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Fair/proper billing of large project w/travel

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Jason TwiteFair/proper billing of large project w/travel
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 2:08:10 pm

Hope I have this in the right section, first of all. I'm asking for advice or a review of billing practices when it comes to very large scale projects that involve numerous days traveling, shooting, and editing.

I'm in the middle of one that has sent me from Chicago to Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona and soon to be D.C. Total travel time has been 50 hours of just sitting on a plane or driving. Client has covered all travel costs out of their pocket so no issue there. Questions are being raised regarding billing when days on location will have me at the set for anywhere from 2-6 hours, but actually shooting is only 1-3 at most. 45 hours actually on-location, only 15 hours of tape at the most. Should I be charging full-day rates, half-day or hourly? These on-location days also have kept me away from our office where other projects could be worked on.

For editing, I'm in an awkward position of justifying the client's expectations and pre-payments based on a 35-min safety video, yet from their script the rough edit is only 21-min. Editing began middle of January and the production manager is trying to hit them up for 230 hours of time @ $95/hour = $21,850. Having personally edited it every step of the way, I can safely say those hours are a bit skewed and present more of a push to max out their payments and get them to pay more. Client feels they are entitled to "free" work because they paid based on estimates of a 35-minute video, yet are at 21-min.

Do I dare get involved with this mess or just leave it up to the managers? Client has direct access to me and I know questions will start coming my way. Want to make them happy, but have to cover myself too.

Thanks for any tips!

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Ron LindeboomRe: Fair/proper billing of large project w/travel
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 2:28:45 pm

If you sold and manage the project, then by all means, feel free to answer questions and play mediator. But if you didn't sell the job and you are not the person running it, then I would stay the heck out of it. You are like the friend who knows that someone's spouse is cheating on them. Do you tell them? Only if you want to destroy the friendship.

There is nothing to be gained in this situation. I would just "zip the lip" and stay the heck out of the politics. You will lose if you take either side in this one.

I wouldn't venture a word of advice to either party. It has clearly already gotten too far out of control and you cannot win in this situation.

Just do your job. Collect your money. Let the two of them continue the machinations until they come to some kind of workable equilibrium...or not.

You won't get them there, don't make it your responsibility or you will assuredly be the loser in this one -- to both parties.

Ron Lindeboom

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grinner hesterRe: Fair/proper billing of large project w/travel
by on Mar 30, 2010 at 3:21:19 pm

Stick to what was agreed upon.
For a project like this, it would have been best for both parties to agree to one flat fee for the whole enchelada. This is the strength of the one man band today, being able to give this quotes.

That said, if you leave the house, it's a half day. More than 5 hours is a full day. Don't worry about the running time of the raw footage. Don'e even enter it into the equasion. Most of my ten hour shoots are less than 2 hours. It just takes that long for usable stuff to happen.
As for as post, they do realize the HUGE break you are giving them and will appriciate it. Surely no need to fret over their misaim on their script's running time. Add nine minutes of a dancing bear if they are hell-bent on putting someone to sleep with their video. Shorter is better. The two of ya just celebrate and enjoy.

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Mike CohenRe: Fair/proper billing of large project w/travel
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:01:49 pm

Was your shooting day billed by the hour? Usually that is not the case. It is a half day or a full day as Grinner has said - this is a standard pretty much around the world.

If you only rolled tape for 2 hours, does this mean you got out of the van and instantly started shooting? There was no setup, lights, audio or time between takes? You sometimes encounter a customer who wants to nickel and dime your time, rather than understanding that a video shoot is a package.

I also agree the edit should have been a flat fee. once you start debating hours in the triple digits, and the math gets juicy, it can be a losing battle.

Mike Cohen

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Jason TwiteRe: Fair/proper billing of large project w/travel
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:14:20 pm

Thank you for all the tips and opinions on this matter. Pretty much right in line with my thinking that a large fee should've been established before the project started and both sides agree that the 35-min goal was just a rough outline. Set the price for the script as presented and anything beyond that is extra.

Most of the days were charged a full rate even with only 2-4 hours on the set since I was basically stuck at that location or hotel room for the entire day or days on end. A few local spots were only half-day rates.

Thankfully I've not had to be in the middle of any discussions yet and will continue to avoid it as much as possible.

Thanks again!

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Mark SuszkoRe: Fair/proper billing of large project w/travel
by on Apr 1, 2010 at 2:57:27 pm

You were unable to do work for anyone else while tied up in their production, I'd call that billable; the rate scales are up to you. As far as the master running shorter than estimated, where I come from that's a GOOD THING, unless you needed it to fit an airtime slot precisely, shorter is ALWAYS better for training. Indeed, people spend extra time and money trying to MAKE the product shorter. This is not a bug, its a feature!

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