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#1 Dan Coplan

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 05:29 PM

Just got a call to do a day later this week on a union low budget agreement show. The offer - $600 for the rig. Never even got far enough in the discussion to talk about the operating rate.

The DP said the producers were getting guys at that rate so were unwilling to negotiate any higher, now considering that dog sh-t rate "normal". Now I'd really like to work with this DP, I sure could use the hours, and I've negotiated lower rates for longer term agreements, but I'm not gonna do a single day for $600. And I'm sure the operating rate is down around $20 - $30/hr.

To those of you, and I hope you're reading this, who have been accepting these rates, you're screwing yourselves as much as the whole Steadicam community.

Dan
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#2 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 08:48 PM

While I agree, the rate is crazy low, I like to fall back on, "You get what you pay for".

When I first bought my rig (1998) and was struggling to make the payments on it, I would have killed for 600 bucks a day. Truth be told, I probably wasn't worth much more than that. I was slow getting my rig set up, i required too many rehearsals, my steadicam wasn't that steady and my composition wasn't all that great.

Another possibility is the operator who has had a bad run of luck, karma, et., there are probably several decent steadicam operators who for one reason or another are having trouble making their mortgage payments. If the option is 600 a day as a steadicam operator or bag boy at a Wall Mart, I'd take the 600 every day and twice on Sunday.

That all being said, I agree again that the rate is silly low.

As a way of fixing the problem, I'd encourage every steadicam operator out there to get an agent if they can. Aside from doing all the 'dirty work' of negotiating your rate, making sure your provided with an insurance certificate, collecting if your client is 'slow to pay' and keeping track of the days you are booked, they also preform the function of keeping rates fair. You couldn't for example call Russell Todd (my agent) and horse trade for rate between two of his operators. Additionally, I would estimate that since I've signed with RTA (2001?), my rig rental went up 25%, my rate went up 50%, my number of jobs went up about 15% and the overall quality of those jobs went up as well (fewer low budget rap music videos and more national commercials with ASC camera men).

2 sides to every coin,

mm.
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#3 Jaron Berman

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Posted 07 November 2007 - 10:29 PM

First-off - yes, the rate is VERY low.

So now here's my question - how do you guys recommend charging as one gains the credits and experience necessary to be a top-level op? I have just over 1 year of experience, and I would feel dishonest charging for my skills what you guys with 10+ years of experience charge. I practice a ton and work a decent amount, and I certainly feel I'm better than would be expected at this point, however I would never sell myself as a direct replacement for an established op, experience or equipment.

I'm asked every time "what do you guys normally charge for this," to which I explain my level of experience vs. my rate, and why guys with more creds and gear and time in the game charge what they do. I'm very careful not to say any numbers, but still - this feels like another catch 22. Even with my rate, I still am sometimes told "well, my normal guy charges me $200 a day, but he's not available." I always ask who's doing it for that, and explain that the investment in time and equipment we have means we're basically paying to work at that rate ... trying to at least advocate for sanity. I'd love to have an agent, but I'm not working steadicam enough yet to have representation. Plus I just moved to LA, which means I'm starting from 0 again in terms of connections.

As someone who basically falls into Mike's description (though I work for significantly more than $600), flat out - how should someone like me work my way up and charge in a way that reflects my abilities and does not screw us all?
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#4 chris fawcett

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 06:18 AM

Hi All,

When anyone questions my rate, after a reasonable discount for the nature of the project, or the number of consecutive days, I offer to send them a list of operators that will do the job cheaper. I have yet to loose work.

The client appreciates your candour and confidence, and no experienced operator wants to be on that list.

Chris
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#5 RonBaldwin

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 09:48 AM

it can get nutty here in LA sometimes -- with so many hundreds of "ops with rigs" and the bean counters wanting it on the cheap. Many of them don't care what it looks like, just that there's $$ left over to put in their own pocket. A guy with a rig going out for less than $700/day (even with little to no exp) is pretty crazy...the rig is worth at least that by itself.

I'm happy to be working -- especially now during the strike -- but for the first time I'm on a weekly (f'ing ABC/Disney) and don't have a 3rd body so we are converting the XL back and forth all day. It's more wear and tear on the rig and becoming a serious pain in the butt!

rb
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#6 Afton Grant

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 11:48 AM

it can get nutty here in LA sometimes -- with so many hundreds of "ops with rigs" and the bean counters wanting it on the cheap. Many of them don't care what it looks like, just that there's $$ left over to put in their own pocket.


A while back I got a call from a DP from LA that was shooting a music video here in NYC. He needed Steadicam but only had about $500 if I recall correctly. He told me of the "up-and-coming" artist and other hype trying to get me to sign on. When I expressed my regrets due to the rate he said, "If the shoot was in LA, we wouldn't even be having this conversation," further explaining he could easily get someone for less than that or free. That smugness rubbed me the wrong way, but also made me aware of the differences between our two coasts.

We've got the same phenomenon taking place here, just on a much smaller scale. The volume of work is proportionately smaller as well, so perhaps the equation equals out. I've had conversations with many fellow ops here, of all levels. While I know of some that are definitely outright undercutting, I have a feeling most of the folks befitting of this discussion just have no clue. They don't know what they're worth. They don't know what their gear is worth. They don't know what their competition is worth. Rob's point about gear being at least $700 alone is a good one. I've always said the WORST operator in the world with a kit should get at least a fair price for their rental. If you take some time to browse any of the other film/video forums out there, you'll see just how many "ops with rigs" there actually are. Frightening.

One thing that has really helped me learn the ropes is simple communication. Not necessarily here on the forum, but personally on the phone or over drinks with my friendly neighborhood operators. I know there are only so many people with whom one person can stay in touch, but if one talks with a few that talk with a few that talk with a few more, the knowledge spreads.
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#7 Rick Drapkin

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 11:53 AM

Hi Dan,

I wasn't sure if you said that you were day playing on this low budjet show ,or if you were on it longer. What I've been coming up againstis that they are breaking the sled rate into a weekly.If you normally get $3000. a week for the sled,they break it into a 5 day week ( $600 a day ) . If you work a shork week,they prorate the rental.If that $ 600 is as a day player,then that really blows.As for the operator rate,I got offered a low budget movie with a cameraman I've worked with since I was an A.C. on Twin Peaks with. They were offering as per the tier 1 agreement,was $ 37.52 and hour and a total of $5500. for the sled rental for a 6 week shoot. Needless to say ,I turned it down. The point is,I believe with the total over-saturation of new Steadicam operators out there,and the ones who have been doing this a long time,the newer people operating
will do anything to get set experience.Lets face it when we all started out,most of us weren't worth $1400/10 hours and $ 1000. to $ 1200. for the rig.Just my 2 cents,
rick
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#8 Dan Coplan

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 12:15 PM

I'm OK with a 3-day week for a $1000/day rental. That would average out to $600/day. But you'd have steady work for the week and be getting benefits. This was for one day. The 3-day week formula does not (should not!) apply. And if I understood correctly, it was for $600 flat which is even more insulting.

Yes, we've all worked for less as we've progressed through our careers and there are often circumstances when it's justified to negotiate a lower rate. But sadly, there are also plenty of situations where production expects you to bend over and that's without any lisigav and the guys/girls who are negotiating, or rather accepting, these deals are sending the wrong message and setting dangerous standards.

Afton - that douche bag who said he could get someone for $500 or even free in LA. There could be some truth to that but also a good chance he was blowing smoke up your ass trying to get you to give in.

Steadicam strike anyone?

:lol:

Just kidding. Don't crucify me.

Dan
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#9 Kris Torch Wilson

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 12:15 PM

Good morning all,

Everything is about to be rewritten (no pun intended) because of this strike. It is already playing into the hands of the bean counters. The top ops will still work and probably get their rate but the lower end shoots will have their choice of operators. The banks don't care if the writer's strike, they still want us to make our mortgage payments and the ones for the fancy cars we had to have last year when we were fat. When faced with foreclosure one will indeed take anything and that's sad. I have stuck to my rate and intend to do so. But if this thing goes for several months, its every man for themselves. On the bright side, it may very well wean the weak out of this business. Survival of the fittest. Maybe an idea for a damn reality show. Unemployed operators compete for the right to shoot the next crappy reality show. Screw it, I'm going fishing, call me when it's over.

Kris "rambling like a fool" Wilson
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#10 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 12:33 PM

Just got a call to do a day later this week on a union low budget agreement show. The offer - $600 for the rig. Never even got far enough in the discussion to talk about the operating rate.

The DP said the producers were getting guys at that rate so were unwilling to negotiate any higher, now considering that dog sh-t rate "normal". Now I'd really like to work with this DP, I sure could use the hours, and I've negotiated lower rates for longer term agreements, but I'm not gonna do a single day for $600. And I'm sure the operating rate is down around $20 - $30/hr.

To those of you, and I hope you're reading this, who have been accepting these rates, you're screwing yourselves as much as the whole Steadicam community.

Dan

----------------
Ok Dan,
So timely . . . . .I had this conversation yesterday with an operator on the stage next door to mine. While the writers were out on the sidewalk we were, fortunately still flying. To paraphrse the conversation his operating rate was roughly $40 an hour below mine but his rental rate was $400 above mine. So I ask you, which one is better. I think the rental rate being more might be better because you get the money all up front, but iether way, I have asked this question before. "Gear isn't gear" You guys that have spent 100 of thousands of dollars on your packjage should by all rights get more for your equipment. My, although, very customized, but still and EFP, certainly isn't a Pro or Ultra and My focus system isn't a $30,000 system so , should I charge more compared to you guys? I don't think so. The only bump in rental rate I do is for HD.

Sorry to slightly derail the original comments. Ya $600 a day on a flat is a no conversation, but $600 for rig and $125 an Hr. on a 8 hr day with a guarentee 10 still works . . . .No?
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#11 Stephen Press

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 05:33 PM

My Dad used to own a home appliance shop. He?d get old fridges in as trade-ins for new ones have them fixed up and then sell them. They didn?t cost much and he didn?t want to take up shop space with them so to sell them quickly he put them out with a very small mark-up thinking that was fair.
But they didn?t sell. The question everyone had was ?What?s wrong with them??
Nobody believed anything that cheap could be any good.
He doubled the price and they sold like hot cakes.

It?s a lesson I?ve never forgotten and it is true of our industry.

People think that they get what they pay for. So by cutting your rates you tell them you aren?t worth as much as someone who won?t.

Also why is it the people who screw you on the rates are the same ones who usually want it all for nothing? ?Could you throw in a wide angle?? ?But we only pay half days on travel days.? ?Every one else is eating at the hotel so there are no per deims.?
Cheap rates equal more hassles with penny pinching productions.

It often doesn?t even result in more work down the track. When the same guys who begged you to work on their no/low budget project get a real budget they will look for a ?proper? operator, one who doesn?t do freebees.

When I first bought my AS Actioncam I put it out at a lower rate because it didn?t cost as much as a Steadicam, which seemed fair. Most rentals are worked out on a percentage of the capital cost of the equipment. But I didn?t get the volume of work I expected. A lot of people would have droped their rate lower but I put the rate up and there was more work.

I still will let myself be negotiated into doing the odd music video or short film at low cost but I always invoice them for the full amount with a special ?just for them? discount so they know exactly how much of a favour I?m doing them.

If you don?t value your time and work nobody else will.
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#12 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 05:43 PM

If you don?t value your time and work nobody else will.


Stephen great quote and Sooooooo true . . . .

I agree wholheartedly . . . .
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#13 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 08:36 PM

I still will let myself be negotiated into doing the odd music video or short film at low cost but I always invoice them for the full amount with a special ?just for them? discount so they know exactly how much of a favour I?m doing them.

This is something I recently started doing as well. I shot some underwater footage for a scene and it ended up having to be reshot because they had to recast an actor. It was a super low budget feature and they were already way over budget so they were begging me to cut my rental rate for the second day. I eventually decided to be a nice guy and give them a discount so I added a discount line to the invoice. It made me feel much better about the whole thing because it keeps me from looking cheap and it caused them to realize that I was doing them a favor. I was even thanked for it later. I also feel like it keeps people from thinking they can demand that low of a rate in the future when they have the money to pay the full rate.

~Jess
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#14 TJ Williams

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Posted 08 November 2007 - 10:48 PM

Totally on about the invoice, my excel sheet invoice even has a line for discounted equipment or labor. Even if you can't get your rate it's important to keep the fact of the rate in front of the beancounters.

Shocking thing is the number of union and experienced ops who have done ridiculous discounts that you get asked to match.

Back in the day a Steadicam was a steadicam only one model only one company everyone had about the same investment.
Now every newby who would cut his personal rate also has an older or less than steadi device so the tendency to discount is
twice as great.

Basically this is all about supply and demand too many ops and rigs for the available work has driven prices down.

We can all deplore it but as long as someone will say yes to make their payments this will go on
See Karl Marx the army of the unemployed and their affect on wages. Hey even a broken clock is right twice a day.
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#15 Lukas Franz

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Posted 09 November 2007 - 08:12 AM

Hi guys!

I like the phrase from Will Arnot "If you pay peanuts... you get monkeys. Don't be a Monkey!". It really fits your quotes :-)

I cannot really discuss with you about rates. Here in Switzerland the "standard" rate is lower as you guys from LA could ever imagine. The most operaters (or even everyone) are getting their most money with regular camera jobs, with producing or selling pizzas and hot dogs ;-)

For myself, I started steadicam by only charging my equipment. I told the production, if you rent a rig, you pay the same. Hey, you get me for free :-) Today, I've changed my mind about that...

Lukas
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