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Steadicam Rate Question

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#1 AndySchwartz


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Posted 06 September 2005 - 03:07 PM

So I am looking for advice/opinions on rates for my work
(this will be a long posting I can tell already).

Here is my experience in a few sentences or more.

I have been doing broadcast doc's for the past 6 years, started as a PA, to Ass't Editor to Associate Producer, to Editor, to Producer. The entire time I was shooting on alot of the shows as 2nd camera and also doing some on my own, and a few indie films. Discovery/TLC/ PBS and etc...

Now I am shooting/field producing full time on a 26 ep series and just finished a 5 hour series for Discovery as a DP along with another guy. I own an SK2 and a bunch of mounts for cars. I am also beginning to shoot a 1-hour for TLC as of last weekend.

I have been doing steadicam for about 1.5 years and am taking the SOA workshop this fall and I am trying to figure out what my rates should be. Since I have been working as a AP/Field PRoducer on shows alot of time people will hire me as that, and pay for that, and then ask for the camera work as well, and not pay more, which I have done in the past, and even sometimes have done a bunch of steadicam on top of that. Well it is kind of screwing over people that would normally get the work at a higher rate obviously, and that sucks. Often times, people will ask for a day or two of shooting and then find out I have the Steadicam and want that and not want to pay for it, sometimes I do it, if the gig will give me some challenges and experience I do not have but I always feel a guilty. For those I am taking the work from, and because I work hard and feel I should be paid for it. And when there is a long contract involved for a series and I am hired on it is hard to renegotiate if at all. But I am still pretty young, 29, and have alot of time ahead and i think the experience is (was) worth it, sometimes.

My rates have been all over the place, from 200 - 850 a day for camera and steadicam depending on the gig, and basically I am trying to establish a decent rate for someone with my amount of experience that is fair for me and those in the industry, because from the looks of it, and from my preference I am planning on contiuing to shoot/field produce full time from here on out.

Remember this is 21st-century-budget docmentaries for the networks who like to milk it dry and i am working on DV almost exclusively now.

So I am looking for some ideas on helping me establish a rate card.

here is what I have so far per day

350-400 no gear
250 - sk2
200-400 camera equip
150 car mount kit

Any help/advice/opinions is much appreciated.

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#2 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 07:20 PM


First, thanks for being honest. I think you're selling yourself short though. My focus puller gets paid more than you are as a DP (yes, on video jobs & for Discovery). You should be making at the VERY least $600/day for DPing video for these folks (I know a bunch of Discovery Channel DPs as well as having done a bunch myself). DPing in the rig? More money!!! With gear, you should be getting in the teens for a ten hour day (ask for $2000+ as I've never been talked UP before). I just had a rate conversation with another Steadicam Op regarding Discovery and we are both quoting (and getting) rates in this neighborhood.

Hope this helps.
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#3 Ramon Engle

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 09:53 PM

Andy, It sounds like you wear too many hats. Be carefull. Things begin to fall through the cracks when you do that. Yet you and you alone are aware of your capabilities.
Remember, If you sell yourself as the cheap guy who does steadicam, that is what you will be. The sooner you raise the bar the better. The rig is a bonus for the Disc. or TLC or whoever. When they discover you have that skill set be sure to relay how dificult it becomes to perform all of those jobs and operate the rig. You should charge a premium for that. I do. Some times they pay it sometimes they don't. When they don't I don't break out the rig. If you are confident in your skills and abilities you should charge for it. If you aren't and still need the experience at least charge a decent rate for it.

Ramon Engle
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#4 Dave Bittner

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Posted 06 September 2005 - 10:09 PM

When I was aggressively going after steadiwork in the Balto/DC area I wouldn't go out for less than $1,200 a day for me and the rig. Except on those days when I would. And on those days I wouldn't go out for less than $900 per day. B)

I usually quoted $1,500 per day for me and the rig (camera was extra and not included), expected to get around $1,200, which seemed to be the "going rate" for video steadicam in the area, for an operator using one of the smaller rigs. (I flew a Provid at the time.) The guys in town who specialized in film work got more, as expected, and they had, in general, a much larger investment in their rigs and the accessories they needed for film related work. My rock bottom price was $900 per day, which was reserved for student films, friends, or other needy people. But most of the time I got something around $1,200.

That was about five years ago. I've since eased off on the steadicam work, thanks to a minor back injury that I don't want to make any worse, and the growth of the other parts of my company. If I were going out today I would ask for more money. The flipside, of course, is that it seems like you can't swing a c-stand without hitting a steadicam operator, which has eroded rates. Also, based on a lot of the work I've seen lately, there are a lot of producers who don't know (or don't care) about the difference between good and bad operating, which also tends to erode rates. The bad ops still get work, because they're willing to work cheap.

Anyway, I hope I'm not being too gloomy. I love operating, I think it's the most fun, challenging and rewarding kind of shooting there is. Taking a workshop (with Erwin, and having GB, Charles, Jerry Jacob, Dave McGill, Jim McKonkey and other great ops as instructors) was the best investment I ever made in my career. I've made some really good friends from steadicam, too. There are some really great people in this biz, guys and gals who just "get it", who are willing to share and teach and help you when you need it most.

Feel free to hit me with any questions you might have.

-Dave Bittner
Columbia, MD
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#5 JobScholtze


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Posted 07 September 2005 - 04:29 PM

What about traveling day's? I charge 50% for my gear for traveling. How about you all?
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#6 chris fawcett

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Posted 07 September 2005 - 05:36 PM

What about traveling day's? I charge 50% for my gear for traveling. How about you all?


Hi Job,

I charge full rate for the gear (baggage handlers), and half rate for me (stewardesses).

See you at the IBC,

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#7 AndySchwartz


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Posted 08 September 2005 - 09:21 PM


some good responses as usual.

thanks alot, dave, ramon, and alec. i really appreciate your thoughts and time spent.

i know you are right about my rates being a bit on the low side, i guess i have just had a hard time adjusting them up because i have been up until recently, on the cusp of transitioning into full time DP/Camera guy. And deciding when I have enough experience, as well as when I am I decent enough DP to justify the industry standard rates is not easy. Especially when you have mentors/coworkers like many of you and DP's I have worked with.

Honestly, I know I do not have 20years exp. behind the camera, and I never pretend like I do, nor would I want my rates to look like I do.

On the flip side I have alot of really great experience for my years and I have never had any major complaints about my work, mostly complements, so I think it is completely reasonable to adjust my rates higher like you guys suggest and I think I will from here on out, expecially after my coming workshop.

I tell you, it is tough being in the middle and transitioning I guess, especially on video shoots for doc's, because so many run around with cameras and call themselves shooters and so on, and with 6 years experience it is easy for people to throw me into that group I think. But I would like to believe that I am above average and bring alot of skill, creativity, personality, and potential to the table that many do not.

Also, maybe if my rates were a little more normal, people would figure out that you get what you pay for and a higher rate generally means better quality all around.

i charge half day rate for myself and nada for my gear when traveling. but maybe that will change eventually too.

thanks for your support and wisdom.

talk soon
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