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A question about salary, as usual.

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Lauren Brenner
A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 25, 2010 at 9:14:59 pm

I know that salary is very specific beast depending on experience and location. I'm looking for people who might be in a similar boat as myself.

I find it's very hard, even as a long-time staffer, to get a real idea of how much I should be making. In everyone's opinions, how much should an assistant editor in Los Angeles be making, on staff, if they've been at the same place for about 3 1/2 years. This is a successful commercial (and documentary) editorial. The 3 1/2 years includes moving up from runner (4 months) to vault (6 months) to assistant (a bit under 3 years). I also worked for a couple years at an editorial in NYC as a staffed assistant.

Hopefully there's enough in that equation.


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Andrew Kimery
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 25, 2010 at 10:39:16 pm

Every place is different and being staff will typically get your a lower hourly rate than freelance because you should be getting health insurance, paid time off, etc.,. It's been a while since I've done AE work but I would say $1,000/wk is on the low end and $1700-1800wk is the high end (this is based on 10hr days and 5-6 days a week). This was my experience in LA 4-5yrs ago working on some reality TV shows as well as a good sized post house that did mainly behind-the-scenes content for major films.

And, honestly, how long you've worked there doesn't factor into how much you make as much as how needed you are and what kind of revenue the company is generating. A company barely breaking even year after year isn't going to be able to pay out as much as a company swimming in profit.


-Andrew

3.2GHz 8-core, FCP 6.0.4, 10.5.5
Blackmagic Multibridge Eclipse (6.8.1)



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Lauren Brenner
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 25, 2010 at 11:31:59 pm

Yeah, I understand how important one is to the company is an enormous factor in how much one should be paid. But I was just looking for a ballpark figure. Something to put things in perspective. Basically, I'll be going in to ask for a raise soon (3rd year here, recession petering out). Right now I'm only making around 650.00 a week, which seems low to me. I assist both Avid and Final Cut (very well I might add). I'm technically savvy when it comes to how our systems and network are run, I know every professional workflow available right now (film to HD to 4k), and my problem solving skills are top notch when technical bugs arise. Not to mention I'm fast as hell doing all the assistant work.


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Richard Herd
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 12:40:30 am

Don't ignore other markets. Not only could you make more income, but the cost of living is less.


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Lauren Brenner
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 1:04:53 am

Right now I'm living in Los Angeles. Obviously this is probably another important factor.

Richard, what are you referring to when you say that I should be open to other markets?


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Shane Ross
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 4:42:52 am

Wait...$650 a week, in Los Angeles, while having worked at a place for 3 years?! Sorry, that is pretty darn low. $1000 is the LOW end as Andrew said. You should be making $1200/$1500 average. But that is average. What kind of productions does the company do to pay that little? Wow.

$1000 was my pay 8 years ago...non union. Union it was $1200.

$650 seems low. But don't now go walking up to the boss and say "Hey, I heard people saying I should get $1000-$1200 a week!" Do that and you might lose your job, and in this market, they'll be able to replace you like THAT! You might have to gently ask for more.

$650...the mind reels...


Shane



GETTING ORGANIZED WITH FINAL CUT PRO DVD...don't miss it.
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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grinner hester
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 2:55:58 pm

IMO, a staffer of the same post house for 3 years should not be assisting anymore. It's time to get promoted to editor or move on to a place that hires you as one and pays you as one.
The average freelance rate in LA is $750/day. If going on staff somewhere, I'd say ask for 60k, based on your market and experience. You should be able to break the six figure mark in a few more years, depending on your skill set and initiative.



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cowcowcowcowcow
Mark Suszko
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 4:03:22 pm

LA is part of the problem, in that it is super-saturated with talent, in a down market, and new competition is stepping off the plane and bus every day to join the search for a job in show business... Anybody can be replaced, and you can always find someone to do your job for less than you get now.

This puts the boss in a very strong position to dictate terms. If you can't budge him on salary, see if you can get some more of the "intangibles", like the ability to come in and use the gear for your own stuff in the off hours, to get commissions for bringing in new clients, or to get them to pay your entry fees for contests and awards competitions, or to buy you training, better insurance, subsidize your gas, etc. Things they can perhaps use as a tax-write-off, but that offset the crummy salary.

There is an opportunity cost in letting you go: you're already up to speed on what they do and how they like it done, and it is a time suck to go thru the replacement and re-training with a new guy, if you quit over salary differences. But they will do that, if it is cheap enough to endure the inconvenience. I come from a world that no longer exists; one where you find a good fit with an employer and basically stay there till you retire. Its not that way any more; this generation can expect to change entire careers... not jobs, mind you, but entire careers - several times in their working lifetime. To hold a job anywhere more than a decade today makes you sound weird and without ambition, when in my day, working anywhere less than a decade made you look like a job-hopping slacker of some sort. Also, freelancing these days is much more respectable than it used to be; working for yourself is seen as being entrepreneurial, not just the best you could do because you were otherwise unemployable. So maybe in this environment, the low pay is nature's way of telling you it is time to grow or get out, and try to get hired somewhere else, or change careers.

Failing that, well, LA and New York are not the entire world. Especially in the internet age. You may have to move outside of LA, to find work at the pay scale you want.

Or, create your own job and pay yourself. Find clients way outside of LA that you can service remotely, over the net, which lets you leverage the skills and talents in such abundance around you as sub-contractors that work for YOU, instead of competitors for your current job.

Negotiation rules 1 & 2: first guy to name an actual number, loses, and, you have to make them believe you're willing to walk away from the deal if it isn't good enough. If they don't believe that, if YOU don't believe that, they really own you.

Good luck.



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Alan Okey
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:28:15 pm

[Mark Suszko] "To hold a job anywhere more than a decade today makes you sound weird and without ambition, when in my day, working anywhere less than a decade made you look like a job-hopping slacker of some sort."

That's a very perceptive observation.

Unscrupulous employers have helped bring about that transformation by constantly downsizing (or "rightsizing," in corporate-speak), reducing benefits and gutting or eliminating pensions. Their focus is exclusively on generating short-term profits, with no clear vision or strategy for sustainable growth.

Today's workers are rightly suspicious, or at least cautious of their employers and don't blindly trust in them to act in their own best interests. Employers reap what they sow. If you treat your workforce poorly, you will limit yourself to cheap transient labor with no pretense of loyalty. It's the smart employer who can keep talent on board by treating employees fairly and with dignity. There is no guarantee that if you invest in an employee and treat them fairly that they will never leave you, but not doing so guarantees that you will lose them and relegate yourself to a revolving door of disgruntled employees. The sad part is, many companies just don't care. As long as their shareholders are happy, they couldn't care less about the well-being of their workforce.


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Mark Suszko
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 7:11:16 pm

Alan I can relate to your post, because I saw this trend you describe basically kill my dad in the late 80's/ early 90's, when one side of the social contract up and quit without notice.


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Lauren Brenner
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 5:31:25 pm

Thanks everyone, this is extremely helpful. Best advice I've gotten so far. I've definitely built a reel while being here, and I've taken advantage of the access to equipment. If I end up leaving, I'll miss all that the most.

I think this really put lots of things into perspective.


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Mike Cohen
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:09:15 pm


I don't see your editing reel on the COW reels section. Show us what you've got.

Mike Cohen


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Andrew Kimery
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Feb 26, 2010 at 8:32:45 pm

When I first moved to LA some of the best advice I got from a friend was that to move up many times you have to move out. I've found this to be very true especially w/staff positions where there is no opportunity to move up unless someone above you leaves (or the company expands) and there is usually a fixed pay structure in place as well.


-Andrew


3.2GHz 8-core, FCP 6.0.4, 10.5.5
Blackmagic Multibridge Eclipse (6.8.1)



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Rick Turners
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Mar 2, 2010 at 11:23:27 pm

Geez, you guys are lucky.

I've been working in LA for a few years, worked in a couple "big" post houses.. and all of the assistants (of course) secretly talk about their pay...

an assistant editor right now is lucky to get 35-40k per year based on data i've gathered from 20 or so assistant editors over the last 2 years. (3 trailer houses and 4 full service post houses, as a freelancer)

It makes sense.. there are 30,000~ new grads every years in the US who all default to being editors after graduation. (after giving up careers as directors, of course.)

It's a buyers market.


Grinner...
750 a day for a freelancer? Where?.. maybe for a top notch flame artist doing stereo vfx work on a coca cola spot?
Having worked with a lot of smoke artists/avid DS/and fcp guys I've never met one who is getting close to that.

If that is the going rate in St. Louis let us know..


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Lauren Brenner
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Mar 19, 2010 at 9:21:25 pm

Really? That low? I've seen a lot of people who say they editors or assistants, but tend to not have any real experience in arenas that matter. Anybody can add a couple of edits and click a few buttons. But what about the people who know what to do when an Avid isn't functioning properly, or how to encode discs without producing horrific interlacing issues. Or the more obvious things like properly prepping for telecines and color timing sessions, or prepping for VFX work and mixes.

I mean, tons of people are coming out of the woodwork, but hiring a bad assistant makes the company look bad. That must count for something.


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Rick Turners
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Mar 20, 2010 at 5:47:56 am

Lauren, the problem is that my 15 year old cousin can export things properly, just tell him what he needs to do in 25 seconds.

Company's don't have to look far, at all, for a new editorial staffer. They are everywhere.
Just spoke to someone yesterday.. assistant editor at $16/hr. Realistically, not bad.. but not what people seem to think they'll get.

Now, being a lead editor cutting major commercials is another story. But again, thats not something you apply for and get, that is years of building high end clientele and essentially being your own business.


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Lauren Brenner
Re: A question about salary, as usual.
on Mar 21, 2010 at 6:38:20 pm

You're 15 year old cousin must be on the ball, because in my experience good assistants aren't that easy to find. Ask any producer hiring and they'll tell you getting competent staff isn't exactly a delight. The amount of people I've worked with that can't export a simple posting or DVD out of Avid MC correctly is really surprising, especially in the office I work where we're working with top agencies and directors that expect things to happen timely while they're in session. Not the best time to be explaining things to people.

I think you're underestimating an assistant's skill set. Being able to organize data correctly (something you can't explain to someone in 25 seconds) and protecting media and projects is invaluable. Green assistants punch in tape numbers wrong, which can cost a company thousands right from the beginning. Green assistants send DVDs out with interlacing problems. Something that can really hurt a company's reputation. And I'm sorry if I'm being critical with this comment, but most editors I come across do some serious damage to projects if they're not being monitored. Importing to the wrong drives, misnaming media, etc. It's not a crack about the editor, but that's not their job. They cut, we keep their shit looking clean. And in a world where projects are passed on to new editors pretty frequently, knowing how to keep media together is very important. Because I know I'm not happy when I receive a messy FCP project, with badly converted files.

And don't get me started on new editors and assistants coming from a Final Cut world. I'm an FCP before an Avid, but FCP projects are a nightmare compared to Avid. It's so easy to set yourself up for failure early on, which most people seem to do . Maybe it's easy to get by on little DVCPRO HD, but in a project with multiple formats that require professional finishing, I think your 15 year old cousin might have some small issues prepping. Especially under time constraints.


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