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Lowballing reaches an all-time low?


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#1 Tom Wills

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 03:13 AM

Tonight I got a call from a producer, asking me to work on a shoot. Seemed interesting enough, until he got into the details. Apparently, I was to be hired for 2 days to help shoot a trailer. For a movie that (as far as I can tell) had not yet been made. That's strange enough, but the best part came when he mentioned payment.

He wanted me to sign a contract that would "pay me on the back end". The back end of a film, that may or may not get made, that I would be shooting a trailer for. The level of absurdity boggles my mind. Sure, I'm a newbie, but really? I'm supposed to show up on set with gear that I payed my hard earned money for, work for 20 hours, and hand over the footage in the hope that I might get something back in the future?

Truly bizarre. Anyone else have any funny stories?
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#2 William Demeritt

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 03:28 AM

He wanted me to sign a contract that would "pay me on the back end". The back end of a film, that may or may not get made, that I would be shooting a trailer for. The level of absurdity boggles my mind. Sure, I'm a newbie, but really? I'm supposed to show up on set with gear that I payed my hard earned money for, work for 20 hours, and hand over the footage in the hope that I might get something back in the future?


I've done this once, but it was a favor for my friend who was the DP (not just a "friend" but an actual friend that I go way back with). I also worked only a few hours, albeit in some annoying terrain, but it was all good.

I guess it just comes down to whether you think it's a good opportunity or not. If you think about it, maybe they get a product to shop around, and you get footage to use for your reel. Make sure the contract states that, if they get the movie made and they make any money off it, you get your FULL rate and maybe some hopes of working on the feature. Also couldn't hurt to try to negotiate some points out of it.

Hey, it's a gamble, but if you have no other work that day, and you want to do it, go for it?
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#3 Brian Freesh

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 03:56 AM

I agree with Will. I've never done this myself, but have heard of it being quite worthwhile. Granted, it may turn out to be nothing in the long run, but it may be something. Deferred payment can seem sketchy, I've certainly stayed away from it thus far, but ya never know. Sometime last year I refrained from applying from such a job. Their biggest carrot was to name a movie the director had previously directed. When I looked up the trailer for that movie I was (unsurprisingly) laughably unimpressed. Just found out this weekend that because of that movie, the director became a major player in a popular and ( believe) critically acclaimed TV show. That's potentially a big loss on my part, but how was I to know? And even if I'd done it, it may likely still have turned to nothing. But what if it had?

Weigh the options, but I definitely agree that you should sign only for your full rate. Or if you're feeling lucky, try for a percentage of the gross. Depending on what they make, that percentage may be less than your rate, but then, it could easily be far higher.
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#4 Tom Wills

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 04:17 AM

Well, there were a few other logistical considerations that made me unable to take the job anyways (namely that I was out of town one of the shoot days). But you guys do raise interesting points. I suppose you truly don't know where a production might go, or where the people who are working on it will go.

I guess the issue for me was that it felt exploitative. I've done tons of work for friends, but I would much rather have someone tell me about a cool project and let me know that they can't pay me anything right now (which would certainly get me thinking about the project), than try to get me to sign a contract for deferred payment straight off the bat, with no explanation.
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#5 RonBaldwin

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 09:25 AM

Just say that you'll do the movie for free but they have to pay the full rate for the two days on the trailer.
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#6 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 11:53 AM

"Deferral" is just producer-speak for "free."

And these "trailers" are a way that they can try to drum up investor money (which may or may not ever come).

They'll try to tell you that they're going to take the same crew with them on the movie, etc. etc. But if an investor does pitch in, guess what...he may have a nephew that runs Steadicam, or may require that, in order to fund the movie the producer needs to get a DP with a track record, who in turn insists he bring in his own team.

I only say yes to "deferral" gigs (Steadi or not) if A) it's for a personal friend B. I will get some killer material for my demo reel (and I trust I actually will get the footages, and/or C) it sounds like fun and I have nothing better to do that day.

I NEVER take a "deferred" gig with any expectation that the money will ever appear or that any promises will be honored down the road. Just being realistic.
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#7 William Demeritt

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Posted 07 March 2011 - 12:04 PM

I only say yes to "deferral" gigs (Steadi or not) if A) it's for a personal friend B. I will get some killer material for my demo reel (and I trust I actually will get the footages, and/or C) it sounds like fun and I have nothing better to do that day.

I NEVER take a "deferred" gig with any expectation that the money will ever appear or that any promises will be honored down the road. Just being realistic.


Completely agreed.
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#8 Andrew Stone

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 12:05 AM

I like Ron's idea. Throw it right back at them in the same manner they are approaching you.
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#9 Aaron Foley

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 10:31 AM

Swimming in the murkey waters that is the Flyer LE's world I tend to get these offers atleast a few times every month.
Marks spot on that if its going to look awesome on your reel or sounds like it'll simply be a lot of fun, its damn tempting to become involved.

But from experience with the good old deffered contract, even on the most promising production with shots you want(bikini clad machine gun toating banditas), its a pretty good tell that all the 'how great it'll be talk' is just 'talk' If they dont beleive enough in there project to fork over at least a small amount of money (fuel and scotch at a bare minimum).

If the people who stand to profit from the project dont think its worth investing in then why on earth should we?
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#10 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 12:38 PM

I always ask about meals. I have a "no pizza" policy. :)
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#11 James Puli

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 04:34 PM

lol the more you eat, the more you get paid hey Mark!
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#12 Aaron Foley

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 05:23 PM

Lol mmm pizza. Ha, my very first shoot pre even a course was for a very good friend who promised excellent food for helping him out.
He blew the budget and I ended up with Jam sandwiches for lunch AND dinner, it wasnt even a very good jam...
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#13 MarkKaravite

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Posted 09 March 2011 - 08:11 PM

I have a rule that, if I'm going to work for free, it's only going to be for a charitable cause where my efforts will go to help someone less fortunate. No matter how much they cry poor, I don't catagorize Producers as in need of charitable contributions, although I have met more than one who are mentally challenged. There's a big difference between need & greed.
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#14 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 08:11 PM

I've been burned every single time I've worked deferred. The first time the movie actually made money and I had a contract signed that stating that I got 5 gross points on the back end. When I saw the movie on sale at Best Buy I promptly called the producer. Shockingly, his number was disconnected and no one who worked on the movie ever heard from him again. But at least I learned my lesson, and now I'll do a favor for a friend, but I'd never do a deferred job unless I was just considering it a freebie.
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#15 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 18 March 2011 - 10:05 PM

If you were available, and I, You, Would say you'd sign the contract in exchange for a high res digital copy of the footage you shot.
Also, Don't forget since the copyright laws have changed, Anything you shoot, whether it's your camera or not, and whether someone is paying you, all footage/pictures you shoot are instantly copyrighted to your name. For many years now whenever I sign a deal memo the wording is in there saying I turn over all copyright to the footage to the named producers.

I answered an ad on Mandy.com many many years ago. The folks were asking for a steadicam op in New York for a Japanese Music Video. I answered the ad with my resume. They answered right away with a storyboard of the specific steadicam shots they were looking for and the locations in NYC. I fed ex'd them a reel. They offered flight, baggage fees, a futon to sleep on in a 5th floor walk up apartment in NYC and food. I asked what format? They said 35mm Anamorphic, I said "I'm IN!" It was 4 days long, very tough, very fun and a great experience.These 2 Japanese producers (Kids) were so organized, it blew me away!They had spent every cent on gear, rental vans, insurance, etc.. everything except for cash for the crew and it turned out excellent. I had a DigiBeta of the footage I shot color corrected and at my door a week later. Then another week later the finished video. 2 months later they called again said they had another video, same format, same benefits package ( insurance, flight, baggage, futon, food), But this time, No Futon, a room nearby at a hotel, and only 3 days long, and $1000!, The third time was $2K and a 2 day video, each time the same level of professionalism and increasingly more benefits for the crew.
You never know what free work will lead to a great relationship.
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