There is an old saying which goes “you are only as good as your last job”.
A few weeks ago whilst waiting for an actor to come back from a wardrobe change, I started flicking through instagram. Inbetween the posts of peoples lunches or their children eating lunch, I came across one from a fellow DP. It was taken on the set of the shoot he was on that day - a very simple greenscreen chromakey with a couple of Sony FS7 lightweight cameras.
I looked up from where I happened to be sitting - which was on one of the two Fisher 10 dollies we had on set - and surveyed the scene in front of me: Our location was a large sound stage at a rather famous film studio to the west of London. On the floor were six sets of various rooms designed and lit to look like they were In different countries. They had taken weeks to build and dress, and myself, the gaffer and sparks had spent the previous two days lighting them.
We were shooting with Arri Alexas and Cooke lenses and that day I had working with me a second operator, two focus pullers, two second ACs, data wrangler, gaffer, five sparks, four grips and a jimmy jib operator.
We had two actors you would recognise, make up, hair and wardrobe, set dept, a props, dept, catering etc. All in all a cast of crew of around 55.
For this little lot the client was paying well over £170,000. The quality of the finished film was remarkable and the footage would not have looked out of place cut into a big TV drama or feature film.
But as far as social media is concerned all this never happened.
Like so many people working on high end corporate productions, we were under a strict social media blackout and had all signed a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
This was because the end client who was paying for all this - a huge global company whose products you almost certainly have in your home - has a blanket policy that specifies that no one is allowed to say they have worked for them. That means no mention of them on the CV or website, no postings of their shoots on social media, and of course and arguably the worst of all: no way to show to the end material.
This kind of behaviour is now very common practice when working for the pharmaceutical, tech and financial sectors. In some cases there are valid reasons; for instance the pharma industry has very strict regulations regarding what can be seen by the public. Anything that could be regarded as being medical advice has to be approved by certain regulatory bodies such as the UKs MRHA. The same is true of the financial sector when anything that could be construed as investment advice has to be approved. And everyone understands it.
But it becomes absurd when that lovingly crafted production you worked so hard on, are rightly proud off but not allowed to talk about ends up online for the entire world to see either on the companies website or a sharing site such as Youtube.
Over the past three years around 70 percent of my work has been on corporate productions. Not all are as grand as the above, but there have been plenty of shoots that have featured all kinds of toys.
Thanks to those wonderful NDAs, I have not been able to put any new clips on my website for over a year now. And that makes it makes it really hard going for the next job or advancing your career. So much networking is now done online, and increasingly via Instagram. If you are a DP like me who is trying to get noticed and raise your profile, that means stills or video clips of the shoot and behind the scenes videos of you at work on a film set with big toys. Even just shots of you filming nice interviews count as they show you working and helps show what you can do.
And it is not just DPs who have this problem. The production company behind this shoot had an incredibly hard time convincing the client that they could do it. Because you guessed it, every similar piece of work they had done to date could not be on their showreel. In the end the creative director had to fly to the companies HQ, taking some careful selected and edited examples on a laptop to show to the global head of marketing. Once they had seen those clips the client were completely at ease, and were blown away by what we did. On the back of delivering this project, the production company have landed a couple more big productions from that client.
So a big pretty please to the big companies out there that have blanket no social media policies: please re consider! We all work really hard and whilst of course its nice to be paid we would love to tell everyone about the fun we had making your films. If something is online let us share it, we are more than happy to put stuff behind password protected sites but just let us show something.
After all our job is to make you look good!