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Documentary Pay?

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Patricia CartledgeDocumentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 12:47:05 pm

I need some advice. I was contacted by a film company out of New York and asked to be in a documentary that they were doing for a cable channel. This company works with multiple channels, like Discovery, TLC, etc. They want to come to me and film for two days, one day interviewing and one day doing extra filming of "my life" whatever that means. Here is my question, should I expect or asked to be paid? And if the answer is yes, then how much? It is for a television series currently airing, this is to be released a few months after filming.

I haven't ever had to deal with this before, nor do I have any real desire to be on TV, so not looking for that 15 minutes of fame junk.

Please help. Patricia



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David Roth WeissRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 4:04:31 pm

Patricia,

An excellent question, and the first time, to the best of my knowledge, anyone has asked it here, as most of us are on the other side, constantly working to secure people like yourself for these types of projects.

The answer to your question, like most answers in the real world, is not as simple as you might think. Remuneration most often depends upon the nature of the program and the nature of your story/testimony. If your story is considered to be news, or if the branch of the cable outlet is a news branch of that outlet, then typically you will not be paid, as payment could be considered to taint your testimony and the journalistic integrity of the program or broadcaster. In that type of case you can request reimbursement of expenses, and even time lost on the job, but not direct payment.

So, a true crime story on Discovery ID or MSNBC would be treated differently from a dinosaur or shark film on The Discovery Channel or National Geographic Channel. So, each venue, and each program has it's own requirements, depending upon it's jounalistic needs.

If the documentary is something other than news, you're at the mercy of the filmmakers and the budget. You should first ask what their policy is. You would not be the first to ask, so don't feel guilty. And, they should be prepared to answer the answer the question. No matter what they say, make a bigger case that includes getting reimbursed for your expenses. List the baby sitter, the dog sitter, your loss of wages, your dry cleaning bill for the outfits you'll wear, etc., etc., etc. They may pay, they may not -- it all depends how badly they want to tell your story.

Meanwhile, may I ask a question of you? You said, "I haven't ever had to deal with this before, nor do I have any real desire to be on TV, so not looking for that 15 minutes of fame junk." Okay then, please do tell, what exactly is your motivation for telling your story on TV?

Good luck,
David


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

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


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


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Patricia CartledgeRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 6:52:39 pm

Hi David,
To answer question, I left a bible-based cult 18 months ago, the group took one of our sons, killed our dogs, and we went through enormous amounts of trauma. Still have other family members there.
I fought back, went to the police, have since begun college and worked hard at getting an education to help others insimilar situations, rallied to help connect other ex-members reconnect with each other and family members, and have volunteered at a treatment facility that helps people like this this past summer. So for whatever reason, they found that worth interviewing..
Also I should mention, it is for a show called the the secret lives of women? I had never heard of it. It is on We tv.
Does that help formulate a better perspective?
I would do it if I thought it would help other people to realize that it exists everywhere and get educated or help. If I got paid, I want the money to be donated to the treatment center that helps families..I don't even want the money for myself.
All input is welcomed.



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David Roth WeissRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 10:14:48 pm

[Patricia Cartledge] "I would do it if I thought it would help other people to realize that it exists everywhere and get educated or help. If I got paid, I want the money to be donated to the treatment center that helps families..I don't even want the money for myself."

Okay, get it. There's not going to be big bucks in this no matter how you slice it. If you agree to be in their show contingent upon they're donation of some money to a treatment facility, I'm sure they'll do something. However, We TV is, like most smaller cable outlets, a low budget, low pay operation.

Meanwhile Patricia, take your own safety and security into account before putting your name and face out in front on something like this. It's a real possibility that the only people who will see the show are the very people who most don't want you to air their "dirty laundry." So, just beware.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide to do.

David

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

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


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


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Bryce LeverichRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 7:13:37 pm

Great advice David. I never even thought about the aspect of her "testimony" being tainted if she accepted pay, it makes perfect sense. On that note, if she were to donate any pay to a charity helping people like herself, do you think it would still be viewed as "tainted"? I think that it is awesome that she is willing to donate any pay she may receive.

If you are leery about the way in which they may use your interview, why don't you check out the show. I watched it awhile back, and they seemed to handle touchy situations very well. The topic I watched was on sexual addicts. Every woman was shown in a good light, and it seemed that for the most part their interviews were not edited to say anything other than what they are were trying to get across. You have to watch those producers, they can edit what you say and put it into any context, just watch a reality show. But like I said, after viewing the program, there didn't seem to be any of that being used in an offensive matter.

Good luck to you, you sound like a good person. I wish you the best in whatever you decide!
~Bryce


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Bill DewaldRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 4:10:31 pm


I wouldn't expect the pay that they would offer to materially sweeten the deal, if you otherwise aren't interested in participating. Won't hurt to ask.

Perhaps you could get a location fee for the use of your home?


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Mark SuszkoRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 5:16:47 pm

The word I like to throw around in these conversations is "honorarium". Which may br a token amount or serious coin. Have you reposted this question in the indie film and doc forum yet, if not, I think you should, to get the perspective from those guys like Harry Pallenberg.


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Mike CohenRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 7, 2008 at 9:28:56 pm

Having seen shows like this one and other reality/people doing odd or embarrassing things shows I have often wondered what people get out of it. The desire to tell ones' story is probably enough for some people, but people who do odd or bizarre things must be looking for fame. Like the guy who was surgically altered to look like a cat, or the lady who had cardboard figures of Frodo and Sam Gamgee around her dinner table. But then there are people doing weird sexual things clearly behind closed doors - there must be some money in those shows...?


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Noah KadnerRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 8, 2008 at 9:14:05 pm

Can't imagine the pay is going to be more than a few hundred dollars unless you're literally the only person on the planet that fits what they're looking for in the interview. So don't expect to have hit the jackpot. I'd just ask for my expenses- like if I have to drive somewhere or miss a day's worth of work. Also is it really something you want to talk about? Why not write a book instead and you can control your story and profit your own way from it. You really don't stand much to gain in this process. My $.02.

Noah

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grinner hesterRe: Documentary Pay?
by on Oct 10, 2008 at 2:13:35 pm

this would need to be brought up as soon as it's mentioned, of course.
Your regular day rate is fine.
Most docs are not in the practice of paying for interviews.
I never have.



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Al BergsteinRe: Documentary Pay?
by on May 25, 2011 at 5:33:13 am

Stumbled on this searching for some other issue, it appears that Patricia did do the show!

http://www.wetv.com/secret-lives-of-women/videos/cults-a-family-torn

Alf


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