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Cinematographer's pay rate


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#41 George Ebersole

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Posted 27 August 2014 - 01:41 AM

When I was gripping every DP or cameraman I talked to said $500/day was standard.  That was back in 86 and 87.  I would think it's gone up a little since then.


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#42 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 27 August 2014 - 04:38 AM

The problem is that all this is extremely dependent on circumstance.

 

There are fields of film and TV work (let's say, TV shows and feature films) in which $500 a day has always been normal and continues to be normal.

 

There are other areas - music videos, let's say - in which that rate may occasionally be seen but has never been normal. I'm not sure I've ever been paid the equivalent of US$500 a day to work behind a camera and I'm not sure I ever really expected to.

 

There are indeed probably occasions where that rate used to be normal, and is no longer, or is normal now and never was previously. Since the mid-80s, the employment situation, the technology involved, and frankly the economic situations of the sort of countries where this kind of work is done, have changed so much as to make any comparison almost meaningless. Things change. Things have changed a lot in the last thirty years.

 

None of this is intended to argue for a particular rate for a particular job - I think everyone, regardless of the work they do in any field whatsoever, should be entitled to a comfortable living. The problem in my view is the enormous and widening gap between rich and poor, which as far as I can see is motivated mainly by people who connect their wealth to their sense of self worth in a way that's entirely inappropriate and leads to significant sociological problems.

 

But ultimately, trying to specify a generic rate for camera crew, in a situation where "camera crew" is such an impossibly generic term, is not likely to be helpful.

 

P


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#43 George Ebersole

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Posted 27 August 2014 - 06:24 AM

Interesting.  I've never been a DP, though I've done camera ops, and I got some stipends just a few shades short of that day rate.  I don't know what it's like around the rest of the nation, but that's actually standard around here.

 

It depends on the project though, like you say.  There used to be a lot of deferred projects, usually for first timers, or guys trying to build a rep.  To be honest I've gotten more than twice that for crane ops.  

 

I'm not sure how else to comment.  I typically don't discuss my rates on a public BBS, but felt like I needed to pitch in.


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#44 Richard Boddington

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 12:17 AM

I have a solution, every crew member earns 1 million dollars regardless of their position on set.

 

R,


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#45 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 01:55 AM

We need to take into consideration a DP's experience (resume) and skill level (reel) when discussing rates. There's such a huge gamut of talent out there, from the recent film school graduate with a 7D, to the journeyman shooter, to the guys who get nominated for Academy Awards every year. I worked with a DP a few years ago who loved to tell stories about how he used to be "the $20,000/day guy." Hilarious and mind-boggling. There's also a huge gamut of jobs out there requiring all those different levels of cinematographers. You wouldn't hire Emmanuel Lubezki to shoot a corporate internal video, and you wouldn't hire the 7D kid to shoot a car commercial.

We also need to differentiate between general below the line crew rates (camera, grip, electric, sound dept), and DP rates. Although DP's are technically below the line, they have symbolic ownership over a large portion of a project and thus have reasons for occasionally taking a significant pay cut if a job offers them the chance to do creatively fulfilling work. I'm guessing that Lubezki doesn't get paid anything close to his full rate when he shoots for Terrence Malick, but then, it's Terrence frickin' Malick! There are no Academy Awards for focus pullers or gaffers; when you're just working for a day rate the money better be right.
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#46 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 07:42 AM

There are no Academy Awards for focus pullers or gaffers; when you're just working for a day rate the money better be right.

Well said.    During negotiations, assuming that there's enough to go around, you can always say - "just match the sound recordists rate".  Since its often in the same ballpark.  Sound isn't  told "It'll be great for your reel".  They don't have their love of the work leveraged against them in quite the same way as a cinematographer. Assuming they're hiring a professional with experience, odds are good the rate will be decent and worth matching.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 28 August 2014 - 07:42 AM.

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#47 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 12:59 PM

We need to take into consideration a DP's experience (resume) and skill level (reel) when discussing rates. There's such a huge gamut of talent out there, from the recent film school graduate with a 7D, to the journeyman shooter, to the guys who get nominated for Academy Awards every year. I worked with a DP a few years ago who loved to tell stories about how he used to be "the $20,000/day guy." Hilarious and mind-boggling. There's also a huge gamut of jobs out there requiring all those different levels of cinematographers. You wouldn't hire Emmanuel Lubezki to shoot a corporate internal video, and you wouldn't hire the 7D kid to shoot a car commercial.

 

On the other hand, you wouldn't choose the kid fresh out of school with no reel for a tentpole film project just because he has a Red Epic, either. 


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#48 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 05:16 PM

 
On the other hand, you wouldn't choose the kid fresh out of school with no reel for a tentpole film project just because he has a Red Epic, either. 

Well, not more than once, anyway :)
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#49 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 05:23 PM

Well said.    During negotiations, assuming that there's enough to go around, you can always say - "just match the sound recordists rate".  Since its often in the same ballpark.  Sound isn't  told "It'll be great for your reel".  They don't have their love of the work leveraged against them in quite the same way as a cinematographer. Assuming they're hiring a professional with experience, odds are good the rate will be decent and worth matching.

Sound mixers make way more AC's! My roommate told me he makes $950/8 on union commercials before kit rental. After kit and OT, he's making DP rates!
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#50 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 28 August 2014 - 07:12 PM

Maybe you misunderstood.  I was suggesting to the poster that if he's unsure what to quote as the DP, he could ask that his rate "match the sound recordist" cause as you say often times they make as much as a DP.


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#51 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 12:02 AM

Maybe you misunderstood.  I was suggesting to the poster that if he's unsure what to quote as the DP, he could ask that his rate "match the sound recordist" cause as you say often times they make as much as a DP.

Yep, I see what you were saying now :)
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#52 Royce Allen Dudley

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 10:10 AM

No one wants to talk about this on any forum but they sure want to read about it.

 

Every time the subject comes up there are vague references to rates then.. nada. This very thread is 5 YEARS OLD, resurrected, and HOT right now because everyone is reading it but no one will tell you what the rates are.

 

But I will...

 

In Hollywood 15 years ago up to 7 years ago, DPs got $450-650 per day on indies - features or shorts.. even micro budget indies like the many I shot on film for under $50K.. but the DP still got paid a chunk of that. So did the sound mixer. Maybe with a camera provided ( DVCAM, 16mm, then 24P, then 24P HD), and often without. Maybe with some lights, maybe without. Occasionally there would be lower rates and you'd take them if you needed the $ or dug the project. Seldom higher. But any sort of corporate or professional day-gigs held at twice those rates. Most of us ( there weren't so many then ) could stay real busy most of the year, and would never think of doing a different job- a DP was a DP, you would never go out to gaff. Job ads were 10 a week in BackStage West or DramaLogue, and a few on internet boards. That was enough for who was doing indies... lots of word of mouth too.... ads often said MCC ( Meals, Credit, Copy ) but almost to the ad, they never meant that- they had money and would spend it on the DP and the Mixer. 

 

Then it all changed.

 

After the Great Recession hit, people spent less, had less, and the DSLRs and REDs dug in... internet video exploded, and everyone who could became a DP overnight. WTF ? Why not ? No jobs, nothing else to do.... It really has been a massive shift. 

 

Today, DPs often take $200 a day, almost always including expensive package up to and including C300's and RED flavors; but not just on indies, they accept this rate for all manner of corporate, interview, etc. There are companies that specialize in providing web content for business, local commercials, and weddings... they pay $100-200 for partial to full days... and an ocean of DSLR shooters are hotly vying for those scraps.

 

I personally generally hold out for the old $500/12 indie rate and rarely ( but do ) get hired on those... the phone still rings for $1000 interview half -days or $4000 corporate weeks (plus gear rental ); but the phone doesn't ring often. More often, it's this " can you help me out and there will be more work later". Um, no, actually, there won't be.

 

Several colleague DPs who own smaller trucks / vans make ends meet by Ghost- DP'ing, or babysitting as some call it - providing the gear and services of a DP without credit as such; doing all the work while the director operates and takes credit for the image. This happens often now with both established still photographers and Momarazzi who are asked to provide their client's web video work... and they won't say no, but they take the credit and will not introduce the babysitter to the client, you can be certain. rates for these gigs are whatever you can leverage... some OK, some just stupid.

 

Cinematographers now spend much more time trying to work than working, I am convinced.. which is why I am now a producer


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#53 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 30 August 2014 - 05:59 PM

In the first few months of this year I was offered two features at the $100-a-day sort of level, which I'd have taken, since it'd be nice to have at least done a feature. But for this they expected a complete camera package. "If only you had a C300," they said, "it'd be a no-brainer."

 

I suspect that would be more or less the moment I stopped even the pretence of trying to be that sort of cameraman.

 

P


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#54 Royce Allen Dudley

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 07:10 AM

In the first few months of this year I was offered two features at the $100-a-day sort of level, which I'd have taken, since it'd be nice to have at least done a feature. But for this they expected a complete camera package. "If only you had a C300," they said, "it'd be a no-brainer"

 

This was your opportunity to offer step in as an equity investor and leverage a substantive value on the camera rental and your labor if you believe in the project- contract as a producer for backend participation. You offer your services for a first-paid $12,500 including pre production, shoot, and color grade supervision plus the C300 package and a full producer credit. 

 

One of a couple things happens at that point; they jump on it, and you are in, with $100 a day to cover your fuel and laundry bills, or more likely you learn that not only don't they have fair money available up front, but are greedy and will not break you off a fair piece of the potential... it costs them nothing to do so, but they just want the free camera - that is the real no-brainer. They do not value YOU. So you should not want that job, regardless of the script or potential. 

 

The latter is sadly the most likely scenario.

 

The problem today is that so many are  buying their way into shooting by subsidizing the project with a camera they buy and provide to production for free ( I am not talking DSLR's, I am talking EPICS and C300s and the lot, FOR FREE )... that, plus charging an under- valued rate. The supply and demand of DPs today is simply overwhelming, and it's a " glamour industry" so it attracts many people willing to do anything to get in. It always has, but there used to be a barrier to entry that exceeded having a camera.... the first dailies would reveal any lack of ability very quickly. With digital, very little learning curve, knowledge base or expertise are needed to fumble through a  mediocre, passable job... so many eyes on the monitor, so many opinions, so much "collaboration" that really is the pure undermining of what a DP is historically supposed to be in charge of.

 

As producer, I have been on the receiving end of DP submissions for a few projects. It is shocking how many people now have decent reels and will submit for projects with smaller than ever budgets. Among those are a few who even aggressively solicit to UNDERCUT a posted day rate with their high end gear free... so how does one compete with that ? 

 

(Cue the sound effect of crickets)


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#55 George Ebersole

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 10:06 AM

Royce; interesting.  What part of the world are you in?  LA, NY, SF?


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#56 Royce Allen Dudley

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 02:30 PM

Royce; interesting.  What part of the world are you in?  LA, NY, SF?

Belly of The Beast; Hollywood.


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#57 George Ebersole

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 02:47 PM

Interesting.  I think the number of people peaking at this thread probably has more to do with first timers seeing what they should charge, and maybe a few vets wondering what other people are charging.

 

If things are truly that bad in So Cal, then it's a wonder anything gets shot at all.

 

But you're talking indy projects, right?  I mean what you're describing doesn't sound like a studio shoot of any kind.


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#58 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 10:05 PM

 
But you're talking indy projects, right?  I mean what you're describing doesn't sound like a studio shoot of any kind.


There is no way he is describing the major studio jobs. It's truly is an education for me to read this thread. It's stunning to realize what the non union market place offers. I cannot comprehend how anyone, except when young and starting out, with no real overhead, could ever make a career with those rates that are mentioned above. There is no way!

I mean, I am 53 years old, married, mortgage, etc. Most of you already know, I've been doing this all of my adult life. As a career First AC, I couldn't imagine surviving, much less having any sort of quality of life style working for what these non union DPs are working for with or without gear. Especially as I get older! Here's the flip side of things: Below is a list of current, IATSE scale (minimum) hourlies for feature film and half hour episodic television:

DP: $100.17/hour
$1,402.38/12 hours

Camera Operator: $61.93/hour
$867.02/12 hours

First Assistant Camera Technician: $53.97/hour
$755.58/12 hours

Second Assistant Camera: $41.73/hour
$584.22/12 hours

Loader: $35.85/hour
$501.90/12 hours

As mentioned, these are the minimum hourly pay scales. Many of us who are veterans can command much higher hourlies than these. This also comes with healthcare benefits as well as retirement and pension plans. If you own gear, that is additional. For me and many others, this is a career rather than an adventure. I guess in the end, both sides of this industry is a reality. I do realize that many people are reluctant to join a union out of fear and / or knowing that they won't be able to compete at that level. I would just like to see an infrastructure within the non union world for crafts people to grow professionally as well as financially as they grow with experience.

G
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#59 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 31 August 2014 - 10:17 PM

I failed to emphasize that the union pay structure is based on an 8 hour, straight time day. After 8 hours we go into 1.5x the hourly from hours 9-11. After 12 hours, we make 2x's the straight hourly till we wrap.

G
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#60 Royce Allen Dudley

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Posted 01 September 2014 - 01:05 AM

I am talking about non-IA work in Los Angeles. I have been on the 600 eligibility roster as DP on and off for years. No idea what that realm is like; it has eluded me entirely.

 

Not sure if you want to call it "indie" or what- but don't forget even IA has a Tier Zero contract with lousy rates.

 

Now tell me this, how many local 600 members are fat and happy and employed as well as they were 10 years ago ?

 

I bet the spiral in budgets is affecting them too.


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