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advice on rate

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Pam Picardadvice on rate
by on Mar 17, 2015 at 9:24:25 pm

Looking for some advice on what an editor's rate would be for a low budget indie feature.

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Shane RossRe: advice on rate
by on Mar 18, 2015 at 1:06:19 am

Well, when faced with a low budget indie feature, you ask what they can pay. You tell them "This is what I normally get when hired on projects with full budgets...what can you afford to pay?" It's bargaining time.

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Mark SuszkoRe: advice on rate
by on Mar 19, 2015 at 2:18:16 am

Your rate is your rate, regardless of what the project is, as a general principle. Whether you decide to discount the rate for a special case, or do it Pro Bono, has to be up to you, but remember in rate negotiations, the first guy/gal to say a number, loses. If they offer a lowball amount at the opening, don't respond immediately: count off a good thirty seconds in your head first, while holding steady eye contact, then reply, not with a number, or a "yes or no"... but with questions;

How much time are they expecting you to put into this - is this going to interfere with your day job or other gigs? This is about "opportunity cost". It may pay better to pass up the cheap gig and work other projects in that same period of time. If you have to give up a certain cash flow from other jobs to take this on, can they make it "worth it"? And "worth it" is subjective. It may be that this is a prestige project with someone famous attached, and the ability to link your name to that could be worth something, down the road. Usually not as much as the client suggests, but certainly *something*

Are you doing everything on this project, the edit, the sound design, effects, color timing, foley, etc.? Or are you just cutting it and others will take over from there? If you're doing the work of more than one specialist, that's worth more.

What kind of deadline does the project have, and are there consequences for missing it? Do they want you for this because they know you'll make it in time?

When would YOU get paid? Up front, in installments or progress payments for certain production milestones, deferred until everyone else has taken their cut, or what? Are they offering you points on the back end? A share of the revenue from streaming sales? Anything?

Is this really just a student film with pretentions, or does it have a destiny in actual distribution somewhere? Beware a producer who forges ahead on production before they even have distribution set up.

If they come up with counter-offers, do the silent stare thing again, and ask more questions like these, until they come up to the number you can live with.

After all these questions, two things are going to happen. They are going to pitch you a higher number, because you've shown you're not an ingenue, and you have laid out exactly what the work is, what the stakes are, and how much work you're signing on for. The second thing is that you now really know where they are coming from, and you can choose to negotiate a lower rate, a deferred payment structure, more screen credits, etc. ..... or you can gently say that based on the level of commitment they want on this, you really can't afford to drop your rate or give up other work in the same period, to work for less. You'd really like to get on board with this, but the numbers just aren't meeting up with the expectations, based on the work described. If they can find a bigger budget down the road, or reduce the scope of the work to something that fits better, like making their trailer or sizzle reels, you'd be glad to revisit the idea, but for now, you're going to have to pass on it, purely for business reasons, and you wish them all the success in the world...

The second key law of negotiation is: they have to believe that you're willing to walk away from a bad deal. Doesn't matter how desperate you are for the gig. You have to sell them on the idea that you know your worth and will walk if the deal isn't good enough. If you can't convince them you might walk, they own you, and your rate doesn't matter. They'll tell you how much and from that moment forward, that is your new, downwardly-revised rate. All future negotiations will start at this, lower, less-affordable number.

When you make a deal on a rate, what you will settle for becomes common knowledge pretty fast around town. Every new client that knows about you will open with the lower rate in negotiations. Do you always wanna be the "low-ball price" person? No, because this is an art, but also a business. It's commercial art.

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Mark SuszkoRe: advice on rate
by on Mar 19, 2015 at 5:16:44 pm

Not mine, but true:

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Christopher TravisRe: advice on rate
by on Mar 20, 2015 at 9:51:37 am

Great, thorough, helpful post as always Mark.

One question though:

If "your rate is your rate" then why does it matter who speaks first in negotiations? Surely I'll always come out with the same number?

I ask because I know why my day rate is, and every time I deal with someone new, they ask and I tell them. Sometimes they wince, sometimes they don't blink but I always come with the same number.

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Mark SuszkoRe: advice on rate
by on Mar 20, 2015 at 3:57:30 pm

Because if you let them go first, sometimes they offer more than you'd have asked for! In which case you pause, then *reluctantly* agree:-)

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