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Editing rates

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Josh Webster
Editing rates
on Jul 31, 2012 at 1:11:59 pm

I have been consistently editing projects for a friend of mine. He brings me projects, shoots and directs them and projects range from music videos to epk's to demo reels to multicams of plays and dance recitals. I usually get anywhere from $100 to $1000 for projects he shoots and/or directs, usually I get a 25-35% cut of what he gets paid for an overall project. I have also done a lot of work for free for him. He recently brought me 500 gbs of DSLR, HDV and GoPro footage to edit. It is two different nights of ballet footage, 56 dance numbers in all, approximately 4 hours of footage. The total pay he is giving me is going to be between $800 and $1000. I have to figure out the actual order of the songs since all he gave me is approximate playlists that are not in exact order. After I sync up all the clips (anywhere between 4 and 15 angles per song, usually closer to 15) I have to color correct, check all the clips, upload a preview for them to see and then design a DVD menu with after effects animation that I have to burn for delivery. This has taken me easily over 100 hours and I have been working with him for almost 2 years now and have been editing for closer to 10 years.Am I getting paid way too little for my efforts? What would a recommended pay be for this next time?


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Angelo Lorenzo
Re: Editing rates
on Jul 31, 2012 at 8:35:30 pm

Well $1000/100 hours = $10 an hour. I would say that's underpaid when you consider you're a skilled technician.

It's politics though. I have friends I work for at a reduced rate because their jobs have lower budgets but give me more work total. When they do land larger jobs with commercial clients, I'm the first one on their list and they're happy I charge my normal day rate along with expenses, prep days, and so on. He'll let me borrow gear and use his production insurance on my personal projects without hesitation. It sweetens the deal.

You shouldn't erode what you're worth though. Consider turning down some of his lower/no pay jobs if you think spending those hours finding higher paid work is more valuable to you. If he is a steady paycheck, you'll have to be gentle with that transition if you do make it.

Angelo Lorenzo
Fallen Empire Digital Production Services - Los Angeles
RED transcoding, on-set DIT, and RED Epic rental services
Fallen Empire - The Blog
A blog dedicated to filmmaking, the RED workflow, and DIT tips and tricks


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Editing rates
on Jul 31, 2012 at 8:36:13 pm

I think this would be better posted in the Business and Marketing forum. There you will find many stories like this, or worse.

[Josh Webster] " I usually get anywhere from $100 to $1000 for projects he shoots and/or directs, usually I get a 25-35% cut of what he gets paid for an overall project."

Bad idea. You need to charge what you need receive for your work to make a living at. This guy could be way undercharging and dragging you along for the ride. Set your rates at what you need to stay in business and pay your bills. And if that is too much for him to pay, he can either charge and pay more, or find some other schmuck to work for peanuts. Right now there is no incentive for him to do either.

[Josh Webster] " I have also done a lot of work for free for him."
Another horribly bad idea. As I said, go read some threads in the B&M forum. When you do this (along with working for substantially less than market rate) it devalues your work, and is part of why everybody's rates are falling.

[Josh Webster] " He recently brought me 500 gbs of DSLR, HDV and GoPro footage to edit. It is two different nights of ballet footage, 56 dance numbers in all, approximately 4 hours of footage. The total pay he is giving me is going to be between $800 and $1000. I have to figure out the actual order of the songs since all he gave me is approximate playlists that are not in exact order. After I sync up all the clips (anywhere between 4 and 15 angles per song, usually closer to 15) I have to color correct, check all the clips, upload a preview for them to see and then design a DVD menu with after effects animation that I have to burn for delivery. This has taken me easily over 100 hours and I have been working with him for almost 2 years now and have been editing for closer to 10 years.Am I getting paid way too little for my efforts? What would a recommended pay be for this next time?"
So I understand not all of this is editing, but lets just average the logging, editing, compression, authoring, etc into one rate for the sake of argument. I would say what you described should really bill out at between 4 and 7 thousand.
Another thing to think about. If you are an average staff editor, you should make between 20 and 30 dollars an hour depending on clients, type of work, market. As a freelancer you don't typically spend every hour doing billable work. There is all the other business related things that have to be done, and paid for that the staff editor doesn't concern himself with. So that means as a freelancer you need to charge more an hour, not less than the staff editor. And in your case you're basically working for fast food wages if you do the math on the hours vs the pay.
On big jobs it is common to bid a fixed amount, and not charge by the hour. But you still need to have an understanding of how many hours the job should take, and how much per everyone of those hours you need to charge for to cover not only your time, but wear and tear, and all the non billable jobs (marketing, accounting, maintenance and so on) that go along with operating a business.

Scott Sheriff
SST Digital Media
Multi-Camera Director, VFX and Post Production

The Affordable Camera Dolly is your just right solution!


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair


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Mark Suszko
Re: Editing rates
on Aug 1, 2012 at 3:52:21 pm

Scott has laid this out perfectly. You are lowballing your rates for this ballet gig.


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