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Old August 19th, 2009, 01:49 PM   #1
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Good quote for commissioning a documentary

Hi everyone,

I have done a couple documentaries in the past (one half-hour doc on martial arts, and another on Parkinson's disease), and I am being commissioned to do a documentary on a new medical device for use in patients with Parkinson's Disease.

Now, the previous two documentaries which I did, I did for the experience and to increase my skill with the camera. For this new documentary, a surgeon is commissioning me to shoot the film specifically for promoting this device and the patients who have benefited.

I'm not sure how much I should charge. Since I am relatively new, I want to give him a discount. However, at the same time, I want to be fair to myself and my crew (my additional cameraman and my sound designer).

These are the facts I know so far about what will be involved in the production of the documentary:

- interviews with patients with parkinson's disease
- filming surgeries
- editing the doc myself
- creation of background music/score
- possible travel (mostly driving)
- a breakdown of how the device works
- 15 to 20 minutes long

Any good advice is appreciated. Thank you.
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Old August 20th, 2009, 08:53 AM   #2
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well without to much info, I'd say don't sell yourself short, make room for contingencie$!!!
20 minutes isn't short for a doc, compared to say a 20 min corporate piece. In a corporate vid you can be more rigid in your scheduling. But with a doc there's a lot of time involved that can't be calculated till its been used! With a doc you can assume roughly a 20:1 shooting to finished product ratio, that's over six hours of footage. For me, every minute of camera roll can easily take anywhere from 30 to one hour worth of setups, tear downs, travel time, post, etc. That's a few hundred hours of work!

Get out your budget sheet and start with a (through) rough budget and go from there. It all adds up!

how many days/weeks/months are you going to be working on the doc?

...after doing a quick budget, for every finished minute, i came up with 1260 - 1390US$, give or take 12 or 1300US$:), this includes everything i could think to plug in to the budget!
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Old August 20th, 2009, 10:39 AM   #3
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From your post, this actually sounds sort of like a corporate job. I mean, honestly, how often are "commissioned documentaries" anything else?

I agree with Mike about not selling yourself short, but at the same time, I feel like the amount of time it will take won't be as long. Yes, you'll likely have a high shooting ratio, but when it comes to setup vs. shooting time, yeah, maybe you take 30-60 minutes to light an interview, but then you roll and roll for however long it takes. Could be easily a 1:1 ratio regarding setup. Also, you will likely not be able to light the surgeries - and you probably won't have to, so that's some setup-free shooting time as well.

There are lots of things to consider here. First, you need to figure out a rough shooting schedule and find out how much traveling there will be. Then get quotes from any services you're outsourcing, namely your sound designer and your additional camera op (figure out how many shooting days you'll actually need him/her for). Let's just guess and say that with travel expenses and the outsourcing, your expenses total $6,000 - that's you working for free. Now figure out what's fair to pay yourself. If you've got 15 shoot days that YOU're shooting, you want to pay yourself what? For the sake of this discussion, let's say $500/day. That's an additional $7,500. So for $13,500 so far, you've got all of your footage in the can and you have a sound designer. Now figure out what's fair to pay yourself for all of the post stuff you'll be doing. Is $6,500 reasonable?

Typically, if you account for $1,000 per finished minute, you can pay yourself and a reasonable number of crew members a fair - though not quite industry standard - wage. This is not always the case, but for this piece as you described it, $15,000 - $20,000 seems like a very good starting point.

Good luck.

~~Dave
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Old August 27th, 2009, 01:08 PM   #4
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Thank you all for your posts. They gave me a good baseline in which to quote the people commissioning the doc. I really appreciate it.
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Old August 28th, 2009, 11:44 AM   #5
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no prob

tells us how it goes!
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Old October 20th, 2009, 02:29 PM   #6
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Curious... extend the conversation please...

Would you folks consider this a good starting point when grant writing for documentaries? Ball park $1,000 per finished minute?

It's been a good 15+ years since writing any grants and have been completely 'out of the production loop' for a while. Have to 're-up' the cerebral database on reasonable charges. Is there any reference material on line... possibly broken down by crew/job/etc.?

Once again ... absolutely FABULOUS FORUM and website! I use this more and more every day. Thank you folks for always being around to help! God Bless, Roze
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Old October 20th, 2009, 10:12 PM   #7
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Telling your story - providing perspective

Kareem,

Since I know this field well (I am practice in neuro and rehabilitation psychology and teach it at a doctoral level) I can offer you more specific suggestions.

1. Be certain to include an interview with the physician in which you go over symptoms of
Parkinson's

2. Focus on the experience of patients with Parkinsons's - in particular the way in which it
affects their ability to function in everyday life. Emotional problems especially depression
is common. Also, a prominent side effect from medication are hallucinations and
psychosis.

3. Parkinson's has a tremendous impact on quality of life not only for patients but also for
family members. The risk for caregiver burden is high. Unlike Alzheimers's, patients with
Parkinson's live much longer so the stress on family members often is chronic, extensive
and lasts for many years.

This could set a frame to tell your story and to put the importance of any advance in treatment into proper perspective.

Best,

Mike
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Old November 10th, 2009, 03:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kareem Dimashkie View Post
Hi everyone,

I have done a couple documentaries in the past (one half-hour doc on martial arts, and another on Parkinson's disease), and I am being commissioned to do a documentary on a new medical device for use in patients with Parkinson's Disease.

Any good advice is appreciated. Thank you.
Hi Kareem, How did the project progress? Any luck?
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Old March 12th, 2010, 08:33 PM   #9
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Hi Everyone,

I have to take a minute to apologize. I had gone to Europe a little after starting this thread, and was sending posts to this wall via my Iphone. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like anything I sent posted. I deeply apologize for leaving you all hanging. It was most certainly not my intent to cut and run, as is clear from my other threads. That is something I just don't do. Once again, I apologize.

Now, for a status update. After giving the doctor a ballpark figure for the documentary, I didn't hear anything for a couple months. Apparently EXTRA TV became interested in the doctor who initially was going to back the doc, and so plans for a separate video seemed redundant, and rightfully so.

Apparently, however, EXTRA fell through, and so there is some forward momentum on the project once again. I'll keep you all posted on how things work out.

In the meantime, I've attached the video I did for school which started this whole thing: A profile of painter Jorge LaCoste. I apologize for the quality of the video. In school, we were limited to standard def and Sony PD-170's.

Thank again for all your help and support,
Kareem

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Old July 22nd, 2010, 05:10 AM   #10
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Nice job with the video

Forget everything else. If you have a good story, you are 5 million percent ahead of the game. Jorge emerges as a very real person that we like. We feel his struggle and we admire his talent. This is what film making is all about; telling a good story. The production values are what they are, but you see beyond that when the story is strong. Nice work Kareem.
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