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How does your crew charge?

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Daniel Stone
How does your crew charge?
on Aug 10, 2012 at 5:07:11 am

Question for producers out there.

When hiring crew, I'm finding more and more that they're nickle-and-diming me to death on the final invoices. Is this happening to you guys?

For example, my DIT charged me "rental" for his dolly which he used to wheel his DIT station from his car to the blackout tent on set. It was only $5 but really?

My gaffer charged me round-trip mileage and driving time from the set in the city to his house (which is a 2-hour commute to the country).

A couple of grips charged me an hour of overtime for sitting in traffic after they left the set.

I realize you have to draw a line somewhere and I'm trying to figure out where that line should be. I mean ideally I'd love to charge my clients for "thought time" while sitting on the toilet thinking about their project but it doesn't work that way. Unless you're an attorney or an ad agency.

Thoughts?


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Mark Suszko
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 10, 2012 at 6:30:27 pm

Traditionally, unless otherwise agreed, travel is "portal to portal", i.e. from their front door to yours and back again. For over 20 years, that's been how my driving to and from gigs has been: from the time you roll out of the parking lot from the office, until you hang up the keys after the load-out and parked the van.
Traffic is not magical, i.e. if I'm driving the company's van and gear down the Kennedy expressway with 150 miles to go before I'm home, and the traffic is bad, when the clock strikes five, the van doesn't magically stop being company property, nor does the gear stop being company gear I'm responsible for.

So, you get no sympathy from me about the travel issues of your grips or DP. There is a lot of case law and Supreme court rulings regarding this issue. One of the landmark cases involved coal miners and a mine so big and deep it takes 45 minutes in the elevator to get to the working face of the mine, and the company didn't want to pay for the 45 minutes daily descent into hell. Supreme court ruled it was a necessary part of getting to the work, and the company had to pay. There's also the concept of "waiting to be engaged" versus "engaged to be waiting". Companies didn't want to pay for what they called "standing around doing nothing". But Firemen on stand-by and a boiler safety engineer tending a boiler are working, even if there is no fire or boiler emergency, because their job is to drop everything else and be waiting to deal with a situation whenever it breaks out, as well as to prevent it from breaking out in the first place. If you only called and paid firemen after a fire was reported, they's only be showing up to quench the ashes by the time they could arrive...

As far as the 5-dollar cart rental, I don't know why the guy with the cart doesn't just fold that into his rate and offer one set price, without the laundry list. It's not like the cart is ever really not used without the rest of the gear, is it? That guy I think is dumb to break out the cart costs that way.


It's this tough economy and the high competitiveness that keeps a pressure on a businessman to cut costs and corners, to find loopholes and ways around established procedure, to shave a dime here and there. I'd argue that we really don't want to live the way they do in China, where work rules are positively Dickensian. It is fear that drives this race to the bottom. Resist it. Continue to pay a decent wage, and not offload costs down the value chain just to make your spreadsheet look better at the cost of everybody else's.

I'm for smart cost reduction. But I wouldn't want it to be at the cost of going backwards on the progress we've made in labor fairness and job safety.


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Herb Sevush
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 10, 2012 at 7:29:33 pm

[Mark Suszko] "So, you get no sympathy from me about the travel issues of your grips or DP."

Portal to portal is one thing, travel time from your chosen abode is another.

For individual crew in New York City you generally get no travel time if the location is in Manhattan. If you choose to live 90 minutes away that is no concern of the producer. If the shoot is in the outer boros or suburbs, travel time is based on how long it takes to get there from the city center, not how long it takes you to get there from your house.

Similarly when shooting in Boston, there is no travel time for crew to get to the location.

There is portal to portal travel time for any production trucks that are in use, but that has nothing to do with where a crew member lives. So if the production truck gets stuck in traffic, you pay, but if the gaffer gets stuck in traffic on his way home, you do not pay.

The most important thing for a producer is to negotiate all this upfront - kit rentals, travel time, meal breaks - you don't want to be negotiating this after they've submitted an invoice.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Ned Miller
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 11, 2012 at 10:10:32 pm

I hire a LOT of freelancers and yes, Herb is right. I've been a freelance shooter for 30 years and I live in the very far suburbs of Chicago. I can't penalize the clients just because I want to live way out where the schools are better. I haven't seen portal-to-portal of residences in decades. However, most grip truck owners I have used usually will charge mileage from wherever the truck is stationed, and that may be in the gaffer's driveway way out in the burbs, that's because they are so costly in terms of mpg. There is no way I would pay him for his drive time unless the location was way out of the city. So it is always best to ask these questions before the budget is figured. It is easy to be taken advantage of.

As to the DIT guy charging for the cart, that is a shameful thing on his part, what a cheapskate. Makes him look bad.

As to grips charging OT in traffic after leaving the set- if they left the set to go back to a starting point, or "launch pad" where everyone first met in the morning and parked their cars, then yes they should charge until they get back to their cars. That is normal. Often everyone meets in the production company or client's parking lot and that is when the clock starts and ends. Only a chump would pay portal-to-portal to residences. A few networks still pay home portal-to-portaldo with union crew members.

I don't know how long you've been doing this but they may have felt you easy to take advantage of and thought you would not contest their invoices. Or perhaps they were upset about something like lack of lunch, etc. and this was their way of getting even. That is not uncommon if they don't care to work with you again.

Here's what I do that you may find useful- I call, email or text a new crew member about their availability and day rate for 10 hours, when they reply affirmative I ask them to send an email (no text or vm) to confirm all their costs involved. That way there's no grey areas. But no way in hell I'd pay from the time from their house. That would make me a chump. I am also making every non-incorporated crew member sign an Independent Contractor Agreement but that's for another thread.

Best regards,

Ned

Ned Miller
Chicago Videographer
http://www.nedmiller.com
http://www.bizvideo.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 13, 2012 at 2:58:22 pm

I think the distinction being made is, is the vehicle going to and from the sdhop, or to and from the residence. If going to and from the shop, it is all on the clock. Or should be. Going to and from the residence, however, is considered commuting. Unless your residence *is* your shop. In the case of the gaffer, that distinction is not made clear.


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walter biscardi
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 14, 2012 at 10:51:58 am

[Daniel Stone] "For example, my DIT charged me "rental" for his dolly which he used to wheel his DIT station from his car to the blackout tent on set. It was only $5 but really?"

Bull. Unless you agreed to pay for that in advance, sorry, not happening.


[Daniel Stone] "My gaffer charged me round-trip mileage and driving time from the set in the city to his house (which is a 2-hour commute to the country)."

Again, needs to be agreed to BEFORE the gig.


[Daniel Stone] "A couple of grips charged me an hour of overtime for sitting in traffic after they left the set."

The shoot is over, the clock stopped.

I would say these are crew members you don't need to work with again in the future. I certainly wouldn't. Everything is spelled out when I hire folks and if the person wants to be paid for the commute out to the shoot, they need to tell me that before or it's not going to happen. Charging rental for a dolly to move gear is complete bull.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"This American Land" - our new PBS Series.

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Chen Wu Xin
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 19, 2012 at 8:07:52 am

[walter biscardi] "The shoot is over, the clock stopped. "

yes, i agree.

My 8 hours start when i start work. When i strike a set, that's my time. The client shouldn't have to pay for it.
(try telling this to iaeste local ###)

However, as a business owner, service provider or freelancer, your fee should be calculated to reflect every thing that costs you money, All of your expenditures, be it stationary, plastic cups, soft boxes, cables, yada yada, including your intangible value, should be in your fee already. that's business 101. You'll go broke otherwise!

- how much are your expenditures (and if freelance how much are your personal costs i.e: mortgage, car, gas etc
- billable hours
- how much profit do you want
= fee or hourly rate


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Daniel Stone
Re: How does your crew charge?
on Aug 19, 2012 at 8:04:39 pm

Thanks much for the feedback, guys! Awesome info and right along the lines of what I was thinking.

I've been rethinking our payment model lately. I used to think that a well-paid crew was a happy crew and am finding that this isn't always the case (especially after talking with some colleague pro-co owners in NY and LA).

It's interesting... turns out it's all about setting standards and expectations up front. For example, we tell crew that we pay NET 30 from the date of their invoices. However, checks almost always go out same day, received by the crew within 2 days. If something happens and checks take a week, we start getting frantic phone calls and emails demanding payment. Other production companies in the area usually pay NET "whenever" and only get phone calls when payment is hovering around 90 days. It makes me want to start lowering expectations by holding the check until day 29.

I've learned that good crew is good crew no matter what the paycheck is. Crew will charge what you're willing to pay and a producer who pays anything billed is a sucker.



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