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FX freelance / project rate questions

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FX freelance / project rate questions
on Feb 27, 2006 at 7:47:33 pm


I've been doing some FX work for a TV pilot for a major station. They are very happy with what I'm doing to the point where they want to hire me/my company to do FX for the whole series if it gets picked up. Normally I am doing more motion graphics and broadcast design jobs, so I'm a little vague on how to price out something like this. I could just keep working on a day rate as we go along, but I'm thinking it should be priced by shots, settle on a project fee, etc. both for profit and to ensure proper planning. I'd definitely have to hire some freelancers for something that big.

Can anyone give me some guidance on day rates for FX artists? (keying, compositing, footage 'look' processing, some tracking and paint, nothing too complex... again, for a major TV station and decently budgeted show) Or how pricing breaks down for whole productions in the FX world? I'm getting paid well as a freelancer at a healthy day rate so far, but my feeling is I should work this as more of a company to company deal and not being a producer, I'm not sure what fees to charge.



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Mark Suszko
Re: FX freelance / project rate questions
on Feb 28, 2006 at 5:29:10 pm

I think I would hold out for day rates as long as possible. The percentage of shows that really make it is very small. Startup costs are always a concern, and it's possible they are going to try and get you to some of the work essentially for free by going to a per-job basis.

There are, as I'm sure you know, a LOT of things to figure out, lots of pathfinding done when making a pilot for a new show. The costs and timetable of the pilot are NOT an accurate basis for calculating the costs and timetable for series production. You have first-time use of sets, locations, effects, to set up. You're really making amovie in and of itself, is the way to look at it. if you win the lottery andget a greenlight for series, then you have some assets fromt he pilot you can re-use. Maybe. Unless they re-tool the show.

Typically the producers blow their entire wad on making the best pilot possible, so they get the show apoprved. There is no money left for the actual series, that has to come from a new deal. If they get a limited number of follow-on episodes approved, the rest of those episodes play a game of catch-up and looking for extra change under the sofa cushions to keep up with the look and production pace goals and standards that were set in the pilot.

So, with that in mind, you see that it's kind of early to lock yourself into a per-show billing situation. Too early to tell just how much help you'll need, what the flow will be, what kind and how many assets you have to handle weekly, what additional capital expenses you have to incur. Should you rent the extra gear for the first eight episodes, in case it doesn't make it? Or will you be able to pay it off before then, and turn it around to other money-making work if this show tanks? Or will you be holding the bag on a big bank note, waiting to get paid by guys who've stopped answering your calls?;-) You need the flexibility and responsiveness of an hourly. open billing situation, until a routine develops and they get a good idea of the per episode costs. Otherwise, you could winf up working like a dog and getting paid less than minimum wage, after you factor in the time and expenses. You can make that more palatable to them by using strong time management and reporting/accountability standards, so they know they are getting actual work done for the money.

That's my 2 cents on it.

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