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Ask Jaron: Do I get to approve my piece before it’s published?

Ask Jaron: Do I get to approve my piece before it’s published?

Hey, I’m Jaron, the founder and CEO of Storyhunter. What you may not know is that before I got this awesome office job (my first), I worked for more than a decade as a freelance documentary filmmaker and video journalist, roaming the planet making video stories. I worked mainly for Current TV, TIME, and The New York Times, and specialized in producing videos in repressive regions like North Korea, Pakistan, Gaza, and Iraq. I really love solving big creative challenges, especially involving video production, and so we created this column for you to throw me any question related to the art or business of video production.

This week’s question comes from an anonymous Storyhunter:

I produced a piece for a client, ran through a couple rough cuts and they said: “thanks, we’re gonna handle the final edit in-house.”
Since I did the majority of the filming and editing for this piece, do I have the right to see the final cut before it’s published?

Technically you do not, unless you negotiated for that right. That said, any client that values the collaboration with you will get your thoughts before publishing or distributing the video.

Legally speaking, however, the client does not have to. So, if you want editorial control or even a last look, this is something you should definitely mention before you agree to work with a client. This is especially true for documentary or journalistic work in which you will be credited as the editor. Your name will be on that video for the rest of time so if you don’t know the client and their sensibilities, it’s important to try and negotiate for this right in advance.

I remember going back and forth up to 10 times with my editors at the New York Times video department on particularly sensitive journalism features. Since I had built rapport and trust with my editors, I knew that if they were to make a significant edit, they would consult with me. This happened often, and the collaborative edit led to a better final video.

In branded content projects, typically the freelance talent does not get a credit and would never get any kind of editorial control. To ask for that will be a deal breaker for a brand. However, that doesn’t mean you should not try to lobby for your editorial vision. Any client who comes from the creative/production world will respect that.

If you don’t get your way, well, that comes with the territory of working with brands. Hopefully you gained something from the project, financially or creatively.

In the long run, you should try and work with project managers who respect your creative voice and your creative vision so much that they would never dare not show you the final cut. Clients like that will always want you to take a last look before publishing, since they understand that your final input will help make the piece better.

What do you think? Do you have an experience working with a client that you’d like to share? Comment below.

Have a question you’d like to ask Jaron, or something to add to his answer this week? Tweet at us (@storyhunter) or send us an e-mail.