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student film / freebie rates


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#1 matthew pearce

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 05:36 PM

as a new owner operator with out a reel what is the politically correct way to do freebies/ student films with out stepping on other operators shoes.
I read a rant on craigs list where someone was put out by a $250 day rate for a 4 day gig flying a f900.

I'm guessing that student films that truly have less on a budget and significantly less chance of ever making money deserve more of a break than a made for potential profit super low budget.
What would a minimum rate be for one of those that would not be under cutting those that have gone before me.

thanks for any advice
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#2 Philip J. Martinez SOC

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Posted 06 August 2008 - 07:02 PM

That is a good question. You will find it hard to get actual numbers here. I would try to think of it 2 ways.

1: if you were a camera operator before you got into steadicam operating try to get at least the rate you were getting before.

2: If you were a trying to start out as a dolly grip you might work for free but production would need to rent a dolly so they need to rent a Steadicam.


There are a couple of places that rent rigs in LA. Try to charge at least as much as it would cost to get a rig without a operator.

Good Luck! I find the low budget shots are sometimes the best. The opening shot on my reel was from a very low budget student film.

Best,

Philip
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#3 Janice Arthur

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 01:53 PM

Matthew;

1) Low budget/student rate are all over the spectrum.

From Something to nothing.

2) You get what you can.

3) You start with your "normal" rate.

If a cameraman in your area makes $500 a day and you have "extra" skills then maybe its $600.

PLUS equipment. Whatever that rate is for your type and kind of gear; it used to be 1% of your investment, maybe that's not right now but its a good benchmark.

4) No one is going to be mad at you for "undercutting" the market when you start but if you keep doing it when you have long evolved from beginner then they may talk.

5) Insurance is hard to get from low-budget/student jobs and if you feel strongly about being covered
then you've set your limits. Sometimes thats more valueable than the pay. Maybe you can get them to pay 10% more for use of your insurance? Maybe it rains that day or its in a bad area and the insurance is bigger deal than you thought.

6) Remember low budget has fewer overall resources and you'll be left with little help or prod. assistance. That's what I care about more than the money on those jobs. If they have 2 C-stands and only 6 people on the whole job its going to be hard to get what you need sometimes. You'll be ready but the audio guy, or lighting or make-up (who are also beginners) may be the reason the job is slowed.

Janice

Just thoughts.
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#4 BJMcDonnell SOC

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Posted 07 August 2008 - 02:00 PM

That is a good question. You will find it hard to get actual numbers here. I would try to think of it 2 ways.

1: if you were a camera operator before you got into steadicam operating try to get at least the rate you were getting before.

2: If you were a trying to start out as a dolly grip you might work for free but production would need to rent a dolly so they need to rent a Steadicam.


There are a couple of places that rent rigs in LA. Try to charge at least as much as it would cost to get a rig without a operator.

Good Luck! I find the low budget shots are sometimes the best. The opening shot on my reel was from a very low budget student film.

Best,

Philip



Hey Philip,

Usually what I would do is charge them $400 bucks for 5 hrs or $800 for 10 hrs for student films. I know that student films tend to be low budget but they have to give something to the steadicam rental if they want steadicam in their short film. It is still a great deal for them. If they say that is too high then I tell them good luck. Most of the time they will book you for 5 hrs and not the 10. And of course with student films be prepared to get WORKED because once you show up they tend to try to squeeze every possible shot on steadicam. Hope that helps.

BJ McDonnell
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#5 William Demeritt

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 06:18 AM

I too am a steadicam newbie. Thank you all for this information, I expect to start trying for student films this Fall and will use this information for direction when talking money.
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#6 RonBaldwin

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 08:14 AM

It's been a while, but I think I used to charge $100 an hour for a minimum of 4 hrs, maximum of 8. That seemed to make the production schedule stuff better, and they were still getting a good deal. I don't know about you, but I've shown up to help out numerous times and ended up sitting around for half a day before doing anything. The hourly seemed to cure that.

rb
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#7 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 10:05 AM

I try to help aspiring filmmakers when I can and have been doing about the same as Ron with my interest in helping them depending on the quality of the script and how well I can determine they are organized in other aspects of the production. I've been limiting myself to partial 4-6 hour slots as well and they have to provide the standard Certificate of Insurance, plus provide copies of all the Steadicam takes to me within three weeks. Otherwise, they'll get a bill for full-rate. For the most part I've had a good time doing them and two have led on to full-rate work on other projects and an on-going working relationship with a talented up-and-coming DP.
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#8 Jon Beattie

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 11:36 AM

As someone who moved from a differnet deparment into Steadicam work. Most of the jobs I've done have been for dp's and producers I have already worked for. I've been thinking of going back to the student film thing (god not again) just to built the reel and make a few new contacts with DP's. I just don't know where to even looking for student productions these days? Does it really come down to trolling craigslist and mandy? Or do NYU, Columbia, NYFA have their own forums?
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#9 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 08 August 2008 - 06:18 PM

Jon,

I lecture/demo at NYU once or twice a year for their advanced Cinematography class. The last few years I've dragged in a couple of friends who are interested in doing some student films. We use my sled but I ask the guys to bring their vests so we can get more people in the rig. Inevitably the students ask if I am willing to come out on their films and that is when I point to you and you hand them cards. Don't have a class scheduled now, but email if this is something you are interested in (that goes for other New Yorkers as well).
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#10 chris fawcett

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 04:53 AM

I've been limiting myself to partial 4-6 hour slots as well and they have to provide the standard Certificate of Insurance, plus provide copies of all the Steadicam takes to me within three weeks. Otherwise, they'll get a bill for full-rate.

Like it!
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#11 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 09 August 2008 - 12:17 PM

I think it totally depends on the situation. As a new steadicam operator (say having done less than ten jobs) you should probably jump at the chance to do anything for any amount of money, including free. There is no way to get good at steadicam without operating on a set. You could take every seminar and practice 24 hours a day at your house but learning to operate requires putting in hours on set.

Defiantly get an insurance certificate, even if you?re working for free and then see if you can get a few bucks for your rig.

Make super sure they understand they have to give you a copy of the footage you shoot (not the edited final project) because you need to review your work and acquire footage for your real.

At some point it becomes less about your experience and more about the budget of the project you are working on. If it's super low (or no) budget then free is probably as good as it's going to get. If they have a few bucks then you should get a piece for your investment of your rig and your time.

I lecture/demo as well (only at UM) and also get asked to 'help out' on student productions. I will frequently do it and even do it for free some times but I always put a strict time limit on my 'help'. Usually a few hours max. Even once you?re established you will from time to time help out an old friend (the first dp or director to give you a paying gig for example) and the rate can range from next to nothing to almost your full rate.

In terms of actual numbers, I'll give an example. A few months ago a friend who is a UPM/Producer who is trying to start his own production company got a contract to do 5 low budget music videos. He asked me to help him out as he wanted to make them look as high end as he could with a limited budget. I told him I could do 3 of the 5 days (I was working the other 2) and that I would only stay for 8 hours (music videos have the tendency to run on forever). I did each day for 1000 bucks for me and my rig (roughly a third of my normal day rate). There was no footage that did anything for me and the end product wasn't going to be anything to write home about. I just did it to help out a friend.



Had I got to set and saw a 50' Super Tecno Crane, Helicopter, a pair of Ferrari?s, 2 435's and every lens known to man, I would not have even unloaded my car. But because the set was proportional to my rate (one video camera, one classic mustang, a small stage and a crew of about 12) I was happy to help out.

Presumably, the next time my friend gets a nice fat job; he'll make sure I'm on it and at my full rate.

So I'd suggest that you take pretty much any job that comes your way at least until you get enough footage to make a decent 2 minute demo real.

My 2 cents.

mm.
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#12 Dave Gish

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 04:09 PM

I think it's pretty tough to charge anything for student films.

I think a typical budget for a 12-minute student film is around $800. That's for everything. The main part of this budget is usually food, but there are also often location fees and car/van rentals, and these are often significantly discounted for students. There are also expendables like batteries and tape. Most students usually go over their budget and literally have to pay you out of their wallet.

The actors all work for free, and the rest of the crew is made up of fellow students. So everyone else is usually working for free. Some students have serious family money they can spend, particularly on their thesis project, but I've only seen this once, and I've heard professors frown on this.

The only thing I demand is travel expenses (gas, tolls, parking). I don't want to lose money doing a student film.
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#13 Stephen Press

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 04:33 PM

Make sure you include phone bills in that. The amount of time you end up on the phone?
I have a minimum rate for freebies so at least I?m not out of pocket and if they can?t get the small fee I ask to cover the expenses then they are not serious about doing the project.
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#14 Afton Grant

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 05:37 PM

I think a typical budget for a 12-minute student film is around $800. That's for everything. The main part of this budget is usually food, but there are also often location fees and car/van rentals, and these are often significantly discounted for students. There are also expendables like batteries and tape. Most students usually go over their budget and literally have to pay you out of their wallet.


Not necessarily true. I've been very surprised at the level of production I've seen on some of the student films I've been on - some budgets upwards of $100,000. Almost all are funded out-of-pocket. While there are definitely a large number of poor students, a great number of them are well backed by family and other means. They certainly don't have the money of a studio, or most independents even, but I'm sure they have more than $800. A film permit in NYC is free, but you need to provide proof of insurance in order to get it. That insurance alone is in the $800 range.

I'll piggyback on Mike's comments. Each situation is different. My willingness to negotiate often comes down to attitude. I've done freebies for students that I found to be incredibly humble and gracious. Organization is key too. They respected me, my equipment, my input and did everything they could to make my experience with them a pleasant one - and it usually is. If I get a call from someone that thinks they're the next Tarantino and tells me about the "up and coming" DP and "future work" and that it would be great for my reel, well, I know enough to dig my toes in a bit deeper for those ones.

I've been generously helped in my own career by those with more experience, and I enjoy returning that favor when I can. If the attitude is one of appreciation, I have no problem volunteering. I'll always try to get money, but if it simply isn't there, I won't turn my back. Insurance and travel expenses are always covered, and are usually not a point of conflict, regardless of budget.
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#15 matthew pearce

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 08:55 PM

thanks all...excellent advice,
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