Art Producer Turned Rep Tells It Like It Is.

After posting Kim Roemer’s insights on estimating, I received an email from Virginia Plasz, a rep for Lesley Zahara and former Art Producer at Arnold in Boston.  She has been working with Lesley Zahara for the past five years and told me that  there are many times when she feels how deep the gap can be between the shooting world and the buying world. She also let me know that reading Kim’s responses brought to mind so many other things that she feels get lost in the chasm between agency and photographer.

Here are Virginia’s additions to the conversation Kim’s post started.  Thank you Kim!
1) If you haven’t heard back from an agency about a project you have bid it most likely has nothing to do with you.

My photographers sweat this all the time. Projects get hung up on all kinds of things and they also get killed all the time, and sometimes that death is very slow and isn’t even recognized for months because the project was “temporarily” tabled and just never resurfaced. Traffic Managers close dozens of languishing jobs at the end of each fiscal year. Once a job is “on hold” chances are that the AP isn’t privy to the finer details of the murky status of a particular job, which is extremely frustrating for everyone including the AP. Art Producers also have to go on a lot of fishing expeditions for clients and creative teams; sometimes the AP telling them they can’t afford a project just isn’t enough and they end up soliciting bids. These jobs often end up in No Man’s Land while clients and creatives mull budgets and shoot strategies.

2) Rest assured though that if an agency wants a particular photographer for a job that they will try very, VERY hard to find a way to have that photographer shoot it.

In my experience it’s much more common that an agency will adjust their shoot schedule to fit a particular photographer’s available window than that they would move on to someone else. I’m sure I’ve had that situation arise multiple times along the way but at the moment I can only think of one example – where the shoot was connected to a video production and the dates were in stone. In other words while following up is an important part of this business if a client wants you, you will be the first to know. Your work and your winning personality will get you the job, not the 12 requests for a status update that you sent to the AP.

3) Another bright spot for photographers is that among AP’s I’ve worked with I would say that there is definitely an unwritten rule that you don’t keep ghost bidding a photographer that you don’t truly want to work with.

Yes, quite often there is a clear favorite in a triple bid, and we have all been called for ghost bids before. But if someone is calling you regularly for bids even without any awards chances are it’s because they want to work with you, and not because you’re a soft touch for quick numbers. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, I’m just saying sometimes a client needs to see a new name in front of them a number of times before they will take the leap.

4) Lastly, AP’s are the conduit between the artist and the client.

This is often a tricky place to be for a person who is in this job because they love art and want to support it. This is one reason why some AP’s put off the dreaded “you didn’t get the job” call. As an AP I hated making those calls, especially after a particularly painful bid, and as a rep, I hear the same from the APs I bid with. It’s important that photographers know that quite often this is the person who is protecting their interests within agency walls, who is resisting the budgetary beat down and insisting that the photographer be paid fairly for his or her work and fighting for reasonable production schedules. It’s also important that AP’s realize that photographers are often holding time in a schedule for them. Putting off telling a photographer he didn’t get the job, or holding time with the promise of a forthcoming award can have ramifications on other jobs and cause scheduling havoc. AP’s should also know it’s ok to tell a photographer that a project didn’t go his/her way, in a world of triple bids we hear it all time. Just be prepared to tell the losing photographer who got the job and why, and if you don’t want to share that information just say so, it’s OK. Know that they aren’t usually asking because they are taking it personally. It’s important to think of photographers as small businesses and this kind of feedback helps them to run more successfully, if style preferences are changing or if their fees are creeping higher than the market will bear they need to know.

4 thoughts on “Art Producer Turned Rep Tells It Like It Is.

  1. Thanks for the insight, Virginia.

    Your final comment is spot on: “Know that they aren’t usually asking because they are taking it personally. It’s important to think of photographers as small businesses and this kind of feedback helps them to run more successfully, if style preferences are changing or if their fees are creeping higher than the market will bear they need to know.”

    It helps us all to be transparent.

  2. Thank you for the eye opening post,Virginia. I need to print it our and carry it with me so I remember that rejection is not personal and the shoots we do get to are most likely courtesy of an Art Producer who has been fighting for me.

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