Live TV news broadcast. How much do we charge?

(There really is a factual question for SDMB Newsies coming up. Hang on…)

I was hanging out yesterday morning, reading SDMB and not planning anything in particular, when the phone rang. FOX needs a video crew to go to Couer d’Alene, Idaho to cover breaking news about some missing kids. Being a holiday weekend, they got a lot of answerphones and couldn’t find anyone else – so they called us. They wanted two people, a camera and a microphone. (There’s more to the story, but I’ll save that for MPSIMS). I drove down to Bellingham and we packed up the gear, and started on the 400-mile trip to Couer d’Alene. We hit the ground running and shot live interviews with a police official, somebody else, the waitress who recognised the little girl at a Denny’s restaurant, some ‘as-live’ footage of the FOX guy, and a few live broadcasts of the FOX guy. We had an 0400 call this morning, but as we were driving to Spokane we got a call that the regular crew had shown up. Apparently they’d gotten the message and were able to make it out for today’s taping; so we were done.

This is the first time we’ve done live TV. So: Two guys, broadcast camera, 800 miles total trip, 14 hours travel time, three hours of shooting. What is the ‘reasonable and customary’ fee that networks pay for this?

Talked to Jerry. He was thinking in the neighbourhood of $2,200 for the gig. I was thinking about $50/hour for each of us (which I think is very reasonable) times 17 hours (travel + shooting) plus expenditures of about $200. $1,900 in total.

Now, this is just time and actual costs. Cost of the broadcast camera, two wireless microhpones, camera support, etc. are not taken into account. We don’t want to get greedy, but we don’t want to charge too little either. The network surely knows that there are expenses involved in airing a remote broadcast, and I’m sure they expect to pay a fair amount. We just want to find out the reasonable and customary fee so that neither we nor the network are being taken advantage of. We want to work for them again!

The problem is that this came up very, very suddenly. There was no time to work out the payment details – only to get the billing address.

Won’t they just pay you scale? I mean, if their regular, union crew was unavailable, they should automaticly pay you union scale.

I don’t know about production, but Screen Actors Guild scale is quite nice. I got just under $400.00 for a sitting fee, then scale. I made about $4400.00 a month for two 15 second spots that ran two or three times a day, on anywhere from 4 to 50 broadcast venues.
(an AT&T commercial)

I presume there is a scale, but we just don’t know what it is.

Why not say, “We usually charge $3,600” (or some number higher than you’d be satisfied with) and if they say nothing and pay you, great. If they sputter or complain, let them talk you down, or ask them how much they usually pay, and come down to that (if it’s enough) or something between your figure and theirs.

Union rules vary from station to station, and as the guy who used to hire freelancers, the scale is damn different than what regular working guys get paid. Freelancers typically get much higher rates for short gigs than staff employees.

I’d easily pay out 25 cents a mile, so that’s $200 right there. Normally I’d squint at $50/hour for travel time-- but you were driving from Seattle to Idaho so I’d give you a break there. (I’m surprised they couldn’t find anyone in Spokane or Yakima!)

All in all the biggest bitch I’d have was that you only shot 3 hours-- but that’s the producer’s fault for not finding anyone closer.

So how long ago, and how much?

I think most businesses pay something like 40¢/mile.

We were supposed to shoot the next day. Would’ve been 0400-2000. A 16-hour day, plus the three hours the previous night would have put the travel time in proportion; but the regular crew showed up and we didn’t shoot yesterday. If we had known it would be a single-day gig (we were told it was two days), then we wouldn’t have taken it because of the travel time involved.

The most I ever paid out was $200 for about 45 seconds of usable tape… If a staffer had provided that little tape I could use they’d have a nasty note in their employee record, but from a freelancer who has the only viable pix of an event, I’ll suck it up and take it.

I was working in Vancouver from '97 to 2003, and usually paid out $100 to $200 for any freelance viz of mayhem, such as a fire, train wreck, etc… If we hired 'em for the day, we’d ask what they wanted for the day. I’ve paid out anywhere from $500 to $1000 for an 8- to 10-hour day, depending on the complexity of the shoot, but always tried to talk down a cameraman’s price for travel time.

And the three hour shoot would be more my problem than yours. It’d mean I screwed up by sending two crews to the same location, or wasn’t organized enough to do it properly.

That’s the thing. They didn’t ask how much we wanted, and we don’t know how much is customary. They have to take into account the amount of time it takes to get there. I mean, it would be different if we were local; but we had to drive almost an entire workday. Without being compensated for the time and expense involved, it would not have been worth going.

Sounds like we’ll just have to bill them what we think is fair. They can either pay it, or negotiate.

And my point was to start high. Ask for more than you think is fair, and let them negotiate you down to your fair price or, if you’re lucky, something a little higher than that…

Johnny, I get hired by a production company that contracts out to the networks. I typically get $200 for a half day or any part thereof, $350 for a 10 hour day. The production company supplies the equipment. I’ve seen invoices for a network cut-in that took all tolled maybe 3 or 4 hours to prep and shoot that added up to $1200.