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Finding out what someone is worth???


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 05:01 AM

As a producer, my job is to negotiate deals. Now my father who is a pretty good wheeler and dealer, has a saying, it's not hard to be low when you know what low is. That's my question, who do you find out what someone is currently worth for the purpose of negotiation? Say you want to hire a cinematographer or an actor, you don't want to cheat them but you also don't want to screw yourself, where do you go to find out. Obviously asking their agent is a mistake and since Hollywood book keeping is well let us say somewhat loose, you can't count on the information you might read somewhere. IS there an accurate place to get an idea where to start an offer?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 12:01 PM

As a producer, my job is to negotiate deals. Now my father who is a pretty good wheeler and dealer, has a saying, it's not hard to be low when you know what low is. That's my question, who do you find out what someone is currently worth for the purpose of negotiation? Say you want to hire a cinematographer or an actor, you don't want to cheat them but you also don't want to screw yourself, where do you go to find out. Obviously asking their agent is a mistake and since Hollywood book keeping is well let us say somewhat loose, you can't count on the information you might read somewhere. IS there an accurate place to get an idea where to start an offer?


At your budget level, you aren't even going to come close to the rates that most professionals make, so that knowledge would be fairly useless. I would say that most people generally make around the guild minimum rates, slightly higher, so you could start with that... but I think you're going to find that even those are out of your range.

Studios do have access to info as to what the DP or someone else made on their last show unless it was "blocked", which happens when a person takes a show for a lower rate than he normally takes, so that lower rate doesn't become the new published precedent. I don't know where they find this info though, but they seem able to call the last show you did and find out what the person made.

Just figure out what you can afford to pay everyone on a simple tiered budget and start from that. For example, let's say you start out by figuring that basic crew members get $200/day, keys get $300/day, top collaborators get $400/day... and you add all of that up and you quickly find out you are already way over budget. Maybe you figure no one will work for less than $150/day, but now you can't afford to pay the higher-ups anymore than than $250/day. Ultimately you are either going to find someone to work for those low rates or you won't, that's just the game.

Since most low-budget non-IA movies are still SAG productions, you can offer actors SAG minimum rates, or the low-budget contract rates.
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#3 Jim Keller

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Posted 06 February 2009 - 05:03 PM

There are a couple of databases maintained by/for the industry of what various people's quotes and credits are. They're quite expensive to access, so your best bet might be to make friends with someone in a development office who would be willing to sneak a peek for you.
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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 02:27 AM

At your budget level, you aren't even going to come close to the rates that most professionals make, so that knowledge would be fairly useless.


Thanks for the information, it's a very good start, and yes, you are absolutely right, at my self financed budget estimates, this information would be somewhat academic and irrelevant other that to know just how big a favor several of my professional friends and their friends are doing me which will, no doubt, be imminence in every cases, however, see part of the reason I'm asking about this (other than for my own information and as a continuation of my film industry education) is I'm working on something that I don't want to go into detail on yet but if and again this is IF, it works out, it will put me in a higher budget level that should......well, make this rate information pertinent and I may need to have these answers relatively quickly in order to put together a preliminary budget if needed, so again, thank you sir. Just outta curiosity, you mentioned the guilds, would they have any informal information as to what certain people would expect to be paid on a average job or is that a bad idea to call and ask OR is it, you can ask, but I doubt if they'll tell you anything?

Also, Jim, thank you for your advice. It seems completely sound my only problem is I'm gonna have on Hell of a time finding someone in a development office out here in the middle of.......NO freakin' where, but maybe, one of my buddies knows someone or the El Paso Film Commission can point me in the right direction or something ( there's gotta be a way), however, in the event I CAN'T befriend someone in a development office (which as you say, would be the way to go), any idea on what kinda rates we're looking at and where to find these site, just so I have the information and know what to expect? B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 07 February 2009 - 02:29 AM.

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 01:03 PM

You could ask a Local 600 member to take a look at their rate card.
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#6 David Rakoczy

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 08:15 PM

Steven,

Unfortunately, you really won't know until the job is over and they have already been paid. What someone has delivered in the past doesn't necessarily mean they will deliver the same or better for you now.

Best of luck on your Project!

I can say this, (I) am worth every penny (and more) :P
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#7 Gus Sacks

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Posted 07 February 2009 - 09:22 PM

http://www.iatse411....202007-2009.pdf

from another thread on the boards.
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#8 Warwick Hempleman

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Posted 18 February 2009 - 03:48 AM

I used to say "My weight is my rate" but that was 25 years ago and I was weightlifting. :)

Call the unions and ask there. The brothers and sisters will surely provide you with our standard scale rates. In addition to calling the unions and asking for rate cards, ask crew guys iny our area. Assume that what they'll tell you is the top figure they'd ask for or have ever gotten. Further assume that depending on how busy they are, the price can be negotiated down quite a bit. Since you're talking about independent / non-union jurisdiction stuff, prices will be fluid. Also see where the guys stand on OT rates, weekend work, turnaround time and travel time & travel days if you have them in your schedule. Don't forget to ask about kit rentals or other charges the guys may hope to add on. In El Paso, some crew booking may go through rental houses, so you might want to ask what their package prices are like (equipment +truck+crew).

Actors may be more interested in keeping their SAG benefits and eligibility days covered than getting overscale money, so as David says, you'll be able to use the rate cards as a fairly safe guide.

Once you get your numbers where want'em add 10% across the board for whatever you haven't thought about. Later you'll be glad you did.
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#9 Bob Hayes

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 01:28 AM

You ask what a crew member is “worth”. I competent crewmember is often worth more then they are paid.

Producers generally have a set amount they are willing to pay for a specific job. The goal of a good producer is to get the best employee they can for the money they are willing to pay. Sometimes you can get a great crew person for less money if they are interested in the director or the project or you. The other side of the coin is you may get conned by someone who is a great salesman and not a competent craftsman.
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#10 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 02:03 AM

You ask what a crew member is “worth”. I competent crewmember is often worth more then they are paid.

Producers generally have a set amount they are willing to pay for a specific job. The goal of a good producer is to get the best employee they can for the money they are willing to pay. Sometimes you can get a great crew person for less money if they are interested in the director or the project or you. The other side of the coin is you may get conned by someone who is a great salesman and not a competent craftsman.


Great thanks guys. With all this information, I'm fairly sure I can find a price for crew but now what I'm really wondering about here is stars and I'm not talking A-list stars but still a relatively well known star, for example just off the top of my head, what would say Gary Busey get nowadays? Also a real good cinematographer, Not Conrad Hall good but good. I don't know, again, off the top of my head, say Haskell Wexler (although with 2 academy award wins and a poop load of brilliant credits, many may consider him as good or better than even Hall). I guess I'm talking about key people with a good reputation. People well worth the money if you could make a good deal.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 19 February 2009 - 02:06 AM.

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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 11:30 AM

Honestly, I don't see the point of knowing that info since you won't be able to pay that. If you get a star of any magnitude, you're probably going to be offering them near SAG minimum and hope they like the project well enough to take it. Same goes for a DP, you'll be lucky if you are able to offer them IATSE minimum.

But if you are curious, I once worked on a $500,000 movie, a horror film, and saw a contract lying around on the producer's desk... and a semi-name actor, at least to horror fans, was getting $50,000 for basically one-week of work. This was compared to me getting $2000/week at the time.

I would say that an agent would tell you that a decent mid-range DP would probably get $8000 to $10,000/week on a feature, maybe double or triple that for a bigger DP. Right now, I'm in the $6000/week range for feature work if that gives you a hint. IA minimum is about $4000/week for feature DP's.
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#12 Jim Keller

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 02:12 PM

For celebrity actors, IMDB frequently has information (though you probably need to pay for the Pro version to access it). I've never seen numbers for celebrity crew in their database, however. Gary Busey's quote isn't listed, though, as they only typically get the information for the A-list (Sorry, Gary).

That said, when you're dealing with smaller agencies (Busey is signed with a smaller agency, but not one I've dealt with directly), they're typically very accommodating of anyone calling up with a bonafide offer. Worst they'll say is, "No, thanks." Don't waste their time with hypotheticals, though. When you're ready to put an offer on the table, call.

The trick is, look at your budget. Ask yourself what you'd be willing to pay for the actor. If you're only paying scale, you're saying to an actor "I don't think you're worth any more than all the other actors I'm hiring." Is the celebrity actually worth more than all the other actors? If so, find a way to show that! If the project is good, celebrities will sometimes go for a back-end deal. If you're shooting somewhere that is a great vacation destination, they'll sometimes take it for the free trip. When approaching someone to work below their quote, you've still got to offer them something.

We recently got a well-known celebrity for well below his usual rate (but still significantly above scale), just by telling the agent that it was a good project and being willing to work with the celebrity's schedule. It can be done. And you don't even have to know what his usual rate is. If it's genuinely what you can afford to pay the celebrity and you're not just trying to lowball, the agent will sense it. If they believe in the project or believe it will be good for the celebrity in other ways (such as expanding his/her playable range, introducing him/her to a new market, doing good for the world, etc.) then they may get excited about it, too. Believe it or not, it's not all about the money for most actors, and the agents work for the actors not vice versa.
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 02:21 PM

Take into account that you will have to make a pay-or-play offer and perhaps show some other proof that you have the money if you are making a deal with a name actor.
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#14 Jim Keller

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Posted 19 February 2009 - 02:23 PM

Take into account that you will have to make a pay-or-play offer and perhaps show some other proof that you have the money if you are making a deal with a name actor.


And also budget for an entertainment lawyer to give the contract a once-over. Many agents are quite sneaky, and could probably pass the bar if they bothered to take it.
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#15 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 12:15 AM

Honestly, I don't see the point of knowing that info since you won't be able to pay that. If you get a star of any magnitude, you're probably going to be offering them near SAG minimum and hope they like the project well enough to take it. Same goes for a DP, you'll be lucky if you are able to offer them IATSE minimum.

But if you are curious, I once worked on a $500,000 movie, a horror film, and saw a contract lying around on the producer's desk... and a semi-name actor, at least to horror fans, was getting $50,000 for basically one-week of work. This was compared to me getting $2000/week at the time.

I would say that an agent would tell you that a decent mid-range DP would probably get $8000 to $10,000/week on a feature, maybe double or triple that for a bigger DP. Right now, I'm in the $6000/week range for feature work if that gives you a hint. IA minimum is about $4000/week for feature DP's.


Curiosity is definitely a factor though not the only one and this information is extremely helpful, thank you, sir. You may, of course, be absolutely correct, and I may not be able to pay that but don't count me out of the running quite yet, knock on wood, I might just surprise you. :D Let me see what happens here over the next month or 2.
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#16 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 12:32 AM

And also budget for an entertainment lawyer to give the contract a once-over. Many agents are quite sneaky, and could probably pass the bar if they bothered to take it.


See, great minds DO think alike, I LITERALLY just mentioned the need to budget for an entertainment lawyer to my business manager last night while we were talking. Thanks for all the info and I will check out IMDB just for the heck of it. Also thanks for the lowdown on smaller agencies. I also fully intended not to contact any agent until I, at the very least, had a letter of intent for funding in hand, so again, you and I are on the same page. The funny thing is I ALSO, about a week or so ago, mentioned to my business manager, the same thing David said about the possibility of having to sign a "pay or pay" agreement in order to secure a star. It's really nice to have people in the know indirectly confirm that I've got the business end straight on this thing and I've been anticipating correctly issues that could arise if thing work out the way I'm hoping. I guess hangin' out at this forum has helped more than I realized!!! :D Thanks again for the input!! B)
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