WHAT DO I COST?
Phil Bloom’s been doing an excellent series of posts looking at the value of the package filmmaker in these post DSLR times. I’ve also noticed an absurdly competitive market springing up as young ‘DOP’s have discovered entrepreneurial streaks, writing blogs, selling their services ludicrously cheap and ripping the arse out of the market. This was inevitable of course and moaning about it isn’t going to do anything. If you’re new to the industry you’re just going to have to lump it and if you’re an old sea dog then get with the programme and adapt or die.
I used to be one of the young punks, undercutting the industry and generally being a nuisance. I’d shoot, direct and edit and all for a tiny price. After a few years of working like that you begin to develop a sense of entitlement, glancing enviously at those in a position to command a higher fee. It got so bad that I had to go freelance in order to earn a better wage for myself, shacking up with an agent who’d only take on clients who paid the kind of fees I wanted. The reason I could get an agent? Because I’d busted my balls and worked for nothing and built a reel. No reel, no fee. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.
These days, your equipment list seems to win you the job. Producer needs a full 5D shooting kit, you have one, you get the job. What a crock of shit. That’s the way it is unfortunately. I keep hearing stories of people hiring the wrong person for the job simply because they had the kit and getting badly burned as a result. There is no substitute for experience: knowing how to cost a job, seeing problems before they occur, allowing enough time, finding solutions quickly, managing clients, not being a dick about ownership… all of this stuff. Production is at its heart a great big puzzle and problem solving is its single greatest skillset. Lack of experience can be highly destructive on set. If you want proof, then go do a 48hr film challenge.
The problem is now that it’s very difficult for skilled people to charge what they’re worth. I’ve had to work very hard to make myself more valuable by adding a multi-skill approach and by adding consultancy to my resumé, with work for brands in content marketing and that’s enabled me to put a premium on the services I offer. It’s vitally important that you work out what premium you can lay claim to, whether as a specialist in one particular form of production or as a proper multi-eventer. I consider myself a very good director, an excellent editor, a decent motion graphics artist and a very good cameraman and I’ve worked hard to be as good as possible at all of those disciplines. Add in producing, voiceovers, journalism and social media marketing skills and you’ve got a very good mix.
So, I’m experience, very experienced. I’ve done a disproportionate amount of work for my age because I set up my own production company and worked like a total maniac taking on every job that came our way and taking on senior positions in high pressure situations. We made it stick and we made lots of mistakes but my CV and my reel are super solid. Here’s what I charge:
Camera kit: £250 a day flat rate.
I do not negotiate. It’s all or nothing. You can’t afford it, you don’t get it. I’m not going to shoot without my entire kit so deal with it.
Cameraman rate: £300
I know this kit inside and out, I shoot like a director and I shoot like an editor. Deal with it.
Editing: at least £300 a day, rising to £350 depending on job
Motion graphics: at least £350 a day
Directing: For music videos £1250, or 10% of budget, whichever is higher. For corporate, at least £500 a day, though more like £1,000
So that’s it. Like I say to my clients, I’m actually good value.