Didn't get a contract and my friend is shortchanging me

(Lessa Smith) #1

I agreed to help a friend edit her web series pilot (on which all parties were paid, down to a few bucks a day for the PAs). She promised to pay me $500 for the edit (it’s only like an eight minute episode, plus a minute or so for credits) but we didn’t get it in writing- oral agreement. She just paypal’d me $300 and says that’s what we agreed on but it’s not, but I have no proof that we definitely agreed on $500. I haven’t sent her the final cut yet- do I have any legs to stand on?

(Bri Castellini) #2

Oh man. That sucks so bad- I’m sorry. Did you ever text about the agreement? Email? IM? Even SOMETHING in writing would help

(Lessa Smith) #3

no it was all oral. I didn’t think she would do this so we just shook on it and I got to work

(Bri Castellini) #4

@avincie @HackettKate @movieguyjon @Huxiley @Meg @hermdelica @DarekKowal @Thomas_Tulak @ghettonerdgirl @OSTSG @whoisjonporter

(Bri Castellini) #5

Have you talked to her about this and she’s standing her ground? In terms of legs to stand on, you do have her edit. Depending on your relationship and how much of a jerk she’s being, you could always withhold the final cut, or you could keep the cut and give her back her footage/hard drive and refund her money and tell her to find someone else. That wouldn’t get you your money, but it would be a firm position and would make it clear where you stood, at least.

(Lessa Smith) #6

I mean I definitely want the money. I have talked to her and she insists that I’M the crazy one trying to extort her

(Herman Wang) #7

Is it possible she’s genuinely misremembering, and not trying to cheat you? There are a lot of things to keep track of in a production (which is why I always record things somewhere, even just for myself).

(Gabriel Crutchfield) #8

In the future, make sure you get written agreements for EVERYTHING, no matter how small. That’s the lesson I’ve learned. Even if you think “someone wouldn’t do that.” They can and they will, sadly.

You might have to write this one off as a lesson learned and take the hit, or try @Bri_Castellini’s suggestion.

Could also possibly be a misremembering of the situation. Even Monty Python had trouble with their 3’s and 5’s…right?

(Lessa Smith) #9

i thought that at first but then when I pressed her, she got really defensive in a way that clearly indicates she’s fucking with me (can I say fucking on this forum?). She started going on and on about what she paid everyone else and that she’s the only one in our filmmaking circle who has done a fully paid production before and how I should be grateful yadayada. We’re still friends and I love her dearly but this stinks and I wanted to see what my options were

(Lessa Smith) #10

yeah trust me lesson learned. UGH!! Do you guys (the @stareable people) have a contracts article?

(Bri Castellini) #11

You can say ‘fucking’ in the forum as long as it’s not a personal attack :slight_smile:

And we have TWO articles on contracts!


(Lessa Smith) #12

Cool I’ll look these over. UGH AGAIN. I’m so annoyed. It was a really good edit too.

(Meg Carroway) #13

I’m kinda on the side of Bri’s most dramatic suggestion- keep the edit. If she can’t pay right now for whatever reason, work out a payment plan IN WRITING or hold her footage hostage. Make sure the contract also stipulates the money she’s already paid is yours and cannot be refunded since you absolutely fulfilled your side of things. Also… she doesn’t sound like that great of a friend, honestly, so screw her.

(Bri Castellini) #14

I have a sound recordist friend who straight up does not surrender his audio files until he’s been paid, in full. Granted, he gets contracts, but his policy is that they’re his files/work up until someone pays for them. Technically, your edit would be the same. Not the footage though- I’d surrender the footage but not the edit files (you can move those to a different hard drive)

(Lessa Smith) #15

I mean this is the first time she’s pulled something like this so I don’t want to completely burn that bridge? But it does suck. Especially because I know for a fact she paid her DP/director $500 for the four day shoot so it’s not that I’m getting paid more than anyone

(Arthur Vincie) #16

I would reach out to the other members of the production and see if they also got screwed over. If she’s doing this deliberately (as opposed to misremembering things) then you’re not the only one who’s getting screwed. That may not increase your leverage, but the more people who are in the same boat, the greater the momentum. You can threaten to post this information about her publicly, which - even if she was right - could potentially stain her reputation.

The only caveat here is that this tactic - or withholding the edit - could adversely impact your ability to get work down the line. I’ve seen it happen - even justified complaints get someone labeled as “difficult.” It sucks.

That’s another reason to reach out to the other crewmembers. If they’ve gone through the same thing (or even if they haven’t) they can back you up and/or keep you in mind for future jobs (if they only have her side of the story, they may put you in the 'difficult" category and not hire you). They may also have a way of talking to her on the side to change her mind.

Good luck!

(Meg Carroway) #17


(Lessa Smith) #18

Fuck I didn’t even think of that. I should ask around cuz I know she was late on at least one person’s stuff. Thanks

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #19

I agree with everything @whoisjonporter said.

Sadly I learned that certain working relationships with friends don’t always work out. They may think they can get away with stuff because you’re “friends,” but you have to let them know it’s not ok.

If you want to continue being friends with this person you should think long and hard about working with her in the future.

(Bri Castellini) #20

Thirded. There’s this misconception that if you’re friends with someone, any version of your relationship should work. For college and post-college, before I was a filmmaker, my mistake was LIVING with friends, but working with them is in the same vein. Sometimes, a friend should just be a friend, even if you have similar ambitions. Just because you can’t work together well or live together comfortably doesn’t mean your friendship is doomed- it just means you should work and live separately and make the choice to see each other and hang out.