Right, good for you, no reason you should cut your rate.

One day, I promise, one day I’ll get back to Content versus Style-ismo.

Today is not that day.

We start of with news that my business insurance premium has been raised, and it is coming due. Now this year has been okay, but I’ve had some unforeseen expenses, and one client has shut down production while they reorganize their video plan. So I’m a little bit hungry. I reply to a craigslist ad, and watch the video that the person said they wanted to emulate. I write them and explain what it looked like it took to shoot that original project. I explain that looking for a film student, is not going to serve them well. They will need three people (not including someone to actually produce and organize the shoot – but just technical crew.) If they go with a film student, it isn’t going to work out really well – it isn’t going to work out well for anyone who tries to one man band it. Their response is that they don’t have much budget, but if I could work within their budget limitations. . .

It’s a fine question – JUST WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR BUDGET HERE? You don’t mention what it is. I’ve inquired politely, I will await a reply.  I’m not against doing a little educating of newer people – I mean I had to learn too, and I had lots of people assist me in learning (some used baseball bats, but most were nice.)

Then I get a text from a client – who last week canceled a job for Friday – Suddenly it is back on – but now different. Sadly the rate to begin with is really my half day rate, and here is the kicker because he just asks if I am available, if I say yes, he says booked – and then thinks he can pay me anything. I ask the rate, and the hours. So the rate is my half day rate – and he says oh the shoot is 15 hours. 15 hours – I’m pretty sure that is illegal. The insurance bill is staring me in the face, and there is the matter of my wife’s anniversary gift. BUT NO. This will not stand. I start talking with the other cameraman (actually for this job there will be three, count them, three underpaid cameramen.) In the end I agree, but I am not bringing any lights for that stupid little amount of money. I’ll lose the gig, and the client – yep I’m sure.

I care, I have bills to pay, so I care, but seriously. A half day rate for what is a double day. I’ve worked with this client before and the jobs aren’t getting better. I don’t get it. He seems to know what he is doing, he has excellent people skills. Isn’t it your responsibility as a producer to tell the client what you can and cannot do for the budget? He’s promising his client 3 cameras, and there isn’t enough budget to cover. It’s as if the client says I don’t have anymore, so the producer says okay, I’ll take it out of someone else. I remember decades ago wen I worked in animation, and a producer called me and asked what my rate was – when I told her she said – “will you take $50, less?” I didn’t want to, so I said no – she replied “Right, good for you , no reason you should, I’ll get it from somewhere else.” I got the gig, and my rate. Sometimes I forget about that day.

Well we work out a deal, the producer for this job and I, as I say, I’m flexible, I’ll work with you on things. Just lets be sane and realistic here. So The rate has been bumped up, and now I’ll bring the light kit. So the moola, and the gig persist – Now I just have to reschedule the interview that conflicts with the sudden shoot. Of course the poor other cameraman – he’s got to go find a PA, for a bad rate, why the producer isn’t hiring the PA, I don’t know. Oh right, once the cameraman is bringing the gear, and the producer doesn’t have to negotiate with the rental house or find insurance – what is it he’s doing again? Oh yeah, once the producer is relying on the crew to arrange all the gear and the equipment – well you know where I’m going with this. The cost of the medium has dropped, so the media is so cheap, there s no respect for it, or rather what it takes to create a project. What has to be done to protect the investment. The investment is the talent and time of the people working on the project, its not just the cost of the media.

Just remember -“Right, good for you, no reason you should cut your rate.”

Thanks for reading.

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4 Responses to Right, good for you, no reason you should cut your rate.

  1. Justin April 28, 2011 at 5:17 am #

    Hey man I am an actor, but for my survival gig (one of them) I free-lance in TV and film as an audio tech and sometimes even produce or direct- and I have been forced to cut my rates over the last 4 years to compete. I have 3 kids and a mortgage, and I feel this pain all the time. I finally have had to start saying NO to people and raising my rates. Equals less work to be sure, so I have had to work harder at other things, like my retail business. These days I am booking with only two or three clients that are repeats. Makes me want to just get out completely! And forget auditioning…. dreams in the dust! But we love it so we keep fighting. Good post!

  2. Norman April 28, 2011 at 11:32 am #

    Nice launch, Steven. Welcome to reelgrok. I think we all know this producer, the one cutting corners, the one who means well but keeps getting squeezed by clients and shrinking budgets. Thanks for standing up for your rights; that helps us all.

  3. sgladstone April 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Thanks Norman – Justin good post man. I know, rates are down everywhere – but it is a little nuts. Following up, the other cameraman is still searching for a 3rd cameraman for the shoot for a crappy rate. So now it is his responsibility to find the third, and he will spend his entire day finding someone, and if he doesn’t come through, he gets the blame. Some producers are like this, and I’ve had my fill of extending myself. There isn’t any extra money to do their job, and then I catch the blame if it doesn’t work out. There are some producers I’ll stick my neck out for, but that’s because they do their job and they’ve just hit a roadblock. Now this poor other cameraman has just burned 4 potential contacts of other cameramen because he asked them to work ridiculous hours for a crappy rate. I hope he has learned – anyway this client – I gave him to the other cameraman – or I gave the other cameraman to the producer just to avoid having to be asked t do way to much that isn’t my job to cover the producer. I lost a weekend with my family because that producer couldn’t handle the client, and promised the world, and didn’t say to the client well you were unprepared and now I have to pay these guys extra because your unpreparedness cost a days work. Sorry sounds like I’m just venting here. Creation costs – once in a while you can do it cheap, call in favors, but that isn’t a sustainable business model.

  4. Tracy Ready April 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    I feel your pain buddy, same situation here in Texas. I wrote about from my perspective here>

    Comments and feedback welcome.

    All we can do is keep on keepin’ on…

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