if the price is right

I was in a meeting with a director friend of mine over another documentary project he asked me to help him write. I accepted the job because, unlike my current documentary that I’m working on now, the load is lighter and I’ll mostly be doing post work. I don’t have to be at the shoot and I just have to help structure and write voice-overs.


behind the scenes but still hard at work — it is time for me to push beyond the shadows and into the light (an unintentional photo taken of me during the interview process of “Letters to the Future”)

It’s not easy work, all writing is challenging, but it’s a good learning opportunity for me and will give me a second documentary to put in my filmography. He’s even lined up screenings already abroad in the United States and in the United Kingdom, so it will be helpful for me to get my name out there.

Again, it’s great for my resume and it’s a chance for me to learn the ropes in making documentaries. This will be good for me.

While we were talking, he asked me what my rate would be to write a script for an indie film he found a producer for and I gave him my price. He was shocked at the rate I gave him but it was in line with what other people said the going rate would be. He had thought that it was much smaller.

I explained to him the economics of a screenwriter’s job.

He told me that when another friend of ours found out we working on a documentary together, he said my friend asked, “How could you afford Wanggo with your budget?”

I was surprised by that story. I thought I had always under charged for my services. It’s a low self-esteem thing. I always think that I’m not good enough as all my contemporaries and I have quite a bit of demands (like my seven hours sleep requirement, the fact that I write in English and need help in translating my work to Filipino, etc) and a filmography that isn’t as extensive as other writers.

I didn’t think I was expensive. And when I found out that my quoted rate is equivalent to the lower ranges of what other industry professionals told my friend, I felt that I was one of the cheaper writers out there.

But you know what? I’m glad people think I’m expensive. I still get work. I still get a lot of work. And people still negotiate my price and I’m open to lowering it for the right client or collaborator. But I think it’s a good thing that people don’t think I’m cheap. It means when people come up to me, they are willing to pay good money for my services or they really believe in the project and think their project is worth asking me to lower my price for.

And if the project is good and meaningful, why not?

I’m good. I’m not the best but I work hard and I have my strengths and my unique point-of-view. I have something to offer and I’m glad people don’t think it comes cheap. The image of my price should keep the people who aren’t serious about the work or the work that we could probably do together away.

I still get work. And what I do is not easy. I want to get paid what I’m worth and as much as I was surprised by this story, it pushes me to fight for my worth.

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