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Bella Roberts

How much to charge for a music video?

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Hi everyone I’m Bella, I’m 17 and I’m a student filmmaker, from the UK. I’m not trying to boast, but I would say my work has got to a point where I can charge people for it. This last year people have started to come to me for jobs, which I haven’t asked for money for. But now I think I should. I have a client who would like a music video done at the seaside. A. Would I be allowed to film there as a ‘student’ and B. how much should I charge the client to film and edit the video. Bare in mind I don't live anywhere near the sea so I would have to travel there. Also I would be using a canon 80D and a sigma 18-35 1.8 lens. 

Any advice for a student filmmaker would be greatly appreciated 👍🏻

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First of all, congratulations on realising early that this is work and you should get paid for it. It is, and you should.

Figuring out what to charge is always tricky, especially at the beginning of your career. Clearly, minimum wage isn't a target, but I'd be aware of it (see here.) It's incredibly easy to end up spending huge amounts of time on something, working out what your hourly rate is, and figuring out you're making less than someone slinging burgers at McDonald's, which isn't really OK. The age discrimination in the minimum wage is downright offensive, though, so I'd use the living wage, which as you're based in London is £10.55 an hour. That's a minimum, not a target.

You should factor in something for your camera gear. This company wants £36 a day for an 80D and then there's the lens. As a rough guide, take the value of a piece of equipment (its value now, not when it was new) and divide by 20 or 30, something close to that. Sometimes people do give away gear free or at a big discount when they're owner-operating it, but that's up to you.

Make sure you can claim expenses like travel and subsistence (meals, accommodation, etc.) Same deal if you're going to Brighton for the day or the Serengeti for a month.

As to permissions, it depends what you're intending to do. My thought is, if you're being paid, you're not a student for the purposes of the job in question. Different councils all over the country have different approaches to permissions for film and TV work.

What follows is my understanding of the law which I believe to be accurate but clearly, I'm not a lawyer.

There is no restriction on photography in public in the UK, with very narrow exceptions under certain circumstances for military installations, nuclear sites and so on. In short, in public, you can shoot what you like, including people and private property, from a public place, and it's allowed. Beware places that look like public places but aren't. Also, if you start setting up equipment and it is getting in people's way or causing a safety hazard, if you shin up a tree and film someone getting changed through a bedroom window, that's not OK. Behave in a sane manner, though, and you're fine.

But.

There is currently quite a culture of trying to stop people filming in public. Often people, even the police and particularly private security guard, don't really know the details of the law. Carry a copy of this document which was released by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and advises the police not to bother film crews. ACPO no longer exists but the advice is still valid. If it happens, that's the time to be nice, polite and utterly professional but firm. If someone wants to call the cops for no reason other than you're standing in public with a camera, let them. There are exceptions; for instance, anything involving guns means taking a few extra steps to ensure you're not shot by a police firearms unit - but that probably isn't you at this point.

Basically, if it's a tiny thing with you and a few friends with hand-held reflectors and battery powered lights, you should do your own research, but personally I'd just go and do it. If you want to start setting up gear, maybe have a look at the local council website and see if they have anything to say about it. Depending where you go they probably haven't even given it any thought.

Finally, if you're really serious about getting into this, look into joining BECTU, or at least be on the student register. If you want to get into any sort of camerawork there are apprenticeships and schemes for new entrants. I'm a member of the camera branch committee for the London production division. If you really want to get into camera, particularly big films and TV shows, there's never been a better time in London.

- Phil

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I would think carefully about the price charged for the edit - thats where these things can come unstuck. Its better to agree and hourly rate for the edit then an all in deal. Otherwise you can fall into the trap doing many revisions and can make what was a fair rate into very little when you factor the extra time in.

On the budget jobs where a fixed fee is agreed in advance I make it very clear in writing what is covered in the fee and that any extras will be charged for. E.g you might include one round of revisions in the edit price and then charge additional revisions. It helps focus the mind of your clients as well, if they know your not going to do a ton of tweaks they (might) be more careful about the notes needed. 

Working on a low rate is more acceptable on creatively interesting projects that you can turn around quickly. But the zombie projects that get trapped in post production hell are no fun. 

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Hi,

Lemme just start by saying, thank you so much for this advice Phil & Phil. For a starting off filmmaking this is really appreciated. I actually didn’t know that it was okay to film in public and thanks for the documents, I shall be carrying them around from now on. Luckily the police in the uk don’t carry guns!

Yeah I think I’ll look at the hourly rate, and work from there. I’ll try and find a reasonable price, but I don’t think I will sticking with the £4.35 minimum wage for under 18s though... because that’s ridiculous, I’m nearly 18 anyways. I’ll talk to my client and make sure I have some sort of formal agreement on paper. And generally when I’m filming in public (other times) people stare but never really kick up a fuss because we look like ‘kids,’ not professionals.

I’m looking at going to uni in 2020 after sixth form to study film production at ravensbourne (if I get in). So yeah I’ve been serious about this for a long time, and I’ll join the student register (because i didn’t know that was a thing either) 

I would like to become a film director or an editor as a job... I don’t know if that’s ambitious but you can only dream eh? 

I actually didn’t think anyone would reply to this so again, thanks so much. This is only the beginning for me so... we’ll just have to see how it goes 👍🏻

 

-Bella

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I'm usually very cautious about any sort of film school as they're a lot of money and the results are very unsure. As far as I'm aware, Ravensbourne has a pretty decent record of putting people into employment so it may be one of the better choices, but you should still do a lot of research about exactly what sort of job you want to get, and what you will need to get it. I associate Ravensbourne more with broadcast TV than single-camera drama and features, but either way, I recommend seeing if you can get out on any full-size sets and see what actually goes on. Look into what the union has going on for that.

I don't think there are any jobs in film or TV that you absolutely must have a college course to do other than some of the electrical roles, and that's not usually a college course anyway (and it isn't that complicated.) Think very hard before you go deeply into debt on this.

P

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On 8/21/2019 at 7:30 AM, Bella Roberts said:

 I’m not trying to boast, but I would say my work has got to a point where I can charge people for it.

That's dangerous territory. All labor has a cash price, it's all about what you have the leverage to negotiate for.

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3 hours ago, Max Field said:

That's dangerous territory. All labor has a cash price, it's all about what you have the leverage to negotiate for.

Even I'm not quite sure what that means, Max.

I think what Max means is that if you can get away with charging for it, charge for it.

Much of your ability to do that is down to confidence and ability to sell yourself, coupled, hopefully, with a degree of competence. But just the competence won't get you anywhere, so frankly I say go for it.

P

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7 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

 

Even I'm not quite sure what that means, Max.

I think what Max means is that if you can get away with charging for it, charge for it.

Much of your ability to do that is down to confidence and ability to sell yourself, coupled, hopefully, with a degree of competence. But just the competence won't get you anywhere, so frankly I say go for it.

P

I mean starting off with that mentality early on can lead to clients/producers exploiting people for free labor under the guise of "oh well I never heard of you" or "oh you're not THAT good". Seen it a million times unfortunately.

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As Phil 1 points out Ravensbourne is a bit more focused in the direction of live multi-camera TV.

If you want to do a BA in narrative film check out:

https://www.bournemouth.ac.uk/study/courses/ba-hons-film-production-cinematography

The course is based in Salisbury so not great on the social front. But I was the external examiner for the course for the last 5 years and some of the student production work is truly exceptional. They should def be on your radar.

However i also agree with on the financial side  (this is from someone that works in Higher Education). A degree is now expensive to get and in the field won't guarantee you a job its very tough. A lot of great music video directors didn't go to film school e.g Garth Jennings and Dougle Wilson they just learn't on the job doing bigger and bigger videos. A course can be a great way to focus the mind and give you  creative space to develop (if you pick the right course) but its more of a risk then it was 5 years ago.

The other thing you could consider with education is you don't have to it straight away. I didn't go to and do a film or media degree initially. My first job was as a camera assistant at a corporate company and I worked my way up through "job" Jobs till I got to assistant editor at a large London post house, doing freelance work in my space time. My career stalled a bit in my mid to late 20's. So thats when I enrolled in film school to do an MA at the NFTS - as a freelancer it also made it easier for me to get a scholarship to help with my fee's and it did help refocus my career.

I do find students that come to education  a bit later e.g with a few years work under their belt make much better students, they are more focused and have a clearer idea of what they are trying to achieve. 

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Shooting in public: I don’t know how it works in the UK but in the U.S. you can often make your life easier by talking to the local authorities a day or two beforehand, let them know what you’re doing and what hours. Police are very respectful of rank so get the name of the watch commander or sergeant in charge. That way, if you get hassled you can say “Sgt. Smith gave us his approval yesterday”

If you want to be a filmmaker you have to learn as much as you can about human psychology. For instance, even though it’s legal to shoot, most police officers have a zillion laws and policies to keep team of as well as their personal lives, so laws regarding filmmaking in public may have slipped to the bottom of their mental inventory.

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In the UK it all depends where you are. For instance if you want to shoot the Beach, the Eastbourne and Hasting film office are loverly and will help you with permits for anything you need and its free.

Brighton on the other hand, less friendly and will charge you £50 just to look at the application form, which is extortion - since you don't need a permit to shoot in public handheld. 

They will ask for public liability insurance, if you want to get official permission from any council to shoot you will have to have this. Its possible to get short term single day cover quiet cheaply.

I was shooting on the beach yesterday (in Eastbourne) I had permits and insurance. The Police came over to say hello, they didn't ask to see any of the permits. 

If you are going to do a non permit shoot, just be respectful, its usually fine. Little trick make the whole crew wear high viz tabards. Makes you look more official, the more official you look, people just assume you have permits. 

London is much harder and the "authorities" often throw their weight around. But if your shooting in a sleepy seaside town, people will usually be very nice, because film production is a novelty. The worse you get is the pensioners standing in shot staring at the camera. 

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Ahah yeah love the old people... always so curious. 

But thanks for the advice. Quite like the idea of wearing vests, looks more “official.” The good thing about looking younger than you are, you tend to get away with more stuff. And generally when people ask what I’m filming, police etc. I just say it’s for a school project and they just let us be. 

I think if it was a more professional shoot I might get a permit but I don’t think it’s a necessity, as you said it’s not illegal to film in public or else they’d have to ban everyone from taking pictures/videos on the beach etc. 

This weekend I’ve been shooting all day with a 8 person crew, in Trafalgar Square. And no one seemed to mind. The tourists loved taking pictures though and being very annoying, walking in front of shots etc. But I was quite happy because I was just meant to be a runner on this shoot, but I got upgraded to cameras operator, so that was a new experience. I’ve mostly just been like “sir/madam please may you move out of the shot.” I’m absolutely knackered, ready for nice nap 😂 

but yeah thanks so much for the advice guys - really useful. 

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Yep its all fun times dealing with the public in open locations. Its even worse if your actors a recognisable. Everyone is trying to sneak photos, in the least subtle way possible

Then you find shots of your shoot all over social media.

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