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Lesson One -- Raise Your Rates, and WIN


Cujo
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" I'll be considered for work with them when they have a proper budget. "

er...

didn't they promise that by doing this one cheap, you would be hired for all their future more money work..??

yeah...

forget it, they won't have any more projects, anyway, and if they do0 they will be just as cheap.

There were no promises of future work. It's sort of like...if the budget actually is that low, then let their production do what they will, and when they realize that they need to budget more to get quality then it's possible to get called. They won't rehire the same crew, they'll get all new people. That is, if they fix their mistakes. This 10 page a day production is going to be rough for them.

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Alexander,

My compliments. You're now thinking like a successful person. With that approach, it'll only get better for you.

On the last two gigs I turned down (both reality-based-run-n-gun), they each offered way below my normal rate. On both, I told them what it would take to hire me and each of them called back with a better offer than they started with. I ended up turning them both down, but the point is, when each of these companies felt they were dealing with someone with experience and ability, they managed to find more money in the budget for sound.

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Have been reading this thread with great interest and trying to put it to use

Got a call the other day,fellow says he is shooting a feature for 2 days this month and 2 days next month ( red flag 1 )

I politely ask what camera and am told Canon, not sure of model. ( red flag 2 ).

He goes on and says there is NO script ,it is all going to be improv with theatre actors ( Big Red Flag 3 )

He asks what would I charge a day for sound

( he also told me there were about 12 actors)

I took a minute and told him I would do the job for $1800.............a day

He said is that price negotiatable ?

I told him not really due to the fact of his large cast being like a reality shoot that I would have to bring in

Two other professional sound people to make sure we cover all the action and capture the very best sound

For his film, as the action happened and not interrupting the creative work of his actors.

I explained we MUST capture the dialogue as it happens , because we only get one chance

He said that was really not in his budget said thank you and the conversation ended politely

I really did not want to even get near this ,sounded like a train wreck.

But. You really don't know who you are talking to on the phone

I assumed this was just someone with a poor plan to make a movie for fun but it could have been a person

With a lot of cash and backing ,I figure just go with the flow and see what happens

And if he does call back with the money I'll be scrambling to meet some other soundies in Chicago !

Tom

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ypdated edit: didn't they promise that whoever does this one cheap, would be hired for all their future more money work..??that

is the usual promise for doing this one for (next to) nothing...

" they realize that they need to budget more to get quality "

other threads keep discussing this, but the reality is, there is really only one requirement they really have, and that is $$$; quality at their price is perhaps iffy, but possible, certainly up to their other production values.

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There were no promises of future work. It's sort of like...if the budget actually is that low, then let their production do what they will, and when they realize that they need to budget more to get quality then it's possible to get called. They won't rehire the same crew, they'll get all new people. That is, if they fix their mistakes. This 10 page a day production is going to be rough for them.

There is a world of, say, commercial people that scrape together some $ and make a moovee. If you do that thing for $100/day all in, they will always think of you as the $100/day soundie, not the person worthy of real rates. The idea of getting your foot in the door is tough because an underbudgetted film is pretty definitely going to have lots of sound issues, so it's not like you will magically nail it. To be honest, to most people it has to take a while for the person that is willing to work for $100 to be worth $500/day (plus kit).

Do any of your officer workers say "hey, I got a 5x raise this week!".

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I'm going to weigh in on this.... I have yet to properly introduce myself on this forum and I don't think this thread is the right place to do it, but here is an abbreviated version: I moved to LA around 5 years ago with no intention of working in this industry, but with a strong background in audio, albiet music related. The first friend I met here happened to be a sound mixer. He worked mostly ENG gigs, BTS, interviews, and whatnot. He was happy to mentor me figuring he could get his kit working on days he wasn't booked. One day he called me up and said "hey, I sold all my gear, I'm moving to upstate NY to rekindle a relationship with my mother." That was three years ago. I was partially trained, but had no gear and no confidence. I didn't work on set in the audio department again until a couple of months ago. In the interim, I've been working in reality tv in a production or AC capacity.

Since I've started taking audio jobs the last couple of months, I have only worked 1 day at a "lowball, bottom feeder" rate of $300 for an 8 hour day. I'm regularly pulling around $700/day including a basic ENG kit. I went into it knowing full well what mixers make as I've seen many paychecks on the reality gigs I've worked. I have not had one person tell me that my rates are too high. I have not had one complaint from post, so I guess I'm doing OK. I don't own the gear to "value add" to a job, but I've been firm with my rates and have got production to cover any additional rentals I need to do my job.

I would be at the rates I'm at without this forum, but you guys have really helped to reassure me that I'm on the right path. Just remember that your day rate has to cover the total cost for you to be in business... It has to pay your rent/mortgage, pay your car note, insurance, bills, days off, medical expenses, retirement account, new gear, repairs, insurance, meals, liesure, wife's shopping trips, clothes, kids' day care, school supplies. holiday gifts, hobbies, ad nauseam.

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There were no promises of future work. It's sort of like...if the budget actually is that low, then let their production do what they will, and when they realize that they need to budget more to get quality then it's possible to get called. They won't rehire the same crew, they'll get all new people. That is, if they fix their mistakes. This 10 page a day production is going to be rough for them.

You nailed it. I passed on two feature length shoots this year because of rate. I talked to them and told them the lowest I was willing to go for me, my kit and my boom op. We were too far off, so I passed on their last offer. Of course they found somebody, but it was somebody without proper gear. Suddenly they realize they had somebody with inferior wireless mics, no Comteks/IFB, no timecode slate etc. They had to rent those bits of gear and ended up handing them to a mixer that didn't know how to use them.

I know more than I should because I had friends in production on those sets, but the top decision maker on location said more than once "we should have just spent the money and hired one of those other sound mixers" (meaning me). If I had taken the job, we would have given it 100% and done it right. Production would think they really could get a proper mixer, boom op and kit for whatever the crap rate was. To be real, a lot of them have no idea how much experience and knowledge it takes to do a better job than student films. They also don't realize how expensive our gear is. I find it awkward, but I have had to lay out what things cost that they want for free.... pointing out that it's not like buying a wrench. They do have to go back for fixin' after abuse by somebody not in my department (like a slate or transmitter).

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Think and this side. If you have done one job for $100. For what? For rent house? For the bills? For taxes? For your life (beers, walks, cinema etc)? It's better to stay in house or go for a walk. Because If you accepted job for $100 it's more bad for you and sound community.

I think this is most important lesson for the future sound mixers, directors, camera operators and all other crew in film community.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well well. Since I updated my equipment list and rental rates, I found I charged too little for equipment. So I got this call last week for a shoot, and the producer said he need wireless (which he knows I have), and with the wireless I could charge up to (amount X). I said nono, amount X is the rate for my work, equipment is extra. He said he'd see what he "could do". Got a call two days later that he rented the equipment at higher rate (?) but got a cheaper boom op (???). I said thanks and that I'm perfectly happy glad to stay at home and watch some Pro Tools tutorials and work on my general terms and conditions paper for future jobs.

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  • 5 months later...

Got a call like this yesterday and today.  Here is the email I received after quoting $550/day + travel and expenses with mixer/recorder/boom/lav.  I was referred by a good client so I felt comfortable with that rate.  The response:

 

"I'm just going to come right out and ask - would you consider reducing your day rate a bit?  I am working on the financing now and definitely want to pay you for your expertise and equipment - I'm just curious if you would consider a reduced rate.  Please let me know your thoughts."

 

I thought that rate is/was more than fair.  Especially since it's a few hours drive and I'll be away for 4 days.  I plan on saying that the rate is already discounted and they will have a hard time even renting gear with a competent operator for that price.  I think.  Maybe I'll say something else.  Anyone? Anyone?

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Got a call like this yesterday and today. Here is the email I received after quoting $550/day + travel and expenses with mixer/recorder/boom/lav. I was referred by a good client so I felt comfortable with that rate. The response:

"I'm just going to come right out and ask - would you consider reducing your day rate a bit? I am working on the financing now and definitely want to pay you for your expertise and equipment - I'm just curious if you would consider a reduced rate. Please let me know your thoughts."

I thought that rate is/was more than fair. Especially since it's a few hours drive and I'll be away for 4 days. I plan on saying that the rate is already discounted and they will have a hard time even renting gear with a competent operator for that price. I think. Maybe I'll say something else. Anyone? Anyone?

$550/day for you and all your gear is very low. You should raise your rate quite a lot from that just for them asking!

Production Sound Mixing for Television, Film, and Commercials.

www.matthewfreed.com

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someone in the bay area is doing a 788 and multiple wireless for $300 or less all in. 

It just occurred me that the people doing these "deals" are just failing (refusing?) to adopt the historic film/tv model of charging rent for their equipment on top of a day rate paid for their work.

 

As a long time still photographer in the news/editorial world when I get a gig I wouldn't dream of asking a magazine client to pay a rental fee for the $18K+ of camera and lighting gear (purchased over the years) that I have available as they'd laugh themselves to death. It just isn't done in that world and never has been.

 

The photographer is expected to supply everything but exceptional gear (say, half a dozen high powered flash packs and heads to light an arena or an 800mm/5.6 telephoto) with the exceptional stuff's rental being reimbursed. Photographers that specialize in certain areas are even expected to own the exceptional stuff (300mm/2.8 and/or 400mm/2.8 for sports photographers) with no extra payment. The photographer is also expected to own some decent computer gear for processing and photo transmission.

 

One diff in the still photo system is the fact that the photographer usually retains the copyright to any pictures taken and only leases their use to the client since they're independent agents and not employees.

 

You get a day rate plus expenses (food, travel, etc.) and that's it. It sucks but that's the way that system works.

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It's not any better here when we have guys with Coopers and AD mixer boards full decked out with Lectros and Schoeps OK charging $150/day! Perplexed we all are.

Rather than point fingers, join together and raise awareness to the others who might not know or are just taking the gig since they know the next guy will take it for that rate.

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Rather than point fingers, join together and raise awareness to the others who might not know or are just taking the gig since they know the next guy will take it for that rate.

Not pointing fingers, rather simply stating that there are folks who actually do know the usual rates for these kind of packages, yet, only charging themselves to near zero rate because they have no other gigs to come by afterwards and are offering the lowest bid to get the projects.  It's been happening for well over a decade and 20+ years, not only in this biz but including other industries such as manufacturing and tech world.  My post does not call out any certain individual since I know many who do own the stated exotic packages and equipments, but after finding out two months ago from a PA that the package offered was so cheap it not only triggered a reaction among several mixers in the 200+ mile region, the rental companies as well are being competed.

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someone in the bay area is doing a 788 and multiple wireless for $300 or less all in. 

The only reasonable explanation why we have no dips about this person is the producers are keeping it all to themselves.  788+wireless package I can actually see being charged for said $300 rate, with the only exception of an equipments-only deal.  Keep your spirits up.

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Got a call like this yesterday and today. Here is the email I received after quoting $550/day + travel and expenses with mixer/recorder/boom/lav. I was referred by a good client so I felt comfortable with that rate. The response:

"I'm just going to come right out and ask - would you consider reducing your day rate a bit? I am working on the financing now and definitely want to pay you for your expertise and equipment - I'm just curious if you would consider a reduced rate. Please let me know your thoughts."

I thought that rate is/was more than fair. Especially since it's a few hours drive and I'll be away for 4 days. I plan on saying that the rate is already discounted and they will have a hard time even renting gear with a competent operator for that price. I think. Maybe I'll say something else. Anyone? Anyone?

The person contacting you did not say you were outside the budget. He asked if you would consider a lower rate. Think about it for a second.

On the flip side, when you get a call for work, ask what the budget is and then ask for more. You might be surprised.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I used the old "I'll throw in a couple Comteks yada yada" I've seen on here before and now I'm booked for 4 days in the summer.  All good as far as I'm concerned, I got a slightly better rate, and I got a boom op too!  It's a student, but a student who actually has boomed before, likes it, and "gets it" so to speak.  A win, thanks to this thread.

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The $550 seems really really low, but there is the controversial "are rates lower in places with a lower cost of living". Not picking a side on that for this discussion, but let's say you are going that way..... 

Even if it's cheap where you live (I have no idea), that's low for gear if it includes a recorder. I think most of the US charges $150-$200 for a basic interview kit of mixer with one boom and 2 lavs cabled to a camera (no wireless hop). Maybe it's changed, but that's what rental houses were charging. From there everything can be considered an upgrade. Depending on your recorder (Zoom H2 or 744?), you are not making much at all for your labor. 

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I just moved to town and spoke with a couple other mixers a while back and made sure I was on the same page as far as our rates go.  I got a better rate than I started with and I don't have to bring the kitchen sink either.  But I will bring a recorder haha.  Thanks for the good advice jp.

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