Cynthia Biret is an awful film and video editor and preditor (a producer-editor) in my opinion. In late October 2013, I hired her for my Africa TV show project. She was a $10,000 disaster. I considered just brushing this lousy experience under the carpet, but I’d rather help others from suffering a similar fate with her (or anyone). Therefore, in this article I’m going to share my horrendous experience with Cynthia Biret.
Summary: I hired Cynthia Biret to produce a 3-minute trailer for my Africa TV show and then a 48-minute pilot episode. She agreed to produce the trailer in 4 weeks. After nearly 5 months, $9,750, and listening to a dozen lies, she still hadn’t produced an adequate 3-minute trailer. She demanded another $1,750 for an additional week that she claimed she needed to finish the trailer. Instead of throwing even more money at her, I found another editor to do the job.
What follows chronicles the disaster. I’m airing this dirty laundry to help others learn from my mistakes. Whether you’re considering hiring Cynthia Biret or some other editor, seeing what happened to me can help you avoid a similar fate.
I'll try to sum what happened as objectively as possible.
Why I hired Cynthia Biret
Prior to hiring Cynthia Biret, I was working with Jeff Bruno, who produced this rough cut for the trailer:
For a few hundred bucks and minimal direction, Jeff's first cut was a great start. We both wanted to finish the trailer, but he didn't have the time to get it done by late November 2013 because he was working full-time elsewhere. Therefore, I hired Cynthia Biret to do the job. I told Cynthia Biret multiple times that the biggest problem with Jeff's trailer is that he only used footage from Morocco.
I hired Cynthia Biret after reviewing several candidates on StaffMeUp.com. You can review my contract with Cynthia Biret. I made the mistake of not putting a date on the contract, but I sent it to her October 29, 2013. As you can see, there's a clear deadline on the contract, which we pushed back one week (so Dec 3, 2013). I told her many times that it was extremely important to finish the pilot within a month so I could promote the show during the holiday season. The contract gave her 4 weeks to do the trailer. Nearly five months after the contract, I still hadn’t received a finished trailer.
The facts after I hired Cynthia Biret
Cynthia Biret preferred to be paid by check (rather than PayPal, which takes a 2% fee), even though I warned her that it would take 7-10 days to get a check.
To foster goodwill and establish trust, I issued the first few checks a few days before Cynthia Biret invoiced me, so that they would arrive within a couple of days getting the weekly invoice. In fact, she got her first check BEFORE she wrote her first invoice!
Cynthia Biret had many tech difficulties with the footage, but confirmed that we were on schedule. November 30, she wrote, "I know we are ok with timing." December 3, right before the deadline, she wrote, "We are still on track with the original timeline."
In week 3 of the 4-week trailer project, I decided to do a Kickstarter campaign, which would feature the trailer. I filmed 4 minutes of video of me talking (3 video clips) about the KS campaign and asked Cynthia Biret if she could splice the 3 clips together. She did a good job. She also wrote a couple of long emails giving me suggestions on how to improve the text in the KS pitch.
Cynthia Biret would later claim that her involvement in the KS campaign absorbed "several days" of her time. Given how simple the pitch video was, I doubt it took her more than half a day's labor (watch it below and judge for yourself). It would have taken me half a day to do it, and I’m just an amateur editor; any professional editor could do it faster. Her input on the text (her emailed comments totaled about 2,000 words, which should have taken no more than a few hours to write, not “days” as she claimed).
In the 2nd week of Dec (already a week late), Cynthia Biret claimed the trailer was done, but that she wouldn't upload it until she got the final check. Given that I had a strong record of paying her and that this was the first version of the trailer (and that we'd probably need at least one more cut), I didn't understand her strict stance.
To avoid delays, I showed her a screenshot of my bank account to prove that I had issued the check and that it was in transit. She laughed me off and refused to upload the first cut of the trailer until she cashed my last check. We lost a week because (for the first time ever) I hadn't cut the check before she invoiced me. This unnecessary delay meant that it would be too late to promote the trailer effectively over the holidays as planned.
By mid-Dec, Cynthia Biret had cashed $7,000 of checks from me, which, given the 4-week deadline, was the maximum the contract allowed for (4 weeks x $250/day x 7 days = $7,000).
In mid-Dec, she claimed she was still having technical difficulties outputting the trailer.
I didn't want to lose another week in making the pilot because of Cynthia Biret’s hardball tactics of waiting for the check, so I sent her a $2,750 advance for pilot, even though I had still not seen the trailer. I assumed the trailer would be done within a few days, and I wanted her to start editing the pilot immediately after she was done with the trailer.
After cashing $9,750 of checks in mid-Dec, Cynthia Biret effectively cut off all communications for 3 weeks. I begged her many times to call me. The last time I heard her voice was in Nov 2013. She never called ever again. From mid-Dec to January 8, she ignored nearly all my emails.
On January 8, Cynthia Biret broke her silence. She still had tech difficulties, so she filmed her computer screen and uploaded that to Vimeo. It was over one month after the deadline. Here's Cynthia's Biret's first cut:
- Cynthia Biret’s first cut was disappointing, because I had told her several times that the trailer must feature footage outside of Morocco, yet her first cut only featured Morocco. She had simply reused most of the footage that Jeff (my first editor) had used in his first crude cut (compare with the first video on this page). Cynthia was charging me 10 times as much as Jeff, so I expected something much better than Jeff's first draft.
Cynthia Biret’s excuse for only using Morocco footage was that the "Instructions from Jeff were to focus on Morocco." This was a feeble lie, because: (1) I was the director, not Jeff; (2) Jeff wasn't even working on the project, so his opinion was irrelevant; (3) Jeff wouldn't have given those instructions anyway since he knew that my main critique of his original trailer was that he only used Morocco footage!
Cynthia Biret even made a bold lie claiming that in the trailer "there are some visuals from other areas as well." Did she think I wouldn't recognize where all the visuals were taken from? When I asked her to tell me what other countries were featured in the trailer, she couldn't answer.
So in that one email she told two lies. This is on top of her two lies that said right before the deadline, saying that we were "on track" when we were not. We're up to four lies.
Given that she used most of the same clips that Jeff used, it seems she just pulled from Morocco because it was easier to copy Jeff's efforts rather than follow my clear instructions to use plenty of footage featuring black Africans.
After another two agonizing months, Cynthia Biret delivered her second cut (delivered in late February). She went from 0% of the footage from Black Africa to only 7% of footage from Black Africa, even though 80% of the show is about sub-Saharan Africa. It’s stunning that it took her nearly two months to make such a minor change. See it below:
By now we were in March 2014, three months after the deadline and the trailer was still not done, despite me giving her $9,750 in December, a full $2,750 over the $7,000 budget.
Cynthia Biret didn't want to do any more work "for free" and demanded that I pay her $1,750 for another week of work.
I said $7,000 is plenty for a 3-minute trailer and that I shouldn't have to pay/reward her for not following my clear instructions of using clips from Black Africa, of using a clip where my car goes underwater, of using an aerial video clip, of increasing the color saturation, of putting the sponsors logos at the end, etc... She ignored most of my instructions that I gave her at the beginning of the project and ignored them again on her second cut. What if she ignored my instructions on the 3rd cut? Should I pay for her overtime again?
Cynthia Biret said that I couldn’t enforce the contract because she never signed it. I admit I forgot to make sure that she sent me a signed copy. However, given that she knew the contract's deadline and payment, and that she never contested it, it's pretty clear that she agreed to it implicitly. She may be able to legally weasel out of her obligations, but morally and ethically she cannot.
In March, after having worked together for nearly five months, Cynthia Biret claimed that "we were planning to work on adjusting the contract." This is another absurd lie. When I asked her to prove that, she couldn't. 5th lie.
Cynthia Biret promised to deliver the 3rd cut of the trailer on March 11, but didn’t deliver on time. In fact, she lied on March 12 when she wrote, “Having trouble posting. Trailer is done, but the upload is slow. Will try again in the am.” Since I changed the password on my YouTube account, there was no way that she was uploading the trailer, which also means it wasn’t done (thus, a double lie - that's 7 lies so far). On March 13, she said that couldn’t upload because the password had changed. Had she really been trying to upload on March 11-12 as she claimed, then she would have noticed the password change then. I pointed that out to her and she stayed silent.
If you were to ask Cynthia Biret why, after nearly 5 months and nearly $10,000, she was incapable of producing a 3-minute trailer that followed my guidelines, she would probably say:
"There were too many technical problems." She's right. However, throughout the first 4 weeks (even until a day before the deadline), she assured me that the despite the problems, we were on track. Instead of telling me early that the problems were severe and would delay us several months, she kept saying that she would be done "in a few days" or "in a week." In mid-Dec she even claimed the trailer was finished and she would upload when she got her final payment. Furthermore, it's hard to believe that the tech problems would create a 4-month delay on a 3-minute video. Either she's incompetent, slow, or exaggerating.
"The Kickstarter side project delayed me by several days." (1) As I explained above, this is hard to believe given how simple the KS Pitch video was and the length of her emails regarding the KS text; all together, it should have only taken 6-10 hours of her time, unless she’s ludicrously slow. (2) Even if her estimate were accurate, then the trailer should have taken 4 weeks + "several days". Instead, after 5 months I still didn't get a finished trailer. Therefore, the KS project was hardly a factor even if you believe her preposterous claim that it took "several days" of her time.
"I was misled on how much footage there was to review." Jeff had estimated that we had 16-20 hours of footage. Cynthia Biret said that it was closer to 100 hours. Reality: Jeff was estimating the amount of Morocco footage, which was all that was necessary to review to do the 1-hour pilot episode. For the trailer, there's no need to watch 100 hours of video, especially since I gave her a long list of clips she should consider using so that she didn't waste time sifting through all that footage. Despite that, she ignored my suggestions.
"The audio quality of some of the video is bad because you sometimes didn't use a lav mic." True. However, for a 3-min trailer, you don't need nonstop great audio since music will dominate. Nor does this explain needing 5 months to make a 3-min video.
"I was no longer being paid." By mid-Dec, she had cashed $9,750 of checks - that's $2,750 more than the contract stipulated. Moreover, Cynthia Biret didn't ask me to send her any more money until the end of February. At that point, I refused to pay her anything more because (1) several times she claimed that the trailer would be done within a few days and it wasn't; so why should I believe her this time? What's to stop her from saying that she needs yet another week after that? (2) the contract's deadline/time-limit dictated that she couldn't collect more than $7,000 for the trailer. Moreover, she was refusing to return the $2,750 advance that I gave her on the pilot, because she claimed that she was keeping that extra money to pay for the extra time she spent on the trailer that she never completed.
"I never know where you are and what your bandwidth is like." (Quote from Feb 5 email from her.) That's irrelevant to the job! Just cut the trailer. Upload it. Respond to email. Easy. Bandwidth and my schedule are my problem, not hers.
"As we progressed and probably as you talked to other people, you then asked for a different trailer all together" (this is a direct quote from her Feb 25 email). This is another lie (8th). To prove that she's wrong, I re-sent her my Oct 24 email which outlined the goals of the project. They hadn't changed. She was speechless. Her claim that I changed my requirements midstream is false.
I caught Cynthia Biret making a few other lies. For example, here are three lies that she wrote in just one email dated Feb 5 (bringing her total to 11 lies):
"I knew that you were not going to honor your end of the contract, meaning that the $4000 bonus due if the show sells had now disappeared into thin air." This is a complete fabrication. I asked Cynthia Biret to prove her claim or to tell me where I even hinted at that. She never replied.
"The break down in communication did not start from my end, but from you." Another lie. Although sometimes I took a couple of days to reply because I was traveling in Africa, I never ignored a single email from Cynthia Biret. Meanwhile, she not only ignored many of my emails, but she also refused to call me despite multiple requests. That’s completely unprofessional.
"You set up new conditions for payment." Yet another lie. At the beginning of the project, I explained that checks would take a 7-10 days to get to her. She never protested. The only thing "new" that happened was that one time I didn't cut the check early. She had grown accustomed to getting the checks within a couple of days of issuing the invoice, so because one check took 7-10 days, she thought I was late at paying her and she freaked out. Meanwhile, she had no sympathy for me freaking out that I've paid nearly $10,000 and never got a finished trailer.
Because I caught Cynthia Biret lying to me over a dozen times, I must question many of the things she said. For example, did she really have such titanic technical problems? While there definitely were technical problems, I struggle to believe that they alone caused a multi-month delay. I’ve dealt with many computer problems before. Some have consumed days of my time because I often have to wait for people to respond on forums. However, I’ve never found a computer problem that sucked up weeks of my time, let alone months of my full-time effort. The only way that could happen is if I were doing something else, which is probably what she was doing. The problem for Cynthia Biret is that she can’t win this argument because there’s only three possible reasons as to why she took 4 months to resolve this:
(a) Cynthia Biret wasn’t working full time on the project. This is bad news for her because it means she ignored the project’s urgency and that when she claimed to be working 10 hours a day / 7 days a week, she was lying.
(b) Cynthia Biret was truly giving it her all for all those months. In this case, this means she’s incompetent. Who needs 4 months to solve a tech issue? Only an incompetent person.
(c) All the above.
I suspect the answer is (c): she was not giving it her all, and she was a bit incompetent and slow. She probably doesn’t work smart: she probably wasted a lot of time watching dozens of hours of raw video instead of quickly skimming the video or following my guidelines which told her which video clips to use. She ignored my instructions for the trailer, even though I sent them to her at least three times. She also probably worked on other projects or did personal affairs during those four months. Thus, the combination of Cynthia Biret’s slow, inefficient work habit with her not focusing on the project full time caused the four-week project to become a five-month project—and one without a proper output.
How the Cynthia Biret disaster ended
On the same day that she failed to deliver the trailer (March 11), she said that the only way for her to do the 48-min pilot episode is that:
I pay her $6,000 upfront
She works no more than 30 days
I cover the cost of the extra software needed to do it
I wrote back:
You want me to send you $6000 and trust that you will deliver a 48-minute trailer in one month when you haven't been able to deliver a finished 3-min trailer in over 4 months despite being paid nearly $10,000?
I've trusted you enough and you've let me down consistently. It is your turn to trust that I will pay you. I've never taken more than 10 days to get a check to you. Meanwhile, you've never made a single deadline. Not by a long shot. You promised me a 3rd cut today and you haven't delivered. And now you want me to believe you'll make your one-month deadline?
Since you've proven yourself incapable of delivering a finished 3-min video over 4 months, I have no confidence that you can make a 48-min video in 1 month.
Moreover, since this would be a fixed $6000, then I can already see how you will simply abandon the project at day 30, no matter what state it is. I'll be forced to pay another editor (or you) to finish it properly.
Or perhaps it will be "finished", but it will be sloppy and unprofessional. You won't care because you probably think the project is hopeless anyway and will die in obscurity.
To do a good pilot in 1 month takes a level of speed and organization that you don't seem to have.
I'd be fine with aiming for a one-month deadline, but if it's not up to a decent standard, we'll have to take more time.
Therefore, if you want to finish your commitment, then:
You'll be paid $6000 at the end of the project, not the beginning.
You'll aim to do it in a month, but you will stay on board until it's finished to my satisfaction and follows the script I sent you 5 months ago.
You'll pay for the software, since your fee has always included equipment rental.
Cynthia Biret wrote back [my comments in brackets]:
Stop harassing me by threatening me to try to get work for free. [Apparently asking Cynthia Biret to live up to her commitments after giving her $10,000 is “harassment.”]
I've given you more than an extra week, actually you sent me notes in January. [12th Lie: I sent her script in October, on her first day on the job.]
What you are doing is clear: You are taking the time to show this to all your friends for months to get extra feedback. You are the one prolonging this edit. [Utterly hilarious and delusional. Given that this project is one year overdue, it’s ludicrous that I would prolong this project. Her absurd and illogical theory perfectly illustrates how Cynthia Biret always point fingers and never takes responsibility.]
3rd and Final Cut
Flashback: On November 25, 2013 (one week before the deadline), Cynthia Biret raved about my TEDx Talk. She wrote:
Your Ted Talk is insanely good. Huge catch phrases, specially now: You want to live below your means, to travel below your means, going to a third world country is a lot more affordable... If you have a loss in your life.. how can I bring it to the next level.. if you go travel someplace exotic.. that will change you. That will fire neurons in your brains, you will become a better person.
Then of course at the end, there are these great photos of personal growth with your arms outreached, which is the feeling I liked when seeing the photo on google.
Even for the trailer, I feel it would be a good idea to introduce this and why everybody will connect to this, even if they mildly care about Africa.
Think of your challenges, think of your goals. Let's combine what you are saying on Ted Talks with the visuals of Morocco: What if you filmed yourself for the trailer, summing up what you said on Ted Talks. You don't need to speak for 3 minutes, because I need to cut in quick bits of dialog, but I want to know why in the world you are doing this.
Let's show why the trip matters and why doing this pilot is a great idea. It's not just discovering the real people, it's pushing your own personal boundaries, and actually that's what I really get hooked on when I watch you climb and do all these crazy things, and also greet people, may be that's what they feel when they see you and therefore welcome you into their homes: You are open to them as well, you are ready to push your own boundaries, physical and spiritual.
Even if you only say one sentence: I am taking this trip because I want to push my personal and spiritual boundaries, etc.. it will help you connect with an audience which wants to push their own personal boundaries, because today more than ever, people feel limited with all the changes going on. Then on top of that you say that you are looking at Africa beyond stereotypes, and it's an added bonus.
I was skeptical of Cynthia Biret’s idea. I wanted to say what the TV show was all about, but I didn't see how mixing all those other concepts would work since my TEDx talk was unrelated to the TV show. However, giving her the benefit of the doubt, I recorded a bunch of audio snippets to comply with her request, and so she could pick a couple that she liked best.
Cynthia Biret didn't use any of my voice overs in her 2nd cut. I was fine with that, since I never thought using my TEDx talk ideas in the trailer was a great idea.
However, I still believed that the video needed some brief narration to explain what the trailer was about so that the viewer wasn't left guessing if it was a trailer for a documentary, a book, or a TV show. I believed a combination of text titles and a short voice over would do the job.
Therefore, I told Cynthia Biret that the video still needed a voice over to explain what the show is about. On Nov 30, 2013, I sent her an audio file and wrote: "Instead of making one coherent speech/thought, I made a bunch of semi-random thoughts, allowing you to pick and chose the best ones for the trailer. Let me know if you want me to record something else."
Without telling me her intention, over 3 months later, she decided to use nearly all the voice overs I had recorded instead of just taking a snippet where I talked about the show. This was Cynthia Beret's 3rd and final cut (delivered in mid-March, five months after I hired her):
As you can see, her 3rd cut was lousy for two reasons:
The nonstop voice over drains the energy out of the previous two cuts. I'll admit that my tone was dull. However, why Cynthia Biret use all the voice overs instead of just using the one that explains what the show was about? More importantly, why didn't she check with me before making such a radical change? A simple email saying, "OK, you want a voice over? I'm going to put your voice over throughout the entire video." Had she sent those two sentences, I would have said, "No, just take the audio snippet where I say what the show is about and leave the rest out, that's why I told you to 'chose the best ones.'"
Only 5% of her final trailer featured sub-Saharan Africa. That's down from 7% in the 2nd trailer. I had told her countless times that at least 25% of the footage must from from sub-Saharan Africa. Although she pulled more from Mauritania in her final cut, that's not Black Africa. In three attempts, she utterly failed to follow that simple direction, despite having many hours of footage from Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea Bissau (3 sub-Saharan African countries).
Her professional response? She wrote, "It's not my fault that the trailer 'lost energy', it's your writing which sucked. I rewrote your KS pitch because it was bad as well."
When I asked her to return the $2,750 advance that I gave her on the pilot, she wrote back: "Stop harassing me and threatening me with 'consequences' because you don't want to pay for your own mistakes. There are consequences as well for pressuring me to work without pay."
Apparently $10,000 is "without pay" in Cynthia Biret's book.
6 Lessons from my Cynthia Biret Nightmare
Do not hire Cynthia Biret. Unfortunately, you may have to work with Cynthia Biret because someone else hired her. Don’t despair. I had a nightmare experience, but perhaps she’s an acceptable editor in other circumstances. Still, it’s best to supervise her tightly. That means look over her shoulder often, have her make daily logs of her activity, and don’t let too many days go by without having her show you her progress. I made the mistake of giving her incredible freedom. I had no choice: I was in Africa and she was in LA. Nobody was supervising her for the five months she worked for me. The fact that she couldn’t pump out an acceptable 3-minute trailer during those five months suggests that she is highly unproductive when she’s not being tightly monitored. Yes, there were technical challenges that slowed her down, but it’s highly unlikely that those challenges were the sole reason for her lack of productivity. And they certainly don’t explain why she ignored most of my clear instructions.
Carefully examine a person's TV credits. I was easily impressed when Cynthia Biret told me that she had done work for the Discovery and Travel channels. Her IMDB entry shows lots of TV shows, but it seems like only one series asked her to do more than 2 episodes. In 6 cases, she did a single episode and was apparently not asked back. That would be a bad sign - why didn't they ask her back? Perhaps because she's a poor editor. In the last 5 years, it seems like she hasn't worked on any shows worthy enough for an IMDB entry. Therefore, look for editors who have breadth and depth.
Write an iron clad contract and make sure it’s signed. Most productions have budgets. Don’t let someone like Cynthia Biret bill you by the hour into infinity. Put a clear cap and deadline. In my contract, the cap was implicit—it gave a deadline for the project. That should be good enough for most people, but when dealing with opportunists like Cynthia Biret it’s best to spell it out clearly to avoid debates and lawsuits. The way she milked me for all I had made me think she was a scam artist.
Write clear expectations/goals/milestones. This is important for the editor too. It’s vital that the project’s goals are well-defined. Editors must beware of feature creep (i.e., when a client starts adding more and more requirements as the project progresses). This will make an editor vulnerable if she’s agreed to a payment cap. In my case, I put a clear goal of having plenty of images of Black Africa, but after 5 months and 3 attempts, only 5% of the trailer was from Black Africa. Cynthia Biret completely failed to fulfill that simple requirement. For the sake of everyone, it’s important to define the expectations.
Give an option for a project extension. Nobody has a perfect crystal ball. A contract may have well-documented expectations, but unforeseen events may happen along the way which force the producer/director to change the requirements in a major way midstream. While this is understandable, it’s also understandable that the editor shouldn’t have to pursue new goals without extra compensation. Thus, put in a clause that says something like, “If major deviations or additions to the plan occur, then the Producer agrees to pay the Editor $$$ per day after the editor has worked X many days on the project. If there have been no major changes in the specs, then the Editor will not get any extra compensation.” In my case, my fundamental requirements didn’t change, so I didn’t see why I should pay Cynthia Biret more than $7,000.
Minor deviations from the original plan will naturally happen, and the editor should understand that and budget that into his time. If the boss says to have a video ready in 4 weeks, then aim for having a near final cut by week 3, so that you have a week to make adjustments. Cynthia Biret not only was one month late with her first cut, but was completely off the mark—a bad combination. She took nearly two months to produce a second take, which was only a minor improvement of the first take. Editors (and Directors) must budget time for changes.
I really didn’t want to write this post. If I had lost a few hundred bucks, I wouldn’t have gone public with this. However, Cynthia Biret really went too far and took too much money to produce a trailer that failed to meet my basic specs. I believe she was too unfair, unreasonable, illogical, and dishonest. I can’t ignore that. Moreover, others in the film/TV industry deserve to know.
Moreover, I gave Cynthia Biret one last chance to avoid me spilling the beans about her. I asked her to return the $2,750 advance I gave her for the pilot, which she never started. She refused.
She argued that the $2,750 was paying for her overtime on the trailer that she never finished. Apparently, the $7,000 wasn’t enough for an incomplete trailer that ignored many of original instructions. So she kept nearly $10,000. Had she been somewhat reasonable and ethical, she would returned the $2,750. In fact, she should have returned some of the $7,000 too. Because she refused, that compelled me to share my miserable experience with Cynthia Biret.
I believe one of Cynthia Biret’s most annoying characteristics is her absolute inability to take responsibility for anything negative. She never once said, “That was my fault,” or “I accept responsibility for not delivering the video on Sunday when I said I would.” She always pointed fingers to either: me, Jeff, Adobe, or anyone else but her. Nothing was ever her fault.
I’ll admit that I made mistakes. I’m an amateur. The footage was shot by amateurs. The audio and mics had problems. I often had lousy bandwidth in Africa; I was online only a few hours per week. The contract should have been more explicit. I should have demanded more progress reports and sample cuts. I should have made her repeat and confirm the requirements to make sure she totally understood them. I should have shot down her idea to integrate my TEDx talk ideas with the trailer. I should have recorded just one 10-second soundbite about the show. And I’m sure there’s other boneheaded moves that I made if I thought about it more.
However, ultimately, I was honest. I paid all but one of her invoices early. The one I didn’t pay early, I paid on time, within the time frame we had agreed upon. I communicated the requirements clearly from the beginning and hardly made any changes to them. In short, I wasn’t an amazing director and producer, but I was a decent one.
I certainly didn’t deserve being ripped off. After almost five months and nearly $10,000, I have little to show for it. That’s wrong. I could have done many other things with that $10,000, like buy a car or travel in Africa for one year. In fact, I had to shell out another $10,000 to hire another editor to do the trailer and pilot.
I’ve certainly learned a few lessons from this experience. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying Cynthia Biret is an evil person or a classic con artist. She did try to help my project. However, given her dishonesty, her plodding work habits, and her inability to solve problems quickly, I urge you not to hire Cynthia Biret.
I hired Gray Jones to replace Cynthia Biret. I also found him on StaffMeUp.com. After receiving the hard drives with Cynthia's work, Gray said there was no problem with the way I organized the clips (something which Cynthia Biret said caused her massive delays and extra work). He also commented:
"An unfortunate side effect of Cynthia never having used the Adobe Premiere software before is that the media on the drives and the media on the project were very poorly handled and improperly imported. There were duplicate and even triplicate copies of the same clips on the drives, taking up a lot of unnecessary space, and they were imported multiple times WITHOUT the descriptions that you painstakingly applied to the folders. No wonder Cynthia had so many problems! It also affected performance in the project, especially when trying to find clips or filter the bin display."
Gray was the polar opposite of Cynthia Biret:
- He solved technical problems in hours, not months
- He communicated instantly, clearly, and succinctly
- He produced an outstanding first cut of the trailer below in just a few days:
You can see what a leap in quality the trailer is. I gave him some feedback and just a couple of days later (not months later like Cynthia), he produced the 2nd and final cut:
As a bonus, Gray created a 2-minute version of the trailer for a producer who asked for a shorter version of the trailer:
Although I liked Cythnia's cut of the Kickstarter video (which she claimed took her "days" to do), Gray said it should be better. In just "several hours," he cut this much better version of the Kickstarter Pitch video:
In Cynthia Biret's defense, Gray had access to some extra sub-Saharan footage that Cynthia didn't get. However, nearly all the footage he used was also at Cynthia's disposal. She just didn't use it because I'm convinced that she's just lousy film and video editor.
Lesson: Hire Gray Jones. If not, hire anyone but Cynthia Biret.