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Lighting designer fee

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by willbb123, Jan 16, 2009.

  1. willbb123

    willbb123 Active Member

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    I've searched the site but the only thread can find ends with a PM.
    I am a 19 year old college student in Iowa. I work as the Lighting supervisor at a professional theater. I have had no school training as a LD but I worked with the old LD at the theater and have done shows by myself. The shows I that I designed my coworkers and the Executive Director has even said how much they love my work, and have said how much better they like my designs better then our previous LD (who went to college for lighting). After the last show mutable audience members have came up to me and said how much they enjoyed the lights (never had this happen before and never expected it to). I really hate when people compare my designs to the previous LD. The only thing that I do different is take the time to refocus and hang specials.

    I have been asked to design lights for a local community theater. The show is at a children's museum which has a small theater space. I used to volunteer for this group, as a board op or spot op. But now theater lighting is my main source of income, and I will probably have to take time off from my other jobs to work for them. Because of my history of them I am willing to give them a discount.

    The director and I haven't met yet, but we have been talking via email. My last community theater show I got 200. After he asked how much I wanted I said "I would be happy with 300 but I am willing to talk about it depending on the show and the time required." Honestly I would be fine with 200 again, but of course I would like more.

    So, CB, my question is how much should I charge for this community theater. Also sometimes groups will not pay for me with the rental package at my theater (that really sounds weird but I don't know how else to explain it... ...I'll have a number 3, hold the LD... :neutral:) So I would also know how much you guys think a normal rate should be.

    The thread I saw he got PM'ed and I'm fine with that, so if you don't want to post feel free to PM me.

    Thanks in advance
     
  2. theatretechguy

    theatretechguy Member

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    You've got to break the job down to hours and figure out "what you're worth" for your time. That being said, since you're 19 you're not going to get the same as somebody who's been doing it for 10 years, even though you might be better than they are. Fees vary depending on how long I'm physically in the theater : watching rehearsals, attending production meetings, tech rehearsals and any performances I need to attend. Also be sure to take in account the gas you're using to get from point A to point B, any fast food or extra expenses you may incur. You'll quickly find that $200 doesn't amount to much per hour, but its the experience, and building a portfolio you're interested in here. It also helps if you have some idea of what their budget is, what they are charging for admission and their expected profits. If they're going to be breaking even or even operating at a loss, don't expect there to be much extra cash.

    If $200 sounds reasonable to you and you can live with that, then so be it. However, don't be afraid to ask for more if you feel it's not sufficient. Personally, after re-reading your post, $200 doesn't sound like nearly enough, especially if you're asking for time off from another job for it.
     
  3. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Are you just putting a light plot on paper for some one else to hang, focus and operate?

    If that's the case and you're working with less than fifty fixtures, $ 200.00 sounds about right.
     
  4. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Go with $200. You are young and need the experience. I paid to do shows at your age (college), so be happy that you are getting paid at all.

    Mike
     
  5. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    Yep, the first paying design I did was when I was in college. $250 to light Fiddler -- which I was super happy with, because I wasn't used to getting paid anything. It also was a landmark show for me, the one where I broke out from The Method, and liked what I did.

    You're young and new to the industry and need the exposure. If you can get your name out there and get paid 200-300, that's wonderful. Goodness, right now I'm lighting a show at a community theatre for free (nobody gets paid there, all volunteer). I do it because I enjoy it, not to get paid.

    I remember an LD who lit a show at the college (we had a season of guest LDs) talking about his normal design rates, and it was something on the order of $1500. These are designers who are well-known in the area, but not people like Tony Tucci.

    If you can get $200, that's great. Do it.
     
  6. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Just for illustrative purposes, the MINIMUMS specified in the United Scenic Artists Local 829 agreement: LORT Rates.pdf.
    [EDIT: Direct linking not allowed. Go to United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 and click on "LORT Rates 2005-2009." Or see the attached.]

    For the other side of the story, see this thread: http://www.controlbooth.com/forums/lighting/6384-i-want-lighting-designer.html.
     

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    Last edited: Jan 16, 2009
  7. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Have you ever met Tony? I love him. I got to ALD for him a few times. Once at Ballet Arlington. He is a great guy.

    Mike
     
  8. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Yup, I am not a member of USA (I can't justify the expense right now) but there are many professional theaters that are not members of the LORT that will pay $3000-$4000 for a show. There are also concert gigs that pay that much for a one off. Of course then I know designers that will do that one week and then do a local $750 show the next and then a $1000 one day corporate event the next.

    That is why I have a rate schedule.

    Mike
     
  9. willbb123

    willbb123 Active Member

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    I will be doing it all. And honestly I dont expect to have a crew to help me with hang/focus.
     
  10. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I still say you should count yourself lucky you are getting paid at all. I hung, focused, cued, ran, and struck my first show with no crew, and I paid $900 to do it. *lol* Oh, the racket colleges have.

    Mike
     
  11. GreyWyvern

    GreyWyvern Apollo Staff

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    I agree. Any money is good. My suggestion would be to take what you can get. However, don't do the job based on how much you are getting paid. Go for it and do the best job you can. Prove to them that you are good and are worth more than what they are giving you and they might just be able to "come up" with more money for you.

    Good luck.
     
  12. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    No, I've never been that lucky. But I did work at The Hall a few years back, and our TD there had brought his own color box that was named Fort Tucci. There as a cool story behind it, though I forget what it was.
     
  13. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Oh man! Tony is a great guy. One of his apprentices was one of my mentors in lighting. I am only one step removed from Tony (and Stan McCandless for that matter). I picked up a ton of stuff from him (including some great gigs). He is such a great guy.

    Mike
     
  14. willbb123

    willbb123 Active Member

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    Yea, I've worked plenty of late nights and not gotten paid for it. But if the show is a success then it is all worth it. Honestly I am still not used to being payed for my gob at the theater, I had volunteered for them for about a year and then they hired me.
     
  15. jufam44

    jufam44 Member

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    My chapter president of IATSE recommended, at least for smaller theaters, a rate not less than $79 per hour worked. That having been said, You're obviously not going to get that unless you're unionized (are you?) Figure on maybe a third of that if being paid hourly. If you're going for a flat fee, figure out how many hours you're going to work, and divide that by the amount of time you're working to get the hourly rate. if it's less than 10, you're being taken advantage of.
     
  16. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    :shock:

    79 bucks per hour?!? Wow. On the last community theatre show I worked, I calculated that I spent a total of 108 hours in the theatre just during a 7-day tech week, not counting breaks for meals and such - meaning the hang, focus, and cueing session, as well as all the other tasks which are bestowed upon a community theatre LD. According to my calculations, that would give me a paycheck of approximately $8,532, and that's before you figure in watching rehearsals, drafting, reading the script, meetings with production team, designing at home, and all that good stuff.

    And they say jobs in the theatre don't pay well.... ;)
     
  17. jufam44

    jufam44 Member

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    Yeah, but you're unlikely to get anywhere near that unless you're working in a stadium or other sporting arena. Usually I'll get between 35 and 40 hourly. If you work in a place long enough, you'll get close to 6 figures annually as compensation for your work. Theater jobs can pay well... :)
     
  18. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    That all depends, you have to factor in the exposure, the photos, the experience. I did some community theater gigs in college that I know I made less than $5 an hour at, but I still did it because of the experience and the fact that it led to other opportunities.

    By those standards, anyone who goes to college to become a lighting designer is getting taken advantage of.

    I make in the $50/hr range now mostly, but when you are first starting out, $10 an hour would be great!

    Mike
     
  19. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Hahahaha! Of course that comes from an IATSE presient. I worked a ton of ME jobs where I did not get $22.78 an hour.

    Mike
     

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