Tales of woe, frustration and drama.......The Flake Files

This letter was posted by Reasource Magazine on their facebook page http://bit.ly/1fxgqnQ. It got me thinking about all the times this happened when I was concentrating on building my portfolio and the excuses I have heard.

The photographic world is a fun place most of the time. I love to work, meet clients and produce work for their requirements. I take what I do seriously, I am organised about my work. However this doesn't mean I don't like to have fun and make working fun, if it wasn't I wouldn't do it. It shouldn't be fun just for me, but for everyone I am working with. Deadlines are stressful, things happen on set that are stressful, that is the challenge right?

We all have to start somewhere. I understand that as a model it can be nerve-racking, meeting some strange guy/girl you never met, often in a strange place and be expected to be relaxed about that. When you start out there is no work in your book, no references you can show, and sadly there are stories of unscrupulous people calling themselves "photographer" who expect more from models. It angers me the most when people take advantage of another's dreams and promise all sorts in return for....we, all sorts. As a community we should not put up with this behaviour, it simply is not cool, and it ruins it for those of us who are serious about making great photography.

At the time when the following events happened I was angry, I was frustrated as I had worked hard to organise everything. Now I just find them hilarious, what if they were real excuses though? Should they be less amusing, no I don't think so. Like the guy who wrote the open letter in the link above, it is a pain, it is frustrating and it lets down a whole team of people. I couldn't help feeling it was all my responsibility if it happened and I had organised everything. It wasn't, and I am over that now. I am a bit more established and the flakes don't occur (or haven't) for a good while.

I am in a new country though and have new challenges, language being the main one. I am learning (slowly) mandarin, I expect in a year or two I will be confident whilst conversing, I am better now than 6 months ago and that is for sure. My greatest strength though is my personality and attitude, I smile a lot, I don't mind being a bit silly if it gets the reaction or understanding I need. I put people at ease by not taking myself too seriously, so now where I once got annoyed I now have a chuckle and get on, I hoe these make you giggle too.

Just before I start on the "I can't make the shoot because...", I will tell you a classic from when I was a retail manager. One of my members of staff actually phoned in and said "I can't come to work as I tripped over a slug and have hurt my knee". I had to put the phone down as I laughed too hard. Google "garden slug" if you don't know what one is.

I was told by a model, on the morning of a shoot, "I can't make the shoot today, my brother got involved with a gang and the police came and made us move house last night."

Brilliant, I hope they are all ok and she has gone on to a fruitful career in creative writing.

I put out a casting for a beach shoot and got a good response. I spoke to a couple of the models I felt had the right look and it all seemed positive for the shoot. One of the models suddenly added some really bad beach shots made in the murky waters off Southend in Essex to her page and said she didn't want to shoot another beach set as she had some in her portfolio. I don't think they would have brought her work, but who know's I am constantly surprised by what turns some folks on.

The second model could not have been funnier. Her portfolio page stated she lived in London, 2 days before the shoot she called and said she couldn't get a flight. "Why do you need to get a flight" I asked, "because I live in Guernsey." was the reply. "Why did you apply for a shoot that was clearly advertised as taking place on the south coast of England then?", to which she replied, "I need to build my portfolio and there aren't any shoots in Guernsey.".


Fortunately for me my friend and wonderful model Amee could see my frustration and stepped up at the last minute, what a super star, I hope I can find good reliable models here with that attitude in Taiwan. This being a photo blog I should put some pictures in right, so before my final tale of woe and drama enjoy these shots from the beach shoot that almost never was....

Finally I come to my favourite most drama filled flake I have ever had, and I bring this story to you for your amusement. I had a concept for a shoot, I needed a lavish house. I found one, unique in it's architecture with floating Esher like staircases, concertina glass doors along two walls, a wonderful kitchen, cinema room and garden, well you get the idea. Not easy to get hold of and not too cheap either. Ok I had the location, I put up a casting for a model and got a few replies, one was perfect. I contacted her and she seemed professional, on the level and understood the concept. Next for the rest of the team, Make up artist, hair stylist, stylist and assistant all came on board and we were lined up and ready to go. 

Come the morning of the shoot though it all went wrong, the member of the team we needed was missing, the model. Eventually she answered her phone but was in a terrible state (apparently). It was mid morning on a Saturday and she hadn't slept all night because her dog had swallowed a chicken bone and it had upset it's tummy. "Have you taken it to the vets?" I asked, obviously this is the thing to do if it is causing the animal discomfort and they had been open for a few hours already. "No" she replied I am about to. Hhhmmmm I thought, but played along hoping to still make the shoot. I said "no worries, take it to the vets and see what they see, I can delay the shoot for a few hours and we can make it this afternoon, is that ok?". She said she would make the afternoon and thanked me. So I called everyone and told them, they were all cool and professional about this, saying "ahh poor thing" and I hope it is ok" when no doubt they were thinking the same thing I was. 

A couple of hours later I reached her again, apparently the dog had to have surgery and was being kept at the vets. I said "ok, then it is in the best place. The team are still all up for the shoot, we just need to get going, it'll only be 3/4 hours and we will be finished, it'll take your mind of it." "Ok, I'll get ready and give you a call" she replied. An hour late I still hadn't heard anything and as she told me the vets was on her road I didn't think getting her bag would take so long. After all, she knew a hair stylist, make up artist and outfits were all waiting for her. I called again and this time it just got better. "How are you getting on?" I enquired, to which I got the reply, "my bitch neighbour heard my dog crying in the night and has called my landlady. I wasn't supposed to have a dog and she has given me till the end of the day to move out. I'm homeless!".

Fucking helpless more like. Sorry to swear but really. She had told me that she'd lived at this place for 2 years, it was actually not far from my house. All this time she had had a dog and on this morning her neighbour had become aware of it and reported her to her landlady who had decided to simply kick her out. Yeah right, pull the other one. 

Like I said, I can laugh about it now. I have worked with the team again on a different shoot and we all laugh about that epic tale. I have even done a shoot at the location, and may do more in the future, who knows. But as for the models in these stories, they won't be on my set. As my work got better and I got more interest, a couple of the models who flaked have approached me to ask for a shoot, I just ask them "don't you remember the last time?", chuckle and put the phone down.  

So for everyone out there reading this, and I hope you read the open letter from the link too, please don't flake. I would like to say if you are going to, just be honest, but in actual reality I would prefer you to create the best story you can, one filled with adventure, thrills and spills to rival any Hollywood blockbuster, at least it will give us all a laugh, one day.

Next time......Hong Kong (honest, unless something else suddenly pops into my head to write about). 

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