Please read >> Part 1 <<. I had been invited to a test shoot/audition for the position of photographer for Rihanna's Diamonds World Tour with Live Nation. After arriving in Las Vegas as I was instructed, it became clear that something didn't seem right.
Where did I leave off?
I had arrived at the hotel with my room booked for two nights at the D Hotel in Las Vegas. I had talked to the front desk, the facility manager, and the events manager of the hotel, who all couldn't get a hold of JB. They had the same number I had. After about an hour of attempting to call/text/email JB and AJ, we decided that it was best to just cancel my reservation and stay at the Excalibur, which we had booked originally. Because I had just reserved my room at the D Hotel two hours ago, I was subject to pay the first night. I was hoping that given my situation, they would make an exception for me. After talking with the front desk, being transferred to reservations, and then talking to the manager of reservations, Mary Anne, telling each one of them my situation, the manager decided to refund me completely, and my credit card would not be charged. **I am still currently checking my bank account daily to see whether the pending deposit fee for the hotel disappears. When it does, I will be giving the D Hotel a glowing review and an email thanking Mary Anne for their superior customer service.**
So at around 3pm, I walked off with Tyler and Ben, checked into our room at Excalibur, changed out of my business clothes, and went down to the casino to have some fun. At 7PM, I received a missed call from JB, and then an email followed that read, "Hey I have been trying to call you. Where are you?" with a signature of "Denise Williams Watts, VP of Creative and Visual Contents, Warner Brothers... etc" **I just noticed this while checking my email timestamps. Red flag, much?**
I thought to myself, umm, you've been trying to call me with one missed call? No, I'VE been trying to call you. I emailed him back with saying "I tried calling you for an hour and a half when I arrived. I also tried calling and texting AJ, but both of your phones had a busy tone. I talked to the front desk and the D's events manager tried to look for you as well. We went to the room but it was already empty. I wasn't sure if I would be contacted again or if you would stay unreachable, so I ended up cancelling my reservation at the D hotel."
He emails back with "I what number is yours I have no names on numbers. I will call you right now."
I message him back pointing out that I have texted him with my name before but give him my number again anyway. He calls me back and we have a conversation for 15 minutes.
I'll do my best to paraphrase our conversation. JB said his phone wasn't working, and that he had been dealing with phone calls and texts from the other photographers trying to contact him. He said he was really stressed out and had to turn off his phone because it was so chaotic. He said some people didn't get to the meeting because some people arrived late, and some people arrived early, and he was still trying to contact about half of the 30 people that were supposedly invited to Las Vegas to test shoot. I told him I was frustrated, and he responded that he was frustrated too because he wasn't able to watch the game. I assumed that because I missed the meeting, JB would give me more information about what this was all about. He told me that he would not be giving me two hours of information in a phone call because he didn't have the time. ** If the meeting had been for two hours, I would have arrived smack dab in the middle of that meeting.** I had been told in the morning that Rihanna would be giving a performance in Las Vegas, and so I assumed that the auditioning photographers would be photographing her performance (since, that's what most of the tour would consist of, right?). When I told him what I was given the impression of (us taking photos of Rihanna while she performs because that's what they would be testing our skills on and because he specifically said that Rihanna would be in Las Vegas), he started accusing me of lying, and said something along the lines of, "Why do you even know to be going to Vegas if you don't know what's going on?" I calmly told him why I thought the way I did (and even did the whole "I can see where we may have had a misunderstanding"), that the ONLY contact I had about this information about Vegas was from him and the RDT@LVN email. He apologized. If we weren't photographing Rihanna, then what were we photographing? He says that we would be photographing Rihanna getting into the car, etc... because she was performing at a private event that nobody is allowed to attend. I ask, "Isn't that being like paparazzi and wouldn't it be obtrusive to her?" and he says "Not all of you are going to be doing that!", to which I ask, "Then what are the rest of the photographers going to be doing?" In a tone of voice like he was super surprised why I would be asking such a question, he answers, "Las Vegas! You're taking pictures of Las Vegas! There are lots of beautiful things to take pictures of in Las Vegas!"
In the information email sent by RDT@LVN, it reads exactly - "You will be judged on your ability to take good action pictures of people places, objects all pertaining to entertainment. You will be judged on how well you upload and Edit photographs for social media sites. How fast you move threw people and get the shot you need."
To me, this was very vague. I like to know exact directions so I do things right the first time, so naturally, I always ask questions if I'm not clear. What shot do I need, exactly, if I'm not given a particular assignment? "Take pictures of beautiful Las Vegas" is not the specificity I was looking for something as important as a test shoot. Whenever I asked for specificity, I was greeted with offense and disbelief.
By the end of the conversation, I was assured that I would be paid and was forwarded the three documents that made up the contract/application between Roc Nation / Live Nation and the work-for-hire photographer that was supposed to be signed at the meeting. The documents were "Photographic Work-For-Hire Agreement," "Guidelines for Photographers and Videographers Covering Rihanna's Diamond World Tour 2013," and "Contract Photographer Application." Each document had the Live Nation / Roc Nation logo on it and seemed legit. The only interesting thing I noticed was that the "Contract Photographer Application" seemed very generic. For example, it had a section to list my equipment information and in the "Total Available CF Memory," it said "minimum 2GB required." Any competent photographer would know that 2GB is not enough memory for a working shoot. In fact, I had 32GB of compact flash memory with me and I was afraid it wouldn't be enough. At the end of the application, it asked what I was interested in shooting (circle) - Grads / Corporate / Sports / Teams. Umm, wha? Seemed like a generic photography application.
The next day, I took out my camera and explored Las Vegas with Ben and Tyler, shooting as close to "action shots of people places and objects all pertaining to entertainment," though this phrase seemed very vague to me, and I was uncomfortable with how little specificity or direction I was given. I emailed and texted JB that night asking where I would be uploading the photos to, since according to the information email, we would be judged how quickly we can edit and upload our content. I received no response. While Ben and Tyler gambled a bit in the casinos downstairs, I stayed in the hotel room for about an hour by myself editing photos and preparing them to be accessed quickly lest this thing actually worked out in the end. One cool thing that happened that night was that we ran into Jared Polin AKA FRO KNOWS PHOTO! We got a few stickers, he instagrammed a photo of us with him, and he started following me on instagram. That was pretty neat.
The next morning at 9AM, I received an email from Jay asking me if I could stay at my hotel one more day and that he would cover the costs, and then telling me that he would have me go to the Wynn hotel, because everyone would be there at a meeting room receiving payment at 3pm. I was also told I could upload my photos to their servers at that time. I told him I couldn't stay for another day and asked for a specific meeting room since the Wynn and Encore are separate hotels. I was told to "Meet in the Lobby of Wynn/Encore and look for Roc Nation registration desk. They will direct you to the meeting room." At this point, I had a feeling that this wasn't really going to happen.
At 12:30pm, I talked to the lobby and registration desks of both the Wynn and the Encore hotel and no one had any information about a Roc Nation or Live Nation. I waited in the Wynn for a few hours and continued to try calling JB and AJ, and of course, I could not get through to either of them. I emailed JB and told him that the people at both the Wynn and Encore did not have any information regarding any of this. Tyler decided to help me call a Live Nation number and we asked to speak to an Amy Phillips, the name signed at the end of every informational email (including the ones that included contracts) sent from RDT@LVN. The fellow at the end of the line said that Amy Phillips had been let go about two years ago. When I inquired about JB, I was told that he was not an agent of Live Nation. Perhaps he was with Roc Nation, though he had a Live Nation email address. In hindsight, I should have realized that the email addresses end with "livesnation" instead of "Live Nation." I guess it didn't help that when you type "livesnation.com" into the searchbar it automatically takes you to "livenation.com." Walking out of the Wynn, I left a message with the Roc Nation office, but I haven't gotten a response yet, and I don't expect one.
Yesterday morning, just for kicks, I tried calling JB with my google voice number. It actually got through but landed into voicemail and confirmed that it definitely was able to go through, as long as I was using google voice. I also tried looking his number up on those reverse websites where it tracks where a phone number originates from. JB's number was unknown, but even my google voice had some sort of origin. A few minutes later, I got a call from JB. I didn't pick up.
Ben's friend, after hearing the story, suggested that maybe this JB saw me in Las Vegas but also saw Ben and Tyler with me, so backed off whenever they were with me. We entertained the idea that this had all been a scam, but I don't understand what they could have gotten from me. Ben and Tyler suggested that maybe booking at the hotel gave these people referrals and they got profit that way.
I'm not really sure what exactly went on behind the scenes, but I'm glad that what I got out of it all was not a loss of my money or time, but was instead a fun few days in Las Vegas with my friends and winning $17 from the slot machines. :)
Well, let's not put these images I took to waste! Here are a few images I shot under the direction of "good action pictures of people places, objects all pertaining to entertainment." Super vague, so I decided to go ahead and shoot in my own style and whatever interested me.