Another Art Producer Jumps Into the Estimating Conversation. Thank you Ashley Thompson of R&R Partners.

As I mentioned in a previous post about estimating, more and more, both art producers and photographers a like ask the same questions when it comes to estimating.  Art Producers are interested in how other art producers are handling the process, what challenges they are facing and how they are handling them.   Photographers are feeling more and more in a vacuum and alone when it comes to the process and often do not have resources they can ask the questions they have.  I have posted these questions before but still think they are relevant.  Thank you Ashley Thompson,  Art Producer at R & R  Partners for your insights.

1) How often are you asked to triple bid a project?  And, is there ever is a clear first choice, do you let that person know they are the recommend?
About 95% of our clients require us to triple bid all production projects. The only time we don’t triple bid is when the creative is very specific and requires an artist with a particular style. The first choice is usually determined by the creative team and who they feel would execute the project the best after reviewing estimate details with them and having creative calls with the photographer. We typically let the person know if they are the recommend.

2)  Sometimes after a photographer bids a job, they will not hear back in regards to the outcome.  Can you shed some light on why that may be?
Once a job is awarded, production typically begins to move very quickly. Although we try our best to follow up on every bid, due to the fast pace, we can sometimes forget.

3)  We all know there are many reasons for a photographer not getting a project.  Besides the obvious of price or creative, can you share some other reasons that they may not be awarded a project?
Our Art Directors and Creative Directors prefer to have calls with the photographer and their teams before a job is awarded. If our creative team feels a disconnect with that particular photographer, we will often them not award the job to them for that reason.

4) What sort of things are you dealing with on your end to get an estimate approved?  We all know it is not always as easy as presenting a photo estimate for approval.  What other things could your client be considering at the same time that could hold up the process?
There are a few key factors that may lead to a longer approval time on estimates. Once we (the Art Producers) receive an estimate, we have to mark it up and add in any agency travel, time and additional agency expenses before presenting to client. We have also learned that production estimates are usually not just approved by one client. Typically, an estimate needs to be shown and signed-off on by multiple clients before we receive final approval. We also like to loop our creative team into the approval presentations so they can show the recommended photographer(s) portfolios and style guides.

5)  Do you share budgets when they are available?  Why or why not?
Definitely. We may not have time to negotiate estimates through multiple rounds. Giving the budget up front allows anyone submitting a bid to understand all parameters and submit more realistic and competitive estimates. However, our clients don’t always have budget parameters in mind and prefer to see what that particular execution will cost.

6) What is your client’s/agency’s policy surrounding advances on projects?  What do you do as an art producer to help facilitate that process?  And, what can a photographer do to help it along as well?
As an Art Producer, we understand the importance of advance payments (especially on complex and large-scale projects). We make a point to include a note of the advance payment amount and when that payment is required in all estimates to clients for approvals so there are no surprises. Our company advance payment policy is either 50% of the overall estimate amount or 75% of the production expenses only.

8)  What misperception about the estimating process from your end would you like photographers to have an clearer understanding of based on your experiences?
Our clients want to see best and lowest estimates up front. If a photographer can’t make the budget work, we prefer to know that in advance. We would prefer that any savings come from other line items than production expenses as we don’t want to risk the creative being compromised.

4 thoughts on “Another Art Producer Jumps Into the Estimating Conversation. Thank you Ashley Thompson of R&R Partners.

  1. Though I now teach in southern California, I produced still and video production for over 30 years in the Rocky Mountain West. I used a comprehensive 22 page budget spreadsheet only slightly modified from a Hollywood motion picture budget form. It was so comprehensive it allowed me to budget very precisely once any sub quotes (e.g. for printing, editing, rentals, etc.) were in hand. Bottom line was I knew within a few dollars exactly what the project was going to cost me to produce if the project description and scope were accurate. When drafting the final quote I made no real effort to be the low bid but to bid so that if I was awarded to gig I made a fair profit. If requested I could give multiple quotes based on changing parameters or additional work that was either requested or seemed to me like it might add to the quality of the production. But I refused to lower the cost of my base quote since it would necessarily entail compromising the quality of the finished deliverable by compromising and I would rather not get the job than to get in in such a way that I could not, to my own satisfaction, deliver a product to equal any other producer. My reputation for delivering high quality on time and on budget was far more important to me than any individual gig.

    On big projects I used a phased contract, i.e. 1/3 upon acceptance, 1/3 upon plan/script/proof approval, and final upon delivery. I saw no reason to become a large company or agency’s bank. Since I had money in hand before production started I would often go to crew members who hated but were used to being strung out until the producer/photographer was paid, and offer them partial payment in advance and final on delivery for a good rate. Very seldom was I turned down. If the contingency amount were not required and if I saved significant money in other areas I would alert the client before the final payment was due that there would be a reduction. They were stunned at that. But I was usually on the call list for the next gig and since that saved me marketing efforts and costs — which I despised — it all worked out well for all of us.

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