This Is How It’s Done


I am struggling to balance “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself” with “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

I have always been content to work alone, though at times I long to be part of a creative team. Supposedly people are supposed to need each other, live and work in community, etc.  So I gave it a whirl.  I let people in.  I relied on them.  And I learned that reliable people are really, really, really hard to find.  I have only found one so far.  My husband.

I took a group of women to an island to bless them and to capture their stories. My small non-profit with a small budget spent a lot of money to bless them and capture their stories.

One board member said she would arrange for a friend to do the videotaping.  But she didn’t.  So at the last minute I was about to contact the professional who had videotaped our last retreat.  I knew he would do quality work. But then I received a Facebook message from a young man I met when I spoke at a camp years ago.  He studied videography in college and had been through some recent hard times.  So I offered him the job.  If he was willing to drive the ten hours to my house, I would transport him to the island, cover his food and lodging for the weekend and I would pay him.

I hired him out of compassion.  In one recent year his mother died unexpectedly while on a mission trip in Jamaica.  Then his paternal grandmother died.  Then his sister committed suicide.  Last year he developed blood clots in his lungs and was bedridden for six months.  The clots happened shortly after he landed his dream job, which he lost.

Over the course of the weekend, the young man lamented about how he “cannot catch a break”, about how people do not want to pay him for his work, about how he has been hired and then put on the shelf, etc.  He scratched his head, just couldn’t understand it.  I understand it. There was nothing he could do to prevent his personal tragedies, but there is plenty he can do about his professional woes.

This is for him, and for you, too, if you care to listen:

Every time someone hires you, you have caught a break.  Make the most of it.  Do it with excellence and you will get another chance.  No one is going to shelf excellence. We talked over the weekend about not overselling oneself.  About how delighted people are when you exceed their expectations.  About how instead of waiting for that big break to show what you can do, do it now.  You get the big breaks by excelling in the small ones.  You become great by doing great.

Doing great means being prepared.  It is not great to discover three minutes into filming that your SD card is full.  Next time you are hired to film an event, invest a few dollars in a brand new SD card or two.

I know nothing about videography, which is why I hired you.  I don’t know about SD cards and what equipment is necessary.  But if, when I offered you the job you had said, “I would love to take this job but I do not have a proper wireless mic and the quality of sound from my on-camera mic will not be great,”  I would have been happy to purchase a proper mic.  Instead you took the job and waited until we got on the island to tell me your mic’s limitations.  An island with no mic stores.

As the videographer, it is your job to notice things like how much noise goes on outside our meeting room every evening between 7 and 10 pm.  Especially since we would be filming from 8-10 pm on Sunday.  When your goal is excellence, you pay attention to potential barriers to excellence and overcome them.  Instead, an hour before filming was to begin I was requesting something to use as a backdrop when I really needed to be preparing for my presentation.  A few minutes into our noisy filming session, I was asking the concierge to move us to a quiet room because, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.”

Finally, when you are hired for a job, make sure you pay attention to what your customer wants.  This customer wanted you to capture stories.  You were there to capture stories.  And then you deleted 3 of them.  Two of the best ones.  If the sound was distorted, I could have transcribed them and used them in written form.  Never delete anything you capture until you are positive that your customer doesn’t want it.  Bring enough SD cards and you won’t have to delete anything.

At the end of the weekend you said you hoped the finished product would exceed my expectations.  Bless your heart but it won’t.

It won’t because three precious stories have been lost.  I spent $12,000 to capture those stories and you deleted them.  And the sound quality of the others is far from professional.  I don’t want to lay a guilt trip on you or anything.  I just want you to learn.  I want you to be excellent next time.  It is not about how much money you can make.  It is about excellence.  A client can potentially waste a lot of time and money if you do a lame job.  When someone hires you, they are counting on you.  Step back and look at the whole picture.

When we returned to my house, you said you wished we could trade lives.  I know that you live in an area of the country that does not hold a lot of opportunity.  But it is not only about geography.  You saw my husband’s diplomas on his office wall.  I have diplomas, too.  Go back and finish college if you want my life.  My husband gets up every morning whether he feels like it or not and goes to work.  When he comes home from work he takes care of business at home.  He does not play video games.  When he was young like you he took menial jobs to pay for college.  When he graduated he took jobs he didn’t love as stepping stones to better jobs.  You said you would not take menial jobs, you said you don’t want to be tied down to a daily commitment.  We could trade residences but you would still not have my life.  You won’t have my life until you are willing to make sacrifices for it.

Live and learn.

Next time I give a young artist a break I will make sure he/she is break-worthy.  I will ask him/her what kind of mic they have, what they would do in the case of a noisy room, etc.  I will purchase a few SD cards just in case.

I gave my young friend the money I promised him because I am a woman of my word.  But next time I will pay per story, on a sliding scale.  From $0 for deleted or unusable to $plenty-generous for excellent.

Better still I might take a few classes, buy a camera and do it myself. Because people who don’t need people are the least disappointed people in the world.


9 thoughts on “This Is How It’s Done

  1. I sense anger there, but well founded anger. It’s hard to trust people but there are indeed some things which can only be done in teams. We can only be experts in so many endevour. Making a judgment on whether someone is trustworthy is the wisdom I too still hope to acquire too


    • Hi pixie. Not angry, really, just disappointed, frustrated and annoyed. But I am past it and looking forward to next time.

      You are right. Teams are better and I cannot be an expert at everything. Instead of trying to master videography (which could be kinda’ fun) I’ll try to master communicating more clearly what I want and achieving a better balance of compassion/kind-heartedness and firm project management.

      I may even skip the videography all together and just let the women talk. The conversation we had after the camera was put away was so much better.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s great – every experience has learning value and it seems you took away something from this! It’s hard to anticipate the behaviour of people, especially if we don’t know them or haven’t worked with them before. It’s a tough balance – being charitable/kind and being aware of people’s limitations and our own. I’ve extended my hand to help someone and realised halfway that I was asking myself to do more than I was willing to give. There’s a certain frustration that comes with that choice. I wish I knew myself better and better anticipated the scenarios. Now I do, a bit more.
        That’s not a bad idea, going camera free. Videocameras and cameras almost always create pressure, or at least modifies people’s behaviour in subtle ways. Only when we know we are completely alone or safe can we say what’s really on our minds.
        Very cool thing it seems you’re doing with these women. I’d love to read more.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alma! Good to hear from you. I haven’t seen any posts from you on my reader in awhile. I hope all has been well with you.

      I’m not sure it is a sense of entitlement in his case. To be fair to him, I think I extrapolated some of my frustration out beyond him to those who do feel entitled. With him I think it is more that he feels disconnected. I’m not sure. He comes from an area of the country that is depressed, economically and otherwise. I am going to reserve judgment and hope that the finished product forces me to print a retraction.

      Looking forward to your next post. -trb


      • Alma Mater says:

        Yes, all is well, thank you. I am pregnancy-SICK, and don’t have the energy to sit at the computer. Looking forward to the 2nd trimester!

        You are kind to reserve judgment. I truly hope his finished work justifies a retraction!


  2. Pingback: Raw Footage/Raw Stories | The Reluctant Baptist

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