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Bryce Lansing

Cinematographer's pay rate

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A friend of mine just got a $500,000 budget to direct a script he wrote, sometime next year. He asked me to DP, and of course I am very excited.

 

The producer wanted to know if I had a preferred rate, and I was unsure how to respond. This is my first feature, and I am thankful for this opportunity.. I can't charge as much as a more experienced DP would charge, but at the same time, I don't want to later come to find that I should have gotten paid more than I did.

 

What is the average rate for DPs on feature films with a budget of about $500,000?

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$500k is "low" budget and it can range from 0 - $2,000/ week... I have also seen situations where the DP (DP's family) PAID for the position. Yes, the parents kicked in $40k and their son got the job.

 

So, just tell them what you want and start negotiating from there. ;)

 

Good Luck!

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$500k is "low" budget and it can range from 0 - $2,000/ week... I have also seen situations where the DP (DP's family) PAID for the position. Yes, the parents kicked in $40k and their son got the job.

 

So, just tell them what you want and start negotiating from there. ;)

 

Good Luck!

 

 

 

Associate producers I suppose?!??!

:)

 

 

 

:(

 

 

 

 

Did you asked a producer what do they usualy pay?

 

Regardles of the amount he/she says, you have a good starting point for a negotiation!

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A friend of mine just got a $500,000 budget to direct a script he wrote, sometime next year. He asked me to DP, and of course I am very excited.

 

The producer wanted to know if I had a preferred rate, and I was unsure how to respond. This is my first feature, and I am thankful for this opportunity.. I can't charge as much as a more experienced DP would charge, but at the same time, I don't want to later come to find that I should have gotten paid more than I did.

 

What is the average rate for DPs on feature films with a budget of about $500,000?

 

 

How long is the shoot? $1,500.00 p/ 5 day week is decent. It aint David Mullen rate :) but it pays the bills and is not basement level either. Start them at $2K a week and negotiate your way down. It also depends on your experience of course. Much easier to sell yourself at that rate with a decent reel. If you only have videos on You Tube of your friends slapping each other..might be a harder pitch.

 

Good luck.

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Jesus Saul, and I thought it was getting bad up here!

Though, in truth, 200/day isn't bad if you have a guaranteed week or so of days for 'em.

 

True, it makes up for it a bit. I got a 10 day shoot coming up in upstate NY at $200 x day. The NYC camera folks may lynch me for driving the wages down . . . I am just glad I am working a bit though.

 

I got a $275 one day gig last month and I was almost jumping with joy, but I haven't gotten paid for it yet, so there is that.

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I know that feeling. I got $800 for a 1/2 day here in Phila, still waiting for that check too and this company doesn't seem to car what "Net" I put on my invoice.

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True, it makes up for it a bit. I got a 10 day shoot coming up in upstate NY at $200 x day. The NYC camera folks may lynch me for driving the wages down . . . I am just glad I am working a bit though.

 

I got a $275 one day gig last month and I was almost jumping with joy, but I haven't gotten paid for it yet, so there is that.

 

 

As me as a gun for hire = you're ruining my career!

 

As me as a producer = I actually deeply benefit from your action!

 

What a biz....

 

 

But I guess that's the ultimate free trade open market situation:

 

The one is going to work for the fee that he is willing to work for and his employer is willing to pay him that!

 

 

But as somebody already posted that here:

 

Do you know of any other career and industry where one will come and say "I am willing to work for free!"

 

 

:(

Edited by Sasha Riu

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The number of industries that have people lined up to work for free are too numerous to enumerate. Each person assumes they will get noticed in their field and then make money... many are correct in this assumption.

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Internships, for example and come to think of it.

Of course, and just to be both sides many people also don't get noticed and make money. A lot of this comes down to one's self and one's own ability to navigate the waters of the world-- true for employment, love, etc etc....

 

Biggest problem, though is when you get people who want a pro but can only "afford" and "intern."

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Internships, for example and come to think of it.

Of course, and just to be both sides many people also don't get noticed and make money. A lot of this comes down to one's self and one's own ability to navigate the waters of the world-- true for employment, love, etc etc....

 

Biggest problem, though is when you get people who want a pro but can only "afford" and "intern."

 

 

 

Yes, you're right!

 

Law, banking, science....

 

they all have internships which for the most part refers to a fresh graduate who needs a foot in a real working enviroment. After a trial period they either get hired or apply for a paid position elsewhere based on that internship experiance.

 

But I have a feeling that only in this industry you have a situation where in any single position above the line, you can fine a person who is willing to work for free even if they have a previous experience.

 

Therefore it is expected practice sort of speak to receive and demand a free labor (intership) from your colaborators which ultimatly brings down the value (and the price) of what people in this industry actually do...

 

Than as a cause (or a consequence) you have a catch-22 situation where is normal to provide the "opportunity" (and publicly list it as a job) and willingly to provide the service such as 32 year old serving as an intern in the pre-production department or something....

 

I mean, what is so attractive about been a office clerk in a film/media company full time and not getting payed for it?

:)

 

And the same goes for camera, animation, design departments....

 

Are we all really such a masochists?

:)

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I think it's the "glam" notion in a lot of ways, that or we actually are all deeply passionate, for a time, before being beat over the head with a reality stick ;)

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You don't get paid for the photography, you get paid for shouldering a lot of responsibility and putting up with a lot of aggravation, so why not ask for $2500/ wk? In the realm of DP pay, that's pretty low (about 1/3 the full budget rate for a non-superstar), but you're not giving it away. Good luck!

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A producer showed me the 140 or so responses she got from an ad she placed on craigslist for a DP position for a upcoming indie feature not that long ago. You guys would be shocked to learn what some of your colleagues are willing to work for: from ridiculous low rates (think PA on a super low budget indie), to offering complete RED camera, light and grip packages for free. Very depressing.

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$500 a day wouldn't be an unreasonable starting point. Especially on something with a lengthy shooting schedule. It's sad that people are willing to work so cheap, but don't shoot yourself in the foot before you take the first step. Ask for what you want, then negotiate.

 

If you hire someone to work for free, what sort of product do you expect? As a producer, what recourse do you have if it doesn't turn out? Hell, they basically did you a favor by doing it for nothing.

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Totally agree with Chad. I always ask what they can offer first and work from there. If I can accept their offer, I am not going to bog myself down with negotiations (and sometimes they offer more than I'd ask for anyway)

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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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$500k is "low" budget

 

That's a massive budget compared to the Blair With Project, Open Water, or, Paranormal Activity.

 

Even a bigger budget than Napoleon Dynamite, I know the the producer.

 

500K is a lot of money, imagine if you had to come up with 500K to make a movie with, where would you get it?

 

R,

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Hi Richard, just curious. As a producer how much of your budget would you be willing to spend on a DP for said 500k feature? Would you pitch it to them as a low budget project?

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On a 500k budget, a DP could expect anywhere from $200 a day to $500 a day. It all depends on how many days the shoot is, how much is taken by above the line costs, how effects driven it is.

 

If you are talking about a 20 day shoot with lots of VFX and a name star (not an A list, obviously) then the DP rate is likely to be $200-250. If there's no stars and no VFX, you might get more. Wages are the first thing to get squeezed when the production costs rise.

 

It also depends on how greedy the producer is. I know of a few who will not pay above a certain level, no matter how much money they have, because they don't want to set a precedent.

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Hi Richard, just curious. As a producer how much of your budget would you be willing to spend on a DP for said 500k feature? Would you pitch it to them as a low budget project?

 

 

I can't see that I would have any more than $1500.00/wk, assuming 3 weeks and a week of paid prep.

Then again at 500K I may elect to DOP and operate the show myself, and simply "donate" my time to the production.

It certainly would not be a union shoot, that is for darn sure.

R,

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It also depends on how greedy the producer is. I know of a few who will not pay above a certain level, no matter how much money they have, because they don't want to set a precedent.

 

The free market ultimately sets the price for everything. No one is obligated to accept a job that pays them less than what they think they are worth.

 

Google could pay all the secretaries 300K a year if they wanted to. Just because an employer has the ability to pay more, doesn't mean they have to. If the producer shows up to set in a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, that doesn't mean the crew deserves anymore money than what they agreed to. Want more money? Become the employer vs the employee. :)

 

R,

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