I feel like this must be a common scenario, but here you go.

You are approached with a film, as always the Producers/Director tell you the budget is tight as is the deadline. They immediately go into the sales pitch on how amazing and unique their film is and ask you if you'd like to participate.

My response is "sure, if you can send over a screener, we can get an idea of what this film really needs sound-wise. We can go from there"

The screener comes and it is immediately obvious that you have been over sold on the whole thing and you dont think this thing will be a good piece of art or even be something profitable.

Now they are hounding me for a quote, trying to move the project forward. I want to be politely, but I really want to tell these guys that they should scape they whole thing.

What would you say to these guys and how can I avoid this awkward situation in the future?

Much love,


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    So what exactly is the problem with saying straight why you don't want to work on it? I mean, they can always seek out another person to maybe work on it... Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 4:29

7 Answers 7


Quote from Harry Calahan: Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one.

Or better said:You don't tell them their film is terrible. You tell them you're too busy. It's a matter of opinion if the movie is good or bad. Your opinion does not matter to them.

Perhaps a referral will make them happy and gets you of the hook?



Never say no. Often times, your quotes aren't even over-quotes. They're just far too much money for independent productions to afford, simply because post sound is too often misunderstood and neglected. If you are firm about your rate and are polite about it then people will respect you. Maybe they'll get enough money next time or recommend you if someone they know needs help. These things will not happen if you just say you're too busy.

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    ....or if you give them an insulting quote.
    – Brad Dale
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 18:16

Dan has the best answer so far. Maybe I'm not as lucky as others but if a client wishes to pay the proper rate to get their project up to snuff sonically, then I'm willing to do it. My personal opinion of the film is not relevant any way. I don't believe in throwing out unjustified jacked up rates just to run them off or get over paid either, that's a bit jerkish. Chances are if their film sucks then they also don't have the resources to pay to get it sounding proper, but that's not always the case, sometimes they do; so why not take the business?


How can I pick up the jobs the others decline? ;)


Agreed with bit depth.

work up a legit quote at full studio rate for what it would take to get the film done right. Then triple your rate and ship the quote. Don't break it out by line item.

You'll very rarely be surprised by them coming up with the money to do the work, but if it happens then hey you're getting paid triple.

The general rule of thumb is to never work at a discount - only charge full price or free.

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    "The general rule of thumb is to never work at a discount - only charge full price or free." Interesting! Why no discount? I've done that and the next gig was fully paid, without a hitch from the client. Discount is a one time investment in the client, they need to be aware of that of course. I'd rather tell them I can't do it, than do it for free, I'm through with that, honestly. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 14:47
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    the reason is because if you start a relationship at a discount you'll have a hard, hard time getting up to full price from there. Your situation sounds like the exception rather than the rule. The other reason is because work relationships change in the presence of money. Whether someone is paying you $50 or $5k, they'll see you as the service provider who's job it is to make them happy. If you do work for free its more of a collaboration situation where its you doing them the favor. This changes the power structure and gives you more latitude to do the project as you see fit.
    – Rene
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:24
  • On another note - there are exceptions of course, but if you choose to offer a discount be sure to show on the invoice how much full price would have been and how much discount the client is receiving with a note of why this discount was applied. This will make it easier to get back to full price in the future. Defend your margins!
    – Rene
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:25
  • Hi rene, thanks for your response, and a good one at that! "This changes the power structure and gives you more latitude to do the project as you see fit." That is a good way to look at it, but working for free and thereby claiming/getting creative freedom is perhaps just as exceptional as working for full price after a discount. Indeed I've always shown what the discount was. But I must admit that you're right about the ratio, it's mostly discount and 'see you later' never to be heard of again.. Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 16:37
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    not necssarily true at all re free, most people i have done free work for almost seem to have a mantra, "the next one will be properly budgeted, promise!" - it is your chance to educate them on what a budget is
    – user49
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 19:32

If they read SSD you'll have already solved that problem.....

Seriously though.....tell them you're very busy and given them a silly quote to price yourself out of the market.


It can be really dis-advantageous to have your name put to any sort of substandard work. If something is really badly made, or if the content goes against one's conscience it's best to avoid doing it in my opinion. Sometimes you have to be honest, but diplomatic with people.

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