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Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

How much $$ do the top DP's make?

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If you are talking about the top top guys, such a Roger Deakins and other "legends", it's really up to them how much. Anywhere from 10k up to whatever they negotiate per day. Feature rates are typically much lower than commercials because their longer shooting time.

But if you are talking about top guys such as an ASC member,  it could be anywhere from 5k-30k+ per day for a commercial. And maybe 3-5k per day for features. But I'm nowhere near that, so maybe an ASC member who feels comfortable sharing this info can elaborate here.

If you go down from there, there are unionized/agent cinematographers, who is a part of a union (loca 600, 669 or similar) and/or represented by a agent. They can often charge from the mandated minimum 1k up to 5k for a day of commercial.

But this can vary wildly by person, such as the types of project (a ASC member might work on a project they feel passionate about, but has very low budget.  But a much lesser known cinematographer might work on a commercial and get a higher rate).

Future more, there's often paid prep if you are talking about a project with proper budget, which can last for a month (or longer), which can also impact their earnings (let's say one month of shooting and 2 weeks of paid prep).

I'm in no way expert in this topic, this info mainly comes from talking to other crew member and industry friends, so please correct me if  got anything wrong.

 

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I was once shocked to sit in front of a panel of ASC members and witness them talking about putting money aside for slack periods. If those people can suffer that problem...

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8 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I was once shocked to sit in front of a panel of ASC members and witness them talking about putting money aside for slack periods. If those people can suffer that problem...

There's slack, and there's slack....

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12 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

I was once shocked to sit in front of a panel of ASC members and witness them talking about putting money aside for slack periods. If those people can suffer that problem...

Sure, the better and more popular you become, the fewer jobs there are for you. It's a bit of a paradox, but there are far fewer productions in high-end productions than in the lower market. The same applies to commercials. Also it becomes more difficult to find jobs out there which fits your creativity and level and for the most standard jobs they do not need a superhero. For many people DP Fees sounds high… but even the most popular won´t work everyday, have to take care of your retirement and safe for slack periods. 

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Top DP's also have agents that negotiate things beyond payment including, but not limited to:

  • Travel requirements (IE: business class airfare, per diem, car type, etc)
  • Residuals
  • Schedule requirements

These benefits aren't standard and change depending on how good the agent is and how "top" the DP is.

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I had an agent quote me $20k a week for a top ASC DP.  He's someone who works a ton though and is always busy. That was a while ago.  Probably makes even more now.

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As an additional example, I got to take a look at a pitch pack done for an 18 million dollar international thriller where a quite well known german DP was budgeted at 150,000 euro for an 8 week shoot.  Which comes out to about $20k a week.  Similar to the other quote.  This was back in 2015 or so.  I should add, that he was listed as "operating himself". So I don't know if that also affects the rate deal.

The movie hasn't been made so who knows if someone looked at the budget and freaked out about the crew and cast rates.  But that's what was penciled in.  The director, also quite well known was offered 3.5% of the budget as the overall rate.

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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Again, that's about double of the rates I hear about for a mid-level DP working on a TV series with a decent budget, or feature being made for under 10 mil.

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12 hours ago, Michael LaVoie said:

As an additional example, I got to take a look at a pitch pack done for an 18 million dollar international thriller where a quite well known german DP was budgeted at 150,000 euro for an 8 week shoot.  Which comes out to about $20k a week.  Similar to the other quote.  This was back in 2015 or so.  I should add, that he was listed as "operating himself". So I don't know if that also affects the rate deal.

The movie hasn't been made so who knows if someone looked at the budget and freaked out about the crew and cast rates.  But that's what was penciled in.  The director, also quite well known was offered 3.5% of the budget as the overall rate.

Was that just for the shoot, or for pre-production as well?

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On 9/24/2019 at 8:18 PM, David Mullen ASC said:

You guys must be talking to some pretty big-name ASC members because those rates are at least double what I've ever heard of...

Posts like these are what make this forum

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11 hours ago, Mark Kenfield said:

Was that just for the shoot, or for pre-production as well?

His line had no columns for weekly or daily and no demarcation for shoot / prep/ etc.  So it may have been all in and included prep.  Most of the other crew in the budget had prep/shoot/ columns and weekly rates.  

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It probably included post production grading too.. that can take weeks with no pay...   anyway its all small potatoes ..the big money is in sound recording .. and you get to sit down with a donut..

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On 9/22/2019 at 4:09 PM, Phil Rhodes said:

I was once shocked to sit in front of a panel of ASC members and witness them talking about putting money aside for slack periods. If those people can suffer that problem...

Depends on their overhead, wife, etc. 

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On 9/22/2019 at 11:43 AM, Jingtian Wang said:

If you are talking about the top top guys, such a Roger Deakins and other "legends", it's really up to them how much. Anywhere from 10k up to whatever they negotiate per day. Feature rates are typically much lower than commercials because their longer shooting time.

But if you are talking about top guys such as an ASC member,  it could be anywhere from 5k-30k+ per day for a commercial. And maybe 3-5k per day for features. But I'm nowhere near that, so maybe an ASC member who feels comfortable sharing this info can elaborate here.

If you go down from there, there are unionized/agent cinematographers, who is a part of a union (loca 600, 669 or similar) and/or represented by a agent. They can often charge from the mandated minimum 1k up to 5k for a day of commercial.

But this can vary wildly by person, such as the types of project (a ASC member might work on a project they feel passionate about, but has very low budget.  But a much lesser known cinematographer might work on a commercial and get a higher rate).

Future more, there's often paid prep if you are talking about a project with proper budget, which can last for a month (or longer), which can also impact their earnings (let's say one month of shooting and 2 weeks of paid prep).

I'm in no way expert in this topic, this info mainly comes from talking to other crew member and industry friends, so please correct me if  got anything wrong.

 

I was thinking they get paid by the movie. Didn't realize it is a day rate.

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Generally you are offered a weekly rate for features and series work... but it later has to be broken down into an hourly rate for payroll purposes and for reporting to the union for pension / healthcare, etc.

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19 hours ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

Depends on their overhead, wife, etc. 

you forgot ex wife, ... or ex wives

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Huge Netflix show with a major star in it paid $6K/week for the DP. He later moved to an even bigger show, also for same network, and it bumped to $8K/week. I'd expect that is as much as you'll ever earn doing TV.

Big features with a big time DP might pay a little more, but we're talking the top 20 guys here. Us mere mortals, on a $1-5 million movie, probably looking at anywhere from $500-3000/week. Which might sound like a good living, but if you're in LA or NY and have a family, really isn't.

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$500 a week ! .. yikes you have to be working a lot for a decent living with family at that rate.. there is no self respecting doc/corp camera person who would do anything near that rate.. that's a low ish day rate.. or was that meant to be $5,000..?

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