even worse when it's somebody making you do it. Adding insult to injury, a lot of these anal-retentive arses are mean-spirited about it. They start acting like the great architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who used to say as he turned up his nose, asking for a change that might cost a million dollars and a month of lost time, "It's what I want." But these people aren't any Frank Lloyd Wright -- more like Frank Lloyd Wrong. Wright would usually have good reasons for his changes, and after all, he was a brilliant genius. Not so with the Client From Hell.

Here's another boneheaded client, so stubborn and hell-bent to save money, he cuts off his nose to spite his face:

Back in the days of one-inch linear editing, this particular client -- a principle partner in a well-known agency (really big, offices in NY, Chicago, LA and Paris) -- would sit in the suite with a stop watch and time the reel changes. He would insist that he 'wasn't going to pay for the downtime caused by changing reels.' As you might suspect he did pay, in ways he never imagined."

But heck, if they're paying by the hour, and they insist on doing something that takes a long time, well, I would certainly alert them to the ticking clock and futility of whatever time-wasting wild goose chase they proposed, but then if that client insists on wasting lots of precious time, well, it's their money.

According to editor Rich Gehron, sometimes a whole family gets in on the act:

"This client wasn't just one person but an entire family that ran an audio-visual boutique store. High-end, high quality, extremely high priced merchandise. I was sent in to put together a 30 second spot filled with product shots. Being the control freaks that they were, the clients (husband, wife & 2 sons) dictated every shot which made it easy for me because no creative thinking was allowed, I mean required. Problem was that they didn't script anything so I spent nearly an hour sitting on my ass while they argued over the best products to show and the best way to shoot them. I guess it never occurred to them to ask the camera guy. The one thing they did agree on was showcasing the brand new wide-screen HDTV set.

So I set up my trusty BetaSP camera and took some nice looking shots of this cool TV. Remember this was over 3 years ago when John Q. Public had better odds of seeing a flying saucer than an actual working HDTV set. They had the TV hooked up to a satellite which was running a "promotional channel" for HDTV retailers, mostly consisting of sports footage. Well, I finally got out of there and back to my edit suite and crafted an up beat 30 second commercial which I showed the client the following day for approval. Only the wife and one of the sons could make it, but they liked the spot (especially my choice of music) and the only negative comment came from the wife who was disappointed that the sports footage on the HDTV didn't look as good in my commercial as it did on the set in her store.

I nearly fainted. Instead, I spent the next thirty minutes explaining to her that once my standard-def BetaSP camera recorded that footage, it was no longer high definition. Then she tried to argue that she could get a tape sent from the manufacturer with HD footage on it and I could cut that into the commercial instead. She insisted that the people sitting at home should be able to see as good an image as what was on the TV in her store. I know she wanted the WOW factor in her commercial, but I insisted that it was impossible to accomplish that unless the TV station was suddenly going to start broadcasting in HD AND the person at home would have to own an HD set in order to receive the signal, which meant they wouldn't need to go buy one at her store anyway!

Still not satisfied, she threatened to pull all her advertising money and finally the sales manager managed to calm her down and appease her by giving her some FREE AIR TIME!!!!! Either this lady was a very savvy business woman who concocted this whole scenario just to get a few extra runs of her commercial OR she really didn't know anything about the products she was selling. Either way I decided NEVER to shop in that store. God forbid I have a question about the merchandise."

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Related Keywords:Worlds Worst Editor, hapless hacker, digital video editor, edit suite, Client From Hell, clueless clients, Editorial, Charlie White

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