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salary pricing for off continent work

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Marie Dennis
salary pricing for off continent work
on Aug 8, 2009 at 5:17:09 pm

Hello oh wise ones,

I have a unique opportunity coming up and it is a huge leap forward in my career. I am new to being freelance, and the position being offered isn't exactly a freelance position. I was asked to name my salary and we would negotiate. Which of course means I have to ask for more than what I want, and I have never negotiated a salary before. Currently I work for a University and literally fell into a video production position on a low level admin salary, which I have been doing for 3+ years, plus side projects. My biggest project was a documentary I shot in Antarctica last Nov-Feb. Great fun and I filmed in -30F temps with 30 knot winds, woo hoo!! I loved every second of it! Anyway, that experience is what is landing me this new position. Here are the general responsibilities of the new job. The new job is not associated with the University.

I will report to the VP of the company and show him progress once a week, probably in the editing booth. The company is building a city in Africa, providing affordable housing for locals, teaching them trades associated with building the city, how to be green, and I will be using and training some locals as well. I will have complete overall responsibility for:

3-5 camera crews filming, editing, scripting, sound for 2000+ 3-5 minuet training and safety videos

a 1-2 hour documentary on the building of a new city

plus 15-20 self contained time lapse stations and their production to a video

I will be doing all the equipment buying (w/their money). I am thinking of going with Red for the documentary portion (any thoughts on that?)

I will do all the hiring (I have a good senior editor on board and ready to go)


housing, transport for me and my two dogs to africa, plus flights back to the US periodically to see family and vacations.

I will be working for them for 2-3 years on this project.

I WILL hire a lawyer to go over any contract for my work/salary.

Though I will be salaried with them, I will get to put my production company name on all the video.

As for my title, I am used to doing it all, scripting, filming, editing. graphics. Technically I am like a project manager (in academic terms), but in the film production world, I would be Producer/Director and this company would be the Executive Producer, correct?

This is a new area for me. I am used to academic pricing, which is low compared to the rest of the world. I have managed people before, and can do every position I would be hiring for. But, the moving out of the country to work, is totally new. I will also have to learn two new languages. And of course I will have to suffer living on the coast in a tropical climate for 2-3 years, how utterly terrible....... sniffle, sniffle.

so, does anyone have any pearls of wisdom, or suggestions on salary? Can someone pinch me, I think I am dreaming??????

With great respect, I thank you, thank you, thank you..... for any and all advice <3


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grinner hester
Re: salary pricing for off continent work
on Aug 9, 2009 at 3:42:27 pm

The bottom line is it depends on how much you want to do this. On a business level, this will remove you from your market long enough you have to look at it as starting over when you return. By that, you'd take your curruent salary, double it for the time than throw another 50 percent to justify the marketing and networking to be done when you return. However, is hangin in Singapore (or wherever) to enjopy and expand horizons, man it'd be great to get paid to vacate for a spell. Again, it's all in what you'll get out of it outside of fundage.
Pulling a number out of thin air, I'd say 400k is a round number to start negotiating from.

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Marie Dennis
Re: salary pricing for off continent work
on Aug 9, 2009 at 5:38:06 pm


Do you mean 400k for the whole project, or a yearly salary? GULP! I made 45k last year, working for a university. That said, I am ready to play in the big kid school yard, I've been waiting what seems like 100 yrs. Thanks for the advice :)


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grinner hester
Re: salary pricing for off continent work
on Aug 9, 2009 at 10:11:25 pm

I meant that as the package deal... the whole enchelada. Again, I just pulled a number out of the sky, not knowing your current situation.

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Marie Dennis
Re: salary pricing for off continent work
on Aug 10, 2009 at 12:51:39 am

ok, thanks for your input, it's greatly appreciated. I like enchiladas.... If I ever run into you, I'll buy you one. ;)


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Nick Griffin
Re: salary pricing for off continent work
on Aug 10, 2009 at 4:12:08 pm


I think you need to approach this like a business. What's their "pro forma" budget? From that, what can they afford and/or how much do they plan to make, and therefore, based on how much you're doing, what portion of the project's net return should be yours? Do you want to be paid regardless of how things turn out or do you want to bet on the financial outcome, therefore getting a higher return for taking some measure of risk? Do you want a guaranteed floor up front if you're taking a risk? And last, but certainly not least, can this project be done without you or, are your skills, style, knowledge a lynchpin to it's ultimate success or failure?

Lot to think about.

And I'm sorry to be the one to bring this up about your dogs, but taking them to Africa is a bad idea. Getting them into many countries is a walk in the park compared to getting them allowed back into the US or most other first world countries -- especially getting them back in from many places in Africa. You may be looking at months and months of quarantine. Then there's also the matter of them being exposed to diseases not yet known to the vets here, let alone to vets there. IMHO, it's better for the animals to stay with friends and be happy to see you when you get back. Bummer, but true.

Hope it all works out for you. Sounds wildly exciting.

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Paul Thurston
on Aug 10, 2009 at 9:16:41 pm

Ha! I've seen this before. Here's how it's going to happen.

1. The salary you will negotiate has already been set. It doesn't matter what number you give them, you will still get paid what has been established. So just ask what the number is and then you'll know. There will be no negotiation, regardless of what you were told... the "negotiation" is just the justification of the part of the budget they don't know about yet.... AKA what the equipment will cost.

2. Your Dogs will stay in the USA... if they travel with you to Africa... they aren’t coming back.

3. The purpose of all the video work you will do is to a) justify the money being used locally for various side project the construction will require, b) to control/protect the Engineers who will oversee the project locally and back in the States, c) to show back home how the project advances, and d) to teach the locals about safety rules and how things get done around the construction ground.

4. Since you are probably a US citizen, you will still be required to pay USA federal income taxes on all money received regardless of where you did the work... you'll also be expected to pay local income tax too. So keep that in mind when it comes to getting paid in Africa. (US Citizens living abroad get a sizable Federal income tax deductible, but any amount over that...)

5. Register at the local US Embassy... in case you got to leave the foreign country real quick.

6. Equipment wise... stick with SONY as much as possible. There's probably a local SONY rep where you're going so get to know them. You'll probably be buying stuff from them (tapes) when you least expect it. Regardless, all video equipment will need to be imported and you'll be expected to pay import tax. Whatever it would cost you to buy it in the States, multiply that by 2 just to cover import duty. Also remember that foreign electrical outlets may be different than what you expect.

7. Camera Crews (locals) may or may not know how to take care of your equipment... stuff will get broken and stolen. Your budget will need to account for that (+ import tax if you're getting new stuff ever so often.)

8. Depending on local conditions, your equipment may get "adopted" by bugs that like heat emitting devices. Bugs and equipment don't get along well for too long.

Enjoy your experience.

Paul Thurston

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