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Flat editing fee for documentary

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Rachel Miller
Flat editing fee for documentary
on Jul 25, 2013 at 3:32:22 pm

Hello Forum,

I am in the process of editing my :60 minute documentary and I would like to know what is a competitive flat fee to pay the editor I hired.

He says his hourly rate is $50.

Thanks,

Rachel


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Shane Ross
Re: Flat editing fee for documentary
on Jul 25, 2013 at 5:02:32 pm

Flat fees are for suckers. Hourly rates are the way to go. Flat fees mean that you could end up working on this for a lot longer than intended, and get constant changes, and they don't have to pay you for all this extra work.

And $50 is pretty good, depending on where you are located. Does this include the rental of your system too, or is that separate (should be), or are you on their equipment.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: Flat editing fee for documentary
on Jul 25, 2013 at 8:14:20 pm

Shane-" Flat fees are for suckers"

This needs to be framed on every edit bay wall.


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Bill Dewald
Re: Flat editing fee for documentary
on Jul 25, 2013 at 7:14:19 pm

A real loose rule of thumb:

Take the amount of raw footage that you have and multiply it by 10. That will get you to a rough cut.

Then two to six weeks of polishing, depending on how polished you want/can afford to make it.

Then once you lock it, you'll need to do the technical process of color/sound mix/final output.

This is why most editors on a long form doc do a weekly rate.


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Jim Scott
Pros, please answer her question
on Jul 28, 2013 at 2:45:51 pm

While you all make excellent points, I think you've missed Rachel's question, which is: "How much should I pay the editor that I have hired?" .... not, "how do I determine how much to charge to edit?"

I am just a hobbyist so I can't help, but would you professional editors out there please answer her question?



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Bill Dewald
Re: Pros, please answer her question
on Jul 28, 2013 at 3:03:48 pm

I think we answered it just fine, buddy.

She should pay her editor weekly. He editor makes $50/hr, so that's a very fair $2K/week.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Pros, please answer her question
on Jul 28, 2013 at 3:07:26 pm

Rate times hours is the answer. Editor makes their best estimate of the hours it will take, and you multiply that by their hourly rate. Note: that's an ESTIMATE. Every job is different, and you can't tell how long an edit will take, just from knowing what the finished run time should be. That could only sort of work for something that is ridiculously uncomplicated, cuts and fades only, without any consideration of work done on the sound or color correction or graphics. And it also assumes a straight linear story-telling, based on well-organized clips where the main job is just cutting out the dead stuff between clips.

We're not giving you an easy answer, because to put it bluntly, it's as stupid ( a better word would be
"imprecise" ) a question as "how much should a house cost"? Depends on what kind of house, location, materials, size, quality, level of customization and original work versus standard components, etc. A tarpaper shack and a mega-mansion both keep the rain off your head. The cost difference is in all the details and time put in, and in what comes up during construction that was not anticipated.

I did a gig where the edit time in hours was two point five times the length of the raw footage. And I did a job where it ran twice as long as the estimate, because after the shooting, the client made drastic changes that killed off half my available footage, and I had to create an hour's worth of new footage from scratch, as well as do massive audio clean-up on a lip smacking verbal tick on every third sentence, and build every graphic, for over fifty graphics.


To give a client a flat rate price for an edit is to risk under-charging or over-paying; neither of those are good for business. The fairest thing to do is make a good-faith estimate based on experience, after looking over the materials, and getting paid in thirds, so that if the project starts to go longer, the final third can be re-negotiated, or the project halted with no further expenses incurred.


if you don't have enough experience to give a reliable quote for the time on the job, then you make a memo stating you will only work up to x hours and then everything has to be reviewed and the new goals set to complete the job. I have had car repairs done that way, where the mechanic had to open up the engine or transmission before they knew just how much had to be replaced or whatever. Or you set a flat rate and hope you don't lose money on the deal. But that's for suckers. The flat rate doesn't connect directly to the quality or even length of the final cut, so an inexperienced client who is shopping around for rate quotes will draw improper comparisons between job A, which cost five grand, and Job B, which runs the same time and is about the same subject, but was far better prepared in pre-production, and had no audio or color timing issues to repair, so it got done in five fewer ours.


We're not hedging because we're didactic, but because every job is a custom job and it is foolish to try to commoditize custom work with flat rates.


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Jim Scott
Re: Pros, please answer her question
on Jul 28, 2013 at 3:20:10 pm

Gee, I didn't mean to step on anyone's toes. It just seemed that she was asking a fairly simple question that could have been answered fairly simply. As in, "$X an hour is a good rate, so a weekly flat rate would be $Y, plus $X an hour for every extra hour needed."

Sorry if I ruffled any feathers.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Pros, please answer her question
on Jul 28, 2013 at 6:12:53 pm

No feathers ruffled, no jimmies rustled. It's a fair and common question and we give a standard answer. But to take your question a step further, a flat rate in LA for an hour in a power suite that also has high end compositing and color correction is going to be different from the flat hourly rate a guy charges in Graybull, Wyoming, or Chicago, or Brooklyn. Besides the variations in every custom job, there are market considerations in every market that drive rates up or down to stay competitive and profitable. If we were to just pull a number out of our.. um, hat, we'd be lying to you at best, giving you bad advice at worst. You HAVE to know what your minimum rate is, and never drop below that, or you're losing money. How much MORE ABOVE your rate you can charge, that comes with experience and skill in haggling and knowing what the competition charges. it's good to be somewhere in the middle of rates in your area.


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Jim Scott
Re: Pros, please answer her question
on Jul 28, 2013 at 6:29:44 pm

Mark, all excellent points. Thanks



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