Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Editing Quotes + Freelance Thumb Twiddlers

I think there are people like me with similar abilities and disabilities, because editors are disabled on the social level. It's not normal to be alone in a room with people who look alive but are not. It's a kind of dysfunctional element that editors have, that they can relate to people who are not really people.

Michael Leszczylowski, Page 201

Milos Forman writes in his memoirs that you would give your soul to the devil in return for the eyes of an editor.

Lidia Zonn, Page 213


'Hi, my name is Kai. I edit stuff... ...' *awkward pause / twiddle thumbs* 'And you?'

Haha, nah, I don't think I'm THAT socially dysfunctional. I attribute my other portfolio of being a producer as the counterbalance. Though I do smile at people in those little boxes when they smile back at me... when I'm editing. Or not.

The second quote is certainly more epic. Ah, to believe in the day when I may posses such a pair of magical eyeballs.

Meanwhile, back in the realm of reality called 'Singapore', life as an editor continues to be fraught with potholes... when freelancing. After nudging [again] a client for months regarding payment [project was completed late last year], I was told that nope, they still can't pay me until... they sort out their finances. Le sigh.

Of the 4 times I have been on contract/freelancing, this is the 2nd time I've been made to twiddle thumb while waiting for the company to sort out payment... indefinitely, with neither proactive contact or follow-up.

Of the many chats I've had with other freelancers in production and post, the overall situation here is equally frustrating and disappointing. Some were owed payments, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, for months... half a year... more than a year. Often, the same companies perpetrate the cycle of exploitation, over and over again, since there are always clueless and eager new kids on the blocks [Like I once were!] when the experienced ones avoid them like the plague.

I still remember my maiden journey of being exploited... editing a kids' program for a production house. I was quite the eager beaver since I hadn't edited any TV programs at that point. Actually, I was quite surprised that they even picked me, of all people, to edit a TV program. The process turned out to be... an eye-opener, in the 'wise up, young Jedi' kinda way. No script, no log, no direction, no director sitting in... had to capture everything from 5+ hours of tape... told to cut 3 segments. Ta-dah.

Eventually, when the ep aired, I saw that most of my cuts were left intact. That was... nice to see. Though looking at the way things were being run, I kinda wondered whether it's because no one really bothered...

Like the current project which has left me twiddling my thumb, this one was yet another thumb-twiddler [4 months of waiting, nudging and waiting in vacuum for paycheck]... and like the current project, this one was under quoted [for the length and scope of work] due to my inexperience.

On hindsight and with very valuable lessons learnt from and
1) Your skills and profession are worth a certain rate. Don't be arm-twisted into dropping your rates unless you see a tangible value in doing so.
2) Learn to say 'No' - there comes to a point in your career when you know certain things are worth doing and certain things are just too painful to do.

Globally, it seems that there is a positive correlation between substandard rates and substandard payment schedule.

I've paid my fair share of dues under the 'Exploit Me!' category - time to wise up! [there are always new batches of students and interns to undergo the baptism of fire :P]

Fortunately, my faith in what I do is still intact since I have been meeting good, decent people who understand that freelancers can't be made to twiddle thumbs while you sort out your business. Freelancers depend on their paycheck to eat, pay their bills and survive. Imagine waiting 3 months for your pay - sometimes 4 months, or hey, maybe half a year... who knows?!

Someone I used to work for on a freelance contract [who also demonstrated the positive correlation between good rate and good payment schedule] mentioned to me over a homely lunch that when freelancers work for you, they offer their trust because they invest their time, effort and expertise FIRST and trust you to do the right thing later. Of course, this same boss pays her freelancers very VERY speedily. Blink of an eye speedily.

Which is also why I'm proud of working with Intuitive Films because we also believe in being responsible to not only our clients, our work but also, to our freelancers. Good work does not come from squeezing the last drop from your profit-driven budget, when it means going down the chain and squeezing/exploiting the people you work with. We continue to respect our work and our freelancers - because, hey, they're both equally important!