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Romancing the day rate

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Mick HaenslerRomancing the day rate
by on Jun 13, 2009 at 3:58:41 pm

Hey Everyone

Haven't been here in a while. I've been getting a lot of still photography jobs lately so have been hanging out in those type of forums. Anyway, I got contacted by a production company through ProductionHub for a week long shoot for a A&E series show. They needed a "fixer" for preproduction location prep as well as crew support for shoot days. When the crew arrived, there was a Director, DOP, Sound Engineer, Production Coordinator and a Producer. The schedule was insane and unrealistic for a small crew so I ended up being Key Grip, Dolly Grip, Rigger, Camera Assistant, Gafffer......well, you get the picture. Average shoot day was 14 hours which was way over call times. The pay was $250 a day plus expenses(no overtime for long days), which if all I was doing was Fixer would have been fine. They now want me to do another shoot with them in 2 weeks which will require me to go out of town for the week. The main reason I wanted to do this shoot was for the experience and to work with the DOP whose work I like very much. I learned a ton and it will look great on my resume. My question is, is this a typical situation and day rate for what I was being asked to do? I kinda felt taken advantage of and come to find out the DOP and Director will not be on the next shoot because of the aforementioned issues. Thanks for your input in advance

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media

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David Roth WeissRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 13, 2009 at 4:49:36 pm


I think it's great that you were asked back. The producers obviously liked the fact that you went over and above the call of duty, which is what every producer wants to see when things get tough.

However, now that you've stepped up to the plate, proven yourself as a team player, a good worker, and a man who will do whatever is needed, when needed, you need the producers to step up. You were hired as a fixer for $250 a day, but out of necessity your job evolved into "the utility man," for which you should tell them your day rate is typically $350 to $400 a day. And, simply don't waiver... $250 is simply too low for anyone performing a technical job.

The overtime situation is probably never going to be satisfactory to any of their people, most likely why the cameraman and director aren't returning, so you should probably not try to deal with that unless you find out that others on the crew are being paid extra.

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


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

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Mick HaenslerRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 14, 2009 at 2:30:58 am

Thanks for the great advice Dave. I asked for $350 but was turned down. The Production Coordinator told me to bill for an extra day at $250 to help make up for it though. Apparently they have a set rate they deal with and won't budge which is why she can throw me the extra day but can't pay me any more than the $250. Thanks again for the great feedback. This is the first time I've been on a shoot like this and honestly didn't know what to expect.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media

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Todd TerryRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 14, 2009 at 1:40:44 pm

If you really wanna do that (and you might), I'd push for two extra days... minimum. You said it was a week shoot, so the extra $250 only comes to a puny extra $50 a day... which doesn't seem like nearly enough to even take care of off-the-clock overtime they are making you work.

If they want you badly enough, they will figure out how to pay it. If this is a legit production then that little bit of extra should be peanuts to them.

If not, then unless you just really want that gig I'd just walk away and not feel bad about it... especially since an effective part of your previous "pay" was the education you received from the DP... who won't be around this time.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Tim KolbRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 14, 2009 at 8:56:19 pm

I'd have to agree that 250.00 a day is actually pretty low for a competent grip...much less a producer/all purpose production crew member.

Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,

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Paul Thurstonday rate
by on Jun 15, 2009 at 1:32:18 am

Hi Mick,

What do you tell somebody that was completely underpaid, bait and switched, and asked to do it again?

The fact of the matter that you learned new stuff is beside the point. The issue is that you agreed to do something and found you were doing work that requires much higher pay. Much, much higher pay I might add.

When dealing with dishonest people, it's really difficult to stand for your right to be treated honestly. I've seen it. Dishonest Producers usually tend to justify their actions in production meetings by saying something around the lines of... "Don’t be sad to step over lower individuals, they’re just steps in your ladder of success."

The cause of these work realities are Production Executives who underbid to get the gig. That's why they offer ridiculously low wages, unrealistic work schedules, and expect you to agree to "perverse" work systems (such as bait & switch and suggesting you lie about the number of days worked just to get paid "for your extra effort.") These "perverse" ethics tend to mold the crew to act dishonestly to get paid for honest work. If you ever see that pattern of work in any production again, that’s your cue to not work with those people again.

Wish you the best,

Paul Thurston

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Bob ColeRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 15, 2009 at 4:02:24 am

You can only rationalize feeling underpaid with "but I learned so much" a few times. If $250/day plus sweeteners isn't enough, turn down the job. Although you showed great loyalty by working harder than the agreement, they aren't reciprocating. So work for $250 if you want, don't if you don't.

Producers tend to be rather cynical about leveraging the "glamor" of their gigs for cheap labor. Eventually some people decide to turn down cable series or even feature work so they can do less chi-chi but better-paying corporate gigs.

It's up to you.

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Mick HaenslerRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 15, 2009 at 12:44:55 pm

Thanks a lot guys. It really helps to be able to come here and flesh an issue like this out. Working on a national/international level is new to me. I was really hoping I was going to get a Bob Zelin B%*ch Slap about what a woose I was being but I guess not. And Paul, you make an excellent point about them asking me to bill an extra day being dishonest. Missed that one. Bottom line is, I don't need the money that bad. Thanks again everyone.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice.............W W Well ya can't fool me twice...."
George W Bush

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media

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Chris BlairRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 16, 2009 at 1:55:58 am

My question is, is this a typical situation and day rate for what I was being asked to do?

One thing I haven't seen anybody address is Mick's question to whether this was a typical situation. I freelanced for years in the 90's and I can unfortunately say "yes, it is."

I used to do a lot of freelance work for ESPN shooting sports. Mainly college basketball games. And these weren't low-profile games, these were typically University of Kentucky, IU, Louisville and other teams in that geographic region. At the time, all of them were perennially top ten teams.

I did it because I liked it. Which was a good thing because ESPN paid $75 for a 10-hour day. read that right....$75. And I not only shot pre-game stuff, the entire game along the sideline (usually hand-held), post-game interviews. I ALSO had to help pull-cable and setup stuff before the game, AND stay after the game to help the production truck pack up for their next gig.

It sucked, but it was great experience. At the time, on most other jobs I did, I was getting $250 to $300/day (this was 15-18 years ago).

Fast-forward to modern times. As a facility owner, we occasionally do work for ad agencies (which is odd since we also are an agency). Invariably, they schedule 12-14 hour days with way too many setups, with no breaks for crew, and they typically don't bring anything for people to drink, snacks...nothing.

They also typically will schedule a shoot day that's 10-12 hours long on top of a drive round-trip to the shoot of 2-3 hours. Do this 3 or 4 days in a row and you're wiped out...and by the last day you're at the point of not caring much about the quality of the work.

These same agencies are constantly trying to trim the budget. I've been asked countless times in the last 3 or 4 years by agency producers, "do you really need to light?" It's incredible that people ask that...but they do. We've had agency producers plan elaborate scenes with talent, only we get to the shoot, and the talent turns out to be people they've recruited off the street...or from the aisle of a grocery store, or the showroom of a car dealer. Again...I'm NOT kidding.

I've always been a little annoyed and amazed at how badly many producers treat a production crew. When we schedule shoots ourselves, we ask people working if they have kids they have to pick up from daycare at a certain time, or if it might be a long-day, we offer them some sort of small perk to help make up for it. If it's an employee, we give them a half-day or full-day off as compensation. If it's a freelancer, we'll pay them more, or get them a gift card to a nice restaurant.

Anyway....long answer to a simple question, but's typical in this industry. I've never understood it...but unfortunately, it's how most production crews work. I've always believed you'd get better work and footage by scheduling a crew for 3 normal days vs. scheduling them for 2 insanely long ones. And when you pay overtime, it's probably cheaper to do the 3 day option paying normal day rates.

Chris Blair
Magnetic Image, Inc.
Evansville, IN

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Mick HaenslerRe: Romancing the day rate
by on Jun 16, 2009 at 2:43:27 am

Thanks so much for the direct answer Chris. In talking with the Sound Engineer I definitely got the impression of "welcome to the big time buddy, ain't it great!!!" I emailed the Production Coordinator this morning and told her after thinking about it I had to reconsider the offer. I told her that while I appreciated the offer of being able to bill for an extra day that I wasn't comfortable with that arrangement and that my price was $350/day with overtime after 11 hours. I haven't heard anything back yet.

And Chris, I have to commend you. So many times we want to read into a post or inject our own personal spin on a given situation. You on the other hand, actually answered my query directly. No offense to anyone else who responded as I am grateful to any and all input, but I think the lesson for all of us including myself is....Am I answering the question posed, or do I have an agenda here? Do I want to help this person or do I want to make myself look bigger? Am I reacting or being helpful? On the other hand, if the OP is being a jerk in his post and responses( as we all sometimes can be), give 'em the Zelin B*&ch Slap!!! Thanks for helping me look into my own forum behavior Chris, hopefully it'll stick.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media

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