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Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program

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Mark WeissNeed Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 1:50:16 am


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George SockaRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:07:04 am

First reaction is: "run and hide" Second reaction is: see what one of her shows looks like and go from there. Third reaction is: since when is a 30 minute TV how 29 minutes? Maybe on the weather channel? Live traffic cam? Fourth reaction is: get her to agree to pay by the hour in one hour increments - in writing. If it only takes 1/2 hour to shoot 29 minutes of content then her costs will be minimal - whether it is worth your while is up to you of course. Not sure how you will explain to her that it takes 30 minutes to transfer from your camera to the edit system and another 30 back out even without any creative effort. And since she has been doing it for years she obviously has not been working with a tape less sub real time system.

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Kris SimmonsRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 2:34:11 am

I get this type of call about twice a year. They never work out. I learned the hard way that if a prospective client is that difficult on the very first phone call, they won't be a client I'll enjoy working with. She is already trying to squeeze you and you haven't even met!

I'd bet the house that she is a late payer as well which means you'll not only be working on the cheap, you'll also have to wait forever to get paid. She'll expect you to keep producing shows while she continues to not pay you for your work.

This situation gets ugly in a hurry. I'd be concerned that she is calling you instead of companies located closer to where the shoot will take place. We get calls every now and then from larger city businesses that indicate early in negotiations that the reason they called us was because they were hoping to find a huge discount as compared to production rates in their city. THAT INSPIRES CONFIDENCE!

Finally, you aren't charging enough money for your services. Raising your rates to be closer to industry standards has a way of attracting the serious prospects and discouraging the tire kickers.

If you decide to submit a proposal for this project, pad your quote as much as you can get away with. If you don't, you'll be pissed off every time she calls you with demands for your time.

Good luck!

Kristopher G. Simmons

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Steve WargoRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 6:37:28 am

I wouldn't touch this dog for anything less than $2500 to $3500 a show. It seems like you and a helper could knock this out in a day. We've done cheap shows in the past and they never work out.

That being said, we did 13 shows for Bally Fitness 11 years ago and we built a live switch cart with a cheap switcher and two light posts. We could shoot and live switch a show in about two hours. Back at the studio, we would (tape to tape) make a single pass and add lower thirds and some prebuilt bumpers and have a master tape in about 70 minutes. While we are on location, we would shoot two shows and then edit two shows at a time. I believe we charged $1200 a show.

When people call us on these things, we usually ask them what they want to pay because they set the budget anyway. You can do this but have some sort of starting point. When they say they only have "X", they are lying. Always start higher and don't be afraid to send them on their way. I have a couple guys that I send these jobs to who are always bitching about how little they make and they don't seem to be able to figure out what the problem is. Some people think they'll never work unless they are the cheapest game in town. Don't be one of those unless your work is so bad that you're not worth more.

Steve Wargo
Tempe, Arizona
It's a dry heat!

Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
Sony EX-1 on the way.

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Todd at Fantastic PlasticRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 8:34:50 am

You've been given good advice.

I will second what others have said. Run, don't walk.... away.

Your observation that "The woman was very terse, sounded demanding and somewhat haughty," would have immediately earned my polite "We appreciate your call, but we're probably not the best option for you...good luck!"

This client is nothing but trouble from the get-go. No one needs those kind of headaches, even if you are hurting for business. I would gladly pay your rate not to take her. Have any enemies you'd like to refer them to? :)

And speaking of rates... I have no concept of your equipment/capabilities/abilities/talent, but if you are halfway decent or better you are giving your work away. If you fall into the "pretty darn talented" category you could easily triple your rates. That would not be at all out of line for "small-crew-but-high-end-production" work.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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walter biscardiRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 11:37:03 am

Ok, first of all, has anyone else gone to!?! DUDE! My eardrums are rattling just looking at your home theater. You are truly insane and if only I could convince my wife to let you re-wire our home theater, we could be insane together......

Ok, ok, ok, now back to the question. As advised here, this does not sound like a good deal here.

You already said the woman did not sound pleasant on the phone. That's strike number one.

Second, if they are already producing the show, she should realistically be coming to you WITH a budget and asking if you will work within that. That's strike number 2.

[Mark Weiss] "And I informed her than post production would likely be about 4 hours. She enquired

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Raymond Motion PicturesRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:22:30 pm

[walter biscardi] "So I would recommend you work out some day rates for the shooting end of things. Makes it MUCH easier for you and the client when it comes to billing."

Yeah, forget the hourly stuff. Give her a turn-key price on the first show you shoot. Then adjust up or down in price for the rest and base the contract on that 'enlightened' pricing.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:58:33 pm

It could be she was just surveying other suppliers to get multiple bids and you were never really a consideration. Or she just had a fight with her current supplier and, still steaming, went looking for a replacement. Or she's burned thru the local talent and has to now cast a wider net.

I'm pretty sure I know what kind of program this is, sight unseen. Saw one last night on one of my cable systems' LO channels, the one reserved for paid informercials.

Initial concept was not bad, actually. It was a Thanksgiving-themed infotainment show where the hosts visited with a couple sponsoring local businesses to show viewers what was available to ease their holiday entertaining and cooking. So they hit up the local old fashioned market, talking to the owner about holiday family traditions, his long history in the community (since the 30's), how to buy a turkey, and mentioning his specials, then off to a local restaurant (more plugging) that cooked the turkey for them, (lots of kitchen talk on recipes and suggested side dishes and premade desserts available locally) and "served" it for the final segment at a home decorating business that handles everything from designing dinner table settings to redecorating your house for company and even setting up and decorating your Christmas tree, etc. So you pool a variety of such local service companies into a half hour "tour" video, they all chip in a small amount of cash and services and leverage off advertising each other's services. Not so bad. Could even be modestly profitable.

Being local cable, the execution was of course horrible.

With three and four people in the shot, they were all sharing one or two lavs or a single lav and a camera mounted shotgun, so all the audio was horrible.

The whole thing was shot live single camera on location.

While the lighting was not bad, the camerawork was: no cut-aways, just a lot of tromboning zooms in and out, reallll slooowwwly, as the conversation rambled on between people.
Painful to watch.

The best way to have done this would have been Wargo's little portable 2-cam with live switcher unit he mentioned. Even if the second camera was just a wide locked-down cover shot, it would have allowed the other camera to snap around to single shots and 2-shots and detail shots of products being mentioned in the show and really brought some life and pep and apro look to the show. And preserved isos for fixing any live mistakes quickly in an NLE without having to do the whole thing from scratch.

It would even have been possible to fake 2 cams by just taking the time to shoot close-up cutaways of things like the turkey and the place settings and the xmas trees being talked about afterwards, etc. and dropping them in over the master tape in a cuts-only linear edit. This is an area where such "antique" editing systems still can make a lot of practical sense since they don't need to digitize. Or a 2-cam shoot with the switching faked in post on an NLE.

But it was obvious the cable company was not wanting to budget more than an hour for post, or did not have multiple cams to shoot with. Hell, they didn't even have enough mics for everyone!

Back to crazy lady now: her program is very likely a similar Local Origination type deal like this turkey above, or it is a lecture session to one camera, scripture interpretation, poetry reading, something like that, which is why she expects little post work because she wants it all done live in one take.

I thought your bid to her was more than fair, perhaps even a bit lowball. But if she is going to want to limit your technical setup to sngle-cam live one-take crap, just to save a few bucks, this is never going to lead to work you'd be proud to put your name on, or that will actually meet her own goals, and she's also likely to stiff you unless you put her on a cash on delivery basis. It is good to know your hourly rate, but for a project and client like this you should probably be talking day rate for the shoot and hourly for the post work, quoting a minimum number estimate of hours on the post.

I would say it can't hurt to try it one time as long as it is cash basis on delivery. If nothing else it might be good practice if you have nothing else going on. But I too am as skeptical of this woman as the other posters.

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grinner hesterRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 12, 2007 at 3:35:06 pm

Every now and again, someone will contact me wanting this or that. I tell em what I can do and how much I can do it for. If they say yes, it's on. If they say thats too expensive, it's not.
It doesn't have to be more complicated than that.
I have told many a network how much I can make a 30 minute show every week for. No sale yet but I'm not gonna close down my regualar work flow to take a cut in pay.
I have spent very little time haggling in this business. Even back in the days of job interviews, I'd get pretty mad when somebody asked me what I'd work for on the phone, have me take a day off, fly me to their city and then offer me less.
They's explain that my job was to ask for 120 percent of what I wanted and their job was to offer 80 percent. I'd always remind em that thats not what they asked of me and that I had already answered the question of how much I'd do it for. Haggling is a waist of my time. I'd rather be billing.

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Mark WeissRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 13, 2007 at 8:44:06 am

Excellent advice from everyone here. And very constructive. Given the consensus, I think I will pass on this lady

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Mike CohenRe: Need Pricing Guidelines on Producing 30-minute weekly TV Program
by on Dec 13, 2007 at 4:03:15 pm


We charge more for a shoot and quote an overall project price, based upon estimated hours. Inevitably the editing takes longer than anticipated, so the extra shoot cost makes up for that a little. If a client wants to hire someone with a lower day rate and pay hourly for the editing they are of course welcome to do so.

From a business point of view, it is not the best idea to give a price quote over the phone. Get the details of what the client wants, then compose a formal quote on your computer, with letterhead etc and e-mail or fax it over to the client, then they can try to negotiate. Or not.

I agree your prices are low. A half-day 1-man shoot in CT should cost around $500. A full day about $800. Add a 2nd person (sound/grip) the day rate is $1000 - $1200.

If someone like Ms. Haughty von Cheapo wants to nickel and dime your quote, send her a detailed time estimate, including things like digitizing (1 hour), quality assurance(30 min), mastering to tape(30 min) etc. You don't work for free.

You are right, looking at the woman's picture you can make a pretty good guess as to her personality. Sometimes you have to walk away, or if you take the job, you may have to fire your client.

But if money is tight and you need to work, you can always bite the bullet and know that you know more than the client. Money is money.


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