Thursday, July 21, 2011

South Shore Sunset
Woke this morning to a cool, steady rain...

While much of the mainland swelters in record shattering heat, the islands are enjoying an uncharacteristic weather pattern of strong, gusty trade winds, frequent trade showers, cloudy skies and pleasant temperatures along it's windward shores & slopes.

This, of course, makes for pleasant living & working conditions... cutting down on the sweat factor & need to water the gardens. For certain photography projects, however, like the one I'm in the middle of at the moment... current weather conditions are hanging things up.

Studio bound yesterday & today as a result. Yesterday, we were to have been working on a campaign requiring beach shots highlighting the pristine water and blue skies of the Maui fantasy vacation. We got grey instead and things have been pushed back a bit. Which is just as well, really. Required permits for filming on State & County beaches have been a challenge to obtain with new hurdles recently imposed by the state. For instance, approximately 30 days ago, a requirement that all vehicles on site must now carry $1 million in liability coverage, whether or not they are used in production was instituted. While this is being fought by the State Film Authority, the new policy stands for the time being. Insurance underwriters require time, several days I'm told, to up coverage and then draft & send new certificates of insurance that must accompany each location's permit application.

We've also learned in the process that if you plan on sending talent into the ocean, a certified Ocean Safety Officer must be hired to oversee the production during the water-shot portions. Said Ocean Safety Officer must also write up a Rescue/Safety Plan for each location which must be submitted along with the rest of the paperwork required for the permit application.

A process begun last thursday... all requirements met, all hoops jumped through, all application paperwork in order & submitted, we now wait... for the governing State agencies, namely the Department of Land & Natural Resources, to sign off on the permits. Still waiting...

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to submit a bid for a hospital project. The assignment called for environmental portraits for up to 10 doctors & other medical staff, in multiple locations within the hospital environment. The Art Buyer requested expenses for stylist/wardrobe person(s) & their travel to & from Maui to be included. Usage request was for a Buy Out.

Taking all of this information into consideration... I prepared two options for the client... knowing full well that they would balk at the costs of a copyright buy out,  that their ultimate goal was to not have to come back to me to re-license rights of use every 2-5 years. Also knowing that doctors are notoriously late for appointments, I budgeted for a two-day shoot, planning on 5 portraits in 5 locations each day This would allow me, crew & stylist only 2 hours to move in, set-up, compose, light, test, groom, dress, shoot & re-pack for each portrait subject in their corresponding environment during a minimum 10 hour day not counting a break for lunch. The budget also allowed for a day of scouting locations at the hospital to determine rough camera angles, lighting requirements, access to power, etc.

License option #1 offered the client unlimited use in perpetuity with exclusivity for five years. This gave the client ultimately what they wanted, usage-wise, without sending the budget thru the roof; still allowing me to retain licensing rights to other, non-competing entities in other markets after the initial 5 year embargo. Without going into proprietary details, I'll just say that my budget for Option# 1 came in well over $10k... a bargain compared to a budget for similar projects on the mainland (I'll go into this a little later). Option# 2 granted the client a full transfer of copyright as requested and carried a much heftier cost.

To cut to the chase here, I didn't win the assignment. In my brief, customary post mortem with the Art Buyer, I learned that the winning bid was roughly $3k less than my Option# 1 and was from a Honolulu photographer who also had to fly in to do the assignment & would probably also need lodging for at least one night. 

I was feeling a little bad about not winning this one... we had put a lot of effort into preparing the proposal, given the client many suggestions about wardrobe & art direction ideas that we felt would really kick up the final impact of the images. Then I learned of the winning proposal (don't worry, I don't know who you are) I didn't feel so bad... there's no way I felt I could produce the quality of work this client deserved by shaving off time required in order to get the budget down around $7K. 

Then in a moment of serendipity, I log onto A Photo Editor's blog this morning to find that Rob had posted another of his ongoing Real World Estimates series. This entry, again in collaboration with the Wonderful Machine group, outlined the estimating thought process going into an estimate for a project very similar to the one I write about above, this project differing only in the number of portrait subjects (15 instead of 10) and the inclusion of video capture. The estimate includes a 2 year license for local print collateral & web use of up to 17 images only. You can find the entire discussion here. Be sure to click on the individual estimate forms contained in the article, enlarging them to view the actual breakdown of costs.

I feel much better now about the bid I submitted. I know we gave it our all, offered a lot of suggestions for art direction and costed out each expense & creative fee competitively. Still, it's never easy to lose work to a low bid. That, however, has been made a little easier to take given the fact that a quick look at the books this week showed that for the year 2011, business is back in the saddle and a steady flow of excellent, stimulating assignment work has been coming in. Just this morning, another hospital project arrived via email... and from the very same Art Buyer. Her hands were tied by the State to accept the lowest bid on the last one. This time around, the project is smaller in scale, but the budget is already outlined and it is doable.

Early in the week, a big project we have been working to secure for nearly a year now got the green light. Commissioned by a large resort management chain based in Florida, this assignment will involve travel to four islands to capture architectural images at 10 different resorts. Plans are underway already for Phase One where we will head to Kauai for at least nine days of shooting. Then it will be off the the Big island again for five days, a few days on Oahu... 
This project alone will help round out the books, putting things back into the black column and helping to fill the financial hole created during the past two years of assignment doldrums. 

But, I'm still waiting for those permits to be approved... still waiting for a sign that the weather will break and turn less hostile to tropical fantasy photographs. We are now tentatively scheduled to shoot next monday. The weather forecast thru next wednesday is looking less than promising for our morning location. Art Directors, Producers & talent from Honolulu still need to book flights to be here on shoot day...  and I still don't have those permits...

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