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Suggestions for a project out of town...

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Jeff Bonano
Suggestions for a project out of town...
on Dec 30, 2009 at 1:50:44 pm

First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Second, I've tried searching for the answers here on the forums and only can find some slight answers. With that said, I have an interesting question.

I was talking with a client who wants to make an instructional DVD to go with their kit to give to clients. They want to do the filming at their training facility out of town. We have yet to set a date for the consultation but It should be within the next month.

My question is this. I have never done a project out of town that lasts longer than a few hours and want to have my rates and quotes in a row when I tell them that they have to budget for my travel expenses and other fees, I don't really know what I should start at.

I know I need to charge for travel time, room and board, and maybe some other expenses. What are your suggestions for all this? What if I need to take an extra person along to help out?

Also since I'm going to be there for a couple days, do I charge them a full 8 hours a day or just for the time I actually take to set up/film/breakdown?

I was already planning on charging separately for post-production along with these other rates, but do you think that is a good move, or since they may be paying a lot for the filming and travel, is it better to charge a flat package rate? Suggestions, suggestions, suggestions.

Like I said before I have yet to meet with them about it so I don't know much more of what the project entails, so I'm just asking ball park ideas at the moment so I don't go into the consultation with a dumb look on my face and drool coming out of my mouth. Thanks in advance for your help Cow Members!

Jeff Bonano

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano

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Mark Suszko
Re: Suggestions for a project out of town...
on Dec 30, 2009 at 3:37:13 pm

The last time I traveled out of town for a corporate gig was a long time ago, but since that client had a corporate travel agent and special company discounts, I let them book the travel and hotel for me on their dime, thus didn't bill for the travel, which only took a half day. I liked that I wasn't waiting for travel erimbursement on this kind of deal, and they were glad to get the cheapest trravel and assurance I wasn't gouging them for it. Yes, it was coach, so what. I think I added enough to cover my O'Hare airport parking, buried in my time bill somewhere, along with my meal budget, which was quite modest for a 2/3 day gig, something like $25 a day. I ate cheap in those days. Dinner my first night was fresh crab meat in a cup at Aliottos on the Embarcadero, awesome to little old 23-year-old me. on my first "big-boy" trip anywhere, all by myself.

You should be charging a day rate for each day you are there, though you could apply a discount if you wanted to. I wouldn't, since you are fully committed to their project for this, and may have had to turn down other work for their project.

On the travel days, if you're not also shooting those days, perhaps a half-day rate would be fair. Up to you. If a travel day also has shooting the same day, I would bill day rate and stay as long as it takes to get the work done. Within reason.

If this were me, the deal would be only for the shoot and travel, and the edit back home would be a separate contract.

If you make it all one package, you may not get reimbursed timely for the up-front costs you encounter on the gig; they may want to hold off paying you for everything until the final product is delivered, and I would not agree to this. The shooting is one service, to be done and paid for. The edit will then follow as a separate gig.

It may happen that they crunch the numbers and decide to hire a local to do the shoot instead of flying you out. If that happens, be gracious and accomodating but figure and have them sign some contractual language saying that you are not responsible if the footage they bring you to edit isn't 100 percent good, and figure some extra edit time just in case you have to repair or otherwise supplement what was shot - say, a massive audio sweetening because they didn't mic the speakers well. That could eat up a LOT of time. Another reason the shoot and edit should be separate contracts.

If they don't pay up in full for your shoot before the edit starts, I would begin to worry. My policy for an edit job would be payment in thirds; one third up front to start the job, one third at the point of first rough cut, final third before delivery of finished and corrected work with all changes applied. The thirds are a rough number, you base them on your day rate times how many days based on previous experience with similar jobs that you figure this job should take, plus a fudge factor for the unexpected.

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Mike Cohen
Re: Suggestions for a project out of town...
on Dec 30, 2009 at 5:40:37 pm

I've said it before - charging hourly for production services is a lousy way to make a living. Charge them a project price - even if you have to break it down into line items for them. But charge enough in the whole project price to cover your time, and just put in your proposal "travel and lodging charged at cost."

So if it is a 2 day shoot and a 20 minute final video with your usual style of graphics, narration, effects etc, you know that you want to make say $10,000 gross. You will have already figured out your actual costs and estimated time, to know how much net profit you will realize. Then break that down for the client as you see fit.

All of our jobs are out of town. Few clients get hung up on travel expenses and time - they just want the final product.

Pay yourself first.

Mike Cohen

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David Roth Weiss
Re: Suggestions for a project out of town...
on Dec 30, 2009 at 6:44:06 pm

[Jeff Bonano] "I'm just asking ball park ideas at the moment so I don't go into the consultation with a dumb look on my face and drool coming out of my mouth."


Life is full of transactions and negotiations -- constantly, daily, all day long -- and while each of us needs to play that game, there is no rule that you must complete any transaction on the spot.

So, when you go into a meeting or consultation, such as the one you're concerned about above, realize that you don't have to sweat the details, because you are under no obligation to deliver a price to the other side at the time of the meeting.

You should consider the meeting as an opportunity to "qualify" the prospect -- i.e. ask them for their budget parameters. However, all you need to actually need to tell them at the time of the meeting is that you need some time to put the numbers together, and that you'll get back to them with some ideas about what things will cost. Most people will respect that, and it takes all the pressure off of you.

So, relax... There's no burden on you at the upcoming meeting. BTW, make sure your time is included under a "consultation" line item.

David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


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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Jeff Bonano
Re: Suggestions for a project out of town...
on Dec 31, 2009 at 3:51:39 pm

Thanks for the advice here! I agree that I shouldn't feel pressured to give a final price here on the spot an that things could change. I also think it's wise to avoid an hourly rate. Setting a price for everything also helps the client with the big answer, "How much is this whole thing going to cost and what should we budget for?" Of course I do typically request a deposit up front of anything that runs over $400 dollars that is non refundable which my serious clients never seem to have a problem with. And finally since competition is all over here on the west coast, telling them that we need this, this, and that for travel fees and stuff could also push them into just calling a local business to wherever place they want to shoot. I think it would be best for this situation to have a flat travel rate as part of the itemized contract and just leave it at that.

You guys have been a great deal of help as always. See you in 2010!

Jeff Bonano

"I want to have a cool quote at the bottom of my signature, just like everyone else on the cow forum!" -Jeff Bonano

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Nick Griffin
Re: Suggestions for a project out of town...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 4:34:20 pm


Most of us have pricing templates which help us arrive at an estimated cost in a logical and predictable manner. The template is also helpful in remembering everything -- for example, we don't often need someone for hair & make-up, but its on my estimating sheet so I don't forget to budget for it when we do.

I've seen several variants of estimating templates in spreadsheet form. The big question is when, how and whether to share them with your clients. For me I typically want to "black box" the estimate to avoid having a client try to pick them apart. For example, "Hey, I see that you're charging us $7 each for 50 DVDs. We'll take just one and duplicate the rest ourselves."

So rather than sharing the spreadsheet with all of its individual costs my estimate will be divided into categories. For example, for a 5 minute finished show:

Pre-Production & Field Production
- Scriptwriting (based on existing printed materials)
- Location set-up & site coordination
- 1 Day shoot incl. Director/Cameraman incl. all lighting and support equipment,
- Producer, Grip, Recording Media

Post Production
- AFTRA voiceover actor & union fees,
- Voice-over recording session,
- Licensed Production music,
- Scene transfer & shot logging,
- Non- linear editing (Suite & Editor/Director),
- Off-line EFX & titling (Opens/Closes/etc),
- Master to QT Files
- Downsample & Compress for web delivery

DVD Authoring
- Compression / Mastering,
- Title Design,
- Messenger/ FedEx to Dupe House,
- 50 DVD duplicates with printed label

Total Cost:
$X,XXX.00 (plus TBD travel expenses)

This is showing the client that there's more to the production than they typically have thought of and helps create the impression that there's sound reasoning behind the final cost.

What's the exception? It's really a play it by ear thing, but on occasion there are clients who fancy themselves as the producer and feel the need to be involved in all of the cost decisions. Many times it's also useful to have the spreadsheet available as a way to demonstrate how changes the client makes will affect the final cost.

Now as to charging for going out of town. It's a given that you always need to have your actual costs of travel reimbursed (if not fronted). But as to charging for the time you spend traveling, I think that has to be on a case by case basis. If the argument can be made that money can be saved by hiring a local crew rather than flying me across the country I'm likely to waive the cost of a travel day. However if I have specific expertise in the subject matter and am functioning as my own producer then building in compensation for all of my time is easily justified.

Hope this helps. Best of luck on your project, Jeff.

"Some people say that I'm superficial. But that's just on the surface."

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