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Producer finds Op for scale


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#1 MarkKaravite

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 02:41 PM

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,

Mark


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#2 Aaron Medick SOC

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 03:00 PM

Agreed. I turned down the same job and know at least 3 others that did as well. I hope the op that tool it knows what (s)he's gotten him/herself into.
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#3 Twojay Dhillon

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 07:32 PM

Very similar situation happened to me twice this year, except the Producer wouldn't even agree to a weekly rental rate -- Steadicam was to be a la carte at some absurd daily rental rate. Oh, and the job was three states away from CA.
 
My agent and I stuck to our guns and did our best to negotiate the deals to some level of respectability, but "My way or the highway" were the responses. The movies went on without me, so obviously they found somebody to take that "rate".
 
Thanks for posting this topic, Mark.


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#4 Afton Grant

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 08:51 PM

I got a call for this film too.  I know a lot of people in the Boston area.  I'll find out who it is.  There's an op here in NY that works for rates like this, despite repeated advisements not to. I know that production was given the OK to bring in an op from NY.  I really hope it's not the same guy.  


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#5 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:25 PM

We need a new business cause this one has gone down the shitter. I'm in Boston on a movie. Let me know what the name of the film is and i will ask around about who took the job. 

BTW, NY operator scale is equal to or somewhat higher than many TV combo rates being paid on the West Coast.


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#6 Jeff Muhlstock SOC

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 01:53 PM

I passed on it as well!

 

Id rather make donuts for minimum wage then give away my 30 years of experience and gear investment.

 

However, I don't really fault anyone for working at low rates.  We all have our own circumstances and we all do what we have to do to put food on the table.  I don't like it, but I understand it.   Everyone is entitled to make what they feel they are worth,  some just don't feel they are worth very much...  sad state of affairs we are in.


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#7 MarkKaravite

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 02:59 PM

Hey Guys,

 

I'm not looking to call anyone out on this.  They know who they are & what they agreed to.

 

The point of my post is to simply reiterate the fact that if Steadicam Operators take work for scale, not only will that particular operator lower his own economic bar, but he makes it more difficult for everyone to make deals.

 

I currently have a nice mix of studio & independent pictures.  Well respected DP's I know are taking independent features, and these are the jobs that come up with these low rates.  As Steadicam ops continue to take lower rates on Indy's, it's only a matter of time before we start seeing similar offers from the studios.  I agree that independent features cannot pay the same as the studio films, but there is an established and respectable rate for these films, and it's certainly not scale.

 

I agree with Jeff, that none of us know what a persons financial situation is.  Maybe, just maybe, if an Operator held out for normal rates throughout his career, he wouldn't be in bad financial shape.

 

Fly safe,

Mark


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#8 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 04:57 PM

I suspect the person who took it is the operator Afton mentioned.  I know all of us Russell Todd guys stuck together and passed on it.  I know a zillion peeps in Boston; we'll know who it is soon enough.  That said, Jeff raises some good points too.  I don't have kids to feed, etc.


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#9 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 06:20 PM

Is a Ferrari any cheaper if you live in a lower priced neighborhood?


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#10 Brian Freesh

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 06:40 PM

(Shhh... nobody tell Ozzie he's not a Ferrari, let him believe)


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#11 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 07:03 PM

that was awesome! Brian you are quick my friend.

ps. Alec, you mentioned Russell Todd.
Would you think a market could be over saturated if there are too many Russell Todd ops? In one area?
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#12 Afton Grant

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Posted 13 September 2013 - 08:13 PM

that was awesome! Brian you are quick my friend.

ps. Alec, you mentioned Russell Todd.
Would you think a market could be over saturated if there are too many Russell Todd ops? In one area?

 

I'd say very much the opposite, Osvaldo.  Russell won't just sign up anybody that wants to.  Among other things, having steady work is necessary before even starting the relationship.  The truly great thing about a large number of guys in one area being with the same agent is it forms a sort of mini-union.  If a bad job comes to town offering a crap deal, the entire roster will pass.  I've seen this phenomenon force rates UP in the past.  

 

Whenever I take a call, and the subject of rates comes up, regardless of what number they might throw out I'll simply tell them to give my agent a call and he'll take it from here.  I've been on the phone with producers in the past offering far too low.  When I suggest they call my agent, they ask his name.  On multiple occasions, immediately after I say "Russell Todd", I'll hear a groan or large sigh of some sort, suggesting they've been looking for a while, and I'm not the first person to send them to Russell Todd, who they know will not agree to their offer.

 

I have nothing against these producers personally.  I know they often have no control over the budget, and they're just doing their jobs.  I do get a little satisfaction, however, when I can be certain that having a certain agent is very valuable.  


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#13 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 14 September 2013 - 01:42 AM

Rates and Public Forums are always an interesting thing.  For the record, there is no "price fixing" at RTA, etc.  What Russell allows us to do is to communicate with one another and provide a solid front line.  On many occasions, I have seen it work out as it should - everyone on the Roster passes on a job and they end up going back to the DP's first choice with a realistic rate.  As it should be.  Does it always work out this way?  No.  Point in case, Boston.  But, I have ZERO complaints about Russell or most Producers.... they are doing a job after all.


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#14 Dave Chameides

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 02:26 PM

I was also called for this by the DP who shared the rate with me and told me that production had no intention of budging.  I believe it was $40 an hour and $1400/week for gear but I may be off by a dollar or two.  I don't mind sharing that info because when I heard it I explained that there was no way that I could even discuss this because it was an insulting offer and I could not work for anything near that.  The DP said he understood but sadly, I don't think he did because he obviously continued on to find someone.  

 

While I hold production responsible for this at the end of the day, i also have to question a DP who doesn't tell production that it's insulting for him to offer ops this rate and that if that's what they can afford they will have to find someone themselves.  Either way, whoever took this must have felt they needed to for some reason or another.  I just hope that the third time one of their A listers stands from a chair and the op misses the mark that they all pat themselves on the back at what a great deal they are getting.

 

The race to the bottom continues.  It is happening with increasing speed, but in spite of me, not because of me.


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#15 Dave Chameides

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Posted 23 September 2013 - 05:35 PM

As an aside, there was a big part of me that wanted to take it and when i couldn't keep anyone in frame just respond that poor framing was all they were paying me for so it was all I felt I should be delivering.  

 

But that would be wrong.


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