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Old February 3rd, 2011, 03:16 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Nashville TN
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Building a body of work, so I can charge?

Hi, I'm Jeff, and I'm most definitely a "wanna be" film maker. I've started the process in stepping up this hobby/obsession, that I've had. I've seen a few posts and even have made a post, where I, and other posters, have mention doing work for no pay, or very little pay. And in turn have seen a slew of comments back chastising them/me for working so cheap/or free. Been told I don't want to be labeled as the "cheap or budget" guy.

My first question is, without having a body of work to show a potential client, how do you get those first jobs, if your not willing to work or free, or at a lower level? Do you fill a reel with personal projects, and use those as a starting point? I would love to get to a point were I could do music videos, for up and coming local bands, and possibly some local commercials for the small businesses in my area.

My second question is about fees. If I'm lucky/talented enough to get to a point where my craft is worth pay, how do you (those already doing these things), figure your fees? Again I've seen comments, that if someone uses a jib or crane, there is an extra fee, or if there is a slider used, a fee. If I'm not renting these pieces of equipment, but own them, how are those fees calculated into your base fee structure?

I was recently given the riot act, because I told some people I know, I wanted to do some music videos. They proceeded to tell me I was a (insert some negative bad word), because they have another friend who's a "real artist" and has done real jobs (budgets of 100k or more), and because "non artists" like me, who can spend a "few bucks" on a camera, are undercutting the "real" video makers, and now he can't find work. My reply to that is, if his art/craft was that good, he would have all the work he wants. It so happens ive met and worked with that guy (he's also a photographer, and shot some band friends of mine), and while he is an amazing artist, he's also a jerk to work with.

Any how, I was just curious about how fees are structured, and how to get to have a body of work, where I'm not having to do pro bono work.

Thanks for any replies,
Jeff Troiano is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 3rd, 2011, 03:36 PM   #2
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Location: Philly, PA
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My advice, build a good demo reel. Nature shots, urban shots, large churches, sunny days, gloomy days, depth of field etc... In all honesty you'll find "free work" will lead you to just that, more free work. Unless it's for a friends band or something, try not to do stuff for free. All you'll hear is "We need this one shot for free, but then if it's good enough our next one we'll pay you".

Non-profits though, if they're legit, could be a good way to offer services & develop credentials. Pro-bono. However don't do it for Kim on Craigslist for her wedding, or Joe trying to open his new resturant etc..
David Barnett is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 3rd, 2011, 04:35 PM   #3
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Hi Jeff,

It's definitely tough to get potential clients, especially when you're just starting out. We actually got lucky and hooked up with a client who in turn referred us to other potential clients, and it just snowballed from there.

As far as fees go, I think it depends on several things (some of them you touched upon) like your competition, and your market area. Since we live in a relatively small market, we charge lower than, say folks in Los Angeles, or New York, for example. But we try not to lower our prices/fees either, and instead try to offer them a bit more, like extra DVDs, etc. (But mostly we ask potential clients what their budget is, how much they're willing to spend, etc. and go from there. We've worked with small communities with very tight budgets often, so they can only pay, what they can pay.)

I understand that working for free shouldn't be done, but then again, maybe a trade out can be had instead. Recently, we shot a sizzle reel for a local chef to send to a production company so she can start her own show. She couldn't offer us money (or at least the money we should've been paid for) but we agreed on free food at her restaurant.

We don't do trade outs often; but sometimes ya gotta do 'em to survive, or at least to eat :)

Good luck,
Jeff Anselmo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old February 4th, 2011, 03:05 AM   #4
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Free is when somebody gets something without giving anything in return. This is not your case, you do get something in return even if not in the form of a pay: You're getting footage to promote yourself and work experience. You're not working for free, but rather at a reduced rate which may be no pay.

So, think of this: How much would an established professional charge for the same job? Then think of discounts, what you don't offer or what you get that justifies a reduction:

What you get:
- Footage for self promotion is worth a lot when you have none, also rights to use footage are more worth on a good project than your friends friends kids garageband.
- Experience, what would it cost you to get the same experience taking film courses or whatever? Where would you be if you joined a professional crew? the runner? camera assistant? operator? director? If you'd be the assistant trying to do the directors job, then that won't justify a directors salary.
- Other?

What you might not offer:
- Guarantee of quality, if you've never done that kind of job chance is that something screws up, the more experience you have the more you can guarantee the quality of the end product.
- Timely delivery, if you're not full time pro, you have your day job and other things might come up that delays delivery.
- Other?

So, if somebody ask you to do a job for free, kindly explain to them that nothing is free, if they want a reduction they must convince you that you get something else instead: They most offer something of value to you and relax what they demand in terms of quality of service.

And if somebody blames you for eating their cake doing the same job at a lower price, simply explain to them that, while you're out to get a piece of their cake, currently you're not biting to the same cake: You're not doing the same job because you don't offer the same service in terms of quality and delivery, which justifies the lower price. You're in a different segment, you're only eating their cake to the extent that clients does not perceive the extra value offered by them to justify the elevated price.

So, how to get footage for your reel?

Maybe find somebody who actually don't need your service but think it might be sort of cool extra. For example want to do music videos? how about starting doing "making of" videos for photographers doing model shoot? You might get a chance to work directly with the model. Then you can offer models and actors to work with them on their reel.

Lots of people are in the same situation (including you), they need a reel but can't afford it, or won't pay for the first one. And everyone knows that they want to climb the ladder and eventually get paid. I think in that business there's lots of people doing their first job for free and nobody expect you to keep doing it for free.

BR, Erik
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Old February 4th, 2011, 06:33 AM   #5
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I agree with everything these folks have said....I got virtually the same response from people in the business when I asked that question not that long ago.

Sometimes you get lucky...I certainly did.I retired last year from my "real" job (aviation) and started to look more seriously at my "hobby" as both somethig to do and perhaps a way to make a bit of money. I'd done weddings in past, but not a lot of them ( I don't like doing them, to be honest).

Shortly after I retired, my wife was transferred to a different city with her work, so I was starting fresh in a brand new city where we knew absolutely no one, I had no background work here, nothing.

I was VERY first paying customers were the kind you dream about....full creative control over the project, very rough parameters of what they wanted, and told me to name my price. After a lot of soul searching and investigation, I identified who was doing what in this market, what they were charging, and them compared my work to theirs as objectively as I could.

I came up with a price that offered me fair compensation, they accepted it, and I worked through the project.

Because of the nature of the project, I met and interviewed a number of VERY highly placed people; Mayors, Premier of the Province, even the Lientenant Governor. Some big business players etc...

My project was shown to a crowd filled with these same types of people, and before the evening was over I had seven new prospective clients.

In one job, I went from being an absolute unknown to being the "magic guy" want "(insert name)" interviewed, call Wayne, he can make it happen. You want a combine shown in good, sexy lighting ( I live in an agricultural area) Wayne.

I got work by fully understanding who was doing what in the region, and found a new niche. There are tons of stills photographers here, shooting weddings and grads primarily. I don't shoot them now. There are tons of people who have a $300 camcorder and video weddings...I don't do those if I can avoid it.

There is NO one doing "documentary" style work....until now. There is NO one doing fulll service, start to finish mixed multi-media ( stills, video, audio, editing and production)...until now.

In a very short time, I've positioned myself in such a way that if someone wants a wedding shoot, they have lots to pick from. If they want an awards video shot, or a product intro, a short T.V. bit for the local cable channel, a corporate interview of the CEO, or a training video shot, the call ME.

I'm able to shoot mostly what I enjoy shooting, I get compensated nearly as well shooting in a small city in the Candian Prairies as I would shooting in a large metro area, without the competition I'd see there, and I have a pretty impressive list of clientele developing.

Something I've had re-enforced over and over in this business is the reality that building a reputation takes a lot of time and effort, and can be destroyed in a heartbeat. Set your bar for quality and on-time performance, and NEVER drop below it.

There is no such thing as "good enough"...if a piece you've completed doesn't make you completely happy, why would you expect your client to be?

Professionalism is SO important..if you talk a good game, you'd better be able to produce a good product. Equipment is hugely important, but not for the reasons you may think. If you show up for a shoot with a truckload of gear, half of it home-made, light stands made out of PVC with Home-Depot clip-on lights, bags of clothes pins and rolls of tape, you're going to leave the client with a much lower confidence level.

Good equipment gives better results,, so have good stuff. Use it effectively, and know each piece inside and out. have a back-up plan for everything. There's a time and place for PVC and tape; my portable backdrop is made of PVC. I've seen, made and used PVC light stands, but you can get proper light stands for little more money that are purpose built.

If you take the time to fully understand your market, be realistic and objective about your work and it's valuation, be fair, reasonable and professional in your approach, you'll find customers, build a base of work and eventually be in the spot you want to be, shooting music videos. It won't happen overnight, but if a guy like me ( an old, retired airport manager) can become the "go-to" guy for a video presentation that doesn't look like it was done by a soccer mom with a handycam, you can become the "go-to" guy for the venue you want to shoot.

As others have said, be flexible in terms of compensation, to a point. NEVER volutarily "discount"'ll very quickly "disount" yourself right back to where you are right now; NOT making any money. Flexibility on the other hand is great...I'm shooting some stuff for a small car dealership to run on local cable. They don't have a budget for t.v. ads, so paying for the work was a problem. I on the other hand, would not do the work for free, however I have been looking for a new vehicle. The solution; I get my new vehicle at the dealers cost ( the actual savings exceeded what I would have charged for the work), plus free service for a year after warranty ends. They're happy, I've received more than adequate value for the work, I've built my client base and added footage to my library of work.

It's all "do-able" just need to be smart and principled in how you do it.
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