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Question for Mr. Mullen

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Dear Mr. Mullen,

 

I know this is not the best question to ask, but if you dont mind me asking. How much money did the production company pay you for photographing the film "NORTHFORK"? If you dont whant to answere it is totally fine with me. The reason I am asking is because I whant to have an idea of the income for a film of that scale.

 

Thank You

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I wasn't paid what I normally would make for a film of that budget anyway...

 

We all took a flat $1000/week deal, every crew member high and low. I did it as a favor (just as a warning to those who think they can hit me up for more favors of that kind...) That deal is more typical of a half-million dollar film but this was a 1.5 million dollar film. However, the location shoot and set building took up an inordinate amount of the budget. The actors worked at scale I believe.

 

A DP would probably have been paid $2500/wk to $3000/wk on a film of that budget, if not more.

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We all took a flat $1000/week deal, every crew member high and low.  I did it as a favor (just as a warning to those who think they can hit me up for more favors of that kind...) That deal is more typical of a half-million dollar film but this was a 1.5 million dollar film. However, the location shoot and set building took up an inordinate amount of the budget. The actors worked at scale I believe.

 

A DP would probably have been paid $2500/wk to $3000/wk on a film of that budget, if not more.

 

David,

 

They got a wonderful deal! Do you know what is the Union rate for a Film?

 

Stephen

 

www.stephenw.com

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There are many rates for union productions, some tiered to budget. There are a couple of levels to the IA Low-Budget Agreement, plus on the East Coast you have something called the East Coast Council Deal for films below a certain budget.

 

In the regular IA agreement, which tends to cover films over 6 mil. in budget I believe (I'm really not qualified to be talking about these issues though -- you'd want to talk to a union rep), the rates listed on my card say:

 

Assuming an 8-hour day (1.5X rate for work after 8 hours):

 

DP: $626.56/day

Operator: $385.15/day

1st AC: $279.76/day

2nd AC: $257.52/day

 

I don't know what the Low-Budget Agreement rates are, and they don't list any rates for a DP anyway -- it's sort of up to me to get whatever deal I can manage, which is a major pain-in-the-a... -- I guess they figured that a DP could manage to work out a better deal than the low-budget agreement could get them, but that isn't really true.

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Just a tag on question... when you say 1k a week, or even 2-3k per week David, does that include any prep time? or do low budgets expect you to prep for free? or a reduced rate?

 

thank you immensely~

theturnaround

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Hi,

 

In my experience it's easier to make decent rates on corporates and music promos. The dramatic stuff is sought after work, particularly in London. I've rarely been paid more than the train fare to shoot drama.

 

Phil

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Features pay worse on a day-to-day basis than almost anything, including EPK work. But you work more days...

 

There's usually a couple of weeks of paid prep budgeted for a DP, depending on what you can negotiate. Truth is, you work as much prep as necessary, whether or not you get paid for all of it. I might put in at least a month of prep on a small feature, but they might not pay for that many weeks.

 

I think I got four weeks of paid prep for a six week shoot for "Akeelah and the Bee", which is typical for a film of that budget. The most I got was on "Shadowboxer", because the director/producer wanted everyone on payroll as soon as possible. I got 11 weeks of paid prep for a seven week shoot, which is unusual. Part of that was because production pushed two weeks just before the first day, extending my prep.

 

Back when I was shooting more three-week features, I usually got paid for one week of prep.

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Respectfully, this just doesn't seem as high of a rate as I had thought. Like you've said on here before your interest is in making movies not becoming wealthy--which is a wonderful thing. When you consider that as a feature D.P. all the equipment is provided (contrast to a commercial d.p. who owns gear) you get the best of all worlds: getting to do what you love without having notes on equipment. What you do is really cool and is what I'd like to do someday.. This isn't a "let me know how to succeed" post, but more like "you lead a cool life and it's admirable" type of post. I hope this makes sense. Best wishes (from a college little guy). As an aside, what are the three screengrabs on davidmullenasc.com from? I really like all of them, especially the first one. I'd like to see these projects if they are available.

 

Thanks,

 

Brian

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Hi,

 

I don't really know anything about how Hollywood works, but if it's anything like London I think you'll find it's very variable. Pay for most stuff seems to be based on the desirability of the project, how busy the person in question has been recently, whether their best friend/favourite client is attached to direct/produce, whether one or both agents are sleeping with somebody on the production team... I'm not sure how worthwhile it could ever be to take an example and say "I'm surprised..." because you'll always be surprised.

 

Phil

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"Respectfully, this just doesn't seem as high of a rate as I had thought. "

 

This is a common realization that people aspiring to work in the film industry come to.

 

Problem is that people grow up watching Entertainment Tonight and all they hear about are the people that get paid millions and millions to work in the movies. So they start to think it must be like that for every one.

 

Fact is those salaries are reserved for the top .5 - 1 %.

 

 

R,

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Yes, it's surprising how LOW and how HIGH the rates can be... That's why when some student asks how much a DP makes in a year, the answer is "Zero to over a million dollars."

 

The only thing you can really quote are the minimum IA rates. Now you can ask "who makes IA minimum?" but the truth is quite a bit do. If they are lucky.

 

My website is just a closet to stuff frame grabs -- there must be hundreds hidden on the site but those three are digital stills taken from the sets of "Dot" (now "The Quiet"), "Shadowboxer", and "When Do We Eat?".

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Hi,

 

The second realisation is that even the "not very high" rates we've been talking about here are reserved for the top 5%.

 

Everyone else works three jobs to pay the rent.

 

Phil

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

Actually if the figures David quoted are accurate, then, wow.... David, hows it going in that mansion of yours with all your jags and porches??!!

 

I NEVER thought it would be that high, I was thinking more £150 a day, at the most.

 

And here I am stuck working in Chas Norman Cameras for a crappy £25.50 an 8 and a half hour day!!!! :angry:

 

Well I'm glad someone finally had the guts to ask David that question, I really wanted to but I was too scared he might take it as being rude.

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith
Daniel, have you checked house prices recently?

No, why? Anyway their dirt cheap out in America so on that kind of pay you really would get a mansion. Even in england you could afford to get something pretty big on that wage.

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Hi David,

 

Very impressive work on Northfork, congratulations. I saw the article on it here a while ago and have just today found the forums - this is an amazing resource...

 

I'm planning on lighting a 35mm short for a friend and colleague of mine, Callum Reid, at some point entitled "Layman" in which we are also seeking to use non-digital desaturation techniques such as ENR and flashing the neg - could I ask you a few questions about stocks, level of ENR used, etc. as long as you don't feel it's encroaching on your preofessional territory, so to speak?

 

I'd be very interested to get the benefit of your wisdom - needless to say, we'll be testing extensively ourselves, but I have not used many of these techniques before and would be very grateful for any and all advice you have to offer...

 

I hope you don't feel this question rude or invasive (and of course, please feel free to decline if you feel it is) - it seems to be the season for it, doesn't it?!

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I don't think Daniel is aware of just how few days of the year one works. I've worked 10 weeks total so far this year, and it's mid-June, so that's like 10 weeks out of 26 or so (the upside is that I have time to answer so many questions here...)

 

And even if you have a good year, you may have a few weak years after that so it would make more sense to look at a three-year average.

 

As for housing prices, they are astronomical here in Los Angeles!

 

Generally it's considered rude to discuss one's income, but I feel that it may be informative to others out there, so I'm willing. However, income varies WILDLY from person to person in this industry, so there isn't such a thing as a "typical" case. I'm sure my agent wouldn't want me to discuss my salary, since a production often makes you an offer based on what you made in the past, as in "but we heard he did 'x' movie for only 'x' amount of money? Why should we pay more?"

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"No, why? Anyway their dirt cheap out in America so on that kind of pay you really would get a mansion. Even in england you could afford to get something pretty big on that wage. "

 

Daniel,

 

Come on start doing some maths or sums.

 

First, have you heard of a thing called TAXES? Ever heard of those?

 

Let's say you make $2000.00 per week as a DOP on a film, the tax man will want about 40% of that in the USA when you add in the self employment tax. Plus you'll need to buy health insurance working in the USA, they don't have NHS you know.

 

Next have you looked at house prices in the LA area? 600k will get you decent little house, not a mansion by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Next you have to keep working every week of the year in order to have a high income. Guess what film work is five weeks here and 10 weeks there, it's not 9-5 Mon-Fri 50 weeks a year. Come on you know this.

 

So you think you'll be living the high life in America eh, sitting in your mansion that you bought for $45,000.00?

 

Think again, you're a bright guy.

 

R,

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Richard's right -- you've got taxes, agent & union fees, you only work part of the year, and housing costs are insane in Los Angeles, New York, etc. It's definitely more of a middle-class lifestyle IF you are lucky. A few are filthy rich.

 

When I drive to ASC meetings, I notice the range of cars in the parking lot, from my 15 year old Toyota Tercel, to the latest Porsche, etc.

 

However, I was lucky enough to pool some resources together and buy a house three years ago in the Westside (Mar Vista, near Venice & Marina Del Rey) -- and the value has doubled in that time, which is insane (and can't last...) So assuming it doesn't get flattened in an earthquake, perhaps owning this house will help out in my retirement someday...

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Yes, it's surprising how LOW and how HIGH the rates can be...

This is a sensitive topic and as a young guy I appreciate your upfront and humble way of tackling it.

 

those three are digital stills taken from the sets of "Dot" (now "The Quiet"), "Shadowboxer", and "When Do We Eat?".

Great, thank you. I see that "The Quiet" and "Shadowboxer" are both in post production, according to IMDB. "When Do We Eat?" sounds particularly dark and brooding as well as interesting. I haven't found anything on availability, but be certain that when it is ready for consumption, I'd like to see it.

 

The photography looks beautiful. I love your "scope" widescreen compositions!

 

Best,

Brian

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No offense, but $700 a day is a one hell of a price tag. I'd be happy if I was making $300.00 days, thats more than what pretty much any other job where you work for someone will pay. My dad works for the labor union and he gets $23.00/Hr, its one of the highest paying jobs around here (and Bloomington is not small), He sack about $184/day before taxes.

 

This may offend some people, but I think people in the film business are very overpaid. No wonder hollywood needs $100,000,000 to make a movie 50% goes for crew.

 

Although, being a DP is not a steady job like most other jobs are. So I guess the making of $700/day would make up for the days in which you didnt work.

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... works for the labor union...

I guess the making of $xxx/day would make up for the days in which you didnt work.

While on this taboo subject...

 

I often did freelance work for the Presentation Services departments of various hotels and the convention center when I lived Indianapolis two years ago (where I grew up). Let me inform you the guys recording lectures on cassette tapes and the folks setting up overhead projectors (the kind that use transparency "paper") were compensated very, very well. Even though we were paid $25/Hour, our employer was billing $40-$80/Hour. As has been said already, paychecks vary wildly in this business and generally it seems the least creative roles often are the ones that pay well and provide (subjectively) consistent work. But, do I really want to be a cassette tape operator? I think not.

 

So, I moved away, interned with a film company, and I'm moving back to Indianapolis this fall and continuing my education towards a business diploma.. and I will hopefully be involved in film as projects arise.. And, they will. But, I can't reasonably expect to make a living as a cinematographer in Indiana.....

 

I'll need to find some other way to make a living, at least in the beginning. I think making a living as a cinematographer takes a lifetime to achieve and ultimately the reward is not financial. Mail room staff at Eli Lilly (in Indianapolis) earn $15/Hour. ($31K/Year) There are plenty of ways to make a living besides being a D.P. The D.P. seems more fulfilling and expressive, though.

 

Brian "wishes he was a working d.p." Wells

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and I'm moving back to Indianapolis this fall and continuing my education towards a business diploma.. and I will hopefully be involved in film as projects arise.. And, they will. But, I can't reasonably expect to make a living as a cinematographer in Indiana.....

I'm from Bloomington Indiana, about 50 miles south of Indianapolis. There are a lot of cinematographers in the Indianapolis area (as the Indiana film production book will tell ya)... There have also been a few huge films shot partly in Indiana.

 

Indiana is often called "Hoosierwood" :huh: :blink: :o :ph34r: :rolleyes: :unsure: ;)

 

I hope you enjoy Indiana!

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