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Bryce Lansing

Cinematographer's pay rate

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Ah, I see we've devolved back to the "I can do it therefore it's OK to do it" case, which I shall hereafter refer to as the Boddington gambit.

 

P

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Ah, I see we've devolved back to the "I can do it therefore it's OK to do it" case, which I shall hereafter refer to as the Boddington gambit.

 

P

 

Oh Phil you're hilarious! I wrote that with one purpose in mind....to see if I could bait Phil Rhodes. You found this thread as if by magic and keyed right in. You are predictable I will give you that.

 

R,

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Google could pay all the secretaries 300K a year if they wanted to.

The argument here is not about paying all crew $300k a year, it's about paying a living wage rather minimum wage. I don't particularly like the idea of skilled crew getting paid $8 an hour, but if the budget is $100k that's the reality of the ultra low budget world. It's when there is money to pay crew properly and the producers choose not to that I take exception.

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Well, yes, Richard, if you repeatedly behave unpleasantly, you will have people standing there going "that guy's really unpleasant."

 

What do you expect? Are you deliberately flaunting your ability to misbehave for some sort of kicks?

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Well, yes, Richard, if you repeatedly behave unpleasantly, you will have people standing there going "that guy's really unpleasant."

 

What do you expect? Are you deliberately flaunting your ability to misbehave for some sort of kicks?

 

I'm deliberately pointing out that I know how to push your buttons and you always fall for it. You don't say a word on this thread until I jump in....classic.

 

As for: "that guy's really unpleasant."

 

Only to you Phil.

 

R,

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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,

That seems pretty reasonable to me!

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My motto has always been: "It doesn't matter how big or small the house that you're building is, the labor remains the same." Smaller budget? Pay the same and employ me for less days by condensing the schedule to fit your budget. That makes much more business sense by ensuring you get reasonably experienced labor for the precious, limited funds.

 

G

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That's a good idea Gregory, and producers will always try and do that when possible.

 

I know one 1st AC that completely priced himself out of the market and insisted that he be treated like a lead actor on set. He became the biggest prima donna imaginable. Needless to say I found a different 1st AC and told him to bugger off.

 

R,

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That's a good idea Gregory, and producers will always try and do that when possible.

 

I know one 1st AC that completely priced himself out of the market and insisted that he be treated like a lead actor on set. He became the biggest prima donna imaginable. Needless to say I found a different 1st AC and told him to bugger off.

 

R,

No room for prima donnas in a team sport! But there is fair market value for skilled labor. Most of the numbers being posted in this thread don't reflect that in the least. Edited by Gregory Irwin

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No, but you're working on big budget Hollywood theatricals that can sustain the higher wages. I would not expect to be producing a 150 million dollar tent pole and pay the 1st AC, $8.75/hour.

 

But everyone has to start someplace, and it's unreasonable for a 1st AC or DOP that is just starting to think they are going to earn "big money." That will take 20+ years of slogging first. Lot's of kids don't understand this.

 

R,

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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

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But everyone has to start someplace, and it's unreasonable for a 1st AC or DOP that is just starting to think they are going to earn "big money." That will take 20+ years of slogging first. Lot's of kids don't understand this.

 

R,

You know Richard, I can't disagree with you on this.

 

G

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Really? What's your schedule like in October?

 

R,

Well, I was going to go on vacation for a few weeks after wrapping a web series pilot in September, but I'd be open to shooting something for you. :)

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When I was gripping every DP or cameraman I talked to said $500/day was standard. That was back in 86 and 87. I would think it's gone up a little since then.

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The problem is that all this is extremely dependent on circumstance.

 

There are fields of film and TV work (let's say, TV shows and feature films) in which $500 a day has always been normal and continues to be normal.

 

There are other areas - music videos, let's say - in which that rate may occasionally be seen but has never been normal. I'm not sure I've ever been paid the equivalent of US$500 a day to work behind a camera and I'm not sure I ever really expected to.

 

There are indeed probably occasions where that rate used to be normal, and is no longer, or is normal now and never was previously. Since the mid-80s, the employment situation, the technology involved, and frankly the economic situations of the sort of countries where this kind of work is done, have changed so much as to make any comparison almost meaningless. Things change. Things have changed a lot in the last thirty years.

 

None of this is intended to argue for a particular rate for a particular job - I think everyone, regardless of the work they do in any field whatsoever, should be entitled to a comfortable living. The problem in my view is the enormous and widening gap between rich and poor, which as far as I can see is motivated mainly by people who connect their wealth to their sense of self worth in a way that's entirely inappropriate and leads to significant sociological problems.

 

But ultimately, trying to specify a generic rate for camera crew, in a situation where "camera crew" is such an impossibly generic term, is not likely to be helpful.

 

P

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Interesting. I've never been a DP, though I've done camera ops, and I got some stipends just a few shades short of that day rate. I don't know what it's like around the rest of the nation, but that's actually standard around here.

 

It depends on the project though, like you say. There used to be a lot of deferred projects, usually for first timers, or guys trying to build a rep. To be honest I've gotten more than twice that for crane ops.

 

I'm not sure how else to comment. I typically don't discuss my rates on a public BBS, but felt like I needed to pitch in.

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We need to take into consideration a DP's experience (resume) and skill level (reel) when discussing rates. There's such a huge gamut of talent out there, from the recent film school graduate with a 7D, to the journeyman shooter, to the guys who get nominated for Academy Awards every year. I worked with a DP a few years ago who loved to tell stories about how he used to be "the $20,000/day guy." Hilarious and mind-boggling. There's also a huge gamut of jobs out there requiring all those different levels of cinematographers. You wouldn't hire Emmanuel Lubezki to shoot a corporate internal video, and you wouldn't hire the 7D kid to shoot a car commercial.

 

We also need to differentiate between general below the line crew rates (camera, grip, electric, sound dept), and DP rates. Although DP's are technically below the line, they have symbolic ownership over a large portion of a project and thus have reasons for occasionally taking a significant pay cut if a job offers them the chance to do creatively fulfilling work. I'm guessing that Lubezki doesn't get paid anything close to his full rate when he shoots for Terrence Malick, but then, it's Terrence frickin' Malick! There are no Academy Awards for focus pullers or gaffers; when you're just working for a day rate the money better be right.

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There are no Academy Awards for focus pullers or gaffers; when you're just working for a day rate the money better be right.

Well said. During negotiations, assuming that there's enough to go around, you can always say - "just match the sound recordists rate". Since its often in the same ballpark. Sound isn't told "It'll be great for your reel". They don't have their love of the work leveraged against them in quite the same way as a cinematographer. Assuming they're hiring a professional with experience, odds are good the rate will be decent and worth matching.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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We need to take into consideration a DP's experience (resume) and skill level (reel) when discussing rates. There's such a huge gamut of talent out there, from the recent film school graduate with a 7D, to the journeyman shooter, to the guys who get nominated for Academy Awards every year. I worked with a DP a few years ago who loved to tell stories about how he used to be "the $20,000/day guy." Hilarious and mind-boggling. There's also a huge gamut of jobs out there requiring all those different levels of cinematographers. You wouldn't hire Emmanuel Lubezki to shoot a corporate internal video, and you wouldn't hire the 7D kid to shoot a car commercial.

 

On the other hand, you wouldn't choose the kid fresh out of school with no reel for a tentpole film project just because he has a Red Epic, either.

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On the other hand, you wouldn't choose the kid fresh out of school with no reel for a tentpole film project just because he has a Red Epic, either.

Well, not more than once, anyway :)

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Well said. During negotiations, assuming that there's enough to go around, you can always say - "just match the sound recordists rate". Since its often in the same ballpark. Sound isn't told "It'll be great for your reel". They don't have their love of the work leveraged against them in quite the same way as a cinematographer. Assuming they're hiring a professional with experience, odds are good the rate will be decent and worth matching.

Sound mixers make way more AC's! My roommate told me he makes $950/8 on union commercials before kit rental. After kit and OT, he's making DP rates!

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Maybe you misunderstood. I was suggesting to the poster that if he's unsure what to quote as the DP, he could ask that his rate "match the sound recordist" cause as you say often times they make as much as a DP.

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