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How much shall I charge to direct and edit Documentary

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Damien MorganHow much shall I charge to direct and edit Documentary
by on Dec 17, 2014 at 12:59:43 pm


I have been asked to be involved in a film documentary which is a big thing for me. They are asking how much I charge to direct and edit. I can do the job but I don't want to down grade myself. I have never had a project this big before. For a low budget documentary, how much you think I should charge for both directing and editing as a daily rate? Please suggest some figures

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Mark SuszkoRe: How much shall I charge to direct and edit Documentary
by on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:39:27 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:44:00 pm

What individuals charge varies by market and by the individual, so if I tell you a guy can charge between 200 and 500 a day **in my market **for directing, it doesn't really mean anything for your location and situation. The more accomplished and well-known you are, the more you can command. But certainly, you should not low-ball yourself, either. Your profile doesn't say where you live: if you're in a large state with a major city, you will have a city and state film commission, and they often issue a directory for film making resources. These are sometimes free, sometimes for purchase, sometimes they are online. What a beginner could do is to locate one of these resource books and look up some of the listed directors or their reps, and ask for rate cards. Compare a bunch of them to get a sense of what the market is like in your area.

You don't say how long the production phase of this will be, or the editing phase. If you're a professional editor, you've already done the exercise of computing what your day rate and hourly rate have to be, to break even and to make a profit. Think of the entire project in terms of days times day rate.

The last bit of advice I will give you is, arrange to be paid in thirds: an estimated third up-front when the contracts are signed, or however much you know you need to pay all your subs and rentals - a third when you're half-way thru shooting, and a third when shooting is complete. Then bill the edit as a separate contract, same way. Third of the estimated total up front, a third at the screening of the first completed cut, and the balance on delivery of the approved final cut. You do this so that if the project falls apart, you still have paid off all your obligations to others, gotten paid up to the time work stopped, and not "lost" money. The client is protected as well by not having to pay for work not actually done. What you absolutely cannot agree to is to wait to get paid anything until the whole project is done and has generated revenue. That would put you in the interest-free loan-making business, not the film-making business. And you are not a bank.

Get everything on paper. Assume nothing if it isn't written. Ask a lot of questions like: is this a work for hire, where I have to turn over all the raw materials and work reels, project files, etc., retaining nothing, or does the client only get the finished product with me retaining the raw materials and all the proprietary files (that's a better deal for you). Do I get to show some or all of the finished work in my public portfolio? Can I enter it in contests or screenings? Have the client sign off an approval of the schedule, and a memo that says if you go over, they have to approve additional charges. Limit the number of re-do's and re-edits the client can ask for without having to pay more. Does this project have insurance against errors and omissions, and insurance on the crew and equipment during production? Who is paying the crew, and how will that be handled? If you want to direct more than once, one thing you must do is pay your suppliers and feed and pay the crew as promised, on time, without fail.

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Damien MorganRe: How much shall I charge to direct and edit Documentary
by on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:55:54 pm

Hi Mark,

Thats amazing. Thank you for your advice. Where are you from? I'm from Birmingham, UK. Are you perhaps talking about the BFI with regards to directory? I am still at pre-production so the days could vary. It's depending on the interviewees availability. But I would say at least 10 days worth of filming. Editing could be at least 40-50 hours in total. Daily rate probably around £50-£60 per hour. Is this too much?

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Mark SuszkoRe: How much shall I charge to direct and edit Documentary
by on Dec 17, 2014 at 3:14:41 pm

I live in the midwestern U.S. so I can't help you much with BFI info. But I expect that larger British cities may still have their own independent Film Commissions as we have over here, so do go search out a similar resource.

Money wise, I don't know enough to be reliable. I'd say just in my own opinion it was a bit low, especially for markets South of you, then again, you're just starting out without a reel or anything to point to as an example of your work.... I'd try a little higher, maybe. Around London, you might triple that amount, but it's only a guess.

Have you computed what your editing day rate should be? There are hundreds of threads in this forum's archives that detail the process.

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grinner hesterRe: How much shall I charge to direct and edit Documentary
by on Dec 20, 2014 at 2:40:23 am

your day rate X how many days you think you will spend. plus 30%.

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