Continuing our series, "What the Client Owes The Producer": Number 3: The client must provide true feedback throughout the process, which means that the client can't be wishy washy. "I don't like it" is not valid feedback
The client is paying the money, and depending on how you have defined the relationship, the client is the end decider of what works and what doesn't. An exception would be if you retain final cut because you are an artiste or a producer of some repute. In these cases, what you are doing is what in the 50's and 60's are called "sponsored films", like the kind AT&T and others used to do for classroom use. The client is just thrilled to have a opportunity to work with you.
As the "decider", the client must lay out clearly what he / she wants. Examples: The theme of the meeting, the objective of the training film, the response of the audience, etc. We've discussed this elsewhere. It is best that you write this up after the proper discussion so that the points to be made, information to be included, and audience response (actions to be taken or emotions to be felt) are clear to both parties. This the clear first step to managing the approval process.
The next phase comes with the script. Whether it's a 30 second spot or 15 minute training project, every word must be approved. I recently had a client review a :30 second spot script by saying "I don't like it". That is not a fair response. It will be followed by you asking "What don't you like? There are four things to critique, and "I don't like it" doesn't really address the things: Creative approach (which includes visual approach), information used, writing style (the voice / attitude of the script), and whether or not it these achieve the desired result. Scripts are complicated things; any one of these areas could lead to dissatisfaction, and throw the client's response off. Most times, little "tweaks" will fix the issue, but if you can't an answer or even a discussion on any or all of the four things above, you are in trouble.
The final phase comes with the rough cut, or if you are a completist, the first complete cut. Now that the client can actually see things, he / she will have more to say. They will talk about the music, the shots, the acting (if appropriate), the pacing, some misinformation you have been provided or misinterpreted, and whether or not the project is at least somewhere in the neighborhood of achieving the final result. This where you ability to read between the lines because important. If the clients has specifics, and they are not overwhelming, you are close to the finish line.
If the client has some sense of dissatisfaction, but can't tell you what it is, there is a hidden reason. His department is not the star; she doesn't like who you interviewed; you didn't use that shot of them hard at work in their department. Some clients pretty up forward about this; others beat around the bush.
The lessons here are two fold:
For the client, communicate clearly, and provide the necessary information.
For the producer, listen, document, provide the documentation to all involved, and respond to reviews with the documentation (agreed on story points, the script, and the final product) to rebut and perhaps prevent unnecessary and unwelcome change up-charges (which can cost you a client).
NEXT UP: The client must provide the information needed to write the script, and products, samples and locations needed for shooting in a timely fashion.