The photographer who crowded the stage!

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Postby Guest » 07/17/05 06:40 PM

Greetings everyone. I have had a busy summer of library shows so this is the first chance I have had to post in a long time. This is not really a beginner's question, but I wasn't sure where else it should be placed.

Here goes:

First, all of my performance contracts state that no one (other than the magician) is to be allowed on stage directly before, during, or after the performance. Happy that my contract was in place, I recently prepared for one of my library performances. As I was getting ready for the show, setting up my props, etc... I noticed a photographer loitering on the stage, (really just my performance area). I looked over at him and we made eye contact. He then approached me and asked a few questions about the show. I learned he was from the local paper and I handed him one of my standard press releases and suggested a few routines that would offer good photo opportunities.

I returned to my props, making minor adjustments and readying myself for the show. I noticed that the photographer remained in the immediate performance area. He took up a spot standing right beside my microphone. Not only was he not leaving, he even found a moment to walk over to my prop case and peer inside.

All the while I was wondering why he wasn't looking for a good vantage point in the audience, (or at least to the side of the stage) to snap a few pictures of the show. As we were only moments away from show time, I stopped what I was doing and approached the library director. I asked her about the photographer and reminded her about my stage policy. She appeared very embarrassed and asked if I would mind telling the photographer about the contract clause. Mindful of my client's timidity and not wanting to anger the local newspaper photographer, (we all love positive publicity, right?) I approached the photographer and asked how long he planned on remaining on stage. He appeared visibly bothered by my inquiry and indicated that he wasn't sure how long he would take. I advised him of my stage policy and tried to diplomatically advise him that it could be very confusing to the audience if he continued to stand by my side during the show, now only moments from beginning. Angrily, he stated, "Maybe I should tell you why I am here. I have been assigned to do a story regarding the expansion of the library. I want to take a picture of the kids in the audience while they are laughing and clapping."
As his tone and manner now became more than a bit condescending, he continued... "And, I shouldn't be very long, as I have to leave here, hop in a helicopter and go meet THE GOVERNOR for a photo shoot."

Well... it wasn't very friendly, but I smiled and thanked him for a more definitive time frame. I then suggested that he not stand so close to the Governor on the next photo shoot so as to crowd his, (the Governor's) microphone.

Am I missing something here? What should I have done differently? Basically, he took several photos of THE AUDIENCE (not me!) and he did exactly what he wanted to. He even had the audacity to turn on my mic (without asking!) and make a short announcement right before the show. He introduced himself to the audience and told everyone that he was taking photos for the local paper. He advised them to raise their hands if they didn't want to be in the photo. Naturally, no hands went up on that one.

Is it just me?

A little advice please?

Kevin
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Postby NCMarsh » 07/18/05 02:20 AM

I think you did the right thing.

The question is: how important is it to you (and your audience -- they're the ones getting less of a show because of him)that he not be on that stage. The only leverage that you have in these situations is your right not to go on if contractual obligations haven't been met.

Richard Osterlind has refused to go on when conditions in his contract weren't met -- even having the event moved at the last minute to a room that wasn't adjacent to a loud band. When it is a multi-thousand dollar engagement where your career and your booker's reputation would be harmed by your audience not getting the very best show possible then I think that -- without a doubt -- you refuse to go on if there is a violation of your contract that will interfere with the show...Tommy Wonder would pack up and go home if he arrived at a walkaround show to find that, contrary to expectation, there was a loud band...

Is this the right tactic for a show at a local library? Maybe, maybe not -- you are the only one who can make that decision. But, when it comes down to it, it is the only power that you have in the situation. So if you decide that it isn't important enough to cancel the appearance if the client's contractual obligations haven't been met, then there really isn't anything else that you can do and you just go on with the show...

Obviously (and I say this because I'm talking in public, it is clear from your post that you are a very professional and considerate performer) you are as polite as possible when you tell them that you can't go on if the circumstances are inappropriate...you emphasize that you are insisting on this because you want your clients' guests to have the best experience possible and you want the client to look as good as possible. It is generally true that the more a client has invested in you, the more they are willing to insure that the conditions are right...


Beyond the "nuclear option," clear communication is the only way to try to mitigate these situations...Know about any potential conflict beforehand. This isn't always possible. To make sure that it happens as much as possible I make it a point to find out who else is going to be working an event (DJ's, photographers, other performers, reporters) and call them ahead of time to introduce myself. When I arrive, I'm sure to introduce myself, ask if they need anything from me, and make clear anything that I may need from them (i.e. don't stand next to me on my effing stage...)...obviously this isn't going to solve every problem, but it sure doesn't hurt...

given the situation, it sounds like you chose the best of two evils...but you're the only one that can really judge these kinds of situations...you know your show and you know the circumstances...you have the right to refuse to go on until things are made right, when you ought to invoke that right depends on your gut...

best,

N.
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Postby Brian Morton » 07/18/05 06:12 AM

Kevin,

What can I say? "Wow" for the guy's audacity, for starters.

The photographer you dealt with clearly wasn't a real professional -- I'm guessing he was a "stringer," someone who shoots for a paper either by assignment (event by event) or goes to events, takes photos and then tries to sell them on "spec" to a paper. Given his attitude, and especially the fact that he turned on your mic to make an announcement -- crossing the line by touching your stuff -- I'd say he wasn't a staff photographer from the paper.

Since you know he wasn't there to photograph you, you really don't have anything to lose at this point: I would call the paper and ask for the photo editor and politely explain what this guy did, explaining your contract stipulations. It is sad enough that the library director couldn't fulfill the terms of your contract by making you the enforcer of those terms -- the fact that you had that line in there is so that you aren't supposed to have to do it yourself.

If you explain this rationally and politely to the photo editor without it getting personal, you're doing the guy a favor: you're letting him know he's got an arrogant blowhard working for him who is in essence "setting up photos" (not a good thing in journalism) and bossing around his photo subjects. Done right, you've also made a contact at the local paper, and the next time you have to deal with that paper again, they may send a better shooter for your gig.

As for dealing with the guy at the time, I think you handled it about as well as you possibly could, given the circumstances. Hope your next time out goes better.

brian :cool:
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Postby Pete McCabe » 07/18/05 11:01 AM

Just an idea:

Instead of asking the guy how long he was planning on staying on stage (which gives him the authority), walk up and say "Hey, we're going to get started in a minute, I need the stage clear." If he does anything other than leave, follow up with "We want to start the show, and I can't start the show until you leave the stage." If he still doesn't leave, go to the event organizer and tell her hat you asked him to leave the stage and he wouldn't, and that you can't start the show until he does.

I can't think of any reason -- either professional or personal -- why you should have to do anything more than that.
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Postby Robert Allen » 07/18/05 05:27 PM

It might be worth adding something to the contract about 'no fools be allowed on stage when the magician be performing.'
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/18/05 06:21 PM

Being a pro photographer... I can see the photographer's viewpoint.

Was it a theaterical type stage, a platform or just a work area?

You probably should have cooperated with him saying something like, "OK, here's a warmup I can do, then you get your shots, and we'll both be happy as when you get your shot, and leave, then I can start my real show."

I would tell the audience up front... and not let him do it.

I have photographed shows in progress, and will work with the performer and we tell the audience what I'm doing.

And... how did your show go?
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Postby Guest » 07/18/05 07:28 PM

Thanks for all of the excellent suggestions. Pete, as this was a library it was simply a performance area that I had separated from the remainder of the room with colored masking tape. A "psychological stage" if you will.

I was a professional photographer in the U.S. Navy for five years, and I too can appreciate what goes into getting that good shot. I'm even using an audience shot from another one of my other library shows for my next mailer. By the way, the photographer for this one (my Fort Benton, MT library show) DID NOT crowd the stage.
Click on the link: http://img57.imageshack.us/img57/8140/k ... ow56kk.jpg

With that said, I would never think of grabbing a microphone at ANYONE'S show and making an announcement without the proper permission. If I had known in advance that he was going to grab the mic... I would have taken over.

As you can tell, I am not an unbiased party, but I DO appreciate all of the advice. It is, after all, what I expect AND WANT from the honest members of this forum.

The show? It went great. Matter of fact, I booked them on the spot (4 shows total) for NEXT SUMMER!

I will probably use a combination of ideas gathered here for that next RARE occasion.

Anyone have any other tips?
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