Monday, August 3, 2009

What is a director worth these days?

I was just offered $1,000 to shoot a one-day job.

That might sound like a decent amount, but it's not, and I'm not just saying that because I think I deserve to be expensive.

In order to shoot for one day, I generally have to prep for two weeks. Casting. Location scouting. Designing sets. Selecting props. Rehearsing. Fitting wardrobe. Hiring crew. Preparing with the crew. Tech scouting. Designing my shots. Scheduling the shoot day. Drawing shooting boards. Meeting with the agency. Meeting with the agency's client.

I also do at the very least a first cut of the spot. Which usually requires at least three days to load, review, and cut the footage.

Let's call it thirteen days.

Some days are fairly light. But others can be quite long. A day spent casting can easily last 14 hours. A shooting day is always more. If the days average out to ten hours apiece (which they don't, not when you work as hard as I do), I figure I was just offered the opportunity to work for less than $7.69/hour.

Minimum wage in California is $8.00 an hour. In Oregon, where I live, it's $8.40. The ad agency making the offer seemed a bit put out when I pointed this out.

Someday, Aspiring Filmmaker, you're going to be offered an "opportunity". The lesson for today is to recognize it for what it is.

Am I saying not to take any job that pays less than minimum wage? Absolutely not. Even with my years of experience, you can easily get me to work for free. All you need is a really great concept and a client who appreciates the value of what they're getting.

But there is a line –– an invisible line that I've decided I'm never going to cross: if you're going to pay me, you're going to have to pay me more than I'd make at Wal-Mart.


  1. Sweet! Next time we need a free director I'm calling you.

    Just kidding.

    I hear ya. Economic recession = people being taken advantage of = shitty

  2. Funny, but only in the media industry is this really tolerated and considered not "out of line"... on a lighter note...

  3. You make some great points that I also take issue with (as a director).

    This "$1000 per day" nonsense is mythical.

    As you say, it is fourteen days.

    I used to get paid a percentage of budget to direct ads. Has that changed? I haven't done it for a while.

    More reasonable companies would budget with me for pre-, prod, and post, and give me a figure that took the commitment into account.

    They should be paying well for experience because your experience gets the job done well and on time. Experience saves them money.

    Always like your posts (whoever you are!):-)

  4. Do these same people tip their waitresses a penny? I'll work for free when everyone else is which is unlikely in most cases and I'm an actor. Hmm I know how this sounds and no I don't waitress and I won't tip shitty service but I do know the difference between eating at Denny's and eating at Nobu and you wouldn't go into Nobu and expect to pay $10, They should be embarrassed.

  5. it takes that much prep because you are doing it correctly, and who would have thought, you care what it looks like. Excellent!