I recently received a call from a Producer I know who is prepping a film in Boston that starts shooting in early October. It's a Tier 3 job, with a high profile lead actor & a very well respected DP.
The first offer was scale rate for labor, including Steadicam, and around $2000 / week for the gear. My agent tactfully explained that no one in his stable works for scale, and $3000 a week is customary for a film of this size. He had several other deals from Tier films to back up his negotiations.
After some back and forth, the producer agreed in principle to come up to a reasonable Tier 3 combo rate, and pay $3000 a week. I just heard back from him last night, to tell me he found someone who would do the film for the original offer of scale + $2000 / week for rentals.
I'm posting this in hope that the operator who took this job reads this forum, and realizes that not only did he leave several thousand dollars on the table, but he'll likely be working for this rate in the foreseeable future, as producers and UPM's all tell each other what they got you for on the last one.
We all know the argument that once you drop your rates, you'll never get it back. It seems that producers are being more aggressive this year in their exploitation attempts. Whether it's asking for us to work for scale, or day playing gear when you're on the entire show, it's clear producers are intent on bringing down our rates.
Personally, I have turned down 3 films this year because of unacceptable rates. And 2 were with high profile DP's I have worked with in the past. I know it's hard to turn down work when you don't have anything in the pipeline, but I've managed to do 2 films and 2 pilots this year at normal rates, so it works out.
As producers get more aggressive, our future incomes will rely on our strength to hold the line on our rates. Just look at what camera rental houses are doing. What were 25% discounts 4 years ago are now commonly 65% - 70% discounts today, and everyone is forced to match those discounts or not even be considered.
If we stick to our guns on rates, then they'll be forced to pay us what we deserve for the hard fought skill we've acquired and the physical wear and tear we endure. Don't let our Steadicam rates follow the path the rental houses have taken.
That's my rant for today,