Please advise! Am I charging too much for this documentary?
I'm editing a documentary and have decided on a rate of $60/hr.
Services requested of me include:
1) organizing 60 hours of footage plus archival footage into a story (I wasn't given any more direction than what shot he wants to open the story..the rest is left completely up to me)
2) transcribing roughly 24 hrs (or more) of interviews
3) produce all graphics
4) color correction if needed
....*BASICALLY GET IT COMPLETELY BROADCAST READY...
5) completed in 4-6 months, which means I'll be giving this no less than 30 hrs/wk
Can someone offer me the standard prices these types of individual jobs usually cost so that I know for sure that I'm not asking for too much being that he's getting everything he needs to take this straight to PBS from one editor in one cost.
What do you experts think?
I appreciate the feedback!
Well, to start with, this is a lot more than an "editing" job...
[Kayla Turner] "organizing 60 hours of footage plus archival footage into a story"
Sounds like they are putting it on your shoulders to pull the story out this footage. That makes you a producer, as well.
As for cost, it depends on a lot of things... the scope and budget of this project as a whole, plus all the things you bring to the table yourself, whatever level of skill and expertise you have, your equipment (I'm assuming), and all that jazz.
For the most part though, if you are editing on your equipment with a high degree of top-notch expertise and skill... then no, $60/hr is not too much, not by a long shot.
People in here for some reason always seem loathe to discuss their personal rates, but it doesn't bother me a bit. For an edit job like this at our place in one of our suites with me or my other editor, the suite rate would be $225/hr (which includes any and all toys available here).
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thank you so much for your response Todd!
I've seen rates at post houses for around 225/hr like you've said but I've wondered if that also applies to projects that will last over months.. at 225/hr that would get super pricey. But is that just expected anyway? I don't know that budget for the entire project but from what I calculated at my rate and the 30 hrs/wk minimum I expect it will take to complete this in 4-6 months, the total costs could be over $30,000. Is that too much to expect a client to pay? Or do clients actually expect to pay that? I'm new to the film editing (all my work has been in commercial spots and newscasts) so I just am finding it hard to believe I could actually be paid this much for one job haha. Please enlighten me!
Also yes you're correct. He does want me to be a producer too (told me to "own" it).
You were also right on it being my own equipment. As far as skill level: I've been editing for almost three years (does that change things for the rate?) and am completely capable of putting this together in 4-6 months.
Lastly, I'm drafting a contract for the first time. Is requiring an advance of 25% of the lowest estimated total cost acceptable? I wouldn't imagine I should get started tackling this large of a project with out asking for something upfront... right? Any other contract tips?
[Kayla Turner] " the total costs could be over $30,000. Is that too much to expect a client to pay?"
It's hard to say. I don't know your client or your project. If this is a low budget project, something in the tens of thousands of dollars, that's one thing. If it's a multi-million dollar project, that's another. I suspect it falls somewhere in between there.
$80 an hour for an editor working on their own equipment in their own suite (with all the necessary tools and toys to do so), expecting to get something broadcast-quality-polished-and-finished certainly isn't unreasonable, not by a long shot.
If you want to make a professional film and want it professionally edited, that's simply what things cost. Usually more. Usually a lot more.
A lot has to do with expertise level, too, and what the finished product you can deliver looks like. I don't know your work, so I don't know. You say you've been editing for three years, and that might feel like a lot... but it's really a drop in the bucket. I've personally been editing for pushing three decades now (and suddenly feeling old) and still think the things I edit today are better than that from a year ago. That's true of the other editor that works for me as well. Then again, I know one college-age kid who is a killer editor, he just has a brilliant eye and sense of timing and rhythm.
And yes... definitely get money up front and at regular intervals. None of us could survive by completing a six-month job and then invoicing the client. Get money out of them weekly, biweekly, maybe even monthly... but at some regular points along the way.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
COming from LA, and delivering shows for broadcast, that is my rate, WITHOUT my system. I add my system as a weekly rental, for long term work like this. And for what you are doing...editing as well as producing, and color correcting, and graphics...yup, that's the rate. And $30,000 for 3 months work is about right.
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def
Kayla, don't let the amount intimidate you. Things cost what they cost, the worker is worth their wage, and if it's a big number, that's because they are asking for a lot of work, a lot of hours. Part of that comes from them not doing that organizational work themselves, either because they don't know how, or because they don't want to. There's a reason the same products cost more at the gas station than at the regular grocery store: you are paying a tax for convenience.
Cutting your rate just because the overall total seems like a lot would be the same as stopping when the thing is half-done. You're going to be working for months on this, maybe longer. Were you supposed to live on donations while doing that? No, this is your income, and you're a pro.
Know your rate, and stick to it as a bare minimum. If you are just picking a number out of a hat, you need to go thru the archived threads in this forum and see how to truly calculate a meaningful, logical day rate/hourly rate.
It will seem smaller, on BOTH sides, if you break the work into phases or chunks, and arrange for approval and payment to happen for each of those phases, before you go ahead. You can tell the client that this protects you both, in that he only pays for work actually done, and you get to eat in the meanwhile, while doing it.
Of course you should do your best to work up an overall estimate of the hours first and discuss that. Making a video is like making a car or a house; they come in different levels of performance depending on how much money you want to put into them. A tarpaper shack and a mansion both keep the rain off your head; the difference is in the details, the craftsmanship put in, the materials used. A Kia and a Porsche both get you across town in the same amount of time: the difference is in the level of detail and craft put into the thing. KNOW what the level of expectations is from the client before you start: beyond just making it acceptable technically for broadcast, is the client looking for a compact car or a limo?
[Mark Suszko] "It will seem smaller, on BOTH sides, if you break the work into phases or chunks, and arrange for approval and payment to happen for each of those phases, before you go ahead. You can tell the client that this protects you both, in that he only pays for work actually done, and you get to eat in the meanwhile, while doing it.
This is a great idea. I will include this in the contract.
Also, the number 60 came from considering the amount of services he's asking for. I asked fellow editors the going rate for this sort of thing and I got numbers like 50 and 75 then I posted this to ask if the number makes sense. From the responses I've gotten on and off this forum, I can confidently believe that 60 is a damn good deal.
I obviously don't know anything about the project beyond what you've mentioned here but 4-6 months doesn't sound like a lot of time if you are going to be doing every thing from prepping the footage to editing (plus producing) to finishing all by yourself. The last two feature length docs I worked on took about 5 months and 8 months respectively for post and that was with teams of up to 10 or 12 people working together (producer, editor, assistant editor, logger, transcriptionist, colorist, audio mixer, graphic designer, etc.,).
Also, you've mentioned 30hrs/wk a couple of times. Will the doc not be your full time gig? I ask because out here (Los Angeles) I'm used to basing everything off of a 50hr week (sometimes 40, too often 60).
Hi! No 4-6 months isn't a long time at all which is what also made my rate increase. I expected 6-12 months. So when he asked for four I said 6 would be my absolute deadline.
And no it's not my fulltime gig unfortunately. I also work full time as marketing producer at a tv news station.
It will be a lot to accomplish no doubt, and I'll likely hire extra hands for some aspects of it but no matter what needs to happen it will get done in the time my client needs it. If I spend more hours working it's because they were necessary to pull off the extremely large project in my lap and he will understand that which means he will be paying more which is still ok with me. As long as it gets done and done right!
I'd suggest farming out the transcription as that can take a long time and you really won't be able to dig in until you have your transcripts. What software are you editing with? For a large project organization is really key to keeping your head above water. There are many people on the COW that have long form doc experience so don't be a stranger if you are looking to bounce ideas off people. :)
You're getting good advice here. But I'd also suggest you spend a little time taking a wide overview of the entire gig and see if it "fits" what you want to accomplish.
First think about qualifying the client. From the rates you're talking about, I'd expect them to be relatively new to funding documentaries. It appears as it you feel they are still shopping price. Which is fine. But it means you'll have a lot of client education to do along with making the actual doc. That makes this a project between two parties without a lot of direct experience in what they're doing. (the SPECIFIC project, not general production, where you seem to already know what you're doing.)
If you're in it for experience, or if you're truly passionate about the TOPIC, then by all means keep your prices as low as you can afford and start learning as much as you can about everything involved in this type of work.
But if you're not, just be wary of the reality that it's really, really easy to WANT to do a documentary. And it's even easy to start down the path do doing a documentary. What's really, really difficult is navigating around the thousand potholes that will one the way between the idea and the finished video.
Make SURE you do your homework and have the necessary discussions before you get too far in. Items like rights management for the content, format transcoding (so little source material from important events of the past is in clean high def, darn it!) and how common it is for documentaries to start off thinking they're about A, B and C - but E, F, and G, crop up while you're getting to know the story that might be MORE compelling than the story you originally set out to tell!
Whatever else, enjoy the journey. Every top tier documentarian started out precisely where you are right now. Getting your feet wet.
Much success and good luck.
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[Andrew Kimery] " There are many people on the COW that have long form doc experience so don't be a stranger if you are looking to bounce ideas off people. :)"
When I first began researching ways to prep for this project I found tons of great forums on ways to organize a long form documentary. I love this community. So many experienced professionals who love what they do! Thank you for your help and I certainly won't hesitate to ask for additional insight!
"...everything he needs to take this straight to PBS from one editor in one cost."
If PBS is a goal, then there are technical specs to plan for beyond basic broadcast quality. Google "PBS Redbook" to start.
If he already has a deal with PBS then you want to check with his contact on what deliverables are required and their delivery deadlines. If there's a presenting station you'll want to contact them; they'll have their own requirements and can also help you through the process. If there are sponsors then your client has contracts specifying their requirements.
PBS and APT have specs and requirements and delivery schedules that mean work and costs for you well beyond creating a broadcast master. Captioning, HDCAM mastering, loudness specs, promos, content pre-approval, music cue sheets -- the list is long.
It would be smart to find an online facility with experience delivering to PBS -- a presenting station can suggest someone -- and discuss the project in detail. It can save money to subcontract with them for online/finishing.
Whether for PBS or elsewhere, the discussions will help you be as detailed as possible with your producer about what you are -- or aren't -- delivering for that one cost.