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300 U$ for a 14 minute documentary!?


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#1 volkerbassen

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 05:41 PM

Hi All,

I would really appreciate some advice on this one!
I just produced a short documentary about whale sharks, the docu won "Best short documentary film" as well as "Best conservation message" at the "Celebrate the sea festival" in Manila, in June.
Among the jury was Peter Scoones, BBC blue planet as well as David Doubilet.
There was several TV channels present as well and one, The underwater channel, showed great interest in my film and wanted to purchase it.
I thought, GREAT! but was somewhat surprised when I received an email from them the other day.
They offered to pay me 300U$ for it and a 50/50 percent share on advertising which is their 'standard offer' to independent producers.
They would also like a 2 year license for the film.
I spent weeks filming whale sharks not to mention the editing, the film is 'only' 14 minutes but took me a long time to make!
The entire film was shot with the Z1, Phenom housing.
Can someone maybe give me an advice regarding "standard rates" if there are any? 300 U$ just doesn't seem fair, or?

VOLKER BASSEN

#2 in_minsk_we_trust

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Posted 14 July 2009 - 06:04 PM

Here's some examples of other people's rates here, here, here and here.. Been keeping those around just in case anybody ever wants to offer me money in the future ( :) ).

Also there's another topic on this here and if you search there may be a few more.. There was one about people working for free that had some very good arguments and may be useful to you in your negotiations. Let the games begin!

Edit: An average of $45 a second for international broadcast works out to around $45,500... :)

Edited by in_minsk_we_trust, 14 July 2009 - 06:08 PM.


#3 Nick Hope

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 12:28 AM

Volker, first you need to get them to give you an estimate of the advertising revenue you are likely to receive. Without that information it's almost impossible to negotiate. It might earn very little.

Next you need to find out if they want to show it through the web or broadcast it. There is a very grey area developing at the moment between those two delivery media as bandwidth and resolutions grow, but traditionally the rates are very different. Raw footage for broadcast entertainment might go for $50 per second but for web distribution might go for just $10 per second.

As far as I know, the footage on the Underwater Channel is "powered by"/hosted on Babelgum, which I think is now reaching more than just people's computers, phones etc., so you might want to think of it as more than just "web distribution". Please correct me if I'm wrong about this, or if anyone knows more accurately the scope of the Underwater Channel's reach.

Anyway, let's use my rates for stock footage and assume it's not for broadcast, just for the web. My standard rate would work out at 14mins x 60secs x 10 dollars per sec x 0.75 (discount for more than 5 mins) = USD6300

That price is for a ten-year licence, so you could discount for only needing two years. However you've already edited the production, so perhaps you could view that service as cancelling out this discount. So that means you have USD6000 to make up in your share of the advertising revenue. Which means the ads on the page it's on, and/or the in-video ads need to make USD500 per month before the 50/50 split. Wait and see what their estimate for the advertising revenue is, but I doubt it's going to be that much.

It is a strange market now for this sort of thing. There are so many similar outlets out there, and there is so much "not bad" or better material around, so if there is a big differential to make up, you may just accept that the sort of prices I've quoted are unrealistic for web distribution. Or you may choose to sell "cheap" to get the exposure. Or you could dig your heels in and push for a worthy price... Or they might pay what you ask... Or you could walk away from it......

I haven't seen your documentary but if it's really good you might want to try and find an agent to try and distribute it for you and get better deals. Well-connected agents would have a whole range of possible outlets to try and market your film to. But bear in mind that 14 minutes would not be a preferred length for broadcast.

Finally, I'm assuming that the offer you've got is for a non-exclusive licence, but make sure it is. An exclusive licence is a different matter altogether.

#4 Drew

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 02:42 AM

This is a new world with new prices as equipment allows anyone to make a short film and present it online. It sort of goes back to the traditionalist view on stock photography. Microsoft/Getty etc have dropped prices on so many images that it's VERY tough to live off stock photography sales alone. Then you have publications like Wetpixel Quarterly, which does not pay for contributions. I recently was given an earful for being associated with Wetpixel for that reason. The funny thing is I don't even want my copy of the quarterly and don't contribute (Eric did ask me once in bad judgment, thinking my photos were publishable) but that's entirely for another reason :)
So these are the times where the content hosts are looking for cheap new material to fill their content roster. In exchange, the publicity of your doco will reach far more people than your own website or the competitions like CTS etc. In fact, it's happened to me many times. The few crappy videos I host have reached the right person and it's been bought by different sourcing companies. I've even had artists ask for my clips for their art pieces, and they don't pay very well either.
Same for my pictures. A few publishers have even asked me to send the pic first and they'll decide whether to use it and pay me afterwards. With the demise of the research fee in most publications (and there are many publications not old enough to even know what that is), they do get many people to send it.
If you look in the case of Alex Safonov and Bruce Yates, both took pictures that have won an award and now is sought after. The exposure can be beneficial but you have to gauge how it can benefit you. Do you have other products/films to sell? Are you trying to market yourself as a cameraman etc?

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#5 Steve Douglas

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 10:11 AM

Drew is definitely correct, the market and how it works and presents itself has changed dramatically over the years. I also agree with Nick, that researching the potential profit from advertisers should provide you with a clearer picture of the offer. Keep in mind that selling raw footage by the second is very different then what you have had proposed. You are selling a finished film of 14min and a 45k price tag would be unreasonable.

This topic has come up many times over the years and will continue to do so as more and more divers get themselves camcorders and housings. Congrats on your win and if getting it shown to a larger audience will open doors for you in the future, it might be the wise move. I do empathize as I know how much time is put into the post production process.
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#6 scorpio_fish

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 12:01 PM

It is a strange market now for this sort of thing. There are so many similar outlets out there, and there is so much "not bad" or better material around, so if there is a big differential to make up, you may just accept that the sort of prices I've quoted are unrealistic for web distribution.


The market is indeed changing. The Travel Channel trains 40 people every other month to go shoot and edit video. It is almost exclusively to provide for their web content. There is still a pretty good difference between broadcast and web, but it is rapidly shrinking. The guy who teaches it taught film at NYU. He presented the math for broadcast demand starting with good old days of 3 major networks. There was x about of broadcast time. Now there is a need for 1000x the amount of footage, but with the corresponding decrease in viewer share per channel, ad revenue becomes much smaller per channel. This equates to starving for content, yet unable to pay the old rates.

BTW, if I recall correctly, they pay $25 or $50 per minute up to a max of $200 for edited web content, or at least they did. For the web, any camera will do the job.

Anyway, $300 for an finished 14 minute product seems very low, therefore the advertising share would be very important in evaluating the offer.
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#7 DeanB

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 01:20 PM

This topic has come up many times over the years and will continue to do so as more and more divers get themselves camcorders and housings.
Steve


Exactly... And most of these are drooling over the rates we keep broadcasting (excuse the pun) on forums like wetpixel... Its a very VERY small percentage who earn the big money and then its a only now and again... Im sure half the peeps who read these threads and actually knew the truth wouldn't stretch their budgets to buy the next best thing or jump onto the filming bandwagon just on the basis they believe they will be the next Howard Hall and live in paradise... But then again look at Mike and Simon in Lembeh ... Wheres my cheque book... :)

I really think the offer from the Underwater channel is way too low considering all the effort that goes into making these films, ask them to send out a film crew to make the same piece and how much would that cost ... But then they are looking at the finished product and the broadcast/ airing time... Like Nick said find out about the advertising revenue...

I will be interested in seeing how this pans out...

I have films to sell... Lol...

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#8 jonny shaw

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 02:16 PM

$300 is ridiculous! Even a dive instructor straight out of a sausage factory would earn $150 per day, and you have spent, x time filming, editing, equipment, blah blah blah

But if you need $300 then you need $300....

I know people who have supplied content for the UW/Channel for free and say that they are struggling, and lets face it if they get it for $300 bargain for the UWchannel. If you look at it from the other side and your the one paying for these films out of your own bank balance then of course you are going to want get if you nothing!
It's just like any other deal, you have to negotiate and be prepared to walk away if your not happy.

I have actually started shooting a lot more land based projects and when I quote prices of $2K per day, they is no question and the client is happy. Getting decent money for UW work is just plain hard.

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#9 Steve Douglas

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 03:03 PM

Jonny is soooo right. I believe in Clint Eastwood's motto of 'Know your limitations'. I know that no matter what I do I will not be the next Howard Hall, heck, not even the next Michelle Hall (though a lot of surgery could fix that;-) Don't have the budget, the physicality, and too, too old to think I will attain those heights. Maybe if I were 25 again but that will never be. Never the less, I do the best I can with what I can and try to enjoy my own accomplishments and even, sometimes, accolades .
Like Jonny, I have over the past 6 months started doing commercial shoots for everything from a woman's skin exfoliator, a chiropractor and even an AVN film fest submission. Performed in front of the camera as a Doctor for a Dial Soap commercial last January even, and it has all been a great and learning group of experiences. Guess I will have to be happy with that since Howard hasn't called me since Isle of the Sharks was released. Guess he's busy.
Steve

ps. This doesn't mean that you younger whippersnappers shouldn't aspire to greatness, just keep at it and keep learning.
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#10 Nick Hope

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 10:57 PM

I have actually started shooting a lot more land based projects and when I quote prices of $2K per day, they is no question and the client is happy.

Jonny, what camera are you shooting with for that rate? Is it your own? What other gear do you use or supply on those lucrative job?

Edited by Nick Hope, 15 July 2009 - 11:05 PM.


#11 jonny shaw

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:49 PM

For a standard corporate shoot for 2K per day I use 2 x Canon XHA1, WA lens, Sennhiser wireless mics, Miller DS20 tripod, Soft box lighting plus another couple of different lights plus my time as standard

Then upgrades are for Sony XDCAM Ex, additional $250 per day (I hire one off a friend)

If they want me to use a 35 mm adapter to make it look more filmic, that's another $250 per day (again I hire it from a friend with some canon lenses)

Additional cameraman I have a couple of guys that work for me and are happy to operate for $550 per day

If the want it shot on RED that is an additional $1000 per day, but really it's the lenses that cost as I use Arri Master primes, 14mm, 35mm 75mm and a RED 300mm, Ronford Baker Head with Sachtler sticks, that also includes the use of a motorized dolly if needed. Again this is hired from a good friend (an exceptionally good friend as he trusts I won't break it! ; ))

Also forgot to mention I would also have had a couple of meetings with the client to discuss the brief etc....this cost is really incorporated into the $2K per day

By the way AUD$ not US$

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Edited by jonny shaw, 15 July 2009 - 11:51 PM.

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#12 volkerbassen

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Posted 15 July 2009 - 11:51 PM

Thank you guys!
Your replies really gave me a good insight and I'll try to negotiate a better deal and ask for an estimate regarding advertising revenue, I'll keep you guys informed.
One question; Do you know of any 'good agents' for this kind of film?

Kind regards

Volker

#13 Drew

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 12:26 AM

As quite a few people have reiterated, the market is changing and those who don't change with it will be out of work.
I will add that the pie isn't only available in smaller pieces only nowadays. Red would not be able sell $20k cameras that need $40k worth of accessories if that were so. The market has grown in segments and tiers. Web content is blurring the line in minor broadcast shows.
As George says, many production companies are now concentrating on web content and also filling up 24/7/365 Cable/Satellite TV content. That budget is low but the audience is also widening as cable/satellite TV reaches more and more people. The online content also gives many people opportunities.
Look at Earth-Touch, which keeps teams on payroll to supply content, and these guys can afford to eat too! It's actually quite interesting to see how the old guard works vs the new generation of shooters. Earth-Touch's crew was in South Africa last year staying at the same place as the BBC crew. The Beeb crew had bigger cameras, housings, boats and even cameramen and producers (Sorry Didier and Hugh, but you did outweigh them...but only just! :)). BUT the Earth-Touch crew had a big satellite dish to transmit their work directly to HQ to be online in a few days. And the clips are then also used for a TV show as well. We saw the BBC production 8 months later as the $15 million series Nature's Great Events. Now the Beeb cameraman is not working right now while the ET crew is back in South Africa doing my favorite event. So is it better to be a highly paid per project professional or a constant paycheck that keeps you employed a lot more often?
Volker's offer from UWC is a bit more complicated as looking at Babelgum's interface and also UWC's interface, I don't see much advertising. So unless there's some invisible pop-up window thing going on, I'd say 50% of nothing is zero.

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#14 Nick Hope

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 01:19 AM

By the way AUD$ not US$

Ah OK, that makes it a bit less "wow", but still a nice payday, especially using an "affordable" cam.

Do you know of any 'good agents' for this kind of film?

Not really right now but I've sent you a PM.

looking at Babelgum's interface and also UWC's interface, I don't see much advertising.

I was thinking the same thing. And if the advertising revenue really is peanuts and you have no other options, you might earn more by signing up as a YouTube partner and taking a share of the advertising revenue on there. Probably still peanuts but better than nothing and lots of exposure if that interests you.

#15 DeanB

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 04:51 AM

Now the Beeb cameraman is not working while the ET crew is back in South Africa doing my favorite event. So is it better to be a highly paid per project professional or a constant paycheck that keeps you employed a lot more often?


I expect the Beeb cameraman is in Indonesia the Maldives or some other fine location shooting a different epic and earning a nice living doing it... Its not all fine dinning and first class i know but they seem to be busy 90% of the time... If the smaller budget crew are happy then fair play to them ... its being happy in your work that counts i suppose... I honestly think you should be paid for the work you do... People under cutting you are only doing it to fill your shoes later in their careers ... Its the pay packet that motivates some its the passion others... Or both...

Me i pack away the camera and get out the brushes... Either way im still smiling :)

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Edited by DeanB, 16 July 2009 - 04:53 AM.

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#16 SimonSpear

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 12:39 AM

Interesting discussion. I think you need to look at what you would be paid for your film via slaes by an established agent before you can gauge what it is worth. Stock sales and getting paid for individual clips is a completely different rate to that paid for a premade film, which unless commissioned will not be worth anywhere near as much as you'd think it is. I know that sounds a bit upside down, but it is not. You'd genuinely probably get x10$ more for a fraction of the whale shark footage from your film sold as stock than you would for the entire film already edited.

Edited by SimonSpear, 17 July 2009 - 12:40 AM.


#17 SimonSpear

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 02:02 AM

I should just add that after agents fees $2000 USD for a 52min film would not be unusual for non exclusive broadcast rights for defined geographical areas. It's a bit difficult with internet distribution as it is broadcast over the entire planet to anyone that has access, but at the same time is not at the moment considered to be as valuable for content distributers.

Cheers, Simon

Edited by SimonSpear, 17 July 2009 - 02:10 AM.


#18 Nick Hope

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 09:45 PM

Very interesting Simon, regarding that differential between stock and finished productions. In that case Volker should take my USD6300 with a large pinch of salt, as that was based on figures for stock.

Here are some illustrative figures for license fees I was given 3 years ago for a 52-minute marine life documentary for broadcast. They're way more than Simon's USD2000:

Animal Planet International: USD25,000-35,000
US: USD10,000 - 75,000
Italy: EUR12,000
France: EUR5,000-10,000

Sadly I can't confirm these figures by real-world experience as I still haven't finished any suitable productions yet!

By the way, I've been hearing that 43 minutes is becoming preferred over 52 minutes these days. Anyone know about this?

#19 SimonSpear

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 02:35 AM

Heya Nick

It's very difficult to sometimes understand why something that 'should' be worth a lot of money isn't. I've had long, long chats with agents recently and it's a whole can of worms to be honest.

Not doubt if you are commissioned to produce a film then you've hit the big time. If it is exclusive it will cover your production costs and return a profit. This is the absolute best scenario and will involve big $. You've hit the jackpot! :B):

I was quoted approx $40,000US per region for exclusive content for NatGeo, so if it was shown in Africa you'd get $40k, another $40k for USA, Europe $40K, Asia $40k etc etc etc. That could soon add up to a nice amount of money.

If you've already made a film and it is in high demand by a broadcaster then you 'could' be looking at similar figures to those you've just quoted in your post. Apart from the upper end of the US region I doubt they'd be exclusive at those rates, but I could be wrong.

If you put your film out to agents to sell to anyone who will buy it then you are then looking at a lot less and you can then use my indication of around $2000US for a 52 min film. You sometimes get more, you sometimes get less, but your agent will be on commission so they will get the best figure they possibly can. I know of one film that has sold to 6 broadcast stations and the return for the film maker has been less than $5000US. I know of a film that was recently shown on Sky in the UK three or four times a week for 6 months and it brought in less than $1000US for the film maker. TV networks use these types of purchases to fill in their schedules around their core programmes and really don't want to pay a whole lot for them.

So what's it worth for a 14 min film for non commissioned, non exclusive 2 year broadcast rights? Well for mainstream 'broadcast' TV then it is probably not worth anything as the time slot is non standard. That leaves specialist broadcasters and/or internet broadcasters like Babelgum/Underwater Channel. Ultimately the decision is down to the film maker to decide if he wants to sell, but the offer of $300 is not an offer that is widely out of the ballpark compared to what else would be available to him.

If anyone else has any other experience please throw it in here. We'd all love to know if you sold a film for BIG bucks so we can copy how you did it!!!!! :D

Cheers, Simon

#20 Drew

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Posted 18 July 2009 - 03:15 AM

I think the one thing left out of this discussion is the pitch. Send proposals to various production/broadcast houses is one way to get produced. It pays to network (go to Wildscreen etc) and get to know the producers and production houses.
Learn to write treatments and have a strong idea that unfortunately has to sell to a larger audience. Sometimes being on location going in and out of the water 50 times a day for the shot may actually be the easier thing to do.

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