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Andrew Paquette

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Everything posted by Andrew Paquette

  1. On the subject of trade schools, I hope you don't mind if I chime in. I am one of the founders of a bachelor's programme for CG visual artists in the Netherlands. One of the reasons I took the position is that I was tired of all the dreck crossing my desk from job seekers who had just graduated from various degree programmes around the world. When I was at Universal Studios, I once had to go through over 6,000 reels to come up with 5 qualified applicants (not an exaggeration). At the new programme we do pretty well, with about 75% of our graduates getting industry jobs. However, we expel half of our students in the first year, and usually expel half of the students that are left in the second year, leaving us with 25% of the original class every year. The admin department at the school is highly irritated by this because they make more money from enrolled students than expelled students (in the Netherlands, education is heavily subsidized by government. This means that schools can lose money on students if they don't satisfy certain criteria--and the criteria encourages passing anything that breathes). In my experience I have only seen a handful of schools in this field that are capable of consistently turning out qualified graduates, but my impression from reading on the subject is that this is typical of all creative disciplines. I went to a couple of art schools when I was a student, including Art Center in Pasadena, but the number of students who became pros is very small. AP
  2. I hate to say this but all this talk about rates seems beside the point to me. When a person is inexperienced enough to be asking the question, the rate won't be high enough for any quibbles to be worth as much as the opportunity to shoot the project *might* be. When you are experienced enough that negotiating a fee gets into serious money, you'll have an agent doing that for you and you will probably get a decent rate. I say this with the full knowledge that people get screwed sometimes, and it even happened to me, but the reason it happened had to do with an unusual situation. I was a comic book artist a long time ago and Fox decided to make a TV show out of a creator-owned property I co-owned (Harsh Realm). Chris Carter was the exec producer and head writer. The problem is that at the time I did the comic (1992-1994) I was an underpaid nobody living in Maine, with no idea that this thing would be turned into a TV series in 1999. By the time it was a TV series, I was making a good living as an art director at Universal Interactive, so I could afford to look at the terms more carefully. Unfortunately, the comic book publisher was not only incredibly stupid in the deal they made, but they were unscrupulous as well, and the deal was worth less than the trouble it took to sue them (which I did)--it was also worth less than what a makeup artist would be paid for one day's work per episode. The difference here is that I was a co-owner of IP. A DP or AC is not usually going to own any IP rights, so it is unlikely that an early career negotiation error would hurt that much in the long term, and you'd get experience out of it. If you're lucky, you'll do such a great job you could move up a rung professionally and get paid more the next time. AP
  3. Disclaimer: I'm on this forum because I was doing research for a class I am teaching on CG lighting and ran across this topic. I am not a cinematographer. Before I started teaching, I worked as a CG lighter, VFX artist, and art director. The question is generic for professional freelancers though and I have plenty of experience doing that and in hiring for freelance and permanent positions. My favorite way of dealing with this question is to ask for a "fair rate relative to the project" with the proviso that if I later decide it wasn't fair, then I'll be busy the next time I'm called by that client. If the "fair rate" requires mortgaging my house to survive while I do the job (because it takes six months, I have to bring my own gear, etc), then it is not acceptable regardless if it is fair. Bottom line is that the career is more important than the money on any one job. If you are working, you (potentially) have something to add to your reel and credits and you'll get something to tide you over while you wait for the bigger jobs you really want to do. An honest producer will give a fair rate proportionate to the means of the project. A dishonest producer won't, but hopefully you can spot these guys a mile away and refuse to work for them. I knew a writer who wasted five years of career time involved in a lawsuit over payment. He won the lawsuit and got the money he would have earned during that period if he had been working, but because of the lawsuit he wasn't working. This means that for five years of painful effort, he got five years' wages (minus legal fees), a lot of heartburn, and nothing for his resume. For people starting out, low rates are less a concern than the importance of working. After you get more established, the rates become more important. Even then, they should never become the only reason for saying yes to a job. I know one guy who was offered $50k or 5% of a project. He took the $50k and regretted it because the 5% turned out to be worth millions (which was paid to others who agreed to that payment formulation). I've been stiffed on fees before, but it is very rare, and I've done free work that got me other jobs. I've taken low rates and very high rates. Overall, I have always been most satisfied with the jobs where I was not the highest paid guy in the room, but not the lowest either. FWIW, AP
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