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Old 05-17-2017, 02:09 PM   #1
sucramdoow_
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Is it backseat directing?

Hey guys,

I'm currently in pre-prod for my second music video for a local band, of which I worked with them on my first music video.

A bit of context: I contacted a local band and asked them if they needed a music video doing for them. They agreed, and I've been working with them for the past 8 months on a music video and generally doing a lot of photography work for them also. Originally I did it as a freebie because I needed to build my portfolio, but it's slowly turned into a paid gig. Probably because the amount of work and effort I've put into it. Since working with them, I've come to see the band as friends. Their band is managed by a business owner, who's invested a lot of money into it. So while they don't have a label, they do have the money that a indie label would offer a new band.

The first music video turned out okay. Currently I haven't heard a negative thing about it (don't know if that's a good thing?) though creatively I wasn't happy with it at all. We had so many problems with it. Our DP dropped out a couple of weeks before shooting, then our original plan fell through because the budget kept overinflating. Then we hired a local prod company to help with the filming part, but they didn't know what they were doing. Then they lied about giving us 6 hours of shooting time, instead giving us 3 hours, so my whole shot list went out the window. Then I had the added pressure of not only coming up with a shot list on the spot but I also had the manager (and sometimes lead singer; who takes a huge creative interest in the bands output in every aspect, including posters etc) backseat directing me in regards to what shots should be got. I considered it just one of those times when pressures were high and everyone was scrambling.

ANYWAY, we're now in pre-prod for the next video, and already my ideas are getting brushed aside in favour for what the lead singer wants. In this instance, consider him the producer. We're going to be shooting in a remote location, so the pressure of getting something will be even higher, because there are more elements at play (including a fight scene). And I have ideas for the two lead actors, and my suggestion for one guy was disregarded because he didn't have a beard, even though I don't see a beard as a deal breaker. It's little things like this that lead me to believe what when we are out in the remote location, I'm going to have him stand beside me at every point (because I'm also camera operating as well) judging every little action I make.

Has anyone else had this?
Is it backseat directing, or is it a typical producer-y attitude?
Anyone have any advice in how to diplomatically tell them to back off?
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:18 PM   #2
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It's not backseat directing, it called producing work for a CLIENT. Let me give you an example in the commercial world. Let's say you are a commercial director, and you have been hired by Colgate toothpaste's agency. You don't get to make all the creative decisions, Colgate, and the agency, will also be making calls (and they are on set as well). They have an image to protect, and so does a band. When you have a client, you have to work with (or put up with) them. Otherwise, stick to movies.

PS. I'm in a band and I would do the same. I would be the client, and your product would directly affect us so I may not let you just do your own thing.

If you want total creative control, you can establish this beforehand, and you can tell the band to trust you, However that usually takes a previous relationship, or someone well known directing.
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:35 PM   #3
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It's not backseat directing, it called producing work for a CLIENT. Let me give you an example in the commercial world. Let's say you are a commercial director, and you have been hired by Colgate toothpaste's agency. You don't get to make all the creative decisions, Colgate, and the agency, will also be making calls (and they are on set as well). They have an image to protect, and so does a band. When you have a client, you have to work with (or put up with) them. Otherwise, stick to movies.

PS. I'm in a band and I would do the same. I would be the client, and your product would directly affect us so I may not let you just do your own thing.

If you want total creative control, you can establish this beforehand, and you can tell the band to trust you, However that usually takes a previous relationship, or someone well known directing.
I understand for commercials, as all the suits feel like they need to make an input, even if it's a bad one. I've known friends who've done commercials for Coca Cola have this happen to them.

I can also understand wanting their band portrayed in a specific way, but if 9 out of 10 of the decisions I'm making, including such little things as the framing of a shot, are being ousted, then surely what am I needed for? They could just hire a camera operator and tell them how to do it and tell the actors themselves what to do.

I'm used to be told by clients what they want, and being given notes on a daily basis, but when it's detrimental to the process, surely you can turn around and say "hang on a minute..".

I guess in my situation it's a bit different, considering I've got to know them as friends, and also considering I've actually spent money helping their band out.
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:41 PM   #4
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Okay so you are being micromanaged on more technical stuff, yes that is annoying. I would kindly ask for the space you need to realize the vision and for the better of the product.
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Old 05-17-2017, 02:47 PM   #5
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This can usually happen if the client (singer in this case) has some experience in film, or photography... and this type of micromanaging can be super-annoying. I wonder was he a film guy or?
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:09 PM   #6
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Yes, I've had this happen to me. Often.

Creative people tend to want control. The lead singer in a band very
often has specific things he wants to see – like the guy with a beard.
To you; not a deal breaker, to him; a deal breaker.

In this case you may not be needed. It hurts, especially when you're
working with friends. I don't see how you can diplomatically tell them
to back off. Even if it IS “backseat directing” are you in a place to take
over creative control? Do you honestly believe the lead singer will back
off if you diplomatically tell him to do so?

I've been in this situation many times. I want creative control and believe
I have earned that right. But the band wants the control. In one case I
walked. And never worked with them again. In a dozen other cases I
backed off, treated it like a work-for-hire and went on to make more music
videos with them. My personal goal was to work with the band – even
above having creative control.

What is YOUR personal, long term goal?
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:09 PM   #7
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I've only made one music video.

I made an edit by myself so i had a bunch of space and I could be creative.
Then when I was done I re-edited the whole thing with him and he had a couple good ideas too and got anything he wanted.
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:25 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by indietalk View Post
This can usually happen if the client (singer in this case) has some experience in film, or photography... and this type of micromanaging can be super-annoying. I wonder was he a film guy or?
Nope. I know his ex-girlfriend (who is in the band) used to do photography. But it wasn't anything serious, she just considered it a hobby. A few times he's rated her skill in that area highly, though in my personal opinion, it's not something to write home about. So sometimes when a shot was being considered he'd ask her opinion, and it would trump my opinion about something. Hell, he'd ask his current girlfriend for an opinion, and she has nothing to do with the band what-so-ever, and it would trump my opinion.
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:35 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by directorik View Post
Yes, I've had this happen to me. Often.

Creative people tend to want control. The lead singer in a band very
often has specific things he wants to see – like the guy with a beard.
To you; not a deal breaker, to him; a deal breaker.

In this case you may not be needed. It hurts, especially when you're
working with friends. I don't see how you can diplomatically tell them
to back off. Even if it IS “backseat directing” are you in a place to take
over creative control? Do you honestly believe the lead singer will back
off if you diplomatically tell him to do so?

I've been in this situation many times. I want creative control and believe
I have earned that right. But the band wants the control. In one case I
walked. And never worked with them again. In a dozen other cases I
backed off, treated it like a work-for-hire and went on to make more music
videos with them. My personal goal was to work with the band – even
above having creative control.

What is YOUR personal, long term goal?
My personal goal is to build a portfolio that I am proud of. That shows me off as a serious director that I can then use as my calling card.

I'm always up for collaborating and having suggestions thrown in. I'm not proud to the point where if it isn't my idea, I don't take it. But if my gut instinct says go with option A which will benefit the product as a whole, and that's being vetoed, then I instantly think that I'm just being hired as a pair of hands, rather than as a director.

My background has been in editing, so I know full well the woes of having a director telling you where to cut specifically (the old clap of the hands/snap of the fingers/bang on the desk), and the best times are when the director brings you in as a collaborator. I also know there are producers out there who feel like they need to have a say in something, but usually my experience in being micromanaged has been minimal, so I don't know the best way to diplomatically say to just let me get on with it, or at least say, lets open a discussion.

Honestly, I don't know what he would say if I told him to back off. That's why I feel like I need to have a really good reason before I go guns blazing into a potential argument.
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:37 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by sfoster View Post
I've only made one music video.

I made an edit by myself so i had a bunch of space and I could be creative.
Then when I was done I re-edited the whole thing with him and he had a couple good ideas too and got anything he wanted.
I had the same experience on the last music video with this band. The lead singer came in after I had edited something together and we worked on it as a team. I valued that input because I was at a loss of how I could edit the whole thing together, because I never planned for any of the footage.

Even today, the music video isn't how I pictured. Which is always the case, but the whole video is a compromise.
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Old 05-17-2017, 03:48 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by sucramdoow_ View Post
My personal goal is to build a portfolio that I am proud of. That shows me off as a serious director that I can then use as my calling card.
That doesn't mean you can't collaborate with the band. It actually sounds selfish because when making a music video your priority is to please the band with the final product. If you are only worried about your own reel I would suggest you do some music videos that do not involve the band to some public domain music, or even commercial music, if it's for your reel only (as that is a common practice but this is not legal advice). Or ask a band to use a song. But once it becomes a for-hire production, it is not all about you.
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Old 05-17-2017, 04:01 PM   #12
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We each have our own method. I have never minded being a hired hand.
I take pride in delivering exactly what the band wants even if it isn't
exactly what I want. You don't want to be a hired hand. So my advice is
to tell them that.

Tell then you are up for collaborating but the final creative decision must
be yours. Tell them what you said here; that your goal is to make a music
video that you are proud of so you must have the final say as the director.
Tell them you are not interested in being just a hired hand or the camera
operator.

From what you write here, it does sound like they are willing to reduce your
control so be personally prepared to be let go. And then leave with
professionalism keeping the door open if in the future they are willing to hire
you under your specifications.

Good luck.

And welcome to indietalk. I hope you stick around and let us know what happens.
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Old 05-17-2017, 04:03 PM   #13
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That doesn't mean you can't collaborate with the band. It actually sounds selfish because when making a music video your priority is to please the band with the final product. If you are only worried about your own reel I would suggest you do some music videos that do not involve the band to some public domain music, or even commercial music, if it's for your reel only (as that is a common practice but this is not legal advice). Or ask a band to use a song. But once it becomes a for-hire production, it is not all about you.
Hmm, what I mean to say is, that I want to create the best possible music video that I can, which simultaneously gives the band something they're happy with, and that gives me something that I am also happy with. I don't see these aims as mutually exclusive.

Also, I'm up for collaborating. But when that collaborating turns into micromanaging, from the band, then it's not collaborating. And considering this situation where the band aren't known, and I'm giving them a HUGE discount on doing the project, as well as giving it my all, it should be more collaborative.

The relationship from the beginning has always been about them getting something from me, and me getting something from them i.e. a portfolio of music videos. This has always been explicit and clear.
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Old 05-17-2017, 04:14 PM   #14
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This is called, having your cake and eating it too.

Learn to work with clients and give a little, or simply don't work with clients.
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Old 05-17-2017, 04:16 PM   #15
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This is called, having your cake and eating it too.

Learn to work with clients and give a little, or simply don't work with clients.
I see cake. I eat it.
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