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Pay Rate Question (DP Feature)


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#1 Matt Graff

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 05:02 PM

Hello All,

I am wondering what you guys think that I should charge for...

DP
Feature
4.5 week shoot
SAG
650k budget

I am curious to know what you guys think.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 05:35 PM

Even though this may sound abysmally-low...

Movies in that budget range often are structured around the fact that it's hard to pay any crew person less than $100/day, so if you figure that the grips, electrics, and 2nd AC are getting $100-150/day, and perhaps the department heads like Gaffer, Key Grip, 1st AC, etc. are being offered $175-200/day, then they are most likely to offer the DP about $250-300/day. So if you are lucky, you may be able to get them to round that up to $2000/week.

They probably will offer you at least one-week of paid prep as part of the deal.

I did a lot of features for those rates, too many... but I wanted the work and the credits.

I'd ask them what they were thinking of offering the Gaffer, 1st AC, and Key Grip to get idea of where they are coming from.
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#3 Matt Graff

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 05:50 PM

Perfect, $600 a day :-), got it. I will let you know how it goes in 5 hours.

Matt
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 06:02 PM

Perfect, $600 a day :-), got it. I will let you know how it goes in 5 hours.

Matt


Only took me ten years to get my rate up to $600/day on features (which is close to the minimum IA union rate for a DP), so good luck...
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#5 Matt Graff

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Posted 26 December 2006 - 11:36 PM

Yeah, I only got $325.

I tried though :-)
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#6 Jim Feldspar

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:21 PM

Yeah, I only got $325.

I tried though :-)


What kinds of days are you going to be working? There's always a couple of long ones but what if it's
one of those every day is a 16 hour day jobs?

I've had friends who protested and it worked, particularly when the days were long because of the
inexperience of the production and director, and I've had friends who have talked themselves into
getting fired. Sometimes you might be right but if you don't want to take the abuse and they don't
want to hear it, you may get an undeserved reputation that other people who hire have heard and yet don't
know the real story and it can take a while to recover from that.

Good luck.
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#7 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 12:31 PM

There's always a couple of long ones but what if it's one of those every day is a 16 hour day jobs?

I've had friends who protested and it worked, particularly when the days were long because of the inexperience of the production and director, and I've had friends who have talked themselves into getting fired...


Well, hopefully Matt (and I guess that goes for all us DP's who are starting out) you have a good and honest line producer who will pay you overtime for those 16 hour days and give you the basic 10 hour turnaround
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#8 Matt Graff

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 05:19 PM

Not sound snobby but I will not take anything less than 12 hour turn around for my crew (except on certain shoot days that may warrent extra work due to location/etc) I also will make $32.50 an hour after 12hours of work, and my crew (camera dept) also makes %10 of there day rate an hour after 12 hours.

Good food, good rest, good pay = great crew
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 December 2006 - 05:47 PM

Good luck on that one... generally it's been a 10-hour turnaround guarantee for the crew on my shoots.

The occasional day that goes longer than 12-hours is to be expected (unfortunately) -- the problem becomes when it becomes constant, systematic, not rare.
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#10 Matthew Buick

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 08:12 PM

Good luck on your shoot. ;)

I just turned down the chance to shoot a music video for a band in my school, I feel such an idiot. :(
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#11 JD Hartman

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 12:35 AM

Perhaps a little off topic, but how can a production (non-union) offer $200/day for the Gaffer or Key Grip positions and expect to get experienced people. Even worse are the ones that want "Gaffer with light kit(s)" or "Key Grip with own equipment"? If you worked 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, that isn't a great deal of money. Once you subtract federal and state taxes and 13% social security, medical benefits, there isn't much left.
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#12 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 02 January 2007 - 01:24 AM

Perhaps a little off topic, but how can a production (non-union) offer $200/day for the Gaffer or Key Grip positions and expect to get experienced people.


Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Either way, the producers are going to make the movie. It's not like the budget is magically going to increase to be able to afford higher rates for everyone. You hire the most qualified people that you can get for the money -- sometimes you get lucky, but sometimes you get what you pay for.

An experienced Gaffer may do a low-paying feature in order to work for a particular producer, director, or DP that they admire or feel will advance onto bigger movies (or they are doing it as a favor for that person because they have been hired in the past on bigger movies).

They may do it just because they like to work and are between bigger jobs.

They may do it because they want to keep their equipment out there being rented (this is often a major reason.) The pay may be low, but when combined with the equipment rental, they are doing better than most of the other people on the production. Especially if their gear is already paid-off anyway.

Or you may get an inexperienced Gaffer or Key Grip, which certain happens a lot too on low-budget movies!

Obviously one can't really make a decent living shooting a couple of features a year if you only clear $6000 or so per feature. Which was what my problem was doing low-budget indie films for a decade -- I was making only about $20,000 a year IF I was lucky and managed to shoot three features a year (thank God my wife had a steady job with health care during that time). But now on a low-budget union feature, a DP can make $30,000-40,000, and if you do two or three of those per year, it's a decent living.
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#13 Matt Workman

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 09:52 AM

Until one reaches the union level feature (i.e. is getting paid enough to live) music videos are good options.

Although they are sometimes more trouble then they are worth, in two days I've made more than I have in a week on a feature. Doing several of these can offset the dearth in income by doing micro/low budget features.

This thread has been helpful for planning for the future. These aren't numbers you learn about in film school, not that I'm in film school.

Thanks and Cheers,

Matt :lol:
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#14 Bob Hayes

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 11:58 AM

The saying ?You can?t make a silk purse out of a sows ear? really applies to the film industry. You can?t turn a low budget producer into something they are not. Producers have a budget with salaries pretty locked. They are going to find the best person they can for that money.
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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 12:30 PM

Hi,

You should count yourselves lucky that this sort of work even exists.

Everywhere else I've heard about - certainly including the UK - there really is no such thing as the $650k movie. It's either PD-150 stuff on pocket money where nobody gets paid, or Hollywood imports on millions of dollars, there really is absolutely nothing inbetween and that's one of the biggest problems we have regarding moving up.

Phil
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#16 JD Hartman

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 12:30 PM

What you say is very true, Bob and Dave. But it also true that you get what you pay for. The gaffer, grip or spark, who agrees to accept a low day rate, could leave you up the creek When you find they can't do their job, or are very slow and every setup or lighting change takes an eternity, what do you do then? When the 12 hour day expands out to 16 and you still aren't getting your shots?
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 January 2007 - 12:48 PM

What you say is very true, Bob and Dave. But it also true that you get what you pay for. The gaffer, grip or spark, who agrees to accept a low day rate, could leave you up the creek When you find they can't do their job, or are very slow and every setup or lighting change takes an eternity, what do you do then? When the 12 hour day expands out to 16 and you still aren't getting your shots?


Sure, all of that sometimes happens, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you get experienced people willing to work for low pay, and sometimes you get a talented beginner who can seem as good as many experienced people you've hired.

Truth is that I've been burned by just as many "experienced" gaffers on low-budget movies as I have inexperienced ones -- in that a gaffer may have lots of credits over the years, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are really good at their job or have the right attitude. Sometimes I'd rather have inexperienced crew people that have a good attitude and are willing to hustle than someone experienced who is just going to sit in a chair and complain everyday about the rate.

The other odd contradictory thing is that on some of my best-looking, best-lit low-budget indie features (the ones where I got award nominations), I was working with some of the least experienced Gaffers. But they were talented, organized, and they did what I needed them to do. And some of my worst-looking low-budget features were with experienced Gaffers who constantly tried to light scenes in their own manner and every set-up was a battle with them. Just because a Gaffer is experienced doesn't mean they have good taste when it comes to lighting. (And there probably is a reason why they have fifty low-budget features to their credits but hardly anything bigger...)

To some degree, you have to be realistic and tailor the shots to the skill level of the crew. If you only have two young, inexperienced grips, you don't constantly ask for 20'x20' silks outdoors or 100' dolly moves, you don't ask them to build a complicated crane. And if the producers want more complex shots, they are going to have to find the crew people that can pull them off if they want to also stay on schedule -- and most understand this (it's usually the director that doesn't understand this -- they want the Moon.)

But I'm not sure what you think the solution is (for trying to get a Gaffer for $200/day), because simply paying people more money is not always an option, so I guess the other solution would be for people to stop making low-budget movies, but then you'd lose a valuable training ground for people.

Even at those low rates, total crew costs may near $100,000, and if you're shooting in 35mm, that may cost you another $80,000, you toss in equipment rental, food, insurance, production office rental & staff, accounting, post, etc. plus a few name actors costing you $50,000 each minimum, and your $500,000 or so budget is used up. So the rates may be ridiculously low, but it's not like a lot of hidden money is being pocketed.

Truth is that I'm learning that even as the budgets climb, the work doesn't always go much more smoothly because even with bigger crews with more experience, and longer schedules, the demands of the shoot get higher, the shots get more complex, the amount of coverage expected increases, and the overall quality level has to be higher, so people still work their a--- off and hours can get long and there is never enough time or equipment or manpower, etc.
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#18 JD Hartman

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 08:00 AM

Part of my post relates to paying a decent rate and not abusing people by asking them to work for free, for the sake of the art. If you aren't 21 year old, and still living with your parents, then $200 a day isn't a decent rate.
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#19 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:06 PM

Part of my post relates to paying a decent rate and not abusing people by asking them to work for free, for the sake of the art. If you aren't 21 year old, and still living with your parents, then $200 a day isn't a decent rate.


So you're saying that no one should ever make a movie if they can't pay crew people more than $200/day? That would sort of eliminate almost every feature made for under $500,000, if not $700,000. It's a little too easy for someone to say "just pay people more money" no matter what the budget of the project is.

No it's not a decent rate, but it's a rate I did for at least five years as a beginning cinematographer trying to build up a resume. And I wouldn't have a career today if it weren't for the training ground that low-budget movies provided.

Now if $200/day was the going rate for a Gaffer on a multi-million dollar production, I'd be angry too because now the budget is clearly not setting enough aside for crew positions. But on a tiny movie, there are only so many ways you can slice the pie.
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#20 JD Hartman

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:15 PM

Point well taken. Budgeting and production costs, are areas where my experience is lacking.
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