Filmmaking - Don't Pay Rate Card!
If you want to broadcast across Hollywood that you are an amateur, pay the rental company’s published rate card amounts for your production equipment. No professional pays rate card!
I don’t even know why they bother to print rate cards, except to give you an idea of the top of the price range, how high not to go in your negotiations.
You can get a deal on anything, but you have to ask. It really is as simple as that. You don’t have to know anyone or say a secret password. Just ask.
Let’s use dolly rental as an example. Now, you don’t just rent a dolly. I mean, you can, but that’s all you’ll get: the dolly. No tracks, no wheels, no camera mount, no seat — just a dolly. You want to rent a “dolly package.”
When you call to rent your dolly package, plan to shave 20% or so off rate card. Ask if they’ll throw in extra days. If you need if for eight days, ask for the weekly rate. (Usually two to four days rental).
Get the dolly first, then start adding in the extras. You need dolly track. Pay for the curved pieces, and ask for the straight ones for free or half price. Go through the entire equipment list that way.
There are two things to keep in mind when you call for a deal:
1) The equipment isn’t making any money sitting there unrented. They’d rather have it out for half price than not have it out at all.
2) They never rent at rate card. Odds are good the person you’re talking to doesn’t even know what the rate card prices are.
It’s called haggling. They do it with every single person who calls. You aren’t asking for anything special.
As Americans, we are raised in a culture where “the price is the price,” but in most of the world, you haggle or negotiate for everything. In filmmaking, everything is negotiated. I recommend this book, to sharpen your negotiation skills. http://snurl.com/h5al
If you can’t get everything at the price you want, tell them you’ll have to check and get back to them. If you can call around and compare prices, do it. If you live somewhere where there’s really only one place to rent a dolly, be slow getting back to them, anyway.
When you call back, say, “Look, I just can’t go that high. Can you work with me some more on this?”
The person you are talking to wants to help. When she was eight years old, she was not saying, “When I grow up, I want to work at a production rental house.”
Odds are good that, like you, she is a filmmaker. She feels your pain and will work with you however she can.
If you’re working on an extremely limited budget, try this: Tell the person on the phone how much you can spend: “Look, I only have $1,200 budgeted for my dolly rental, and I need a jib arm, twelve feet of straight track, six feet of curved track, hard-surface wheels, and a seat, for ten days. What can you do for me?”
They’ll tell you what they can do for you. You may have to make concessions on your equipment list, but then again, you may be surprised to hear them say, “Yeah, we can do that.” You have to A-S-K to G-E-T.
Of course, there will be times when you just can’t get what you want, no matter how much sweet-talking you do. If there are a lot of shows shooting at the same time, rental houses won’t be as willing to let things go out cheap.
You still don’t have to pay standard prices, (I’m not kidding - no one pays rate card), but you may not get exactly the deal you want.
The Rolling Stones were on to something: you’ll get what you need. It’s more of a pain in the neck to work with less track, but you can do it. You may have to sacrifice the jib shot, but maybe you can get that hand-held. And maybe you can adjust the schedule so that you need the dolly less than eight days.
This process applies not only to your dolly and your grip and lighting equipment, but your post-production, as well. It’s a similar process, shaving percentages and getting extras, when you negotiate for your lab and editing.
The business of Hollywood is dealmaking. It starts when you put pen to paper. It continues through buying scripts, hiring actors and selling your movie. You have to make deals at every step along the way. Start haggling!
This article was posted on August 26, 2005