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"Standard" Gear Packages

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Another question: what if production says no comteks will be needed (because they want to save money) and you still take them along just in case, then of course during the shoot suddenly clients etc. need comteks. Do you just hand them out and charge for them or do you ask for production's OK before? I've had that situation a couple of times on commercial/industry shoots.

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CS: " . Do you just hand them out and charge for them or do you ask for production's OK before? "

if production did not want to pay for them, I do not "hand them" out until production authorizes them (and the charges for them)

That is a no brainer; If I habd them out without the OK, then I am handing them out for free...

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Another question: what if production says no comteks will be needed (because they want to save money) and you still take them along just in case, then of course during the shoot suddenly clients etc. need comteks. Do you just hand them out and charge for them or do you ask for production's OK before? I've had that situation a couple of times on commercial/industry shoots.

 

I think this might fall into the "client good will" category. If they just needed a couple of Comteks and "forgot to ask" beforehand, and if this was a longtime client that gave me a lot of work, I might let it slide. But (as The Senator has reminded me) I do indicate any giveaways on the invoice as "n/c," reminding them they got something for free. This time. If this was a one-time gig, I'd have to have a conversation with the production manager about an additional fee.

 

If they wanted 14 Comteks on a commercial shoot, no way. That they would definitely have to pay for.

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CS said: " if production says no comteks will be needed (because they want to save money) "

and MW sez: " I think this might fall into the "client good will" category. "

it depends!

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$1800 a week was the policy at Fox last season. Did it go down even further to $1750?

 

For Fox, at that rate, my basic package included 6 wireless, 8 Comtek and 2 TC slates. Anything additional was to billed ala carte. However,  when I invoiced them, I discovered that they (the production supervisor and line producer) weren't aware of these limitations. All of my correspondence, including emails and equipment lists, detailed exactly what "Basic Package" meant, but somehow they "missed it". 

 

In a subsequent conversation, I found out two interesting things: 1) these guys figured $1800 bought them everything they could possibly need to record 1st unit sound for 12+ episodes. 2) they made it sound like productions, at least at Fox, would rather rent from vendors than mixers, particularly for additional rentals.

 

We worked out our deal in the end, but it did get contentious at times, which sucks.

Just part of a team that declined a fox deal which was $2000/week for a package.. they had paid us $2500/week for a show last year

The other wrinkle was that they wanted to pay ASA scale for Boom and Utility, and no rental to the boom op.

To add insult to injury, they completely violated a no-quote on the labor rates deal from previous year, and pulled the tax records from payroll company to get the mixer's rate from the past contract.

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On TV shows lately, I've found when working directly for networks like Fox or ABC that there are strict dictates for what a "standard sound package" rents for while the lesser subsidiaries like FX and A&E treat mixers with more understanding in regards to gear rental. Presently, I'm on an ABC show where we have to limit what we use to what's included in the "standard package" and then bill for extra gear when needed. A problem arises as I am not an approved vendor for ABC so we have to work out a situation to pass through the billing of those items. I carry loads of items that aren't included in the "standard package" on the show that get rented as needed as long as I get a green light from the UPM. Otherwise it stays on the trailer. Not really my problem and production understands how they are getting pinched from above from the network policies. This seems to stem from folks from accounting moving into decision making rolls overseeing our shows.

My first episode on our show had an impulsive creative decision made to do two sides of a phone call in a single shot across a large concert hall. We had to sort out a cueing system which turned into a couple of earwigs. Not a big deal technically. The real issue was standing my ground and not just throwing in the gear for nothing to appease my new bosses. It worked out. They figured out the "sub rental", got the shot, saved a bunch of money, and I earned their respect for not bending over. We had 50+ folks on OT and to do both sides of the shot would have cost many times what my little addition rented for. If we played by the hard and fast network policies of "no additional rentals without prior approval", it would have cost more and been a much less compelling version of the scene.

And don't even get me started on the old 3 competitive bids bizarreness.

The sad reality is that these network policies partially stem from greedy mixers who have ripped them off. And yes, some of our sound brethren are just as greedy and short sighted as the producers I hear complained about incessantly on this site. And sad as it may be, the fast and loose days are over and the pendulum has swung into a very cheap nasty phase where we can often feel like we're not trusted to make decisions as a department head. This coincides with a larger vibe of corporations being run by simplistic accountants rather than real decision makers. Grounds for a lot of potential resentment but how do we engage this?

 

I'm for sunlight and transparency. On my ABC show I get $2k/wk for a gear package that does NOT include slates. ABC owns our show's slates but that's another long story.

My last FX show was $2400/wk for sound/slates/clockits. 

My last on Fox was $1950/wk  w/slates and clockits.

 

Now posting these numbers may be bad form, but I think in the long run an open discussion about it all is best rather than talking in vagaries and hypotheticals.

 

Feel free to undercut me and make me feel bad.

 

Scott Harber

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It is a strange time we find ourselves in Scott. Accountants make decisions that line producers and PM's use to make. Many of those folks were hard nosed cats but they knew how and why we made the product (Film, TV) and what was needed to do so. 3 bids is just bs paper work and avoidance of making a real decisions and being held accountable IMO.

 Also you bring up a great point, "Greed" on both sides of the line.... I've seen the "2 hands, 4 pockets" of crew members stealing both large and small in a short sighted way. Not pretty to be around. I think it's great you posted your gear rates of late. Not sure others will, but I also like transparency. Thanks for the post.

CrewC

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  Well, I see it as a problem with US... The sound mixers who continue to agree to rates on a downward spiral. The Producers and suits have a job to do... Make money, save money, move money around... Unless WE ALL start to watch out for the craft as a whole, we are doomed to a continued diet of "bend over and take this NEW amount for your gear package..."  Rates for your time as well ..

 

   This is as we know, not new, it has been brought up here time and time again, yet... it continues to fester... and slip downward...

 

  Fox is not the bad guy... we are...

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Another question: what if production says no comteks will be needed (because they want to save money) and you still take them along just in case, then of course during the shoot suddenly clients etc. need comteks. Do you just hand them out and charge for them or do you ask for production's OK before? I've had that situation a couple of times on commercial/industry shoots.

 

This MO sounds like a UPM budget ploy.   Of course you are wise AND professional to bring them along, just in case. 

Your professional foresight has ALSO saved your initial client, who's own clients (director, producers, agency folks, etc etc) might well be upset that they didn't have them on their "order"....   When that happens to me, I go straight to my contact first and make sure that they understand the request and the requisite charges.   ONE Lectro R1 = $1000+ investment, with transmitter & receiver - and $50 is my norm, with an additional 20 - 25 for each additional (plus 9v batteries).

 

If that's happening to you with any frequency, I'd continue to be proactive and also let your marketplace friends know that it's going on.  You should all be together on that issue.

 

MF

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MF: " This MO sounds like a UPM budget ploy. "

which can backfire on them...

I may initially offer to include the "ears" at a lower rate while negotiating the package, but if I'm about to save their collective butts, I do it at full rates...

 

and thanks Scott for the sunshine, yes, some of us probably have contributed to hurting the golden goose....

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Just part of a team that declined a fox deal which was $2000/week for a package.. they had paid us $2500/week for a show last year

The other wrinkle was that they wanted to pay ASA scale for Boom and Utility, and no rental to the boom op.

To add insult to injury, they completely violated a no-quote on the labor rates deal from previous year, and pulled the tax records from payroll company to get the mixer's rate from the past contract.

Haven't heard of ASA rates for any IATSE position in Los Angeles. Is this something new?

 

 

On TV shows lately, I've found when working directly for networks like Fox or ABC that there are strict dictates for what a "standard sound package" rents for while the lesser subsidiaries like FX and A&E treat mixers with more understanding in regards to gear rental. Presently, I'm on an ABC show where we have to limit what we use to what's included in the "standard package" and then bill for extra gear when needed. A problem arises as I am not an approved vendor for ABC so we have to work out a situation to pass through the billing of those items. I carry loads of items that aren't included in the "standard package" on the show that get rented as needed as long as I get a green light from the UPM. Otherwise it stays on the trailer. Not really my problem and production understands how they are getting pinched from above from the network policies. This seems to stem from folks from accounting moving into decision making rolls overseeing our shows.

My first episode on our show had an impulsive creative decision made to do two sides of a phone call in a single shot across a large concert hall. We had to sort out a cueing system which turned into a couple of earwigs. Not a big deal technically. The real issue was standing my ground and not just throwing in the gear for nothing to appease my new bosses. It worked out. They figured out the "sub rental", got the shot, saved a bunch of money, and I earned their respect for not bending over. We had 50+ folks on OT and to do both sides of the shot would have cost many times what my little addition rented for. If we played by the hard and fast network policies of "no additional rentals without prior approval", it would have cost more and been a much less compelling version of the scene.

And don't even get me started on the old 3 competitive bids bizarreness.

The sad reality is that these network policies partially stem from greedy mixers who have ripped them off. And yes, some of our sound brethren are just as greedy and short sighted as the producers I hear complained about incessantly on this site. And sad as it may be, the fast and loose days are over and the pendulum has swung into a very cheap nasty phase where we can often feel like we're not trusted to make decisions as a department head. This coincides with a larger vibe of corporations being run by simplistic accountants rather than real decision makers. Grounds for a lot of potential resentment but how do we engage this?

 

I'm for sunlight and transparency. On my ABC show I get $2k/wk for a gear package that does NOT include slates. ABC owns our show's slates but that's another long story.

My last FX show was $2400/wk for sound/slates/clockits. 

My last on Fox was $1950/wk  w/slates and clockits.

 

Now posting these numbers may be bad form, but I think in the long run an open discussion about it all is best rather than talking in vagaries and hypotheticals.

 

Feel free to undercut me and make me feel bad.

 

Scott Harber

I also added sync boxes to bolster the cut rate rental at Fox. I know mixers who don't like to be responsible for these devices, which I can understand, but they rent well...unlike the actual sound gear :blink:

 

I appreciate the candid discussion of rental rates. Recently my rates have varied between $2k (Fox style basic package, no sync boxes) and $2.5k (includes all comtek and wireless, 3 slates, no playback, no sync boxes), unless it's WB, then of course it's $0.

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@John.. I am in the hinterlands, and we are forced to deal with ASA rates quite often..

though there was also some argument from 600 on improperly low rates being offered on a series as opposed to pilot, as well as some attempt to ignore previous instances of higher rates being paid to certain over scale crew.

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I have discovered rates on gear in other states is higher than LA. Perhaps to make up for the labor rate being lower usually, or perhaps because in a smaller area, these smart guys have agreed not to let gear rates drop.

It's important for us to share rates so mixers can say to the networks, "It's not true *** can only pay $xxxx/wk. I have several colleagues who receive more."

On my ProdCo/ABC Family show I was paid $1900/wk. They wouldn't rent Lockits from me as the camera house "included" them at first, and subsequently we jammed Alexa from the slates. I charged extra for playback and bell/light and other bits to make up the difference.

On the ABC Family/ProdCo pilot I did, the UPM insisted $1800 was the max. I told him the other show was $1900, so we charged $50/wk for slates to make it up.

NBC/Uni gave me $1800 take it or leave it ultimatum. UPM was a dick. I tried to get extra for slates or playback or anything. He said no. It was why I decided to leave the show to go back to my other show. He also said it was too much trouble to rent additional gear from me, which is why he wanted everything included. But any time ANYTHING extra was needed, I had them rent from LSC at more than I would have charged. I wasn't giving it away. No good will.

I'll add that my ABC Family show was shot under a low-budget agreement. My daughter works in the office, so I know they kept trimming the budget to see how cheap they could make the show. Viewership was low.

I can't see why fully funded network shows with proper viewership can't shell out a more for gear.

Robert

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I was watching a show with a GF the other evening  (no names to protect the guilty!)...

at the end she said to me: "that show might have been better if they had more Comtek's..."

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I was watching a show with a GF the other evening  (no names to protect the guilty!)...

at the end she said to me: "that show might have been better if they had more Comtek's..."

What about the other way around:

 

"Why did they cancel my favorite show?"

"I heard that too many comteks blew the budget"

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I explained to her that it wasn't the number of Comteks, it was that they should have used a better system for wireless listening

 

JB: " those swelled iPowers "

iPower: " HELP, I've swollen, and I can't get out! "

Edited by studiomprd

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I remember when Film/TV sound packages were on par with Commercial packages, however, that is not the world we live in today.  I see this with Grip/Electric, Camera and Props, even though our packages are all privately owned, operated and maintained.  I've been on an FX comedy for seven seasons, took the hit initially and accepted the putrid $1750.00/wk.  It's changed a bit, but what I negotiated instead, was a full-time fourth sound person who can wire, 3rd boom, and can step in when someone has to 10-1 or take a call.  That makes my mixing life much more efficient and enjoyable.  Regarding extra gear, I'll do a per-episode budget for extra sound equipment and submit it to the UPM for approval as early as I can.  Usually, computer music/audio playback, VOG, extra wireless, when line-itemed and explained for What & When are not an issue.  If they don't want to pay the rental, it does not come out.  I did another show with a 4th sound person and was told that the extra man was no problem, but all box/equipment rentals run up the flag pole to the network's production exec., and need to be approved by corporate accounting as well.  I hate not being paid correctly for gear, but there are creative work-arounds to ease the pain. 

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GF: " accepted the putrid $1750.00/wk. "

are you saying, after 7 seasons, you have not made any (plenty?) $$ on your gear ??

 

hmmm:

$1750 x 22 episodes* x 7 seasons =  $269,500.00

*with (only) 5 day episodes

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