The Per Finished Minute Rate MYTH

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What is with this per minute rate I keep getting asked about?

Of course I get phone call inquiries about how much a video will cost based upon project scope. It’s to be expected. But, occasionally, I will get the dreaded “What is your “per finished minute rate” question. It never fails to amaze me. Because there is no such thing.

“Hi Jim, I love your work, so I was wondering what is your per finished minute rate?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have a per minute rate.” I always reply. “Production costs are not based upon time, but resources needed for completion. If you were to tell me a little more about your project- ”

This always results in the caller cutting me off mid sentence as they lecture me about how every firm has a per finished minute rate. Yet after a dozen years in the business I have never worked with, or known, any firm that has a per minute rate. Not one. Period.

Now some of you might be asking “What is the per finished minute rate?” The mythical per finished minute rate is “the cost per minute you can expect to pay for finished video.” For example a per finished minute rate of $1,000 would mean that to create a five minute video about your product or service would cost you $5,000.  i.e. 5 x $1,000 = $5,000. Now you might also be saying “That sounds like a wonderful formula!” And yes, it DOES sound like a wonderful formula. You simply decide how much money you want to spend and find the best per minute rate and hire them! But unfortunately, it just isn’t that simple.

If the per minute rate held any water then every movie made in Hollywood would cost exactly the same. After all, most movies are two hours long. So why is it that some movies cost tens, even hundreds of times more? Because the length of the movie has little bearing on the cost. It is the resources that it takes to create the movie. Video is no different.

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I’ll give you an example to illustrate my point. Let’s create a one minute video of your resort hotel. I could sit one of your clients down on a sun chair and film her talking about how much she loves your resort. She could give a wonderful testimonial for 60 seconds. Just her talking, nothing else. Boom! We’re done. Cost for that one minute? Peanuts.

Now instead of this boring “talking head video” let’s make this a video people will remember, and one that will have people calling your resort to book a room: As the woman is talking in the exact same 60 seconds, we add: a helicopter aerial shot of the property showing off the gorgeous grounds and amenities, and crashing waves on the beach. We then cut to scenes of the couple golfing, cut again to scenes of them having a romantic dinner in the restaurant, she and her husband are dancing afterwards at the nightclub, we see room service delivering them breakfast in bed the next morning illustrating just how romantic the night before was. We see the woman plunge into the pool and an under water camera shows her swimming in slow motion to her waiting husband who embraces her. Meanwhile the kids (what kids?) are having a great time in the arcade and hotel staff is pampering their every need, leaving Mom and Dad to have a great time.

By now I am certain you are saying “I get it, Jim.” As you can see that the length of a video has nothing whatsoever to do with what it took to fill that time. It is what happens DURING that time that determines what a project will cost due to the resources it takes to capture those images. Filming all those extra shots will take considerable time, planning, and execution, and YES expense. Yet the piece would still be the same length. So the length has no bearing on the cost.

I hope this helps to clear up a lot of the expense mystery of high level video and film production. Else this it just my 600+ word way of telling you not to call me and ask what my per finished minute rate is. 🙂

Cheers!

Jim