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Dayrates?? Hourly rates???

Bo Hallen

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Hello everyone,


I've been operating on and off (depending on offers I get) for about a year now. I'm in Atlanta. I've noticed a surge in local operators within the past six months. I'm not local 600, in fact I'm actually a grip in local 479 but I have talked to a few operators who are local 600 2nd ACs and Utility guys, who just happen to also do Steadicam work. Some of them are working all the time, and better yet, they operate with CameTV knockoff rigs! What the hell??


Everytime I get a call or an email from a producer and they ask me what my dayrate is. I will start off saying $800 for full 10 hour day (rental+operating). Then I will often go down to $700 as an introductory discounted rate to demonstrate my skills and production value. Most of these producers are vetetans in the industry and should already be aware of the production value Steadicam adds and, I would assume, would appreciate its value. Then they ask me what a half day rate is?? And I will say $500 for 4-5 hours. I stand firm on this. Most of the time (90%) I never hear back from them.


So either they are deciding that Steadicam isn't worth the price? Or they know a DP who has camera, lights, and a MOVi or Ronin who includes that as part of their package?? Or every operator in my area is underselling me??? I believe it is the latter.


I realize I'm not an established veteran with a $40,000 rig but why is it all these punks with chinese knockoff rigs are working left and right, all the time???


Any advice or suggestions????

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Yes all of us local 600 operators from New Orleans are moving to Atlanta thanks to our ex governor killing the tax credits.


Negotiating rates is tricky and could probably cover an entire book (if it doesn't already). I don't do "half day" rates anymore except for established commercial clients who I know are legitimately hiring me for easy 1-2 hour gigs. If I don't get a prep day then I have to factor in the time it's going to take to pack and prep my gear. Not to mention all the phone calls and emails you have to deal with to do the gig. A 4 hour "half day" easily becomes an 8 hour day with prep, wrap, travel, etc.


I don't want to get into rates too much but generally the rate depends on the budget of the production. You should expect to get paid more for shooting a Tier 3 $20m feature than a Tier 0 $2m feature or a $50k no budget feature. Secondly, you should be negotiating two rates; a day rate or hourly rate with a 10 hour minimum and, secondly, a kit rental. It's important to establish a base hourly rate because when your "day" turns into an 18 hour day you will want to have something to compute overtime off of. Even if it's a union gig it's easy to get screwed on this if you don't know what you should be getting or if you don't know how to fill in your time card properly.


I always bring up the kit rental once I have my rate locked or if I am having trouble getting a decent rate for myself. If a producer just can't pay me a decent day rate sometimes I can get them to make it up on a better kit rental. That must come out of a separate budget in their spreadsheet or something. I aim for 1/20th the value of my kit per week if it's a weekly job. A bit more if it's just a daily job.


Now regarding why they aren't calling you back.. do you have a reel, references, and a decent IMDB/resume? When I get a call I have a pretty impressive new client pack that I immediately send over with recommendation letters, a reel, etc.

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And yeah, of course I know it's not the gear. I'm not hurting and am not looking for sympathy.


I'm asking do you stand firm on your rates?? I am not doubting anybody's abilities. I'm saying I believe these guys are getting my work is because they are working for very low rates. I won't work for peanuts to get a job. I stand firm on the rate.

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Couldn't help it...


Bo - no no no no. That may sound negative, but hear me out, and I'll try to give the broad strokes here, saving details for later.


No such thing as a half day rate, and who cares how long you operate for the day. 8 hour guarantee, 10 hour guarantee, whatever you can get. Whether they use you for 10 hours or 5 minutes - you get paid for a full day. And it's not because of all the hassle of phone calls, getting to and from set, etc... it's because once you take that half day - assuming you're an honorable guy and fulfill your commitments - you'll have to turn down every other full day that is looking for an operator that day. I've had producers at the end of a day where the Steadicam work was literally one shot try to negotiate a lower rate. With as straight a face as possible I ask, "If every shot today had been Steadicam, would you have paid me more than what we agreed on?" That usually ends the conversation.


No introductory rate. You'll find it very difficult to dig out from down the road.


And $800/day for labor AND rental???? Is that really the going rate down there? I guess if you don't have a big rig, and aren't in the union, you're probably in a market with which I'm unfamiliar. Perhaps that rate is fair. I wouldn't be able to advise. The first two points, however, should apply regardless. Be consistent. Be clear. Get things in writing. Try not to do "favors", especially for people/producers you don't know. An $800 day of Steadicam is already doing them a huge favor.

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I totally agree. $800 is a steal. The only reason I offer this is because I do not have wireless transmitter, remote ff, etc. And I do know these people, I've worked with them before as a grip and gaffer. When they called me two weeks ago asking me to grip a shoot for them last minute I politely declined because it was such short notice. I also mentioned I do Steadicam work too and told them to contact me if they ever wanted a Steadicam on anything.


I have worked for free. I have worked for very low rates. No more. I'm in a position where I'm not desperate. I guess my question is, "do you think I should always be firm with a higher rate or should I sell my self short in order to secure a job".


And a quick (sidenote) How do all of you guys feel about Movi and Ronins?? Are you worried about losing jobs?? Or do you feel like it's just a fad??

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Ok, I haven't posted in awhile and like Afton I almost closed the computer, but I cant help it . . . . .


Bo . . . . NO, NO,NO !!! Like Afton said.


First lemme address Teddy . . . . .

- Ted, I'm not beating up on you or telling you how to run your business but these are just observations from my experience and what I have learned from others before me.


- You said. . . . . "You don't do half day rates, anymore" , you should have Never done them in the first place by doing this you have already screwed the pooch and basically opened the door for guys like Bo to get bent over as well.

- You said, "except for established commercial clients who I know are legitimately hiring me for easy 1-2 hour gigs." again still screwing yourself and others.

- You are correct a 4 hr day easily turns into an 8 hr day especially with prep and travel.

- You said, " but generally the rate depends on the budget of the production" as this may be true from the producers side of things, our jobs as steadicam guys doesn't change. We are still carrying the rig, we are still framing shots and we are still asked for input on the creativity of the project and in my experience the lower the budget the harder it seems the gig is. So NO! If you have the proper gear and your in a certain genre then stick to those rates, if production can't afford the toys then don't give them to them, unless your time and effort is not worth it?

- You Said, " you should be negotiating two rates; a day rate or hourly rate with a 10 hour minimum and, secondly, a kit rental", Nope . . . Never negotiate a flat day rate. If your getting paid on a timecard then your getting paid on an 8 hr day per the US labor laws. If your invoicing then you can negotiate a 10 hr rate. But why would you and screw yourself, unless you know everyday is going to be under 10 hrs.

- Kit rental varies because of equipment but you are correct in saying sometimes a bad rate can be made up in a different budget line with production and up your rental payment.

- Lastly if and when you come into someone elses city, taking gigs for a lesser rate just because your city isn't offering tax incentives on your projects is never OK. I understand you have to put food on the table but tread lightly on this, I'm not saying that you are taking jobs for less and hopefully you are getting above and beyond the rate and we can all aspire to get that rate. All I'm saying is you never want to be THAT guy.


As for you Bo . . . .

- Your a Grip turned steadicam Op, good on ya for doing something else and pursuing a passion, that being said you can't complain about not being called back when you have a year of operating under your belt as well as never being a camera operator. I'm not saying you don't have skills and very well may be the most creative camera person I have ever met, but on paper and to producers your still as green as it gets.

- $800 to operate and rent your gear sounds like a screaming deal to me, but I don't know your market or what gear you own.

- Never do a half day, your only screwing yourself and others that are in the same market.

- Quote on a 8 hr day, if your on payroll.

- Its not the gear that gets you work its your work that gets you work. So get out there and keep making stuff, practice and you will see, the better you get, the more everyone wants the guy who kills it in the rig and gets the job done. Let your work speak for you and nothing else matters, well thats not entirely true, If its not fun, then don't do it . . . . . I always have to have fun otherwise I don't want it . . . LOL =)


- On the side note: Movi and Ronins are great tools, like the steadicam but are different in how they are used, so I don't see them as a threat.



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In case people aren't doing math, $800/10 is $72.70/hr...which is basically operator scale in the Northeast corridor. Not sure what rate/scale in Atlanta is used for operators (probably similar to if not the same as LA...which is lower) but imho you should try and at least stay in the ballpark of scale for operating and significantly higher (at least 20%) for operating the noble instrument.


Nothing sucks more than being worked like a mule then realizing you at making the same money as the guy sitting on the dolly sipping a cappuccino while swiping on Tinder. In the low budget world (including many tiers) they often try and stick you in the "operator" slot they have in their wonderful budget. They say that's all "the studio" will allo them to pay for the position of operator. This is pure bullshit and in most cases you are a sucker to fall for it...run away.

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I remember a recent job where the producer said they only had peanuts for 12 hours. I said No, 2 months later when they were in production they called again, I explained to them the minimum I would go out for and suggested they assemble their steadicam shots all in a row so it would all be feasible in an 8 hour window...oh, and I wanted to be paid at the end of each day... It was almost 4 times what they offered and swore it was all they had,..... I did 4 days on that job, none was over 6 hours, 1 was under 2 hours from arrival to driving home.

If you have the skills, stand your ground.

and PS, I was once asked what rig I had, and I responded " The type that made the reel you watched and then called me with."




$800 for gear and labor.. That's almost Reality camera operator rate with no gear. I'm staying down south.

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I know $800 is a steal. I'm a less known operator. I'm not asking $800 a day because I want to take jobs away from veterans, but I feel my experience level and my Zephyr (without remote FF and Wireless Vid Trans) is what I'm worth. I believe it's less than I'm worth. I have worked with one producer who paid me 1250 for a day. That was one time. And I'm sure a lot of you might even think that's too low. I'm not desperate. I have a 2nd job to make ends meet. Maybe when I was broke and struggling for work I would have been more willing to work for lower rates.


I'm just saying I get 3 or 4 calls from producers every month for the past 4 months asking me what I charge. And I will not lose sleep when they do not call me back. It seems to me, a lot of production houses in Atlanta want Steadicam operators but none of them ever seem to want to pay for it. That's just my observation.


Then I will see a Facebook post a week later of bts photos on set of these small productions and they usually have an operator who they did hire. I'm not saying these guys are bad operators. They probably are very talented. But they seem to always get the gigs that I turn down and they are always flying a chinese knockoff rig. It just arouses my curiousity. I'm not on here to rant or complain. I know this is a tough business.

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