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Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales

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John MurphyFreelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 8, 2009 at 9:50:50 pm

Hi everyone,

I Have a question relating to billing doing freelance ENG work, for those of you who do it:

We only have four major players in Television broadcasters in our region. As well as a small corporate player, we are the area's major Freelance ENG operator. Like everywhere else at the moment, money is tight and the games re payments are rife. Except for two of the four, the remaining two try every trick in the book on how to get your pictures without paying you a decent wage for a day's work. I guess that's the name of the game, but find this strange when the remaining two just pay what you invoice.

One of the tricky two (let's call them Tricky 1) have a regular method of purchase up their sleeve: they KNOW we will have the pictures of local events, but they never ring us for the vision...they mostly ring the other tricky mob (Tricky 2) and get the vision from them, resulting in both Tricky 1 and Tricky 2 expecting to pay only a half of my our fee.

The logic behind this means that, like what happened recently, you can end up working for 18 hours on a major (and I mean major) news story and each of the tricky players will expect to pay you a couple of hundred dollars for your trouble. They get an HD crew and mobile FTP facilities where the vision can be delivered to them almost immediately, regularly throughout the course of the event, for $500 per 18 hours (for example).

Our practice is that they are charged the normal full rate with a discount because it has gone to several players.

I will be open to correction here, but, with only four players in this market, the opportunity to make decent money on doing freelance news is pretty slim, and when the opportunity does arise, being screwed for the experience is not a good feeling.

At this point, Tricky 1 is arguing our invoice, saying "Tricky 2" organised the vision for us, so we should share the cost with them. Nothing about this was discussed with us.

Are we screwed on this one?


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grinner hesterRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 8, 2009 at 11:34:10 pm

First, man, bad business is NOT the name of the game. Roll around with pigs and your simply gonna get dirty.
No, you are no screwed. Go collect what is owed in person and then do not do business with these fools anymore. Relocate if you have to. Sounds like you will sooner or later anyway.
I've told this lil story here a time or two but it surely comes to mind again.
A dude was found all burned in his bed. When saved, he was aked "how did your bed ctach on fire?" He answered, "I dunno... it was on fire when I laid down on it."
Don't go laying on burnin' beds, man.



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David Roth WeissRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 8, 2009 at 11:47:02 pm

[John Murphy] "they mostly ring the other tricky mob (Tricky 2) and get the vision from them, resulting in both Tricky 1 and Tricky 2 expecting to pay only a half of my our fee.
"


Can you specify that the sale/license is exclusive and not for resale?

Or, what about calling the program director at Tricky 2, tell him what's going on, and tell him that if it continues you'll double your rate?

Since I'm not sure how that works where you live those are my best ideas.

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, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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John MurphyRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 9, 2009 at 12:58:42 am

The thing is there are no rules (apart from the ones the networks make up) and, if there were any rules, they would be manipulated to suit the networks anyway.

I actually made an error. We have 5 major players here, not 4. Three of those never question my invoices, but Tricky 1 and 2 regularly do so and are becoming increasingly creative in their ways to reduce their cost of hiring us.


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grinner hesterRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 9, 2009 at 8:53:00 am

as mentioned... when invited not to do bidness with a company anymore.. simply don't do bidness with em anymore.



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Mark SuszkoRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 9, 2009 at 1:59:59 pm

You got the amount you agreed to, right? What they do after that isn't your business, unless you retained the rights.

If you are doing these on a "work for hire basis", you don't retain any rights to the footage once you get paid and hand it over, so the guys that paid you are free to share their costs by re-selling it to others all they want. Nothing you can do about it, unless you have a written contract that says you retain the copyright. I can't imagine a news director anywhere that would agree to signing that, it would tie their hands too much.

I think best you can hope for here is to charge a little more for your work, knowing that the guys that are sharing the use of it are still getting it at a discount, and demand it COD. After you give them the tape, what they do with it is no longer your business, absent a written contract that says otherwise, so fuggeddabouddit.



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John MurphyRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 9, 2009 at 10:35:43 pm

Mark, an interesting comment.

There are no "agreed rates" and no agreements. Here in Australia, there appears to be no normality when it comes to freelance ENG, or perhaps that in itself is normality. No time for formulating agreements/distributing them on the way to shooting and then feeding out "the big one". No network would tolerate that.

it is all very slap-happy, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of stuff.

I don't understand how there ever could be an agreed rate before going on such big breaking news stories, because you don't know how long it is going to take to get the job done. I started on this particular story at 5.30 in the morning and finished 11pm the following night. No one would have guessed it would have taken that long.

Shoot, feed, go home and invoice. Final rate dependent on time spent there and associated costs.

There is no COD with any vision when it comes to news here. You are lucky to be paid in 90 days for your efforts.

I have since learned from another freelancer that, if he shoots and sells to all networks, he charges full rate to each and applies a discount of 20% to each because of the multiple sales. That is when he KNOWS it is going to those networks.

That said, I understand that once one network gets the vision, they can do whatever they want with it...just not real keen on the games played/networks working in cahoots so they get the vision "cheap" when it is us on the front line.

As I said, three of the 5 networks don't care. Two of them are starting to develop a pattern.

It's a shame we really only have 5 client opportunities here for news.


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Ned MillerRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 10, 2009 at 2:16:28 am

I've been shooting for 33 years and here's what I know:

News doesn't pay.

Used to in the old days when they needed pros, especially if you were on staff with a network. But what you're doing, at least in the Chicago area, it doesn't pay much and you'll always be in these situations that you now find yourself in. Real rat race where only quantity will make the difference. Avoid the news...

Regards,

Ned


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John MurphyRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 10, 2009 at 3:50:35 am

Hi Ned,

We have been shooting news for 20 years this year and I don't entirely agree with your comments. News CAN pay. If you know how to play the game.

We have made some obscene amounts of money in the past (1990's) doing freelance news ONLY and have made a very good income from it in the last 5 years, but nowhere near the amounts as in the '90's because of the changes.

If I go out for 1 hour and shoot a quick interview for five networks, I get $2000. But admittedly that doesn't happen as much as it used to. But if you look at it that way, it certainly pays.

It used to be our only form of income, but now we could not survive on doing News alone. We mix it with corporate and web videos.

One thing I do know, however, is that when I DO do news, it will normally be for at least three networks and, for a short job, will equate to around $1500 in sales. Not bad for up to four hours work. Full day? $3000. Not bad money for shoot only and no edit.

But the problem is, you have to get the work and you have to play the game so you don't get ripped off by the "Trickies" in this world.


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Ned MillerRe: Freelance ENG billing question - multiple sales
by on Sep 10, 2009 at 12:07:40 pm

Oh sorry. I thought you were a stringer. The only times I made money in news was when there was a LOT of overtime and we would ala carte all the accessories. I would only shoot for one network at a time. The networks here are so competitive I can't imagine them splitting the video. Also, once I started having kids I realized what a rat race it was and I had to deal with too much depressing subject matter. I found corporate shoots and TV shows so much easier plus I get to edit a lot which is nice indoor work compared to news.

I reckon you have the game down right if you're making that kind of dough. Keep doing it.

Happy Shooting!

Ned


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