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When working post-production audio on a big budget film, name actors, directors....etc. What would the expected compensation be?

  • For what position on the team? – Utopia Sep 25 '10 at 3:57
  • Well, I'd be working within a team of myself and two others. I would probably end up doing most of the dialogue editing and mixing. SFX would be divided between the other two, and our ambiances and intense sound design moments would involve everyone. – Detroit Sound Design Sep 25 '10 at 4:01
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Depends on whether it is a union or non-union production. Non-union films often pay less, require more overtime/weekend work, and pay nothing into health or pension funds. Here in LA, a non-union film could pay anything from $800/wk to $1800/wk. Or it could pay nothing. (I'm just ballparking here, since I have no real experience in non-union film work. I have, however, worked in post-sound facilities that were non-union but did commercial work, so I have to assume there would be similarities.)

If it's a union production, then you can plan on making at least the minimum weekly rate ($2,063.01/wk for a sound editor in LA, for example). Also, if you work beyond the regular work day or into weekends, you will be paid overtime. Finally, a health and/or pension plan will be funded for every hour that you work.

Now don't get me wrong, not all non-union productions are bad; some films simply cannot operate under union guidelines, or there may not be any union to deal with in your area. If you find yourself in a position to work on such a film, you should ask the producer what their budget is and start from there. If it's completely unrealistic, then I would offer up my "book rate", or the rate I think best reflects my skill level. BOTTOM LINE: You should try to find a middle ground. Pushing the "hard sell" rate is a quick way to lose a potential (or long-term) client. You should also plan for any unexpected overages, such as overtime, evening/weekend work, and extended deadlines. That way you're covered if things get out of hand.

Oh, and try to get it in writing!

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  • Thanks for always sharing your experience, J. Big up-vote. – Utopia Sep 25 '10 at 6:25
  • Great answer @Jay! As usual, thanks for sharing the knowledge! One thing, what's OT out there on union gigs? – Steve Urban Sep 26 '10 at 6:15
  • @Steve, regular overtime is time +1/2 (like late weeknights and Saturdays), Sundays is double time. You can go further, sometimes getting into quad time if you're really getting nailed on a show. – Jay Jennings Sep 26 '10 at 7:18
  • Jay, can you explain how you ended up in the union without having any non-union experience? You said that you worked in a Non-union house doing commercial work? I am not very business savvy and I feel like I get nailed on EVERYTHING I work on. – Chris Davis Feb 12 '12 at 0:12
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To quote George "The Fat Man" Sanger, "Make me an offer that you feel has dignity. If I can do the job for that amount without feeling that I'll be losing money or wasting time, then I will happily take the job."

If other people on the team are getting paid, you should get paid as well, but don't do it for so little you feel like you're getting ripped off, unless they're your friends or family -- don't push for more than they have, because that will strain the relationship.

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