Producing : In need of advice from fellow Producers by Rafael Pinero

Rafael Pinero

In need of advice from fellow Producers

Hello, I'm a Producer from Mexico and I really need advice on how to handle a situation. I made a feature film back in 2008, it won some festivals but I never couldn't get distribution. The film was 120 minutes, so I recut the film to 90 minutes, deleted a lot of scenes and added some other cool scenes that were not in the first cut. Anyway, in order to finish the new 90 minute cut, I have to redo the sound design. I always work with a friend from LA, I brought him to Mexico to record the sound during Production and he also did the final sound design of the film, he was paid and everything and he has all the sound of the film. I approached him to do the new sound design of the film, the job was pretty expensive so I told him that I couldn't get that amount of money anymore, so he told me he could do it for free on his free time but with an Associate Producer credit but that it would take him a long time to finish. So I made a deal, I offered him $6,000 dollars upfront and an Executive Producer credit so he could have it ready way sooner, he agreed, paid him the $6,000 dollars immediately... This was a year ago and I still don't have a finished film. He is always busy doing commercials where he gets paid a lot, he tells me that the project is a mess and that he has to sync everything by eye, because all the plugins on his protools session have been updated so it's a total mess. Ok that I can understand, but then he tells me that he hasn't had days off to work on it and that he has spent way more hours than he expected... This project was supposedly to be done in 2 months max... It's been a year and one month already, I've setup deadlines that have been completely ignored because he's been busy, I just don't know what to do anymore, he has all the sound, the foley that I already paid for, because I told him to use what we already had, no new foley, no new anything. What am I supposed to do now? Any advice is welcome and appreciated.

Tony Cella

Don't pay so much money upfront. Arrange payments to occur as work is completed. Time table payments add incentives to meet deadlines.

Rafael Pinero

Hi Tony, I totally agree with you, but since it's supposed to be a good deal, the condition was to pay upfront, and now I'm screwed... The first deadline was November of last year, he couldn't meet it, the second deadline was this lad August because the film was going to screen at a festival, he couldn't meet it, so I told him that I needed it finished by October ( this month) so I could submit to some festivals... Just spoke to him yesterday by iMessage ( he's never available by phone anymore) and this was his response No, been working a lot of hours. Trying to take of personal shit now that I have a moment. Laundry, cleaning, taking my girl to a movie, market, maybe a hike, Dude. I haven't had a day off in like 20 days. I took a nap today is was wonderful And that was his response, then no answer at all, he totally ignores me. So I asked him to tell me what am I supposed to do, he said he didn't know, then I asked him what my options were that I needed his advice and this is what he responded: "Demand your money back?"

Rafael Pinero

Can you believe that answer? After more than a year waiting I don't expect my money back.

Andrew Martin Smith

Rafael - I think you have answered your own inquiry. You now need to embark on a damage limitation exercise - retaining a working relationship and withdrawing from the scenario while striving to extract your project and hopefully your money without the situation deteriorating into a slanging match, which would leave you vulnerable. Age old premise - working with old friends is great, so long as the project doesn't go tits up.

Evelien And Dorien Twins

sorry to hear this is happening to you. While we understand that this sound designer is your friend, it's basically YOUR money he's messing with (we don't want to use the word "stealing", but that's basically what it is if he's not doing what he's being paid for) - and as much as it would pain us if we were in the same boat, we'd send him (for starters) a registered letter, stating that you want to see results by X or Y time or that you'll be forced to take further action. He needs to understand that you're not going to allow him to "abuse" this amicable working relationship you have built... he's not putting in the money, you are! Him "not having the day off" or "having to go to the movies with his gurl" has NOTHING to do with what he's agreed to do for you (deflecting, much?). He decided to take on the work, if he doesn't want to do that he should either give you the money back and let you move on with your project (find another sound designer) or get his ass in gear and start doing the work he's been paid for...

Rafael Pinero

Many times I've thought of asking for the money back and work with another Sound Designer, but this would mean to ask also for all the sound material that he recorded for me in the beginning, which is paid. But we're talking all dialogue, ambience, foley, SFX and Protools sessions. I don't know how he would react and also it would be a pain to almost start from scratch with someone new.

Evelien And Dorien Twins

The only thing we can say is that we'd rather start all over and have the work done in the end than having to prolong even more and a chance of things going to court ETC....

Rafael Pinero

@Vitaly, well I'm still hoping there's a friendship, don't want to lose it, besides, if I move on still I need all the stuff from him, but I don't wanna get to that point... I guess I'm just stuck with him.

Rafael Pinero

Vitaly, you're right, from reading your comment I wrote him this message: "James, I know you're busy but you can't expect me to believe that you don't even have time to answer a message... We made a deal as business men and as friends, with money upfront, You may think you're losing money but I also lost a year... So this is not about asking for the money back, this is about getting the job done as soon as possible so I can move on to the next project and you can continue getting better paid jobs, we cannot keep postponing this, I have investors expecting me to show them a finished product, so please, I am asking you as a client and as a friend, please schedule some days for me and let's get it out of your way, you'll feel better knowing that you honored our deal, please understand my situation. Good luck with your 3 day shoot and please get back to me so we can work this out." Now I'll see if there's a real friendship.

Andrew Martin Smith

Best of luck - may the Fates be kind.

Regina Lee

I would try to "settle out." Ask for 50% of your money back and ask for the work product that the Sound Designer has completed.

Dane Johnson

Trying to enforce an agreement or recover damages without a written contract is usually difficult at best. I know it doesn't help now, but be sure you have written agreements with crew and talent on your next production.

Jack Binder

Demand 100% of your money back and your materials. Very unprofessional clearly.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

You've received good advice but I will offer my perspective on the legally and personally totally murky situation in which you find yourself. I have no knowledge about legalities in Mexico. In my limited, non lawyer, legal experience in the United States, your money is gone. You cannot recover it because it's too much to go to small claims court on your own (You should check that out yourself if your legal venue is here in America) and too little to justify hiring a lawyer to try to recover it. Simply kiss the money good by (Write it off on your taxes if that's possible). Instead of worrying about the financial loss, focus on your work. You want to get back everything which you can. I'd appeal to your friend to simply promptly return everything which is with him. At the same time, I'd get him to sign a release which would document that you and he are done doing business (see below). If he continues to drag things out, I'd consider going after him professionally. That is, since you mention that he's doing commercials, if that means that he is a member of a professional organization, you could consider complaints in writing to that organization. (Obviously, the implication of my suggestions is that the friendship is dead.) In my view, there is no good solution to your problem. You have to choose among pretty bad ones. You could think about just moving on but since you've done business with him, paid him money, offered him credits, etc., that may create title and legal problems for you down the line if a third party becomes interested in your film. But whatever you do, I would do something definitive, something to end this, promptly because I suspect this situation is weighing on you heavily and that means it drawing off time and energy which could be spent building your career. Best I can offer. Good luck.

Evelien And Dorien Twins

You really eloquated that very well, Robin! Cheers!

Rafael Pinero

Thank you very much for all your comments, they are really welcome and appreciated. Vitali, I can't just move on and forget about this project, I have people waiting for the new cut for its TV distribution in the US and investors still waiting to recoup some of the money, at least they should be able to see the film available on Netflix and the other platforms. Robin, you are right in certain points, I made some mistakes and I am paying for that, I should have asked for a copy of all the materials and protools sessions, but since my sound designer is also an associate producer in the film I never thought I would find myself in this situation, we attended together the film festivals where the film was screened and I just considered him very involved in the project. I guess at that time it was his first time involved in a feature and now he seems to be doing great. Making this independent feature has been my life and as you know it's not easy and it takes a lot of time and money, so there's no way I can just forget it and move on like it never existed. It might not launch my career anymore like I thought it might have, but at least I should finish the project and see it available for its viewing. I will think about all the different solutions given to me in this thread and just try to get the film finished, thanks a lot again.

Rafael Pinero

Oh they will Vitaly, just until your upcoming projects come out, and your investors will wait days, months or even years to get their investment back.

Rafael Pinero

You just have to wait until your upcoming projects are ready.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

On reflection, I think Robin R's advice is very really done. Good luck in sorting this issue out.

Rafael Pinero

I totally agree with you Douglas, she covered every aspect

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