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How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?

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Sebastian Schmid
How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 25, 2013 at 12:01:12 am

Someone wants to hire me to film/edit a documentary about their life. I already know how my travel/food expenses will be covered. Equipment is also covered. But should I charge by the hour? Or make a grand total for the entire project? If I need to be anymore specific, please let me know. Thanks for the help!


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:32:09 pm

Sebastian -

There are so many variables here, that it would be impossible to give you a tight answer, but things to bear in mind are:

Is this all videography, or will there be stills and document captures which will require either scanning or shooting?

How much do you currently charge per hour on a small job?

Has the runtime of the project been decided? Is there a script? An outline?

If it's as open-ended as your initial description, you could stand to be working for peanuts. Generally, when I'm costing out a project, I either have a script or at the very least a rough outline, so I can figure out a guestimate of the hours involved. How many days of shooting? How many locations? Are there interviews involved? Stock footage? Licensed music? If so, get the details down.

Then start to piece together your puzzle of how much time you "think" might be involved, then add at least twenty-five percent to that for contingencies - ("Oh...I forgot to mention that we need to interview my great uncle in Fresno...we'll need several shots of the New York Stock Exchange floor and exterior"), stuff like that. You want to allow for a good chunk of B-roll, unless you're getting access to a big archive of photography and video. It could get deadly boring if it's all talking heads and stills.

Sit down with the person, and discuss the flow of the project - try and develop an outline if there is none. Get a contract, and get it signed right away, so that if you get a "never mind...", you can at least bill for your initial time spent trying to develop the concept to at least an outline. If it's a labor of love, or a really fun project, and not just a job, you might want to cut out the 25 percent contingency fee and keep your quote reasonably low. Also get the travel/food/equipment expenses in writing, so that you know whether you're getting a per-diem food allowance, with travel and equipment rental paid as incurred, or at the end of the project.

It's a lot to think about, but you can give away the store if you don't think about these things. Good luck with it...

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 25, 2013 at 6:37:35 pm

Thanks, ill get back for more details. But what would you charge for filming 1 hour of b roll? For example


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 25, 2013 at 7:47:34 pm

Not to be elusive, but it depends on experience, equipment, market area (LA rate is going to be much higher than Kansas City rate). If the equipment is covered, a 1 hour charge could be anywhere from 50 dollars an hour to 100 dollars an hour up. Do a search in your area for "production rate sheet", and you'll see a very wide range of prices. Some companies don't even offer an hourly rate, since when you add the door-to-door travel, an hour's time shooting is going to involve a half day. So they have half day and full day rates, the full day usually covering 10 hours. But as I said, if you're a known entity in the production world, or in a major market, you can demand a higher rate. But there's also more competition in a major market...

Joe Bourke
Owner/Creative Director
Bourke Media
http://www.bourkemedia.com


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:08:19 pm

Thanks


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Tom Sefton
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 25, 2013 at 8:57:54 pm

What would you charge for filming an hour of b-roll?

What camera? What extras are needed-Lights? Autocue? Track? Jib? Is this for full ownership of footage? Microphones? Audio requirements? Location? Lenses required?


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 3:07:01 am

I am just asking what you would charge per hour. All the equipment and everything is take care of. How much would you charge as a one man camera operator per hour to follow someone around and get basic b roll footage.


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Greg Ball
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 5:03:01 pm

Sebastian you give no indication of your skill set or experience. What kind of camera are you shooting with? Is it an HD camera or a lower end consumer camera? Where are you shooting? What state and location? Most people I know work for either a half-day or full-day rate. Also what's your client's budget?



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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 6:08:42 pm

I think your making this more complicated than it has to be. I'm speaking pure labor.


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Greg Ball
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 6:41:48 pm

Sorry if you feel this is complicated, however you fail to answer the questions posed to you by people here. Look, are you a professional or just some guy with a camera? From the question you pose, you really have no idea how to charge a client. That leads me to believe that you're not very experienced. So you shouldn't be charging professional rates.

Look, how much does a hair cut cost? It depends on where you're getting your haircut, is it a barber shop or a hair boutique? What's the level of experience of the person giving you a hair cut. Did they just start out or do they have many years of experience? My camera people have about 10-20 years of professional experience, and shoot beautiful footage with high level Broadcast quality HD cameras. Should your rate be the same as theirs?



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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 6:56:14 pm

I am a professional. I just haven't done a documentary format before. I do weddings. Not sur what your problem is. Your the only one that is posing these questions. If you don't actually have an answer its all good. Don't be one of those people that thinks they are smarter than the rest of the world. Do you do documentaries? What do you charge for your own Personal labor.


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Greg Ball
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 8:01:55 pm

Sebastian, we're all trying to help you. But for some reason you think I "have a problem" because I'm trying to help you determine rates based on experience. Never mind dude. I don't need to be insulted by you when I'm trying to help.

Joseph said this "it depends on experience, equipment, market area (LA rate is going to be much higher than Kansas City rate)." My questions involved getting that information from you. But since you rather be rude with someone trying to help you. Figure it out for yourself, good luck.



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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:05:41 pm

Actually this has grown out of hand. I apologize for getting defensive and thank you all for trying to help. I guess my real question needs to be reformulated


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:05:42 pm

Actually this has grown out of hand. I apologize for getting defensive and thank you all for trying to help. I guess my real question needs to be reformulated


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 7:05:28 pm

And i shoot beautiful hd footage with broadcast quality equipment. Do I need to get more specific? I normally charge 30 per hour and I have a very happy client base. I was simply asking if price dinamics should change with this being a project that will span a few months and not just a single wedding day. Do I need to give my social security number and license? My soul? To get a basic answer. Shit ill take a ball park figure, an example even. Anything. Are you professional? What color socks do you wear in the morning? Why is the sky blue?


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Andrew Kimery
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 8:00:27 pm

If you charge $30/hr now why not $30/hr for the doc if that's a rate you are comfortable with? If you think you are worth more charge more. If you really want to do the doc but $30/hr won't fit into the budget then you might have to charge less.

Has a shooting schedule already been laid out? Is it realistic for what the producers want to accomplish? I wouldn't quote a flat fee because docs are inherently unpredictable and I probably won't do anything shorter than a day rate honestly. If all you would be shooting is talking heads and 'evergreen' broll then that is easy to schedule, but if you will be following the subject(s) around like a fly on the wall that's much harder to schedule for because if something big happens while you aren't there you might have to drop everything, high tail it to where the subject is and start filming.

It's hard to give budget-type advice with so little info because every budget is unique. I think this goes double for documentaries because you never know what might happen during filming.




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Tim Wilson
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 9:38:45 pm

[Andrew Kimery] "It's hard to give budget-type advice with so little info because every budget is unique. I think this goes double for documentaries because you never know what might happen during filming."

Which is my advice is to -- whatever you think you SHOULD charge -- DOUBLE it.

My second bit of advice: when asking for advice, be a little more gracious about taking advice.

Tim Wilson
Vice President, Editor-in-Chief
Creative COW



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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:32:46 pm

Thanks and the conversation I was having was not directed at you


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Tom Sefton
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 9:47:42 pm

How many days on production? Are you handing over rights to footage or sharing it? If this is b-roll for a documentary are you going to need to hand out release forms for all the people who walk through shot? Are you setting up and using jib or tracking shots? Do you need to record sound to an external device? If its HD, is it a format you are familiar with? Do you have assistants on set to do grip and lighting and focus pulling or is it you on your own humping kit around for a 12 hour day? Are you capturing footage during the shoot or after-tape or solid state? If this is for TV broadcast, what delivery format and what size of broadcaster is asking for it? Most pertinently, what budget has your client got for the whole production?

If you can't be bothered to answer any of the simple yet hugely relevant questions that any of the professionals are asking you on this forum then just charge the same fee you charge to shoot a wedding. Each question hints at an additional skillset required and something that an experienced person would legitimately charge more for. You don't need advice so why ask?

You've already been hugely rude to some vastly experienced professionals elsewhere on this forum in the last 24 hours so why on earth should anyone give you the answer to one of the hardest questions most producers get asked - "how much should I charge/how much CAN I charge".


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:40:10 pm

Did I strike a nerve? Haha. 1st why are you following me around the forum? Second the guy had such a whacked out view of things. But that's neither here nor there. If you noticed the first person that responded to my post, I thanked them very much. With you however you seem to try and belittle me and acuse me of not being a professional. You don't know the first thing about me. So if your looking for a thank you.....thanks for trying to question if I'm a professional? I mean what the hell.


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 10:53:42 pm

Also, your largest problem is that your disrespectful and if by "disrespectful to other professionals" you mean you and Ned than the feeling is mutual. If you read my question instead of looking to start a witch hunt, you would realize that it's a restrepo type documentary. So all those "questions" you seem to think I don't want to address is perhaps because the type of project I'm doing is more gorilla run and shoot. My bad for not making that clear. But you and Ned are both rude, disrespectful, and arogent. Idk if you just have to much time on your hands or what but here's a tip....the nazis came to grand generalizations of people based on nothing....look how that turned out . I'd rethink the way I speak to people, if I were you.


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Tom Sefton
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:05:55 pm

From videos to Nazism in one easy thread. Wow.

Come on man - I'm needling you for a reason; to acknowledge that giving away personal labour rates on a public forum without lots of information first is a big step. You haven't behaved like a saint on here. If you feel victimised then tough; I post in the business forum all the time - not just because of you.

It's a hard thing costing for video projects - you need to think of every single factor that will come your way over the course of the production, weigh that up with your experience and skillset, decide how much you want to do the work and then come up with a daily/hourly/project fee. Heck - I've charged anything from £25 per hour up to £250 per hour; it's hugely dependent on each project I've undertaken and what it demands. There aren't any simple documentaries.

I wont post again when your name crops up. Good luck with it.


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Ned Miller
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:42:28 pm

Yes Sebastian, you've got to learn how to communicate first. Try to be polite. This is a forum for pros. Mark can't be available to referee all the time. Also, check your spelling, punctuation, grammar and tense then proof read so we all know you are educated...

Let me help you out since until recently docs was my specialty. I am now corporate centric because I figured out (too late in life) that is where the big money is. First off, when anyone calls or emails and asks how much "by the hour", that is a strong clue that they have never hired video pros before and I will tell them I have a half day, or what I call my Short Day Rate, which is about 2/3rds of my Full Day Rate. The only people in our field who do hourly charges are the legal videographers and they will usually have a two or three hour minimum. Besides the time you take preparing your gear there is also the commute back and forth so there is no way a pro can survive working by the hour.

I have shot many of these vanity or legacy videos, usually for some zillionaire about to have a big birthday, their children pay for it, or a CEO retiring, usually shown at a banquet. I haven't produced them just have been the videographer on them. If I were you I would ask them to send you some links to similar videos that they liked, that way you get an idea of the quality level and can figure out if you can do it alone or need some crew. Next I would figure out based on what they have told me how many days of shooting there will be. These things tend to have lots of talking heads so it could take a weekend of filming at the family's estate. Usually there are many still photos they want you to make a nice treatment of, in which case I recommend templates from motionvfx.com

In terms of editing you can't quote by the hour, these types of clients want to know what the final cost will be, so you have to guesstimate for yourself how long it will take with the usual revisions back and forth, plus how many DVDs they will order. Large super wealthy families may order quite a few. Once I have figured out how much I would like to charge and I have an idea as to how long it will take me, plus if I have to hire some crew, I then ask the prospect what they wanted to "keep it under". I was taught to ask that before presenting my estimate. Why? Because what they say may be much higher than what I was about to say. There are producers who specialize in these mini documentaries and you can research what kind of range they get:

http://movingportraits.tv
http://www.familylinestudios.com
http://www.treeringfilms.com/Legacy-Video-Products/Family-Documentary-Epic-...

The one thing they will have in common is they are dealing with families that are wealthy, otherwise it's not worth the aggravation and time. I'm guessing but I think something under five minutes for a wealthy family would be $3500-$6000. That is just my educated guess. Sometimes if I feel that the prospect is merely a tire kicker, calling lots of video people for prices, I will ask right off what did they want to "keep it under". If I consider their answer to be too low I will refer them to someone I know to be much cheaper than myself as a favor or a good bottle of wine.

So (and you should never start a sentence with So), that's my two cents from someone doing this from before you were born. Many things will change in our industry but pricing psychology seems to have stayed the same. Since you do weddings that would be a good way to network and learn if (wealthy) families are interested in a legacy video, especially if a loved one such as The Patriarch of The Family is about to meet their maker. If they liked your wedding video that's a jumping off point for more work besides weddings.

This time when you respond, if you still need to respond, I think it would be a good idea to start your persona anew. Hit Reset. Check your spelling, punctuation, grammar, tense and attitude. Be deferential to those who know so much more than you yet are taking time out of Happy Hour, like I am.

Later

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


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 27, 2013 at 11:47:28 pm

Thank you and yes that is why I apologized. I do appreciate the documentary advice.


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Simon Roughan
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 28, 2013 at 7:40:12 am

Hi Sebastian,
I've read your last couple of threads with interest.
I've been flicking through this forum for 10 years or more, but today is the first time I can remember someone referring to another as a Nazi. Id never thought about Godwins Law in relation to "Business and Marketing" on the Cow. Congratulations.

Re: Your original question...
I would definitely stick with beautiful HD wedding videos. This seems to be a market you're doing good in.
Crawling around in the dirt in Afghanistan is an entirely different story.
Restrepo wasn't a great docu because of the style of camera work. Restrepo was a great docu because of the story, and the emotions it cultivated. Without that, it was shite. I've seen better camera work on my 13 year olds homemade skate videos.

So.
13 year old shooting handheld skate videos with a Flip-Cam (But HD)... $5 per hour

Amateur with prosumer camera with no support, crawling through dirt filming people he knows getting killed, having his arse shot at by Taliban extremists who would like nothing more than to bag a westerner... $36,425.50 per hour. Come to think of it, make that $136,425.50

I hope this helps. Good Luck in business.

Simon

The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 28, 2013 at 11:42:33 am

Yes I imagine a thirteen year old crawling in the dirt would get about 5 an hour. I'm saying that it would be restrepo in the sense that there will be no crew and one camera. The things I will be filming are very dangerous and illigal. Ill be moving around a lot, the logistics of a crew would not work in this situation. And yes the story is worth telling and brings up tons of emotion. I would not do this unless it was worth it. I apologized to him for the rash nazi comment. But I guess your saying I'm a thirteen year old crawling around with a camera? Ill let it go tho.


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Sebastian Schmid
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 28, 2013 at 1:42:01 pm

Ned, I would like to apologize to you for my un becoming behavior this week. I'm not normally like this. I believe I'm just having a bad week. Thank you for all your help, it is valued and appreciated. Same goes to anyone else on here I might have been rude to.


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Ned Miller
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:02:17 pm

OK cool. This is a great place to learn the biz side of video production. I have learned a lot and I have been in this circus for 33 years. So don't be too quick to take offense or attack and we'll all be willing to answer your questions.

If you look at all the forums on Cow this is the most crucial one. Why? Because if you can't make a decent profit on a regular basis then there is no way you can stay in production or post, except as a hobby. Any chimp with some technical skill and basic creativity can muddle through and make a video. However, there are very, very few who have figured out how to run a real business in video where you can steadily pay for rent, groceries, car payment, health insurance and bowling league fees. This is especially true for all the new people under 30 because now the rates are so damn low. So learning the business side is all important.

This forum is invaluable to bounce ideas off folks and gather new ways of doing things. Just above this thread is a bookkeeping thread and we helped the guy with his decision. In sum, you want to be BUDDIES with the people here, even if some grate on you, because you will need this forum to help grow your business and learn about the side of video that will help you survive. Always remember: Anyone can make video but very, very few can make a living at video. The people here will help show you how but only if you come across as appreciative and likable.

In sum, we all like to help the new folks, just be cool.

Later,

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


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Nick Griffin
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 29, 2013 at 1:30:01 pm

Well said, Ned. Those bowling league fees are a real budget buster.


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Steve Martin
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Mar 30, 2013 at 11:14:40 pm

Whoohh... you guys bowl?!

Production is fun - but lets not forget: Nobody ever died on the video table!


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Bill Paris
Re: How much should I charge to produce a documentary for someone?
on Apr 2, 2013 at 7:55:22 pm

Sebastian,

One more way to look it..... most camera ops, DP's etc in my market usually charge a day rate based on 10 hours.... if you usually charge $30 per hour, I would say charge $300 per 10 hour day. Why per day? It keeps your client from using you for one hour here, two hours there, etc.... and forces them to commit to planning for days of shooting... not hours. If you have some days that are very short, you may also consider a 1/2 day rate... most guys usually charge 2/3 of the day rate for up to 5 hours, since you will not be able to book other shoots on that day. (Opportunity costs)

Like many others have already said..... there are many factors that determine what your day rate will be and the people trying to help you were only trying to get more information to determine what a fair rate for you to charge should be. Hope you find all the feedback helpful.

Bill Paris
Producer/Director of Photography
Crew Hawaii Television
http://www.crewhawaii.com


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