Monday, August 16, 2010

Today's Exercise in Impotent Rage. (with Updates)

Note #1:  Some of you know exactly who and what I'm talking about here.  Whether you know, or think you know, please refrain from making comments that might identify anyone.  I'm not naming names until it's time to pull the gloves off.

Note #2:  I'll also endeavor to refrain from calling anyone a scumbag, asshole, fuck-knuckle, jerkoff, douchebag, syphalitic thieving whore, or pustulent liar in this post.  That might be perceived as rude.

For the moment, I'm only going to give you the short story.  I'm pissed off and there isn't a whole lot I can do about it right now.  I worked for a certain company 50 days ago and they haven't paid me (in spite of telling me "next week" at least 3 times).

Last Friday's excuse was that the studio hasn't given them the payment they were owed in mid-June and they'll pay me as soon as they receive that.  Even if that is the case, a few things occur to me.

1. In spite of having no income from their intended source in mid-June, they continued to hire people to work for them through the end of June...with no idea how they might be able to pay them.

2. None of the people I buy shit from let me have the stuff and then pay them whenever I get some money.  If I want the pipes to stop leaking, the plumber wants money.  The guy at the grocery store has this really obnoxious attitude that I should give him a couple of dollars if I want to walk out with a loaf of bread.

3. Each of the "Producers" who have promised me I'd be paid "any time now" is in a position to (eventually) reap a profit from this project in addition to any negotiated fee he's getting.  Why the hell am I financing your little show with no expectation of ever getting anything more than my rate.  And who do you think you are that you get to decide that I should do without the money for a while instead of you.  Here's an idea:  If you need a loan to finish your show, call your Mommy. Pull the money out of your own bank account and PAY ME.

There's a ton more about this that stinks, but I've been obsessing about it a little, so I just felt like getting it off of my chest.  Their last email had the definitive statement that I'd be PAID IN FULL THIS WEEK.  If they don't live up to that, I'll pull off the gloves and start going after them from every avenue of attack* I can think of.

It's been something like 23 years since I've had to fight a Production Company to get paid and I'd forgotten how impotent a feeling it is.  There are avenues of recourse, but I hesitate to go in any of those directions until I'm reasonably convinced that they really intend to stiff me (instead of just being unconscionable scumbags -- oops, that one slipped).  If they don't pay, most of the options for recouping my money are time consuming and will cost me money to pursue.  On the plus side, most of those same avenues will cost them a bunch more than it would to just pay me in the first place (triple damages in some instances) -- not to mention, they'd have a difficult time hiring crews in NY in the future with a Class E Felony for Theft of Service conviction.

*While I'm not looking for advice on legal recourse, I will take any ideas you've got on how to harass, annoy and/or embarrass them.  I already know how to publicize their misbehavior (and yes, there are some names involved who would probably hate being associated with that type of publicity).  I also know some rather easy ways to spread the word through the film community that these people don't pay their bills. No, I'm thinking "Oceans Eleven" type comeuppances -- only legal.  If it comes to it, I'll be delighted to have them know who is behind their discomfort as long as I don't give them any rope to hang me with.

P.S. On the very remote chance that the producers involved are reading this, all my thoughts of unpleasantness will fade away the moment your check clears.  On the other hand, any thoughts I may have ever had about not wanting to "burn any bridges" are long gone already.  I'm not exactly pining for an opportunity to work for you again.

[/end venting]

Update #1: (8/20) Remember that thing where they said I'd be "paid in full" this week?  They also said they'd send me an email when the check went out.  So yesterday, Thursday, August 19th, I realized I hadn't seen any email yet.  I sent them a note mentioning that and asking whether they were FedExing the check for Friday delivery...otherwise I couldn't see how I'd be paid this week.  I got an email a short time later saying they'd be "sending out your check today as promised".   I'll wait to see if I actually get anything (and I'll check the date of the postmark), but I think they've got some difficulty discerning between "sending" and "receiving".  I'm not sure about you, but most of the people I have to pay money to don't consider it "paid" until it's in their hands.  Oh, well...if I get the check (and it's good), I'll just consider that a quibble.  After all, a week earlier, they had asked me for a new invoice -- they had "lost" the one I submitted 6 weeks earlier -- because they were "doing payables".  Most people I know define "doing payables" as paying them -- not just figuring out how much money you owe to how many people.

I'll let you know how it all works out.

Update:(8/21)  So, FedEx showed up yesterday a little before 3:00pm.  With an Envelope.  And inside the envelope --- A CHECK!  (which I promptly deposited).  It's worth noting that this was a personal check from the producer I've been hectoring via email.  This would seem to indicate that the network still hasn't paid the production company (?).   I'd spend a moment or two feeling mildly guilty about this...but I don't.

Move along now folks.  Nothing here to see.


Seth said...

Oh, man, that is the biggest bullshit. I once worked on this terrible soap opera pilot where the producer forgot to, you know, have money, and it ended with this terrible/hilarious situation where the camera crew stole all the master tapes and then there was a sit-down where people brought guns to the meeting.

Independent production in Atlanta in the 90s could get quite shady....

Anyway, I sympathize.

A.J. said...

I hate shit like that. Unfortunately, I have to deal with that kind of trickery all the time.

For smaller amounts, I've had luck with just randomly "stopping by" at the Producer's office/home/home "office".

If it was a Union job, could you call the local?

There's also power in numbers. If you're not the only one Production stiffed, you can round up the others who have been scorned and come up with either a legal or annoying (mass e-mails, phone calls, bad-mouthing their company all over town, etc) plan of attack.

Either way, I'd love to know how this saga ends...