It can be tricky when starting a journey into filmmaking. Let’s say you're approaching the point where you know your stuff well enough to start charging full rate for your position.
But there’s one problem.
You don’t know the full rate you should be charging for your position or someone else's.
And let’s say you’re still a one man band — you haven’t branched out enough to pick the brain of a real deal producer who can break it down for you. You’re used to taking what you can get and working with people’s micro budgets.
No problem, we’re going to take a walk through a general crew for a general production and you’re going to learn specific rates for specific positions.
Let’s do this!
To start off with, we should touch on the fact that rates do shift depending on the type of production (Commercial, ENG, Film, etc.) and whether or not you’re a member of a particular union. Union rates are non-negotiable and are set in stone.
We’re going to be working with Non-Union rates that apply mostly to the Commercial/Film world — because it’s likely whoever’s interested in reading this blog, is not union and won’t be for a little while. These rates are completely negotiable so the amount of money you’re making on any one set shifts within a certain range depending on the agreement made with the producer.
Most producers charge a flat “Day Rate” and avoid paying hourly rates altogether. Overtime (OT) is time and a half or 1.5 times the typical day rate. This usually comes into effect after 10 hours on a commercial production and after 12 hours on a film production. State and federal labor laws still apply here so familiarize yourself with those whenever you’re traveling to a new state because they change.
Producer — Associate Producer — Line Producer - UPM
All of these positions charge around the same amount. The Producers day rates range from $650 to $850 depending on the agreement and the needs of the job. With union gigs, you’ll likely find even higher rates than that, but typically your employers will be looking to charge within that range.
Directors day rates range from $850 to $1,200, again depending on the agreement and the expected job requirements. Remember this is non-union, but 1,200 a day is close to what most standard union gigs charge. If you’re a hot commodity, then you can negotiate a rate way higher than the rest of us peasants.
Production Assistant — Camera Assistant — Art PA — Personal Assistant
Most assistants of “whichever” kind usually charge $200 to $250 a day for their rate. You might see a bold PA who’s made a career out of the job that charges $300 a day, but that’s not typical of a non-union commercial or film gig.
Director of Photography — 1st AD — Gaffer — Art Director
All of these position’s day rates start out at $650 (minimum) but not all of them sometimes go for $850 a day. The 1st AD and the Gaffer will most typically charge $650 whereas the Director of Photography and Art Director can sometimes negotiate rates up to $850 or higher depending on the circumstances/needs and one’s work history.
Camera Operator — 1st AC — Sound — Grip — DIT — Script Supervisor
Some might say, the most under appreciated, yet most important jobs are these positions listed in this section. They will all negotiate as low as $550 depending on circumstances, but they like to charge $650 a day. Whether it’s a ten hour gig (commercial) or a twelve hour gig (film) sometimes plays a factor.
Coordinating Producer — 2nd AD — 2nd AC
These positions all start out at $400 a day and can sometimes squeeze $550 out of the budget if their job requirements are above average. All roles are vital and all necessary to run a proper professional crew.
Specialty Camera Operator
Whether it’s underwater, ariel, or high speed, if there’s a special need for a niche camera operating job, you’re getting paid a special price. Most specialty cam op positions start out at $850 and can be negotiated up to $1000 if factors of the job justify it.
With most of these rates, Producers have to negotiate back and forth before they come to an agreement, usually due to a tight and barely proper budget. Hence the reason for the shifting rate range. It would be nice if we all got paid the same all of the time, but that’s just not the case in the nonunion world of filmmaking. We all understand the constraints and that the person ponying up the cash doesn’t always know what all goes into it. So Producers are inevitably left with the duty of having to ask people to work for their minimum rate knowing perfectly well that they really want their standard rate which is always the maximum.