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Meals on video shoot

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Greg Ball
Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 1:41:53 pm

I'm working on a proposal for a fairly large project. One item we ALWAYS include in our proposals and agreements is that the pricing does not include shipping, mileage or meals. The client is responsible for these fees.

Usually when we're shooting at our client's location, they just send out for pizza or sandwiches and snacks.

Among asking us to lower our price by 20%, this client has also asked to remove meals from our proposal. That's kinda weird. How would you respond to this? I usually tell clients that it's customary and standard in the video industry to pay for crew meals. Any thoughts?


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walter biscardi
Re: Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:04:50 pm

We include the meals in the budget. We have a standard rate of $X per breakfast, lunch or dinner and simply include that as a line item.

If the client offers to pay for the meals directly during the shoot we remove the line item.

But lunch / dinner / meals are non-negotiable.

The only thing we put in the budget "to be paid by client" would be any travel, mileage fees. But something as simple as meals should be directly included in the budget.

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

Craft and Career Advice & Training from real Working Creative Professionals

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Greg Ball
Re: Meals on video shoot (walter)
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:39:31 pm

Thanks Walter. When we're shooting at our client's building or plant, we always give them the option of what's most comfortable for meals, such as sending out for food, since we often do not know what's nearby. Also it takes less time and expense to "order in" than have our crew travel out and order a meal.

Usually we get back to the shoot as soon as we're done eating, and everything goes smoothly.

When we're traveling we add a per diem. It's too late to hide that in the budget now. So how would you respond in this case?



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walter biscardi
Re: Meals on video shoot (walter)
on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:00:07 pm
Last Edited By walter biscardi on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:01:00 pm

[Greg Ball] "Thanks Walter. When we're shooting at our client's building or plant, we always give them the option of what's most comfortable for meals, such as sending out for food, since we often do not know what's nearby. Also it takes less time and expense to "order in" than have our crew travel out and order a meal."

Yep, we always order in when at client locations because you don't want the crew to scatter. Or sometimes we'll bring lunch with us if that's easier so we can keep setting up while setting up the lunch. WE bring large coolers filled with sandwiches, salads, etc.... But again, that's always included in the budget. We have a set dollar amount for lunches, dinners and such that we include in every budget regardless of the location.

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

Craft and Career Advice & Training from real Working Creative Professionals

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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:04:52 pm

You might remind them in a friendly way that you get much better results from your crew when they're not passing out from low blood sugar levels. You might also use their meals request as a bargaining chip, saying, "OK, we'll pay for the meals, but it will raise the 10 percent we just knocked off by 5 percent.", or something like that. It sound to me as if this client is one of the corporate buzzards who occasionally appear on the horizon, and only go away if you make a loud noise.

Only you know whether you can live with a 20 percent cut in the budget. I often build in a 15 percent contingency fee for clients who are repeatedly disorganized, or demand frequent, arbitrary changes. But generally, I walk away from them. It's not worth the trouble dealing with people who are constantly nickel and dimeing you.

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


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Greg Ball
Re: Meals on video shoot (Joseph)
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:43:05 pm

This client seems like a good client (they are very organized) and we need the project, so I don't want to alienate them. The only way to cut costs is by removing some items from the project, such as a 20 foot jib, operator and assist.

Budgets are so tight these days that we do not add 15% contigencies to projects. Any further advice on how to word the meals issue?



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Mark Suszko
Re: Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:51:36 pm

Bury the cost of meal per diem allowance in the budget. Make sure there actually is a contractually stipulated meal break of Y duration in the contract after x hours of work. You can follow union practices, or if not actually union, you can still use those practices as a general guideline and modify based on your unique situation. But you had better have SOME food plan for a day-long shoot, even if it's only to tell the crew to brown-bag it and get a per diem bump for it later.

(BTW, a producer who tells their crew to brown-bag it for a full day shoot... is probably going to have trouble getting the same people back ever again for another gig, ...or anybody that talks to those people... just saying.)

Offer the option of reducing the line item if the client agrees to provide meals on site. That way, they understand that the meals stay, it just depends on if the client can supply the meals onsite cheaper from their own in-house catering or contingency funds... or if their accounting isn't flexible enough to handle such things, then it's best to leave it in the overall budget.

Remind the client that if meals aren't supplied on site, that means the crew has to leave the premises and go out in the field to get fed, and that can mean longer delays in the shooting.

Some organizations, particularly institutions, may not have an effective "accounting mechanism" that is responsive enough to handle catering-in food like this. Volunteer pot-lucks are one thing, but ordering meals on "company" credit cards or using the petty cash box for that stuff... can be next to impossible, even if their people are nice. Many institutions have a contingency fund for emergencies like calling in an emergency plumber, roofer, glazier, or electrician to save the data center from being wiped out by a leaking pipe or roof overhead...... but their rules for how such funds can be spent are usually quite hidebound, with severe penalties for breaking the rules, even termination.

So it isn't ALWAYS the case that the client is being a weasel about feeding your crew - it may be that fiscally, they have no way to do it without getting audited. So, best to bury that cost in the overall budget, have the producer cater the food in the most efficient way possible, and pass the costs on to the client as a line item for "consumables".

So, maybe your client is a weasel, Greg, or maybe he's ashamed to say he doesn't have the clearance to handle this task, if it is described the way it currently is. If you re-code it as part of the consumables, along with gaffer tape, etc., and they STILL want it out...along with not allowing the time to eat after oh, 5 or 6 hours... then you may have a bigger problem.


Get all your sub-contractors paid out of the down-payment money: pay them even before you pay yourself, and you'll always have the best people fighting to work for you.


It has been a long while since I had to bill for travel for a freelance client, but at that time, I asked the client if they wanted me to arrange the air fare and hotel, or let their own internal travel agent handle it. It saved them money to have their own travel agent handle it and put me on the same discounts as their own employees. I don't even know if real corporate travel agents still exist, but the principle still holds, for travel and for hotels and for food/ meal breaks: can they do something for you internally that's effective and cheaper, or will you have to handle it and then bill for it, plus a mark-up.


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Todd Terry
Re: Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:57:54 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:00:25 pm

[Greg Ball] "How would you respond to this?"




Easy answer... "No."

You have to feed cast/crew. Here that is non-negotiable, not that it has ever come up (it's also one of the few times that meals are 100% totally expensible with Uncle Sam).

You COULD say, "Yes, we can take meals out of the budget... but it's usually easier for us to include it, rather than for you to have to bother with arranging to feed everyone."

And the client needs to know that on a film set food isn't food. Food is fuel. And pizza and Yoo-hoo might be ok every now and then, but if you have a big full-week shoot with long extended hours you don't want to be feeding a crew two meals a day of junk (mmmmmm....Yoo-hoo).

Typically both meals and craft services are such a miniscule portion of a project's budget that no one has ever even said a peep about it here. I've never put a pencil to it, but here it can't be more than 1% or so. Unless you have a HUGE cast and crew (or unless you have hired TomKats to cater your location) meal expenses are rarely big enough to worry about. Sounds like your client is a real gem if they are pinching pennies that hard.

Food is like any other consumable on a set. Would they ask you to cut costs by not using gaffer tape? Or a roll of gel that you need?

At any rate, if you can cut your budget by 20% and still make a healthy profit, then you definitely have a lot more fat in your budgets than most of us do, I'd imagine. Bravo.

If you can cut your budget by 20%... cut it. Whatever it takes to make the client happy. But DON'T cut it by such a drastic amount and give them the same job.

We too hear that all the time... although rarely in percentages, it usually more in budget numbers. We might give a client an estimate of $20,000 and they counter with something like "Ouch, can you do it for 14?" We'll always say "Sure!" and tell them we can always find places to cut, locations to eliminate, sections of their script to kill, cheaper talent ideas, lower-end narration or music... etc." What they don't get is the same exact thing for their bargain basement budget. We always think the original price we quote for something is fair to both sides, and if they want that project exactly, that's what it costs.

Of course we often hear "No, no... I don't want to cut anything." Well, then we've already given them our estimate for what that will cost.

Also, while we can almost always hit any budget, we never ever ever do that by lowering our hourly rates, at least not on paper. That's always bad form... and it devalues your work. It also establishes a new rate that the client knows you are willing to work for, and you'll never get it back where it is supposed to be with them.

I realize I went on an unsolicited budget-cutting rant there... when Greg was really just asking about meals... sorry.

So yes... include meals.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: on cutting by 20 percent
on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:11:01 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:14:45 pm

Cutting the bid by 20 percent usually means it can't be done the exact same way. Cost/Quality/Speed; one of them will have to trim back.

The best place, I think, to start such a trimming job is to re-visit the script, and see what's there that can be done more economically. The first budget cutting tool is a pencil eraser. The biggest time-eater is anything to do with people, i.e. actors, so, can the script still work if you cut down the number of actors? Can graphics with voice-over replace a couple of scenes? Can you reduce the number of locations, either by deleting actual shooting scenes or by re-using a smaller number of locations and just re-dressing them? Is this a job where chromakey will save shooting time on the set? Is there a way to offload the cost into the back-end of post-production?

Next, look at your list of crafts-people; some jobs can be doubled-up to an extent, such that the director can also be the DP and camera op. You should not expect the person wearing three hats to wear them all as well as just one, so, you're going to have to accept compromises on just how much time to fiddle with lighting, how much time to fiddle with framing up the shots, and how may takes you can afford to do.

Sometimes investing in the right technology, spending money, saves more in recovered time. This is very true regarding acting talent. Teleprompters are one way to help amateurs as well as pros to deliver a good take in less time. Pro actors seem more expensive but they actually save more time than amateurs, because they can deliver consistent and accurate performances in just one or two takes; performances that require spending much less time in post production as well as on the set. A multi-cam job can often be done cheaper, if you rent a switcher and live-switch on the set, saving iso records to assist any small fixes in post. Live-switching a 3-camera, 2-hour job will save you, I think, at least a full day of post. You have to decide if the switcher rental, and the extra cameras and tripods and cables, etc. still work out cheaper. If the deadline has tons of room to slip, maybe you do more in post than on the set, and for example do more chromakey.


Greg already alluded to such trimming decisions as replacing a jib shot or dolly with a zoom or straight cuts. If you can show clients samples of what kind of difference these decisions make, visually, they may warm up to increasing the budget for that specific item. Especially if they see samples of a competitor going that extra mile.


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Todd Terry
Re: on cutting by 20 percent
on Apr 29, 2014 at 3:32:46 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Pro actors seem more expensive but they actually save more time than amateurs"

So SO true... I preach that all the time.

I had to hire a bunch of actors for a shoot last week... I auditioned about 30 guys from throughout the southeast for the principal male role.

This client usually spends a decent amount but not a huge amount on talent... maybe something in the $300-500 range for a principal. You can get decent talent for that, but you're not going to get Anthony Hopkins.

Out of all our auditionees, there was only one the client really liked, and they LOVED him. His dayrate?... $1500. "But we don't usually spend that much." Yeah, I know. But that's what he gets.

We cast him. He flew in and did a great job. Zero hassles. No busted takes (maybe one, if that). And worth every penny.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: on cutting by 20 percent
on Apr 29, 2014 at 4:40:31 pm

What's the most drastic cut you recall ever making to a project? And was it for cost reasons or just for clarity? Did it work out?


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Todd Terry
Re: on cutting by 20 percent
on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:51:19 pm
Last Edited By Todd Terry on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:57:48 pm

I think our most drastic budget change was for a television commercial for a local company.

This was actually brought to us from a commercial producer at a local TV station... the client was a long-time advertiser with them, but he felt they needed something much better than a television station could produce in house.

I said sure, we love to hear that, that's what we do.

Then this guy (who works in the creative dept of the station, mind you) starts laying out his "must haves." He had quite a list of things that were needed, including shooting at seven different locations in five different cities, various talent, plus insisting "And we definitely want it on 35mm film."

To his credit, at least this guy did throw out a number before I wasted my time budgeting, when he said "And I think we could spend maybe even as much as $4,000."

I put my pencil down.

Ah... so I explained we could gladly and easily concept a $4K production for him (we've even done plenty of $4K spots on 35mm), but it wouldn't be that production.

And we did. We shot on HD, one location for about two hours, the spot was one carefully-choreographed continuous shot with VO and two non-speaking extras. It was actually a decent spot, and came in under $4K.

I never added it up, but that was probably a nine-tenths budget cut from their original idea.

Oh... and it still took us three months to get paid. I guess it was a good thing after all that the job was $4,000 and not $40,000.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: on cutting by 20 percent
on Apr 29, 2014 at 6:45:28 pm

A very important part of these negotiations is the "dance" of saying "no, but..." balanced against the desire to give the customer what he wants. Giving them what they actually NEED is more important, and to get to that stage, often requires very gently teaching the customer to really understand, what he or she is really asking for.

I think you can't be afraid to say that something is unrealistic or more impractical than is advisable to pursue. But to survive that initial "no", and turn things around, you need to have some ideas in your pocket to whip out as alternatives.


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Mark Suszko
Re: on cutting by 20 percent
on Apr 29, 2014 at 9:26:18 pm

The most drastic cut I made was the time I told the client:

"I see my role as being your consultant, your advocate, to tell you what's in the best interest of your goals and objectives - what would do the best job for YOU... Don't make a video of this at all: what you need is a hypertext document - basically, make this text into a PDF file with links and photos - and it will do much more for you, more effectively, and much more cheaply. Your distribution will be wider, and you'll save enough money that you can regularly update the thing and keep it fresh, whereas the video would be expensive to update, and will rapidly go stale."

They thanked me for my candor, and for telling them what they needed, versus what would be most profitable for my office.


A more typical budget cut was to skip a day shooting in a very bad neighborhood, and just fake a kitchen scene in the studio using chromakey and some kitchen chairs from home.


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Peter Rummel
Re: Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:27:03 pm

Years and years ago, I was on a big remote shoot for an evening performance in the south part of town. The PBS station we worked for had a solid no-paying-for-food policy. We had everything set up and ready to go when we set out to get dinner.
We stopped at the first restaurant we came across, a small Japanese place a couple of miles up the road. A dozen of us trooped in and ordered. It must have been a shock to the kitchen, because when our dinner hour was up no food had been served. When we were finally served, ate, paid, and returned to the set we were almost 45 minutes late. It's hard to believe this now, but this was in the days before cell phones. We returned to a frantic producer who had no idea why his entire crew had abandoned him.
So the station had a change of heart regarding food. The deal is they cover the meal, and the crew doesn't leave the set. It only takes one person to be late returning from lunch to ruin the schedule. Provided meals is an industry standard for very good reasons - it's efficient and eliminates unexpected delays in production.
I know some organizations take a dim view of buying meals for people. I think you need to explain that it's not only a courtesy, and industry standard, but it's important in making sure a tight schedule runs smoothly,.



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Nick Griffin
Re: Meals on video shoot
on Apr 29, 2014 at 5:54:21 pm

There's really not a lot more to say here than to reiterate that this may not be a desirable, long-term client. Attempts to micro-manage the budget are almost always a danger sign and the main reason we routinely "black box" quotes by listing the items by groups (pre-production, production/shoot, post, duplication/distribution) with a sub-total for each.

We're also fortunate enough to have one client in particular who calls us before a shoot to determine what we would like brought in for the lunches on shoot days. Perhaps this is mostly because they routinely do this when they bring their own customers in, but even so it shows a level of courtesy and respect that it most appreciated.

Also for out of town travel our per diem, which I believe is fairly standard is $50 for meals: $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch and $25 for dinner.


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Richard Herd
Re: Meals on video shoot
on May 1, 2014 at 4:37:12 pm

If you haven't read this yet, you should.

http://library.creativecow.net/lindeboom_ron/clients_or_grinders/1


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