4 of the Best Tips for Negotiating Your Filmmaker Rate | Raindance

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Never confuse what you’re offered with what you’re worth.
– Nelson Millardspeaks.

The UK film and TV industry is thriving. In 2019, revenues hit a record £3.6 billion, an increase of 16% over 2018. Sadly, 58% of people in creative jobs earn less than the average salary. Here are five of the best negotiation training tips you can use to get paid a filmmaker’s rate that matches your skill and experience.

Don’t show up unprepared

Author and professor Marc O. Opresnik said: ‘Negotiation is like sport: Every success is based on training and appropriate preparation’.

Making films can be an expensive affair. A large portion of production costs goes towards labour costs. Companies work hard to get the best services for the lowest price to avoid blowing their budgets.

Unfortunately, this can often mean underestimating the value of a filmmaker’s expertise. When you do your homework before showing up to discuss your rate, you can show how paying for your skills is an investment, not an expenditure.

Here are some great questions to ask yourself to prepare:

  • What are your skills and experience worth in the current job market?
  • What rates is the competition paying people with similar skills and experience?
  • What are the real interests of the other negotiators at the table?
  • How can you create a win-win scenario?
  • How will your work benefit the client?

Focus on interests rather than positions

People negotiate because they want something. What they say they want is referred to as their position. In comparison, interest refers to the ‘why’ behind the request. Differentiating between the two is an important negotiation training skill.

You’ve likely heard of this story already, perhaps in the ‘two sisters’ form. Two chefs are fighting over the last remaining orange. Each insists that they need the whole fruit. Both chefs decide to cut the orange in half. Was this the best solution? Before you answer, let’s look at why the chefs needed the fruit in the first place.

One chef was making a sauce, and the other was making zest. Given this information, who got the better deal? Neither chef did. To make a sauce, you only need the fruit’s juice. Zest only calls for the peel.

Interest-based negotiation seeks to creates win-win scenarios, which is vital for building long-term relationships. This non-adversarial approach also enhances working relationships, which can provide ample opportunities to help you earn a better living as a filmmaker.

Choose your words with care 

Communication plays a critical role in negotiation. What you say or don’t say can impact the discussion’s flow and outcome. Your communicative goal is to make yourself and your position understood without offending the other person. It pays to train yourself to use the best words for the situation at hand.

Words and phrases to avoid

  • ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I hate to ask’ – Your skills and experiences have value. Don’t apologise for requesting what you deserve.
  • ‘I need’ – Sell your values, not your needs.
  • ‘I want’ – Avoid make it about you. Focus on what value you bring to the table.
  • ‘I want more’, ‘I think’, ‘I don’t know’, ‘Somewhere between’ – Avoid being vague. Using precise language increases your chances of getting what you want in a negotiation.
  • ‘The least I’d be willing to take is…’ – Don’t low-ball yourself. Be ambitious but credible.
  • ‘My current rate is…’, ‘I used to make…’ – Don’t kill your chances of increasing your rate.

Effective words to boost your negotiation success

  • ‘I am excited about the opportunity to work together’ – Shows optimism and positivity.
  • ‘If I understand you correctly…’ – Shows you value the other person’s time and are actively listening.
  • ‘Based on my research…’ – Shows that you’ve done your homework.
  • ‘May I have a couple of days to consider your offer?’ – Buys you time to consider the offer and determine an appropriate counteroffer if necessary.

Poor vocabulary choice has more to do with habit than an in-the-moment decision. Find out where your weaknesses are by practicing what you are going to say beforehand.

Be willing to walk away

Walking away from a deal is tough. However, knowing when to walk away is one of the most powerful skills you can have at the negotiation table.

Without enough experience or training, instinctively knowing when to pull the plug can be difficult. Here are a few tips for you to work out when your walk-away point might be.

  • Identify your absolute deal-breakers – In a business populated by talkers, your reputation has significant value. Sacrificing your integrity, morals, or beliefs for a rate is a short-lived victory. Knowing what line you’re not willing to cross keeps your character intact and also stops you from wasting your time.
  • Know your established best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA) – This refers to your next best option if the other person refuses to bargain with you. Walk away from the table if your BATNA is more valuable than the offer on the table.

What other tactics do you use to get the filmmaking rates you deserve?


Laura Jelen is a long-time content creator and editor. Through her writings, Laura brings the best and most important negotiating lessons to a business audience.