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Wannabes hurting the video business.

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Jason SirotinWannabes hurting the video business.
by on Feb 24, 2014 at 3:23:08 pm

Hey CC friends....

[Admin edit: Got something to say? Say it here.]

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Al BergsteinRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Feb 25, 2014 at 4:45:00 pm

I read your blog post, tried to post a comment but the Captcha wouldn't work. Tried a few times. You might check your blog settings.

Anyway, this is the same as it ever was. I started in commercial photography in the early 70s. I and others like me undercut other pros, and watched as the next generation undercut us. The cost of entry into this business has always been low and is getting lower. But it doesn't change the equation that a pro has an investment, knows how to successfully sell themselves time after time, deliver on time, and hopefully underbudget and will likely be there long after the newbie who doesn't have the financing, ability nor stamina, to stay in business is gone. Complaining about it solves nothing. Producing the work, and winning the bids does. If you want a job that has a high entry cost, and keeps out the newbies, try medicine (G).

best of luck...


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Mark SuszkoRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Feb 25, 2014 at 5:03:56 pm

Not to pile on, but a pro blog post about professionalism should probably not use uncleared images to illustrate its points.

There is no question that lowballing newcomers depress the market somewhat, but, this is not a reason to get hysterical, because while they somewhat damage the general reputation of the biz and muddle the experience for clients, the low-ball "noobs" don't ever last very long. Their methods and setups are unsustainable over time.

Second point about that is that you shouldn't be marketing yourself in a niche were noobs coming in are even a threat to begin with.

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Tim WilsonRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Feb 25, 2014 at 7:33:39 pm

I gotta be honest, I saw the subject line, sighed, and moved on to other stuff. I didn't realize that the original post wasn't actually a discussion, but an external link. Nononono. Sorry I missed that.

Want to talk about it? Let's talk about it here.

I sighed not because it's not a real topic -- it obviously is, and a frequent one here. But a sweeping pronouncement like that, well, it needs something more specific to advance the conversation.

I've noted many times that the COW was founded by disrupters. It Kathlyn and Ronald Lindeboom, who were ridiculed, sometimes reviled, in 1995 for trying to start a professional community on the INTERNET - constant chatter by know-nothing posers, cat lovers and UFO abductees. Professionals would NEVER be on the internet.

And the idea that wannabe prosumers would try to sneak into this industry with their $40,000 editing systems and $15,000 cameras? INSANITY! ARE THEY TRYING TO DESTROY THE INDUSTRY? I had competitors in my little tiny town in the middle of nowhere YELLING at me in the street because I was "only" charging $200/hr and $1500/day. "I can't make a living on that! What are you trying to do to me and my family!!!"

The wheel keeps turning. Just like people used to complain that TV and home video were destroying Hollywood (oops, NOT), and on and on and on.

Things might happen to move a little faster here...but I'm not at all convinced that this is even vaguely the case. Much less so than for printers, for example, who really did get hammered by desktop publishing. Desktop publishing shrank the market as a whole, while new videomakers are growing the market as a whole...but inevitably, the web crashed printing harder than desktop publishing. The whole argument was about the WRONG THING.

So what's the right thing to be watching now? Blaming it on newcomers (or Japanese automakers or Korean TVs or take your pick) might be true in the shortest of short runs, but absolutely not in the long one.

Again, apologies for letting slip that somebody was trying to divert the conversation to another site. Carry on, HERE. :-)


Tim Wilson
Creative COW

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Jorge MolinariRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Feb 28, 2014 at 2:33:24 am

I'm glad I found this thread in the COW. I'm a newbie to video production but my work is good enough to get paying clients. I have a full time job and family so I don't have a lot of time for video production. So which the little time I have to produce videos, I would like to maximize profits (don't we all). Basically I would love to break even on all the gear and software I've purchased (and would like to purchase in the future). Up to this point I've done only 2 paying jobs, but I'm almost certain I'm not charging what the videos are worth, and I really don't want to be that guy that ruins it for the rest of the video producers. So with that said, can people here please quote how much would the charge for this TV spot I delivered a few weeks ago?

Your $$$ estimates and any additional feedback would be most welcome. What I would REALLY love to know is how much is a commercial like this worth on my local market.

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Dylan HargreavesRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 12:29:41 pm

Hi Jorge,

Sorry, but your question validates everything the OP is complaining about! You don't seem to know the value of your own work and so you want to find a shorcut to asking professionals what they would charge.

Well sorry bud, I ain't saying. But feel free to carry on bankrupting yourself by buying all that expensive kit and low-balling yourself out of house and home. Clients will snap that up all day.

Meanwhile, I will carry on charging what I consider to be a fair price for my work that keeps me in business and means I can provide my clients with the service they deserve.

Hasta La Vista.

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Jorge MolinariRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 3:51:54 pm

Well that was an interesting reply. The lack of any replies before this one makes me speculate others share your sentiment, but chose to adhere to the “if you can’t say anything nice…” policy. We agree my post validates the OP’s complaints. It has been a concern of mine that during my short stint at this, that I’ve been low-balling and making it worse for the “old guard”. That’s why I was drawn to the title of this thread. I’ve been very diligent at logging my time in my projects. So I know how close or far off I’ve been in my initial estimates. I know how long projects take me, and I know how much I want to charge per hour, what I don’t know is what THE MARKET charges, hence my post. And I’m aware markets vary widely by geography. So my question was a shortcut to gaining knowledge on the market portion of the price equation. I will get to the market price eventually anyway by way of iteration, slowly increasing my rates over time. The longer it takes me to learn the market price, the more jobs I will end up taking at “lower than market” price. The more people there are starting from the bottom, like myself, the lower the “market price” will become. This of course assumes we are talking about people doing quality work.

You seem concerned about competition and it almost sounds like you wish I go out of business. That may happen in many cases (I’ve seen it) but in my case it is not possible because I have an career that is unrelated to video production. And that is why I’m concerned for the guys that make a living off of this, I don’t want the persons doing this on the side to ruin it for them. That is why I relate to the title of this thread. I don’t want to be one of the thousands of wannabes that ruin it.

It is a weird thing, if I wanted to reduce competition, I’d do the opposite of what we see on the internet: I would not teach any video of production skills but publish all the market prices. That way the unskilled generate quotes just as high as the skilled video producers. In this scenario all the jobs go to the skilled. But what we have is the opposite: Tons of free resources to learn the craft and good gear getting cheaper by the minute. The barrier to entry is extremely low, and yet it is very difficult to find information on market prices. So we have:

1. A lot of wannabies doing crappy work, which are not a concern to this discussion.
2. The established “old guard” doing good work and making a living. (With each year getting tougher to make a living from video from what I hear). Because of…
3. Wannabe’s doing good work and charging little, thereby lowering the price of good work. I believe the OP was referring to these guys.

Like you stated, clients will snap #3 all day. As the pool of video producer grows, so does the pool of “good producers”, even if good producers represent only 2% of all producers. So there could be a time when clients are “snapping up” good, cheap work indefinitely. Even if each one of those instances represents a video production startup going out of business. The escalating population of video producers may provide an infinite supply one day. Clients may eventually reach the proverbial “fool ALL that people ALL the time”. This is how it is today in video game development, where almost all games free to download (free for the clients) even though they represent thousands of hours of work by the content creators. And free (getting $0 for your work) is, incredibly, not even the bottom. In acting and screenwriting, the content creators broke the free work barrier and actually PAY to have their scripts read, or audition in front of a supposedly “connected” person. Here the supply is so large there is a cottage industry of unscrupulous “connected” people who do indeed fool “all the people all the time”. Will video production ever get there? I hope not, but I do think sharing price ranges pulls in the opposite direction of racing to the bottom. That was my reasoning in asking the question. Thanks for your reply.

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Dylan HargreavesRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 5:13:28 pm


I'm not concerned about competition. I've been in business for 7 years and things have never been better. I also appreciate and value my peers in the production industry for sharing their knowledge and insight in helping their fellow professionals do better. This is not about giving away trade secrets, this is about us all, as an industry providing a better service to our clients, and that's an environment from which we all benefit. Apart from the hacks who think they can spin a quick buck and soon learn a painful lesson.

I have no ill-feeling towards you as a 'competitor'. I just find your original approach to be somewhat insulting. What does it matter anyway what other people are charging? There is no 'going rate' for a video. Your pricing has to accurately reflect your cost of doing business, and your cost of doing business may be completely different to the next guy's.

Video production is not just about making pretty pictures. For most of the people here it's a livelihood and you don't seem to either respect or understand that.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 5:31:20 pm

Jorge, that's a very competent-looking local spot. It seems to make use of stock footage to save money, but the footage is well-integrated thru the color-correction. There's one somewhat abrupt cut to an interior shot that I would like to see done differently, but your client should be well-pleased with this work.

Car dealership work is a special case in this discussion. The level of "grinder" clients in the local dealership biz is of legendary proportion, and producers succumbing to commodity pricing, plus a willingness to entertain even the worst client ideas without challenge, seems to be the standard. And from what I hear, the client loyalty is low in most cases. Setting a low bar on pricing in that environment is really dangerous from a business standpoint, because you almost never get a chance to raise the rate when you find out you bid too low, and the low rate follows you around from client to client ever afterwards.

This is one market where it may be more prudent to come in too high at first. Because I can easily imagine at least the editing work for car dealer spots going to any third-world editor with a fast internet connection and FTP server. A guy or gal cutting these in Milwaukee could be competing with a similar editor from Mumbai, as easily as if it were a kid in their parent's basement in Muskego, or wherever. It's just moving bits, after all. The thing that can keep rates afloat against the commoditization tide is all in the level of craft and creativity, not technology, and this is the "secret weapon" the old pro brings to the table. The marketing challenge is to get a client who only cares about price, to care about the spot actually being successful. Because a successful sales tool more than pays for itself.

If a spot fails to deliver customers, nobody is comforted by knowing "well at least we didn't spend a lot of money on that failure".

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Jorge MolinariRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 5:54:31 pm

Thanks for the advice and critique Mark. What you say about car dealerships being their own special case makes a lot of sense. This spot was a one-man band type of thing. I did concept, production, and post. No stock footage was used.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 6:16:19 pm

Then that was a lot of good work you did. What did you shoot the exterior beauty shots and b-roll with?

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Jorge MolinariRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 7, 2014 at 7:51:41 pm

Thanks Mark. The four aerial shots are a GoPro Hero 3 Black(not the + version) mounted to a DJI Phantom 1 (again, older version) with their Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal. All other shots including the time-lapse are with a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera with a Lumix 12-35/f2.8 lens. I set the GoPro to 1080p, Narrow FOV, and CineRAW format. I find that under good lighting conditions the GoPro at these settings will intercut with the BlackMagic footage very well.

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Bob ColeRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:31:29 pm

Hi Jorge,

As for charging: only way to know is to bid too high, lose the job; then ratchet down until you get the job.

But imho, you should stop wasting your time producing ads for local dealerships.

Concentrate on the beauty shots which we all probably thought were stock footage, because they looked great (and far better, to be honest, than the car dealership shots).

You could probably monetize the beauty shots by selling yourself as a go-to person for Caribbean timelapse/stock shots. And you'd have more fun.

If you want to broaden your skills to learn how to make an ugly car dealership interior look beautiful and appealing, that's your choice. But (a) that's actually pretty challenging; and (b) I bet there are a thousand directors who know how to do that, who would love to be creating that "stock footage" that you already do so well.

If you are absolutely determined to do commercials, try to integrate your unique talents more closely into the sales proposition, e.g. put a car and a model into a beautiful setting and shoot away. Avoid those ugly dealerships; they aren't part of your soul.

Bob C

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Jorge MolinariRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 20, 2014 at 2:41:29 pm

Thanks for your insights Bob. Actually in my last two "request for quote", that is exactly what I did. I've quoted closer to where I want to be and in this case lost both gigs. Actually one was a full production, the other was just aerial beauty shots for b-roll, like you are suggesting. No biggie, given my part time circumstance, getting to the market price by losing jobs rather than working cheap is preferable.

I think I see where you're coming from with regards to doing commercial work; but my ultimate goal is to produce a film someday in the far future. This is how I see it: The closest thing to doing a feature is doing a short. But to do shorts I need to spend money. Commercials are like shorts where I actually get paid. So I get comparable experience to producing a short, and the client pays all the production costs, and I have money left over hopefully pay for my equipment. Ultimately what I want is to get "narrative experience" and $$$ to pay for equipment. So that in a few years from now, I can put back all the experience and $$$ I earned in commercials towards making a feature film. And while I'm well aware my film will be buried under the mountains of indie films that get produced every year, never to be screened, this is something I want to do. Call it a bucket-list type of thing.

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Bob ColeRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 20, 2014 at 3:50:36 pm

Unsolicited, semi-cynical, but semi-serious advice:

I hear over and over about people who try to create a road map toward EVENTUALLY making an indie film. It sounds very logical, but life is short. What you really want is to make a GOOD indie film. And if you want to make a GOOD indie film, you are going to have to start by making a bad one. (That's what they say about first novels, btw.)

So get started on that bad indie film right now. Don't spend all of your money and effort getting ready to do that film - just do it. It could be just a "teaser" for that film, if a whole feature is too much.

Then when you've seen it, you'll know how to make the good one. ("I can't light - need a lighting cameraman." "My dialogue is wooden - need a co-screenwriter." "Actor A is good; Actor B is not. Hire Actor A next time.") The lessons you learn can only be acquired on the job - and probably not by making commercials, either.

You are right that most indie films die a quiet, unseen death. And it's a very much deserved one. So get it behind you, asap. And who knows? It might be a good film after all. But you'll never know until you make it.

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Jorge MolinariRe: Wannabes hurting the video business.
by on Mar 21, 2014 at 12:53:55 am

Agreed. A good indie film is my goal. Unsolicited advice is many times the best advice, so thanks. Doing the "preview" is one of the approaches I've considered. Anyway at this point all I have is the concept. I haven't even made an outline to begin a 1st draft of the script.

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