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How to charge for Documentary editing

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Phil Incorvia
How to charge for Documentary editing
on Mar 25, 2010 at 8:26:32 pm

Hello All,

I'm set to be editing a documentary this summer (est final run time 1 hour) and am trying to figure out how to charge/estimate my fee. Any insight you have into a rate and/or thought process for arriving at one would be VERY helpful.

Thanks!
Phil

Setup:
2x2.8GHz Octocore
16GB RAM
ATI Radeon 4870 graphics card

FCS 3 - all up to date
OS 10.6.2


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Shane Ross
Re: How to charge for Documentary editing
on Mar 25, 2010 at 8:50:58 pm

1. Where are you located?

2. What is the overall budget of the doc?

3. What is your normal rate?

Shane



GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
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David Roth Weiss
Re: How to charge for Documentary editing
on Mar 25, 2010 at 8:59:10 pm

Phil,

The time it takes to edit one-hour doco can be several weeks or several years, with any of a number of factors beyond the control of the editor being the determining factor(s).

So, the only way for you, the editor, to receive the proper remuneration for your contribution to the project is to be paid by a unit of time, which for long-form projects typically means being paid by the week.

Anyone who tells you to "guestimate" a flat rate fee on a project with so many unknowns involved is setting you up to take a real beating. For example: if the producer is inexperienced, and the project that should take six months to finish winds up taking two years, do you think anyone will reimburse you for all that time? Will anyone recommending a flat rate reimburse you for the 1.5 years extra? Do you really think the producer will pay for that extra time? NO WAY!!!

The way this is done by professionals (such as myself for 30 plus years) is as follows:

1) Evaluate the project and the difficulty of acquiring the material required to complete it.
2) Evaluate the producer(s) and their level of experience.
3) Determine a realistic timeline for completion of the project based upon 1&2 above, and do not rely upon the producer's optimistic timetable unless the producer is very experienced.
4) Pick a weekly fee based your projected timetable.
5) If the producer tells you that a weekly instead of a flat fee is completely unrealistic, just ask them how they intend to pay you if the project goes way over their projected timetable.
6) Don't buckle. It's far better to walk away from an impossible situation in advance than to cross your fingers and pray for the best. The downside of not heading this advice is that you will almost certainly wind up with a big loss, and you will have no credit or film to show for your time and trouble.



David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™

EPK Colorist - UP IN THE AIR - nominated for six academy awards

A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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walter biscardi
Re: How to charge for Documentary editing
on Mar 25, 2010 at 9:20:11 pm

By the hour or by the day. That's the only way to do a documentary.

We're in the midst of four feature documentaries right now and we're charging by the hour. The documentary I'm just finishing up we made the first edit in March '09 and running time is 1 hour 24 minutes. Now we do not charge the same hourly rate as we normally do because they are such a long term project, but it's just a straight hourly rate because some days I work 2 hours, some days 10 hours. Easier to keep track simply going by the hour.

You absolutely positively cannot set a flat fee for a documentary because there are so many variables involved with them. Docs are usually very organic projects and take many turns during Post. In our case, we have no scripts and the editor is as much a Producer as the Producer is.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" featuring Sigourney Weaver coming soon.

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Phil Incorvia
Re: How to charge for Documentary editing
on Mar 25, 2010 at 9:28:11 pm

Thanks for your prompt answers and wisdom! Walter, you pretty much confirmed my plan of attack, including the lower and hourly rate.

Take care!


Setup:
2x2.8GHz Octocore
16GB RAM
ATI Radeon 4870 graphics card

FCS 3 - all up to date
OS 10.6.2


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Robb Harriss
Re: How to charge for Documentary editing
on Mar 25, 2010 at 11:26:49 pm

Phil,
you're getting good answers from good guys who know. The cost is the producer's responsibility. You're selling your time and your talents. Let them buy your time. If they want/need more to get their result, let them buy more. It's fine to set a rate based on volume. My "apparent" day rate gets lower when you buy weeks or months of time. But I'd never ever sell a day of my time for that price. Documentary is really all I do nowadays. The only way post can take a reasonable amount of time is to have everything extremely organized well before it goes near and edit suite.

Non-linear: all the time and nothing but.


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