Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Must Watch - Do You See Yourself?

Harlan Ellison's on fire in this 3:24 piece excerpted from the upcoming feature documentary on him "DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH" "about his experiences dealing with the packaging company for MGM on Babalon 5, includng their possible inclusion of one of his on -camera interviews about the series in their DVD for the series, which they don't want to pay him a dime for, they want it donated.

In the beginning, he says:

(Video, Full Post & Comments, after the Jump)

" a young woman calls me" about the a video interview he's done about his role on Babylon 5, and he recounts "she says 'we'd like to use it on the DVD, can that be arranged', I said, absolutely, all you've got to do is pay me, and she says 'what?', I said you gotta pay me, she said 'well, everyone else is just doing it for nothing', and I said 'everybody else may be an a*shole, but I'm not, I said, 'by what right would you call me and ask me to work for nothing, do you get a paycheck?" 'well yes' (she responded)....'how dare you call me and want me to work for nothing', 'well it would be good publicity' (she responded), 'lady, tell that to someone a little older than you who has just fallen off the turnip truck, there is no publicity value in my being on the DVD...the only value for me is to put money in my hand..."

This video is worth your time, to be sure. If you see yourself hearing the same thing from photo editors or art buyers looking for things for free (or for pennies on the dollar) and then actually considering doing so, that's not a good sign.

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Another from the "Are You Kidding Me?" Department

This is why there is traffic on the freeways. Some idiot isn't paying attention and gets into an accident, or Officer Barney Fife decides to pull over someone for a tail-light out during rush hour, and now we're all rubber-necking at the sideshow.

Next up is the laugh that is VH1, with their own version of a train wreck, trying to make itself relevant again, this time, borrowing stealing liberally from America's Next Top Model. They now have "The Shot", hosted by Russell James. which includes - "Balbinka", playing the part of the euro-looking skinny girl, who somehow says with a straight face "when I think of passion I think of anger", and "I modeled for a while, but now I need a new outlet"; Bree playing the dumb-blonde look; Maria, the dark-haired enjenue who looks too much like one of the Sex and the City girls and who said "I got into photography after taking 5,000 pictures on my cell phone"; Ivan, playing the part of Erkel with a Camera; Dean - the balding biker-look guy; John - Balbinka's euro-boy counter part who said "I shoot a lot of weddings - I'm not exactly your typical wedding photographer, I come in a tux, and I look like I'm straight out of the pages of GQ magazine...I get to hang out with the bridesmaids, and if I'm lucky, take one home"; Airic - the "my mother can't spell Eric" semi-dreadlock guy who said "I'm a single man, and I love the ladies, and sometimes the ladies love me"; Jason - the cross between oh, I don't know, pick someone, he's too wannabe stylish; Piper - the girl who's mother's physcian must have too many aviation magazines in his waiting room; and Robin, the girl with a whole-lota self-expressive body art and jewelery.

(Continued after the Jump)

Note, I said repeatedly "...playing the part of..." because they are all chosen to fit certain stereotypes so the show has a nice "blend" in casting-agent speak. Further, nobody get uppity with me over my "snap judgements" of these aspiring photographer's appearances, when they've chosen fabio-esque Russell James to be the photographer they all want to be - after all, it's fashion! In fashion, that's just how they want their subjects to be judged - by how they look. Turnabout is fair play. Oh, and to appeal to their international audience -- they've got someone from Bosnia, Croatia, and Poland! natch on the Eastern-European audience, and Bree's from Australia.

Watching the preview, what I want to know is where the hell are the Pocket Wizards!?!?! Why are they hardwired!?!?!

From the site, a few excerpts:
10 amateur photographers the chance to live out their wildest fantasies in pursuit of their ultimate dream: to become the next great fashion photographer...while being guided by world-renowned fashion photographer Russell James....while traveling to exotic locations -- all to capture that one perfect shot.
Nice. I'm sure they'll travel by Lear Jet to get there too, because that is so reality.

...our cast will face daunting tasks and obstacles that will test their talent, desire and drive to be the next great fashion photographer.
Like, let's see, paying the bills? Carrying the production expenses when your fashion client welches on the bill and buys more fabric instead? Where are these tests? Absent.

"...a "teach challenge", where Russell presents the cast with a new technical or creative a legitimate, fashion-oriented photo campaign."
I cannot believe I am seeing this in print? Is this April 1st? Let me check my calendar....

"...Each week Russell and his professional panel will review the cast's photos, eliminating the weakest shooter...After a month long journey the best photographer will emerge and be crowned the show's winner, thus launching his or her professional career."
Until such time as they haven't figured out how much to charge - how to pay the bills, procure a crew, and so on. Then they'll be back to waiting tables.

The only shot this has at succeeding is if we can blame the writer's strike for people being driven to this dreck because everything else is in reruns. Please let the strike end soon.

And, because you can't help but look over at the death and dismemberment that is on the side of the road and contribute to the traffic jams, here it is - the preview, which has our aspirants' resulting shooting pretty much porn-esque - heck, even Russell said that he didn't want to see anything more in the future that could be put up on a porn site!

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Speedlinks for 11/8/07

Today's Speedlinks.

  • Branding & Marketing - If you ever wondered what the difference was between PR, marketing, branding, and advertising, in 30 seconds, the visuals on this blog posting will illustrate it for you.

  • The worst way to shake hands - Honestly, I meet so many people who just are so mamby-pamby with their handshakes, this article is great and should be read, even by those who think they are good hand-shakers!

  • If Athletes Can Have Coaches, Photographers Can Have Mentors - A few excerpts - "...excellent athletes have personal coaches...even when their professional credentials are well-established...Certainly athletes see the value. Business leaders often have mentors to whom they turn for career advice regularly. If high-powered people like these see some value in coaching relationships, maybe they are on to something photographers can steal for themselves."
Now go! Check 'em out, and come back soon!
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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Conundrum of Doing Nothing

Today I was out on assignment photographing Arlo Guthrie. It was among the assignments this week that I was most looking forward to, hopeful that he'd sing Alice's Restaurant. Alas, he did not, but he did posit a thought to the corollary:

"The problem with doing nothing, is that you never know when you're finished."
Gutherie said:
"The art of doing nothin' is probably one of the most profitable things you can do, because it sets you up to be doing something."
This then begs the question - "What should you be doing?
(Continued after the Jump)

Well, the right thing, of course.

What exactly is the right thing?

Well, in the abstract, when you justify taking an assignment for fees that are to low, or an excessive rights grab, with the sentence "well, it's better than doing nothin'", that should be a sign to you that Arlo's thinking should be kicking in.

If your justification for taking an assignment worth $1,000 and doing it for $200 because the client has said "$200, non-negotiable, take it or leave it", and you said to yourself "$200 is better than making nuthin' tomorrow" then you might need to be thinking like Arlo.

If your justification for taking an assignment and being paid $400 but having to transfer copyright is because "$400 for images that have little resale value anyway is better than not making the $400" then you might need to be thinking like Arlo.

Arlo was talking profitability by "doing nothing." At first blush, it seems contradictory.

Yet, upon further reflection, its' not. Instead, free yourself up on that day to seek out a better paying clientele base, and one that does not demand an excessive rights package. These clients are the ones who respect you and your work, and thus, your constitutionally guaranteed right to control the rights to your work.

One of the more unpleasant conversations I had today was with a client for an assignment tommorrow, who, after his subordinate signed my contract with a rights-managed rights package, called saying "I just want to make sure we own all the rights to these photos", to which I had to explain that that wasn't the case, and that, outlined in the contract was a rights package that, for the press conference we were covering, was all the common rights needed and that we grant as a part of our standard package. Further, we weren't granting rights to him which we did not have (i.e. those that require model releases when people attending have not signed model releases, and thus, cannot appear in marketing materials). I noted to him that I couldn't convey to him "all rights", since "all rights" includes the right to use the photos in ads and brochures and so forth, and I'd be charging a fee of him for something I didn't possess.

He then said "we just have a fundamental difference about how to approach this." And I said "well, mine is a perspective based upon copyright law and rights granted under the Constitution. Are you suggesting that if an artist produces a song and earns money off the CD, that they then shouldn't be paid additionally when their music is used in a movie or a commercial?" And he said "well, that's different." I said "no, actually, it's the same copyright principle."

We are doing this assignment tomorrow, not because the client is happy with the terms, but because they signed a contract with a standard rights package and then, after the fact, just a few (business) hours before the event was to start, thought they would try to renegotiate the terms of the agreement - to terms which we cannot convey, and which we principally objected to. Thus, the power of the signed contract.

Today, Arlo didn't play Alice's Restaurant, which is alright by me, since what he did play was amazing in it's own right. At first, I thought I'd be disappointed that he didn't, but afterwards, and upon reflection, I was exceedingly pleased with what he did play. So too, will tomorrow's client be pleased with the work we produce for them, even if they don't get every right under the sun, they will get quality work from a professional photographer, who is "doing something" profitable tomorrow.

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THURSDAY: Presenting to ASMP in New Orleans

I'm heading south tommorrow, Thursday 11/8, to help out my colleagues in the New Orleans/Gulf South chapter of the ASMP.

From their e-mail promotion of the talk:

At a time when we could all use some help and support for our businesses, the New Orleans/Gulf South Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers presents Under the Hood of Your Business with John Harrington.

John....will be discussing how to maximize profits and determine minimum charges as well as digital production, copyright, and smart paperwork. John offers a roadmap for applying sound business skills to today’s industry reality.

ASMP’s Strictly Business seminars asked John to participate in that event but it won’t be making its way to New Orleans anytime soon so I asked him to offer his expertise and enthusiasm for the business of photography. Here’s a link to his bio:
Thursday, November 8th – 1040 Magazine Street
Doors open 6pm; John speaks 7-9pm
Members and students with ID: $10; $20 non-members. Pay at the door.
Food and drinks will be served.
So, come on down, we'll have lots to talk about!
(Comments, if any after the Jump)

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Monday, November 5, 2007

The AP is NOT Dead, Not By A Longshot

I recieved an e-mail newsletter from WebProNews, with the subject line "AP Is Dead ... Killed By Blogs & Aggregation", and I thought, immediately, that there was breaking news about the AP. Having just photographed the head of the AP, Tom Curley, a few nights prior, and him having made no mention of this made me skeptical. So, I read on.

The author, Rich Ord, CEO of iEntry, said:

Old media is epitomized by no news source more than the Associated Press. Literally thousands of journalists are employed around the world to bring current event coverage to readers of thousands of newspapers and their online sites.
Yes, Rich, that's because there are literally thousands of places around the world where news is happening, every day, sometimes, in the same city at the same time, so we need more than once person in each city.
(Continued after the Jump)

He goes on to say:
In the pre-Internet days the AP had little competition beyond a few other news syndicators like Reuters and UPI. The AP's world has now changed forever with the advent of blogs and news aggregation sites.

Blogs are the new "AP" journalists and aggregation services which started with in 1996 (founded by me!) and
which now include Google News, Topix, Techmeme, WebProWire and the new Blogrunner have made the AP much less relevant.
No, Rich, blogs are not the new AP. Blogs are an unfettered collection of postings by people with unknown agendas. In fact, WebProNews wrote about this very fact in this article which noted that the photographer/author team were hired to write positive blog pieces about a major retailer. I can't see how they can critisize the blogosphere in one breath, and then suggest it's the new AP in a year later. It can't be both ways. The AP is reporting - without agenda - on the news of the day. One can argue all you want about if they're conservative or liberal, or middle-of-the-road, but their overarching agenda is to take as unbiased look as possible on the news of the day.

WebProNews criticized the AP "the AP is suing Moreover for of all things... linking to AP stories. Does the AP not realize that winning this suit would result in less readers of their stories?" The AP isn't complaining about more people reading their stories, they are complaining about people generating revenue from links and ads alongside the links to their stories, which are not generating any income for the AP or it's members, but are for the link farms that are generating income.

They go on to write:
The Associated Press model of news is dead ... dead as can be. It is a business model that pays reporters to travel and write stories and then syndicate those stories to traditional news organizations.
Wait, you said at the outset "The AP is Dead", now you're just saying the model is? Which is it? Earlier in the post you cited Curley's remarks in a speech a few days ago
"We must take bold, decisive steps to secure the audiences and funding to support journalism's essential role in both our economy and democracy, or find ourselves on an ugly path to obscurity."
I think Tom Curley gets it. He wants to evolve. Heck, the guy ran USA Today when everyone joked about it as a fake newspaper before coming around to it.

Now, if we could just get the AP to increase their assignment rates, and maybe use the pay-per-play model I suggested at the end of What The Writers Strike Means to You, we'd all benefit from this new media we're (some of us are) thriving in.

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What the Duck - Spot On

Aaron's got it spot on yesterday!

(Comments if any, after the Jump)

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What The Writers Strike Means to You

What's happening with the Writers Guild of America, sadly, cannot happen for us. We have no union. If we did, we would have more power to affect our future, diminishing the capability for media conglomerates to screw us.

Yet, we're screwing ourselves because few of us individually has the fortitude to withstand draconian contracts foisted upon us by major media outlets, who say to us "take it, or leave it, there's a line of suckers down the block willing to sell their soul (or at least all rights) to be a photographer", and we have no recourse.

(Continued after the Jump)

What you should be watching, is the parallels between what the WGA recognizes is "new media", and how you may well be giving away the farm with your grant rights.

"when they make money off our product we deserve a piece of it" so said the head of the writers guild when the strike was announced.

So often, the arguments be newspapers and wire services is that your photographic contribution is a "contribution to a collective work" and thus, why should you deign to think you're due anything more?

If you're and old school photographer you agreed to paltry rates because the use was in the paper for a day, or the magazine for a week, or the smaller magazines for a month. You rarely complained when your day rates didn't increase with annual cost-of-living increases.

When digital came around, that didn't change right away. A few organizations paid a "digital transmission fee", which, for most, has disappeared. However, back in 1988, the web, iTunes, wireless phone media players, and so forth, didn't exist. Warren Leight, the executive producer of NBC's "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," sad "At the moment, we have no piece of the Internet at all." Funny how the networks are making all the money off their online presences and so forth, and the writers aren't getting a dime.

So too, when paper's assignments were being handed out, it was just for the print edition, but it didn't seem necessary to say that. Then there was the Supreme Court decision Tasini v. New York Times, which found in favor of Tasini, in that, writers deserved a piece of the revenue from other uses of their product. Now, you're being paid the same amount (rarely, if ever, even adjusted for inflation), and your photographs are being used in the electronic edition, the electronic archived versions - accessible to buyers for a fee, on news feeds to phones and PDA's, as backgrounds out of the context of the original story, in video screens in elevators in hotels and office buildings, all monetized by the conglomerates, and conveniently leaving you out.

CNN wrote a good piece Get ready for reruns: Writers hit the picket lines, which addresses this and gives more background.

However, you should be looking to this as an example of how other creatives are seeing money being derived from their work not making it into their pockets. The figure reported by CNN is that the writers currently are getting $0.04 per DVD, and they currently want $0.08. When it's the writers who actually write the storylines, jokes, and so forth, they deserve a piece of the profits, even when it's a contribution to a collective work. So too should you get paid $x for an assignment, for, say, Bloomberg, and each time a subscriber uses a photo, you should get a usage fee. The $x for the assignment should be what gets you there, and you should enjoy the benefits of a well made photo doing well for the wire service, and also for you. The more people that see your product, use your product, or otherwise benefit from it, the more you should be compensated.

Suppose, for example, that you did an assignment for Bloomberg, and were paid $x. And, for every one of their subscribing newspaper clients that used your photo, you got $2.25, and for every weekly news magazine, you got $4.75, how long before you were benefiting substantially? I don't know if these numbers are way too low, or way too high, I am just positing the concept. It's doable now, with online reporting and tracking, and so forth. Further, the other wires should be doing this as well, not just Bloomberg.

Watch the WGA strike, and recognize that, if only in a small way, their successes on this front could, quite possibly benefit you down the line with a model that recognizes pay-for-play for all new media. Once the WGA gets it in place, then too will other creatives.

Be sure to specify your rights granted as print, print/web, print/web/electronic, and so forth. The less ambiguous you are, the better off you will be moving forward.

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