Shoot Concept: Environmental lifestyle and landscape images as well as b-roll video of cityscapes and hotel properties
Licensing: Advertising, collateral and publicity use of all images and video captured in perpetuity
Location: Three hotel properties in three different countries
Shoot Days: 13
Photographer: Lifestyle and travel specialist
Agency: Large international ad agency
Client: Luxury hotel chain with 70+ properties worldwide
Here is the estimate (click to enlarge):
Creative/Licensing: As with many projects, the agency presented a creative brief that included a great deal of inspirational vocabulary while being quite vague on what they wanted to specifically capture. We knew they wanted to create content at three hotel properties in three different countries, and generally speaking, they wanted images featuring people interacting and enjoying the hotels, landscapes of the properties and cityscapes of the surrounding areas. Without a specific shot list or more dialed-in ideas regarding the scenarios they hoped to capture, we knew that we’d have to make a lot of assumptions for the first round of the estimate, and then later revise it based on additional information regarding creative direction and budgetary constraints.
Typically, I’d determine the creative/licensing fee by analyzing the total number of shots/scenarios, and then take into account the usage and duration. Since the total number of shots and scenarios were unknown, I based the fee on my experience with similar productions in the past. Based on our correspondence with the agency, it was clear that they wanted to take their time throughout the shoot and didn’t want to rush anything. As a starting point, we planned to shoot three scenarios in and around each property per day, which would allow the photographer to generate about three final hero images per day, plus variations. This was a fairly conservative estimate, and depending on the final creative concept, the photographer would likely be able to capture much more on a given shoot day.
Using this as a starting point, I figured that the first hero image created on a given day would be worth about $5,000 and the second and third would be worth $2,500 each ($10,000 total) for one-year usage. In this case, the client’s requested use was for an unlimited duration, despite the fact that the creative brief made it very clear that their intended use was for a campaign that would most likely be used for one year. Given this information, I used $10,000/day as a starting point, which was in line with what we have previously estimated on similar projects, and was justified based on the idea that they’d be hiring the photographer for 13 shoot days. As for the b-roll video, based on my conversation with the agency, it was clearly an afterthought of the creative brief, and the responsibility would essentially be put on an additional camera operator who the photographer would bring along. I therefore didn’t put much value on it in the photographer’s creative/licensing fee, but rather in the day rate included for the camera operator listed in the expenses.
Photographer Tech/Scout/Production/Travel Days: Over the course of our correspondence, we were provided a tentative schedule that the client and agency hoped to use as a starting point to shoot three properties in three countries back-to-back-to-back. While we discussed how preliminary scouting and preparation would take place before the photographer’s arrival (which I’ll note later), the agency requested a significant amount of time on the ground in each location to scout the property and surrounding area and prep prior to the shoot (mostly due to an undefined shot list). This included five prep days on the ground before five shoot days at the first location, four prep days prior to five shoot days at the second location, and four prep days prior to three shoot days at the third location. On the front, back and in between those days we included six travel days (some of the international flights required two days worth of travel), and three additional prep days for the photographer prior to heading out for the project. The travel days are billed at a lower rate since they are typically less intense and require less focus and dedicated than the tech/scout/production days on the ground.
Primary Expenses: Rather than provide a laundry list of expenses that may seem unorganized and confusing, I decided to break out the expenses into four sections. The first set of primary expenses included all of the items related to traveling crewmembers and expenses like equipment and processing. The other three expense categories correspond to items that relate to a particular location.
First Assistant: This included two prep days prior to departure, 13 tech/scout days on location and 13 shoot days. We broke out the first assistant’s travel days separately and charged half their day rate for each of the six travel days. I don’t typically break out an assistant’s travel days and charge reduced rates, but given the total days they’d be booked for, the photographer’s assistant was willing to offer up the discount.
Producer: The photographer had a producer he worked closely with, who also planned to travel along for the length of the project. We included 10 prep days, 13 tech/scout days on location and 13 shoot days. Separately we included six travel days at half the daily rate.
Camera Operator: While labeled as “camera operator”, this person would really be the videographer in charge of capturing the b-roll video of cityscapes throughout the shoot. We included 13 tech/scout days on location and 13 shoot days in addition to breaking out their 6 travel days separately.
Airfare: I used Kayak.com to find estimated one-way flight rates from the photographer’s home city to each consecutive location and then back. Not surprisingly, flights ranged from a few hundred dollars for the short flights to a few thousand dollars for the longer flights including baggage fees. I multiplied the total cost by four to account for each person traveling and rounded up.
Meals, Per Diems, Carnets, Communications, Misc.: This covered all traveling meals, laundry services, international transaction fees, currency conversion fees, carnets, necessary visas, international cell phone plans and any other unforeseen travel related expenses.
Equipment: I included $1,000/day and used a loose rule of thumb that most equipment rental houses charge three days for a weekly rental, and I knew the shoot would span over about five weeks. The photographer would actually be bringing his own gear, but this rule of thumb was helpful to determine an appropriate rate. While he would likely bring more than $1,000 worth of gear, the photographer was satisfied with the overall $15,000 fee to cover the wear and tear on his gear throughout the trip.
Shoot Processing for Client Review and Delivery of Images/Video by Hard Drive: I included $500 for each of the 13 shoot days for the photographer to color correct and provide web galleries for each day of shooting, and an additional $1,000 to cover the cost of a high-capacity hard drive (and a backup) and the shipping costs to deliver it to the agency.
Insurance: Since the locations, scenarios and general scope of the project were still a bit unknown, it was hard to determine exactly the amount of insurance the photographer would need. It was possible that his current international policy would cover the production, but just to be cautious, we included an extra $5,000 in case he needed to increase his policy and add additional coverages. We noted in the delivery memo that this could fluctuate based on the agencies potential requirements.
Expenses for locations one, two and three: For a project like this with a lot of unknowns in multiple international locations, it’s always a good idea to get some hard numbers from local people in each location. I reached out to multiple production companies in each city, and while each line item and overall quotes fluctuated from production company to production company and from city to city, there were a lot of common threads that helped me calculate estimated expenses. I cautiously leaned towards the higher end of the numbers I received, while including some additional items that made me confident that the overall budget would afford us any production company in each city, even if the funds for each estimated line were allocated differently than how I presented them.
Production Coordinator: While a producer would help to manage the entire project, we included a production coordinator in each city that could help with location-specific tasks, and who, perhaps most importantly, was fluent in the local language. The production coordinator days included the shoot days in each city plus the prep days the traveling team would be on the ground beforehand to prep in each city.
Second Assistant: We included a local second assistant to lend an additional set of hands on each shoot day in each city, and included a day before and after each shoot to help pick up and return any necessary additional gear or help with pre-production tasks.
Location Scout and Location Fees: The first two properties would be photographed along with the surrounding cityscapes, but the last location would exclusively be shot on the hotel property. In the cities requiring locations outside of the hotel property, we included four days for a local scout to find and secure permits for public spaces, street scenes and perhaps local shops/businesses. Since all of these locations were a bit undefined when we were estimating the project, we included a placeholder of $3,000 to cover the permits that might be needed. On one hand, this could have been much more than what would be required if the locations were all public spaces, but on the other hand, $3,000 offered flexibility in case a more robust or private property was needed.
Hair/Makeup/Wardrobe Styling: I’d typically separate the responsibilities of hair/makeup styling and wardrobe styling to two different people, but the agency and photographer were hoping to keep the crew footprint as light as possible (easier said than done for a project like this). So, we put these tasks on to one stylist who would have an assistant. In addition to the shoot days, their total days included shopping and return time as well as a talent fit day. The wardrobe costs were calculated by assuming $300 per talent in non-returnable wardrobe for up to four adult/child talent per shoot day.
Casting and Talent: Each shoot would require a casting day arranged by the local production company, and as noted in the estimate, the casting days included a studio, crew, equipment, talent booking and miscellaneous expenses. We anticipated needing a family of four (two adults, two children) for each shoot day and for each location/property. Additionally, each of the talent would come to a day where they’d be fitted for wardrobe, for which we estimated $1,500 per talent. I relied on the local production companies to quote appropriate talent rates, and I noted that the usage would be limited to five years rather than perpetual use. I did so because we’ve received pushback lately from talent agents who won’t convey perpetual use due to potential talent exclusivity conflicts down the road.
Drivers and Transportation: I figured on a driver at $200/day (for each day the traveling crew would be on the ground) plus a $700 fee for a rental van.
Miles, Parking, Meals, Misc.: While I accounted for per diems and meals for the traveling crew previously, I also wanted to include similar expenses for the local crew, even though the client would be providing catering throughout the shoot. As I did previously, I included $50 per person per day for the local production coordinator, scout, stylist, stylist assistant and talent. Additionally, I included and additional $100 per shoot day for miscellaneous expenses. These rates varied between the first two locations and the third location due to the number of days and crew involved.
Production RV: The hotel would offer up staging areas for the shoot days on its property, and I included a production RV as a TBD line item as an option for each location since I thought it may be valuable for some of our cityscape shooting. I also wanted the agency to know we were thinking about such items as an option.
Production Management Fees: Most production companies include a percentage of the overall expenses as a management fee to take on the responsibility of the project including managing the payment process for all subcontractors booked for the job. These percentages varied between the production companies in each city, but 15 percent of the city specific expenses was an appropriate fee based on various quotes I received.
Tax: Interestingly, the first city did not require tax to be added (which I did look further into after the local production company mentioned this). The second two production companies included their required tax percentages on their quotes, which I then included in our estimate. Tax requirements vary greatly from project to project and location to location, and it’s best to check with an accountant and/or local tax authorities.
Feedback: Not surprisingly, our estimate reached a bit too far over the client’s budget. I anticipated that this would be the case, but it was important for us to first show the agency the potential costs for what they were asking for in order for them to help their client determine a budget and dial in the scope of the project. Not too long after submitting our first estimate, the agency came back with a budget of $200,000, and their client was willing to make a few sacrifices. First, the third location was scrapped from the project and they wanted to limit the second location to three shoot days (this meant there would be 7 shoot days rather than 13). Second, they were willing to do without the b-roll video. Third, they were willing to reduce the licensing to three years. Those were great starting points, but after some quick calculations, we realized that some of the travel expenses, talent fees and a few other items were still putting us over that budget. Here is how we further reduced the estimate:
– One strategy was to have the photographer’s producer lay out the logistics of the shoot remotely, and to actually not travel while relying on the local production companies to execute the shoot on site. After taking the producer’s travel expenses out, we adjusted accordingly to reduce their overall days, while still including an appropriate amount of time for them to coordinate everything remotely.
– The most significant way we were able to reduce the cost was by removing the talent fees. Since the shot list wasn’t determined, the agency agreed for us to simply note what the fee per talent might be, and then they’d decide how many talent they’d ultimately need (or not need) in each city as the project progressed. It was possible that they’d rely on hotel staff and actual hotel residents to be unrecognizable talent, and while it was a big TBD cost that would ultimately be added back on later, it helped us bring the estimate under 200k and ultimately helped the agency sell the project to their client.
– For the photographer’s fee, I felt that a reduction to $4,000 for the first image per day and $2,000 for each additional image was appropriate given the licensing duration restriction.
– We reduced the shoot processing for client review to $250 per shoot day, and dropped the hard drive including delivery to $500 since they wouldn’t need as high of a capacity drive without the video.
– The client agreed that the talent would provide their own primary wardrobe, and the stylist would only be responsible to supplemental wardrobe options. This helped to reduce the number of shopping days and bring down the wardrobe budget.
– We reduced each casting day to $3,000, which would still be adequate based on the quotes I received from production companies. As I mentioned, I originally leaned on the higher end of the quotes I received to be safe.
-We slightly reduced the drivers and transportation in each city.
Here was the final estimate (click to enlarge):
Results: The photographer was awarded the job.
Hindsight: While we hope every estimate should be the start of a healthy negotiation, sometimes clients seem to assume that an estimate represents the only approach, and one that can’t be finessed or reduced. However, maintaining a thorough correspondence during the estimating process and working closely with agency counterparts to help calculate a budget can go a long way. I knew that our first estimate would be much more than they hoped to spend, but that document helped the agency put a number on what their client was requesting, even though the agency also probably knew it would be too high. With all of the documentation and correspondence with local production companies in our back pocket, it was easy to have an educated conversation with the art buyer about the potential fluctuations in the estimate, and help them understand that there were many ways to reconfigure the project once a certain budget was determined…and thankfully the art buyer was able to explain to their client that they’d have to offer up some flexibility on their end to make it work as well.
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