Bold Mail: What are your thoughts on hourly pay vs. a flat rate?

First things first - here's an opportunity to encourage and build up a fellow filmmaker. Julian commented this past week:

I have been shooting and editing for around 12 years, but find that I am alone in my passion. Though it is easy to find other filmmakers, it's hard to find other Christian filmmakers. I feel that I have a lot of cheerleaders, but not much support.

I have at least 2 passion projects (1 in South Sudan), that I cannot seem to get traction on, and it's been about 8 years speaking to people about it.

Would appreciate prayers, and thank you again for the links and encouraging/inspiring content.

Here's YOUR CTA: drop him a link - here's a pre-filled tweet you can send his way.

Don't do the Twitters? Then you can leave an encouraging word on his Instagram.

Oh, I don't know him... 

Neither did I. If that's your attitude, you need to get off your butt! Don't be a benchwarmer at 10am on Sunday mornings - go do the stuff!

To do something a little bit different, but something that's very relevant to what we did recently with the live workshop, I'm going to go ahead and address every single question that was asked in the live workshop and spell out more details on them; at least a little more than what was said in the workshop.

(I also noticed that I talk a lot differently than I write after dictating 98% of this post, then having the audio file transcribed - try it next time you have to write any longform content.)

The workshop was only ninety minutes long, so we couldn't squeeze everything into the workshop, and a lot of people asked some really solid questions.

Question no. 1:

The first one was from Doc Kennedy, who was one of the earliest podcastees on this site.

He said, what are your thoughts on the pay per project or pay per hour?

And the immediate answer to everyone is to CHARGE BY THE PROJECT.

See, I learned this from the folks downtown at the Score chapter here in Las Vegas; Score is a free resource. Well, it's a mostly free resource for people who are looking to start their own business.

Now if you are a freelancer or just a side hustler and you use video on the side, you can still go to your downtown, meet with the Score chapter and actually get counseling.

You can get veterans to work with you - retired, savvy business owners who will look over your cash flow, they will look over your income statement, your balance sheet, they will help you develop a business idea, they will guide you towards the basics if you really want to get going with the business side of film and video.

Even if you're just going to be a solo-preneur or a sole proprietor, you can still go downtown and pick those guys’ heads and they will be more than happy to do it.

They are a vault of information.

Okay, that's a long enough plug for those guys.

The reality is if you were to follow their advice, that is, it doesn’t matter if it is film or video, you need to always charge a flat rate.

If you use an hourly rate, and I'm quoting Score guys here, they (your client) will lose their minds, so don't do it, they just can't handle it.

You tell your client, “Listen, I charge a flat rate. You can't afford me if I charge by the hour, but I'll give you a flat rate; in fact, right now I'm filling out an invoice that I can send you and you can go ahead and look over the transparent pricing breakdown of where all of these costs for your video will go.  I'll be happy to do that as soon as we get off the phone.”

And I have yet to have a client buck or object when I say that I'm going to do that, when I tell them it's a flat rate.

Yes, a lot of clients will have that sort of initial sucker-punch reaction when you tell them the flat rate, but I promise you, you will lose every client that you give an hourly rate to unless you're willing to work for rice and beans.

Question no. 2:

The next question that we had in the workshop was...

Is it not worth doing some free stuff to get the reel of some sort to show what you can do?

Robert Rodriguez was my inspiration for taking what amounted to be about $5,000 or $6,000 and shooting a micro-budget feature.

I have all the respect in the world for the man because he always continues to innovate, he's always pushing the boundaries; he doesn't just tell stories, he looks for new ways to engage audiences and tell stories.

And he started off with absolutely nothing, but he kept telling stories and his motto is, you've got probably thirty to forty bad films in you, so you’ve just got to go ahead and get them all out of the way.

So I have always taken that advice to heart and what I suggest you do is you make the backyard videos and you grab your sister, you grab your brother, you grab your dog - you make the backyard videos and you learn how to tell stories.

Because with limited resources and funds, it forces you to be creative and if you can't fine tune that engine now, you won't do that with a larger budget or a larger crew; it's just how that works.

Say you need to do the backyard videos.

When you're confident in your abilities, you can go downtown, find a non-profit or a church - both of those guys are always hurting for more stories - and if you are willing to do something for them for the sake of just getting in the reps, they would be more than happy to partner with you, believe me.

Find one that has a mission that that aligns with where you want to be serving people and go do it.

Do one, no more than two of those videos and then after that, you need to be firm and confident in your abilities because at this point, remember you have already gotten the thirty to forty bad films out of the way, go ahead and give them an assessment of your services.

You are worthwhile, you really are, you have a unique vision and talent, every single one of you does, that's what God gave you.

So the reality is, you have to be firm in your identity, not just in who God says who you are but also in the abilities He has given you to go and tell unique stories because nobody else is going to be able to tell a story as uniquely as you, and you have to remind yourself of that daily.

Put it up on your bathroom mirror if you have to.

Question no. 3:

Lazormom asked, how do you get the music off of Vimeo or YouTube (audio libraries)?

Both Vimeo and YouTube have free audio libraries. Vimeo also has paid options; YouTube does not. YouTube has two tiers of "free" music that you can use in your videos.

First, there are absolutely free - CC0 tracks - that's the best kind of license you can hope for.  

But of course when you have music that's been dedicated to the public domain, it varies in its usability.  Some tracks are really good, some tracks are really bad.

Because just like you’re trying to get your reps in as a filmmaker, there are countless musicians out there trying to get their reps in as a musician and they're willing to put their stuff out there and share, and it's great, and I'm so thankful for them, but you really have to sift through the hay to find the one needle that you need.

YouTube also has music in their audio library that you can use that requires attribution.

For your personal projects, that's great; if you’re having to do a project for a client, and especially if it’s not guaranteed what they're going to do with it once you exchange money and video, you need to be looking for public domain music.

If attribution is required, that's not something you can guarantee, and so me personally, I would say go for the CC0 music where you can.

The Free Music Archive (FMA) is also a good option.  

You can also check out a few other places that will offer sounds and music such as the site.

There are a couple of people that are smaller and have a few collections, nothing as robust as these guys though.

Check these four sources I just mentioned, I still use them frequently:

  1. YouTube Audio Library
  2. Vimeo Audio Library
  3. Free Music Archive

The other two options that you could use are Art List IO (; that’s a newer collection.

It is nowhere near as big as The Music Bed, but it charges a flat subscription, a honest-to-goodness flat, yearlong subscription... 

Question no. 4:

The next question in the webinar was about travelling, flights, hotels, guests, etc. How do you account for traveling outside of your area? 

With the Instant Quotes Calculator, I realize that this is an opportunity to expand the calculator even further than what it has.

So I have put that (traveling) into the calculator and the long and short of it is that this is a whole ‘nother ballgame in and of itself.

When you're talking to your client, you just have to assess in that first conversation if there's any kind of airfare and if that's the case then everything else falls into place like dominoes; hotels for you and your crew and possible talent, car rentals, hotels, gas and per diem.

This is how I would work it out (and have in the aforementioned calculator): I would look at how many different destinations that are going to be involved. That number should be no greater than the number of locations you can anticipate shooting at for the shoot all together.

Think about how many destinations you are at, because each destination is going to require a hotel for you and one other person in your group.  

So if your group is made up of twelve people, say three talents and nine crew members including yourself, then you're going to get six hotel rooms.

Put two people into a room, there's no need for everybody to have their own room, that's just going to inflate the bill and your client’s not going to be happy with it.

But, putting two people to a simple hotel room, that's certainly reasonable.

You have to get a rental for your gear. And you need to find something that's going to be large enough for your crew and your gear and you need to pay for baggage fees.

It is a mess, I agree, and I'm not going to spell out all the calculations here; I think the biggest one you need to look at though is the hotel rooms and the flights. Account for the time you spend looking for both and account for the airfare for each person for each destination and think of hotels that way as well.

Per diem is one last calculation that we can look at because that's an easy one. Each person has a per diem, a flat rate of $45 per day.

So if you have already noted from your first conversation with your client that you're going to have a three-minute video that takes place over four different locations and each location is a different destination, meaning you have to fly to get there and it's not in your local area, then you need to think of per diem as a $45 flat rate per shooting day per person.

That's three squares a day for each person, easily.

Question no. 5:

Another good question was about the Canon T3i: it has overheating issues and a lot of people gave good answers to troubleshoot it in the webinar forum. 

The only times that I have ever had overheating issues with the DSLRs are when they have been in direct sunlight for too long, and they literally get too hot and they need to be cooled down.

So make sure wherever you’re shooting, that if it's the outdoors, that you bring some kind of reflector or foil, even if it's just the reflector from your car and put that guy over the camera when you're not shooting so that you can bounce that light off of the camera and not heat the body up.

But, this camera in question was not overheating from the sunlight, it was overheating probably because of a bad battery.

Even with the Canon LPE6 battery, it was still overheating. So this is where I turn the question around to you, the Church Films Bold Nation: if you have a Canon DSLR, a Canon proprietary battery, and you’re shooting indoors, away from direct sunlight, if you've had overheating issues, what have you done to correct it?

Is it time for a new battery?

Comment below.

Question no. 6:

What are your thoughts on 360° video?

This is something that's going to be a game changer and I talked about this in the workshop last week, and I love asking some of my podcast guests about it. And the reality is it's still in its infancy, just like film was a hundred years ago.

And so you have people that are aware of it but the vast majority of people are not aware of it, and you can see that just by going to YouTube and looking at all the different views that these 360 videos have; they are not in the millions and millions like every other traditional video is - people just aren't aware of 360 video yet.

The reality is, the technology is there; it’s a little pixilated but you're going to be catching up to it.

In twenty to thirty years, I see traditional  film being obsolete, just like 8-track tapes or even the cassette tape and soon DVD.  

VHS’s were last seen by Hollywood in 2005 with their major motion picture “A History of Violence." 

That was definitely one of the last big titles to be released on VHS, and since then, they've just been filling up thrift stores across the globe.

So, what does that mean for us with traditional film?

As 360 video becomes more and more socially acceptable and a more immersive experience, we will see that it is the new normal; it will be the new normal for all of our digital visual media.

It's just the way it's going to be trending because people are going to want more than the whimsical choices of an editor telling the audience what to look at.

They are going to want to be able to explore around and see the environments, and that’s where film is headed whether we want it to or not.

Question no. 7:

Cover letters for short films, to do or not to do for a festival? 

I think you should do something that no one else is doing, I think you should give a video pitch, and it’s the same for working with a client.

If you have zero connection with a client and you want to work with them, do not send them a cover letter, do not send them just a cold e-mail, go out of your way and shoot a video introducing yourself very briefly and your vision.

Or better yet, if you can, if it’s appropriate, show the video you want to create for them. An animated intro works great because they can see their branding and language in the promo.

Now if it’s a festival, obviously you are submitting a video, but go ahead and include a video pitch in the cover letter, don't just send blanketed text.

Blanketed text (aka SPAM) is wasted time. 

At the front and center of your cover letter, there should be a big bold option for them to click and see a video introduction, so there's more of a human connection.  

It should be painfully obvious (like my button below).

You want that.

Somebody may just click on it and watch it and see who you are instead of just text on a piece of paper (like everyone else in their stack).

What do you have to lose by trying it?

Stand out from the pack and be assertive.

If you have a trailer for a video, I believe that you can do the same thing, do a quick video; it could be real simple. 

Just use some lighting from around the house and make sure you are properly lit and use the Quick Time movie recorder on your computer if you have to, but shoot a video, then upload it to YouTube.

YouTube is so socially acceptable these days that you can embed those links into anything.

Whether it's an e-mail or a website, you can take the YouTube URL and zip that over, embed it in your cover letter and ask people to watch that as you pitch them.

This is what I have done in the past when I have talked to my clients, “Hey, here's a quick video explaining what I would like to do.”

Or, if it's a podcast guest that I want on the show that's kind of a big name, I will send them a video and explain what I want to do.  I tell them I think e-mail can be boring and dull, but hey! Here's a quick video explaining what I...

And if they're using Gmail, guess what?

The thumbnail will populate inside the e-mail so all they have to do is click the thumbnail and it will start playing the video, and already they can see that there is a human face attached to it, which is what you want to do.

You want to create a human connection there in those few seconds you have of their attention.

We strive for relationship; that's just how God hardwired us.

So when we can make those connections, we’re better at engaging that certain someone that's sifting through stacks of e-mails or papers with nothing but text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after text after some more text.

It gets old and they start getting tunnel vision. 

I guarantee you would too.

The last webinar was a blast, and I'm doing another one on landing your first $1k video client: Saturday, April 23rd at 11:30 am PST.

I'm limiting seats to 80.

If you can't land a $1,000 video client in your own bloomin' town, how will you secure $1 million for your game-changer?

Both scenarios require pitching, negotiating budgets and visions. Get your reps in.

I'm STILL getting my reps in. I always will be because I want to tell stories too! Church Films will grow into a place for all of us to reach our audiences and learn how to finance and market our films, and I intend to keep creating right alongside you!

Every one and their mom wants to teach you how to make movies, but few want to teach you how to haggle with people or find a shared vision, let alone finance or market your movie.

Pitching clients is one way to get those reps in.

If you're going to move an entire generation with engaging, authentic stories of hope, love, grace, forgiveness, or whatever else it is you pursue with passion, then you need to learn how to fine-tune your financing and marketing!

Plus, there are a few gifts for you micro-budgeters when you sign up and invite a friend!

See you at the live training!

Jake the film guy

I want to encourage others and bring honor to the Almighty in everything that I do with film and video. My goal is to take the first 11 minutes of my tv pilot and seek out decision-makers who can further the conversation about developing it into a show. If my team and I can do that, then we can teach 100,000 other microbudget filmmakers how to do the same thing so that we might tell stories of hope to millions. In the meantime, I'm a son of the King, a family man, a lifelong student of film, and the author of two microbudget filmmaking books.