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Old October 13th, 2009, 02:27 PM   #1
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A Fair Rate To Offer My VO Talent?

I'm working on a documentary - financing everything myself. I have no delusions - it will (most likely) end up as a DVD and sold to a narrow vertical market.

I know this woman in our town that has just the type of voice I want for the narration. She did some VO work in Europe years ago for a movie translation but other than that she is not in the biz.

I do not want to offer a share of the profits instead I prefer to pay her up front, and pay her a fair rate. My question is what would you consider fair?

I've searched these forums and I know the pay for narration varies greatly but I have yet to find any numbers for a small indie doc like this.

I'm only looking for suggestions for an actual dollar rate. I'm thinking a per hour rate for recording time instead of a finished minute rate. I think it would be fairer to pay her for the time she puts in.

Anybody daring enough to throw out some numbers?
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Old October 13th, 2009, 02:42 PM   #2
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I often pay $50 - 75 an hour for "amateur" talent. Recognizable voices go up SIGNIFICANTLY from there.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 03:02 PM   #3
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Fair rate quote

Hi Kevin,

As a producer I have paid regular (v.o. work through sound studios), $75-$100 per hour, and that is if they have done more than commercials. These folks may not be IN our industry, per se, but they are a valuable resource if they know the ropes of narration (cadence, tone, etc.).

As one who has done vocal talent in the past, I have been paid from $150 per hour up to $250 per hour, but only because I know the nature of how the film world works, i.e. working with a script/producer/engineer.

If she has a strong memory of how to do narration, then I would personally hire her for two hours at $50 per hour and audition her. If she can make a substantial impression on you and the engineer without wasting the two hours, then hire her at $75 per hour. That is, if you can broker a deal with a studio. Let them know that whoever you hire, you will use them for the final recording. If she wastes time, can't pick up on what you need, then you will have saved funds instead of trying to delay final editing by hiring her outright.

I understand you have a lower budget, but even ONE hour might suffice if you know she has hit what you want within that time. We audition acting talent, so we can do the same with vocal talent.

Good luck,
Angela
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Old October 13th, 2009, 04:13 PM   #4
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$250 is pretty standard, depending on the length of the copy. I usually pay this for a couple of minutes of dialog.
I have some folks I highly recomend, if interested.
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Old October 13th, 2009, 08:45 PM   #5
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Perhaps you'd like to have this woman give you a test read. No recording. Just buy her a coffee and let her have a lash. If you get close, then start negotiating. Talent comes in all price ranges and you generally get what you pay for. You could pay US$50/hr for your local talent or $250/hr for a real pro that could knock it off in a fraction of the time and takes. Remember that you're paying for the talent's time, and yours too.

Why do adages like, "you get what you pay for" hang on decade after decade? It's because they're true!
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Old October 13th, 2009, 11:40 PM   #6
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For literally decades, my narration rate was $220 for the first hour (minimum) and then $75 each additional half hour. Around 1997 I bumped it to $250/100. Been there ever since.

That was for traditional VO work done in a studio with client supplied studio time which means I'm not recording or editing selects or mastering and uploading files.

For "full service" (my studio and editing) I typically get $400/$175 and includes all talent fees plus studio time. (It's a rare script that takes me more than an hour to record - and that kind of work - rotating conditional phone answering system loops, giant audio manuals for defense contractors, etc is typically priced at a pre-determined buyout rate.)

My suspicion is that at the rates being discussed here - you're dealing with part timers and others who aren't particularly dedicated to the craft.

Which is fine - until you need them to come back in a year or two and make corrections/additions to your work. Then you'll have to suffer for the fact that their voice has drifted from disuse during all those months - where a pro's voice - which is constantly in use and therefore tuned regularly will be much more consistent.

Also to Trips point, the reason people pay me is that I'm perfectly comfortable with three to six people standing on the other side of the double glass critiquing every single line I read in real time. I don't get nervous or flustered whether the direction is good or bad, useful or foolish, and if everyone wants to stand around arguing for 10 minutes about some obscure copy point, I'm not only cool with that, but I'll probably have faced the same question before and can pipe in with how it was solved the last time. Part of being professional is that when everyone leaves the studio - they KNOW that they're leaving with what they need to do the job. THAT's what makes a live VO session productive.

And on those many, many occasions when I'm sent a script nowadays via email and left to make my own decisions as to pace, emphasis, pronunciation, or grammar - I do that with the weight of 25 years of being directed by hundreds of producers in order to understand what will likely be the right way to VO the job THIS time.

Get what you pay for? I think so. Pretty much.

FWIW
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Old October 14th, 2009, 07:42 AM   #7
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Tripp, Grinner and Bill are all correct. I was merely answering the question asked. Sometimes the client wants/needs to use someone in particular and I work with them to that end. I also won't pay $250 an hour for someone I need to actively coach through the entire read.

AND I strongly recommend that if you are using an amateur, you keep the read brief. I once had an amateur read 100 pages of french script. This took me 16 hours over several days as I had to keep getting her energy level "back in the zone".

Any substantial read SHOULD be done by a professional VO person OR a broadcaster.
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Last edited by Shaun Roemich; October 14th, 2009 at 12:24 PM.
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Old October 14th, 2009, 10:09 AM   #8
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Thanks for all the replies - that's a big help. I do want to treat people fairly because I want them to be available for future jobs.

I understand the cost (and quality) of talent will also be based on the project budget and use - a Microsoft commercial is very different than "Joe's Used Cars" or my little doc. Each have a different fair rate that they should be paid, I just wasn't sure what I should offer. But that crap of doing something for "credit and meals" really ticks me off. I won't work for that so I wouldn't ask some one to do that for me.

A while ago I had a 15 minute video that needed a voice over and the client (a local church) suggested a guy - he had never done a voice over before. I put him in the sound booth and he nailed just about every line the first time. He had a great clear quality in his voice and good expression. We were done in less than 30 minutes - I was shocked. I will be calling him next time I need a male VO. Sometimes you get lucky.

Bill, I agree totally with you. There is a level of professionalism that deserves a much higher rate and should get it. The trouble is budget on the low end where I'm at - I can afford spending some extra time as compared to spending cash and going in the hole to get something done quicker. Hopefully some day I'll have the reverse problem of no time but a large budget...
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Old October 14th, 2009, 11:22 AM   #9
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I'm working on a small budget recruitment film for a hospital and started looking into this myself. Union talent is going to cost a fortune, but there is quite a variety. For my project, I'll probably go for non-union as I don't have the budget.

Here is a site I found that has not only categories of talent, but samples and whether or not they are union.

Video Voicebank
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Old October 14th, 2009, 11:53 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Get what you pay for? I think so. Pretty much.
Great post on why paying 'high' rates is actually worth it.

I acted in a big corp video last year that involved memorization and delivery of brutally difficult dialogue (government 'speak'). I realized after the shoot that if they had gone with an amateur to save money, not only would the result have been poor, but I don't think they would have actually been able to successfully pull off the shoot. They would have lost the money they spent on the whole day's shoot, including a hefty TV studio rental fee.

So the 'high' rate I charged was well worth it.

I've been doing character work in the upcoming "Assassin's Creed 2" as well, and the producers are happy to bring me in and pay a day union rate for a 1 hour session. As Bill notes, it's the reliability they need under pressure.

That being said, for Kevin's doc, as long as he has the time and patience to carefully coach someone through his dialogue, and if the script is doable by an amateur, then there's no problem trying to save some money.

I'm union, but non-union rates here (Montreal) seem to be about $2-400 for a day. I think someone trying to get more experience in voice work would be happy to get paid in that range.
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