Larry Jordan: Real-World Project Killers

by Larry Jordan

You are filled with boundless creativity, with a toolkit filled with the latest software to create movie magic. Then, the real world intervenes.

Clayton Moore and I were chatting via email this week about client problems that can kill a project and stifle a business.

Here are three traps that can destroy a project (and a business) if you don’t plan for them. (There are more, I’m sure – feel free to add your own stories in the Comments below.)

TRAP 1: The Hidden Client

The first critical trap is not understanding who the actual client is or, more importantly, the ultimate decision maker on the project. This needs to be clearly understood at the beginning, or, as you’ll see, a lot of frustration and lost time will result.

Clayton illustrated this point well:

We got a job for a non profit. Three videos to help them reach the community with an important message. Funded by a grant from the county.

Clients are in studio at time of shooting to make sure they get the answers on camera to the questions they ask. Our producer (who is as good as they get) helped to make people feel at ease and draw out their emotions. Even the representative from the county was there sitting quietly in the background.

After the third and final rough cut, I got an email from the client saying: “Loved it, made me cry.” Next day, I got another email from the client saying: “We’re sorry this is not working out. Please stop all work, forward all the footage back to us and refund 75% of what we paid you”

How did we go from “Made me cry,” to “This is not working?”

We finally found out what was going on. The person at the county who provided the grant money was injecting her own wishes behind the scenes and the non-profit client, for whom this project was intended and with whom we had the contract, did not have the courage to own the project enough to stand up to her.

We were in effect trying to build a project to multiple expectations and it was going nowhere. Even though the non-profit was finally becoming happy with it, the person at the county who paid for the project and who the non-profit allowed to drive the bus, had not been happy with it since the beginning.

Establishing who is REALLY behind a project and who needs to approve it can often be surprisingly difficult. So can discovering all the hidden agendas that lurk under the surface of even the simplest video. But, the more you understand the forces behind a video, the more likely you are to be allowed to successfully create it.

TRAP 2: Budgeting with No Script

This is a common trap. Writing a script, like editing a video, is a special skill. Not everyone can do it. We can all type, but that doesn’t make the results worth reading. Worse, until you have an agreed upon script, it is impossible to create any realistic budget.

Clients do not understand how video is produced, budgeted or created. They don’t understand where the costs are. For example, a simple line in a script, such as: “The two travelers chatted as the bus drove through the countryside.” costs FAR more than “The two friends chatted over coffee in the kitchen.” Same dialog, perhaps, but vastly different budgets to produce.

Clayton highlighted this one, too, when he wrote:

I have learned that unless I want to get into writing for clients as part of my gig, I try to stay away from taking jobs with clients who want a promo video or any kind of message video but have no script.

Client: “Writing a script, how hard could that be?”

TRAP 3: Endless Changes …

Read the rest at

About James DeRuvo 801 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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