Caring about classic cars

Yesterday I was on an advertising photo shoot in London with a couple of other classic car hire companies. As we froze our extremities off in the east end of London we swapped stories of other film and advertising shoots we've done. It was remarkable stuff.
Providing cars for TV, film and advertising work is big business. Every car you see in an advert or drama or music video has been sourced from an owner or car hire company. At Great Escape this sort of work is a big part of what we do.
Production companies tend to source cars in three ways. The most common is via a specialist agency that often represents lots of cars owned by lots of different people or offers a car-finding service. Or they come direct to companies like Great Escape that have hire fleets. The third way, less common, is to approach owners' clubs direct for a particular car.
I have worked direct with clients as well as via 'middle men' car sourcing agencies. This includes providing one car for one day static shoots as well several cars for filming over several months. If you're planning to make your car available for TV and film work, there are a few things to check and be aware of.
Film, TV and advertising agencies have a job to do. Your beloved, prized car is just a prop. There are lots of people involved in a shoot, they all have lots to do and they're all stressed. Usually lots of money is involved and if something gets damaged it's insured so it can be sorted. It's not that they don't care, more that they're less familiar with the risks and they don't love your car like you do.
So when you hire your car for this sort of work you need to take care. I strongly recommend that you don't work direct, not just because I run www.greatescapetvcars.co.uk. No matter what you're charging you need to minimise the risks. Working with a specialist agency should do that. The problem is that usually it doesn't. Which is why I set up the new business.
I have never had a problem when hiring my cars direct to clients. I have had endless problems when hiring via middle men. And so, it seems from my chat with my peers yesterday, have a lot of other people. My experiences led me to set up www.greatescapetvcars.co.uk to provide a proper, honest and professional middle man service for owners and agencies.
But this isn't meant to be a pat on the back. Here's why it so often goes wrong with middle men and what makes it go right.
The best way to explain this is by an example. Last year I provided a car for a music video involving a shall-be-nameless diminutive pop princess from Down Under. This was set up via a specialist car sourcing agency. They called me out of the blue in a terrible rush demanding a car for the following day. This isn't unusual and not in itself alarming.
Some of our hire cars are owned by third parties. As such I have a simple agreement with each owner that I will return the car at the end of the year exactly as I received it, even if it costs me to do so.
We struggled to obtain shoot details until very late in the day. We received no briefing documents from the agency and no contract terms - so we sent ours. We arrived on set, filled out our handover paperwork correctly - which controls vehicle condition - and did the same when we left. The car was damaged on the shoot and we highlighted this to the only person who seemed to be in charge, the Director.
During the first day's shoot we were asked to provide the car for a second day, which we were able to do. Again the same paperwork process was completed. The shoot finished at night.
When we got the car back we noticed that the black leather passenger seat had been damaged with a stiletto heel and gaffer taped over with black tape to disguise this.
There then followed 12 months of deeply unpleasant emails and phone calls with the middle man agency. To describe their position as 'uncaring' would be polite. They clearly didn't want to upset their client and their client, being one step removed, found it very easy to deny responsibility. The issue revolved around the fact that we should have reported the damage on set. But since it had been deliberately disguised this was a little difficult. I even provided evidence from the resulting music video clearly showing the damage being caused. To no avail.
The agency simply didn't care. I could have applied the same approach to the owner of the car, who I represented. I didn't. Facing considerable legal costs to pursue the agency, I backed down and consequently I lost over £1,000 out of my own pocket repairing his car to a high standard.
This story is not unique. Another agency sourced cars from owners and hirers for a BBC programme. We refused to deal with them. When they damaged one of the cars they simply returned it and ignored the plague of calls and emails to pay for repairs. In that example a lack of paperwork didn't help the situation.
Working directly with clients I have never had this problem. We are able to establish the rules of engagement at the outset and agree how the car will be used and the risks involved. We proceed or otherwise based on understanding and agreeing these issues. Because we hire our own cars every day we are very alert to the risks and problems. An agency representing cars isn't. That is the crucial difference.
Making your car available for TV, film and advertising work isn't inherently risky. But if it isn't managed properly and professionally it can be. That means experience to identify the risks and the paperwork that manages them.
That is why we set up www.greatescapetvcars.co.uk. We have a responsibility to clients and owners to minimise the risk they are exposed to. Because we hire cars every day we instantly see the problems or issues in whatever is being proposed. We have been hiring cars on behalf of owners since 2007 and because I don't relish telling them that their car has been damaged I ensure we avoid that happening. We cannot eliminate risk but when the worst happens we sort it out. With a proper paper trail and agreement that becomes much easier.
The middle man agency who damaged my car doesn't deserve to be in business. They deliver nothing and add nothing. Unfortunately, they're not alone. But my righteous indignation at their failings led to our TV car service. To find out how you can earn from your car without throwing your car to the sharks call 01537 893733 or visit http://www.greatescapetvcars.co.uk







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