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Hello all,

I'm writing today to see the general stance on an 'indie rate'. I have been doing bag work for nearly a decade now and have generally turned down or priced myself out of all the indie flicks that have come my way. What can I say, I like my predictable 10 hour full rate days and have gotten pretty good at it.

Lately however, I'm being asked more and more to quote on indie projects. Sometimes from regular 'corporate' clients who themselves are branching out. One thing that gets said to me often is 'you have to realize this is an indie project...'. As if that's supposed to be an automatic discount for my labour and equipment. So far I've held fast to my rates and when the money has been there I've taken the odd indie movie. Recently however, one such regular client has come to me about an indie and the PM they've got negotiating with me is using all the cliche's she has in her arsenal to get me to lower my rate. The problem for me is that I just don't have the equipment necessary to do this project properly without investing in some significant equipment upgrades. I love this group of people and would love to help out, but financially it's not making a lot of sense. I'm probably going to pass on the job and slowly add more gear to my kit so that the next time I'm in this position I might have a little more wiggle room to help out.

That leads me to this: is there such thing as an 'indie rate', and when, where and why would you offer one? There are times when I think doing an indie might be fun for a week or when I'd like to help out a really good client who is trying something different. But I have a very hard time deciding when I should offer that rate as I'd hate the idea of losing out on fully paid work or selling myself short in general. I don't have to tell most of you how we as technicians don't have reels and really aren't in this for any sort of glory. So, do you have an indie rate, and how does it compare to your usual film package? Do you ask production what their overall budget is in helping to determine your rate? Should it be a certain % of their budget?

 

Thanks in advance!

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There is no tried-and-true answer to this question. There have been many past discussions on rates here, and part of the stickler is what equipment package is covered as the rental for the project. Producers tend to think of sound as being "one thing," but the reality is that it's both labor and equipment rental, and they have it in their head that there's one low, low price that covers everything, whether it's one guy alone in a chair or 10 people sitting around a table all talking at the same time, plus doing three company moves a day. And that is just not true.

For a union production in North America, there are specific IA rates that cover the minimums of what sound mixers and boom ops should make for given budget ranges (Tier 1-2-3). I have had producers for fairly decent-budgeted films ($2M+) come to me and insist they're shooting a "Tier 0" production, they want to go union, but are only prepared to pay $300 all in for the sound department. I generally politely laugh and tell them that that wouldn't even begin to pay just the equipment rental bill, let alone the labor. They don't like to hear this, but it's the truth. I swear, I don't know where half these guys get the numbers in their line-item budgets, because they're entirely make-believe and have no meaning in the real world. 

While there are set rates and rules for union shoots, the sad thing is that there are no rules for non-union productions. It's whatever you can charge. I have sat down with producers before and shown them equipment rental cards from all the local pro audio companies and patiently explained to them that it'll cost a minimum of $300-$350 just for the daily equipment (plus any extras we might need), plus another X hundred per day for my time, X hundred for the boom op, plus overtime over a certain number of hours. The non-pros often express shock that the number is as high as it is. I have and will knocked my rate down slightly when it was a great opportunity to work with people I like, or the project is particularly interesting, but at some point, it's just business and you gotta stand firm.

The current IATSE Low-Budget Agreement is here:

http://www.iatse411.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014-2016-Low-Budget-Agreement.pdf

Read that and be prepared to work for less for non-union companies. There's a chance you might be able to base your rate on a percentage of this -- say, 2/3 or 3/4 of the union rate -- but equipment costs what it costs, period. If a job requires 10 wireless mics and two booms, they gotta pay for that. And make sure you get a deal memo so these terms are specified in writing, and they're insuring your gear. 

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I agree with Marc. Your rate you can accept whatever is fine with you. But stand firm on equipment rental. Even when I worked on student films, I always insisted on equipment rental. I would discount that when I liked the people or the film, but it's not normal. If they don't have the budget for lots of gear, I brought a small package, maybe just recorder, mic and boom. But make sure they know what that means.

If you think you need to buy gear to work on this project, consider renting it

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If its a project you want to do, and they can agree to a labor rate you can afford to accept,

but requires extra gear, invite them to rent that gear.

In Canada, you have well stocked rental houses. While you can cross rent on their behalf, and may be able to negotiate a little on the published rates, you are taking on some liability with an indie if there is loss or damage.

The line in the sand that I have drawn is on production insurance.

Your gear must be covered by a binder which lists you as a loss payee and co-insured certificate holder (thats the legal language in the USA).

AND the production must agree in writing to cover the deductible costs.  Also, they need to clearly take responsibility for any loss and damage that they are unwilling to submit as claims to their insurance.

 

 

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Thanks for the replies all. I've definitely read a lot of the talks on here on rates over the years and I'm grateful for all of that info. I stick hard to a full rate and it's worked out great - weeding out the bad clients for good.

And I guess I shouldn't complain - they're not offering peanuts. I've currently got them at $450 for gear. Being a bag guy I've always just charged a la carte - so I really don't have a 'film package' or a rate for that type of kit. A la carte the rate would be much more than that, but perhaps that's a fair rate in a package deal?

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$450 a day is on the low side of the rate for up to 6 channel cart in my market.  Try to get them to rent the slates and TC boxes outside of your kit, if you don't own them. 

about 10 comteks and 2 IFBs would be the support for this kind of package on a pilot or low budget film in my market.  this does not include labor at all.

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If an independent filmmaker has 50K to make her magnum opus, she's not going to spend even 1/10 of that on sound...irrespective of what grumpy sound peeps think.

The world is chock fucking full of mouth-breathing knuckleheads in noisy clothing who want to tell a poorly written story about one-dimensional males killing other one-dimensional males in HD.

If you don't want to accept their rate, then don't. They're not ethically defective because they can't pay you your full, corporate, precedent. 

best

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15 hours ago, atheisticmystic said:

If an independent filmmaker has 50K to make her magnum opus, she's not going to spend even 1/10 of that on sound...irrespective of what grumpy sound peeps think.

The world is chock fucking full of mouth-breathing knuckleheads in noisy clothing who want to tell a poorly written story about one-dimensional males killing other one-dimensional males in HD.

If you don't want to accept their rate, then don't. They're not ethically defective because they can't pay you your full, corporate, precedent. 

best

LOTD. Thanks Steven. 

(BTW, it's not HD - it's 4K!)

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