I am waiting for that phone call. Sooner or later a line producer will call me up and ask if I am free for a job. They will say one thing for sure – “It is a low budget” – regardless of their budget £10,000 – £6 million –every shoot I’ve been on has started with that phone call and a those words.
It is easy to panic, and take the job regardless of pay or conditions. After all as a freelancer you never know when that next call will be.
But there are things to consider. What is your ‘Daily rate’ and do they care. I have a daily rate myself but I’m not always asked what it is, after all “It is a low budget”. I ask what their budget is – people should be able to give you a rough idea, below 1 million or a few million – just a rough idea.
Is it the usual 12 hour 6 day week? Will there be overtime pay?
Make sure they tell you a figure first. In the UK there is no minimum wage for the self-employed (or unions). For the hours we work National Minimum wage is £450 a week ($690).
You need to know are travel expenses covered? Where are you travelling to and how much will travel cost you for the whole shoot. I made the mistake of not negotiating travel expenses for a short film shoot in London – the tube costs a lot every day – I spent £80 that week in travel.
A feature film shoot has to make you enough money to last until the next one. We can’t work all the time as freelancers.
So here is how a phone call negotiation should go according to me –
1. How much is the budget?
2. How long is the shoot for, how many days a week, how many hours a day?
3. How much are they willing to pay? (Is it enough to make a profit?)
4. Are travel expenses and accommodation covered?
Even if you are desperate for work I think it’s a good idea to size up the project first before making a decision. The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t negotiate and discover that everyone on set is being paid more than you. This has happened to me before.
Think I’ll buy an easel tomorrow going to paint a picture…