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Charging for prep/location scouting


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#1 Jeremy M Lundborg

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 02:40 PM

I'm just out of school and while attending I usually let charging for prep/scout slide as it was more for the experience.

Now that I am attempting to make a living in the business, as I see many on this board doing as well, I wonder what the rules of thumb are for charging to prep and scout locations. What if the prep is 2 days or 3 weeks? What if the location to be scouted is out of the country?

Do you charge half your on-set day rate, get a flat fee, or just ask for two hearty sandwiches?
Do you charge for travel days? Per Diem for scouts?

Thank you.

Jeremy

Edited by Jeremy M Lundborg, 10 December 2009 - 02:41 PM.

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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 02:42 PM

Variable, but you should charge 1/2 rate for scout prep, and you should charge for travel days and ask for a per diem, but often this is all spelled out in your deal memo and sometimes they may insert in a flat rate for all of it. Often it's a bit hard to get paid for scout days so you gotta take most of this, like almost everything in this business, on a case by case.
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 08:41 PM

Generally you negotiate a basic total amount for prep - let's say it's 10 days of prep (8-hour days) for a feature. Now whether you actually work 10 full days for 8-hours each or not, that's what you fill out on your time sheet during prep. You may work more days but with shorter hours, you may start a week earlier than when you get paid, etc. You have to be flexible.

Now with commercials or short films, it's just a smaller amount of prep you can negotiate for. You may only get one day of paid prep, even if you work more than that. The question becomes whether you want the job and want to be prepared; if so, I wouldn't get too picky about the hours.
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#4 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 10 December 2009 - 09:28 PM

It can be a difficult balance between being compensated fairly and avoiding being exploited. If it's a job you really want,
then it may be worth it to put in well more prep than what your deal covers. Who is not going to do the prep to be ready to
do a great job? How would anybody get hired again who argues that he/she is going to do a mediocre job unless paid to
prepare well?

On the other hand, there is a limit to how much you can give up just because you want a job. I think that sometimes people
can get so frustrated at not getting remunerated that they take a stand at the wrong time over a largely symbolic point because
they're so fed up with previous poor treatment. Most of us wouldn't take not being paid in another line of work. People know that
though and they exploit it. "That's the deal. If you can't do it, I'll get somebody else who will do it." The problem is that there are
many other people who will do it in this business.

What I want to add to what has been said here is to keep in mind a useful phrase, "Don't kill the job." I've seen it done
by people who put their foot down indignantly, on the wrong job, because they hadn't done so before, or because they were
insisting on unrealistic deals out of losing patience with this recurring situation.

You have to figure out what is right for you right now. Your time is valuable and you can always spend it preparing your own
projects. If you're going to work for someone else for free, at least for part of the job because you aren't getting paid fully,
be sure as you can what it's worth to you. Also, for everyone who doesn't want to hear about what your time is worth, there are those
who will respect your time if you show that you value it.
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#5 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 13 December 2009 - 07:48 AM

Earlier this year, I was hired to do steadicam on a commercial in the Bahamas. They booked my flight two days before the job, so I asked why. The producer told me that on the previous Bahamas job they had had problems with flights getting canceled, so they wanted to make sure I made it in time for the job. "Don't worry, you'll just have a free day in the Bahamas" the producer said. I had no scheduling conflict, so I said "fine". Well, on the day we got there the whole crew had dinner together, and at the end of dinner the director said, "See you all in the lobby at 9am". I asked the producer if I was suppossed to be there, and he said, "Yeah, we're just going to scout a little." Well, this hadn't been talked about, so I told him that I would scout if they gave me a half day. They said no, and I didn't scout. The director was unhappy, but since then, I've done three other jobs with the company and the same director, and it looks like I'll be going back to the Bahamas with them again next year. So in the end, my refusal to work for free didn't affect me negatively. It may have actually made them respect me more. But if I had done the scout day for free, they would have expected it every time I worked with them, but since I didn't, they know better than to ask.
There are certainly situations where you need to be flexible, but it needs to be worked out ahead of time. Allowing yourself to be taken advantage of can only hurt you in the long run. This particular situation was one where I thought I needed to stand up for myself, and I'm glad I did.
Every situation is different, but try to do what's right for YOU in each situation. The production company won't be looking out for your best interests.
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#6 Jeremy M Lundborg

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Posted 14 December 2009 - 10:39 PM

I think the simple answer here, as Brad said, is to look out for yourself accordingly.

Most productions, big or small, won't have their banks/hearts broken on a few dollars, just as we won't in the long run in our own lives.

Thank you all for your notes and anecdotes, it has been very helpful.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 12:10 AM

I think the simple answer here, as Brad said, is to look out for yourself accordingly.

Most productions, big or small, won't have their banks/hearts broken on a few dollars, just as we won't in the long run in our own lives.

Thank you all for your notes and anecdotes, it has been very helpful.


That's not so much my attitude -- my attitude is generally once I'm committed to a show, I'm committed to doing my best for them -- it's not about the money. I do whatever it takes to get the job done. If I start to put myself ahead of the production, then I'm serving myself instead of the final product. And if the final product suffers, then my career suffers. If I'm perceived as being selfish or difficult or unwilling to give 100%, then my career suffers. So to best serve my career, I have to best serve the project. The only thing I object to, besides unsafe work conditions and other abuse, is when nonsense happens that has nothing to do with making a better product, when decisions are made to suit egos, when other people are more interested in displays of power, stuff that actually has nothing to do with the actual shooting. I also hate when money is spent stupidly.

Though I should... I don't even generally check my paychecks to see if the hours are correct, as long as the total seems about right. I once had a camera crew that was going to walk off of a feature because they calculated that their paychecks for the week were about three dollars off, because of the way the accountant rounded off fractions. Three dollars! It was in the middle of the night and I was ready to just give them the cash to keep them there. Well, I never hired them again. I'm all for going to the accounting department and making sure everything is done correctly, but threatening to walk off a show or shut down production over some symbolic pennies just shows me that the person doesn't really want to be there.
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#8 David Rakoczy

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 08:24 AM

David, as you know it is usually a host of other reasons a crew wants to walk... the $3 was probably just the last straw.
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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 11:04 AM

I with David M on this one; when I get hired I do all I can for the project, and so long as I can cover my bills for the month I don't see the need to get hung up in the hassles of money. Granted, I've shot myself in the foot on more than one occasion like that; but i'm too damned stubborn to let it get to me.
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#10 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 12:17 PM

It depends. What if you cut somebody a deal, maybe your best ever deal because hey, it's in the Bahamas. Then you
go two days early because they want you to and evidently they can afford it and you think hey why not, it's in the Bahamas.
Then they want you to work and when you ask to get paid they say Dude! We thought you were cool. C'mon it'll be fun;
you're in the Bahamas.

I have done a lot of low budget productions when I sign on knowing that I may end up making six dollars an hour when I average out my rate against the hours. That's okay when it's clear. The producers say we can pay you only this much; anything more and we can't rent that HMI or have to cut into the dolly budget.

I's easy to get caught up in indignation. I've shot myself in the foot a couple of times too! Won the battle, lost the war.
However, if I signed on for some killer low budget production and they ask me to be there a couple days early to get a good start and they kind of sell me on that by saying that I'll have a couple days wherever, and then they change that
and maybe I sense that they might have been counting on doing that too then I would be inclined to set things straight
right then.

If the same thing happened and it weren't a low budget production then I would want to see if this is the way that they operate. If you can afford to fly me to the Bahamas and put me up for two days, then why can't you pay half a day
if I work?

What if they had asked for an extra day of Steadicam work? One shot of ten feet, easy than some days scouting
but you'd have to be on set all day?

The culture is getting harsher with producers who ask for more for less. Many of them come through the Craigslist world or similar and you hear more these days oh I know it's a low rate but you'll be shooting so and so or shooting in the famous such and such or whatever. It's kind of like what I heard about the early days
of music videos when everybody was excited and worked for low rates because it was cool. The first time; hey it's Rock and Roll. The second time hey it's Rock and Roll.

After that it was a job again. a good one maybe but one that should pay like any other.
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#11 Jeremy M Lundborg

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Posted 15 December 2009 - 06:47 PM

That's not so much my attitude -- my attitude is generally once I'm committed to a show, I'm committed to doing my best for them -- it's not about the money. I do whatever it takes to get the job done. If I start to put myself ahead of the production, then I'm serving myself instead of the final product. And if the final product suffers, then my career suffers. If I'm perceived as being selfish or difficult or unwilling to give 100%, then my career suffers. So to best serve my career, I have to best serve the project. The only thing I object to, besides unsafe work conditions and other abuse, is when nonsense happens that has nothing to do with making a better product, when decisions are made to suit egos, when other people are more interested in displays of power, stuff that actually has nothing to do with the actual shooting. I also hate when money is spent stupidly.


What I was attempting to say, if it wasn't clear enough on my end, is that in the long run a few dollars won't make a difference to me. I'd rather work than fuss about minor monetary details, especially at this early stage in my career.

You've made a valid point that anyone really interested in working in this business would agree with. I'd like to clarify that I consider my career the largest part of myself, and therefore to all your points I wholly concur.

What is good for my career is great for me.
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