I am a commercial, music video and film director with visual effects art direction experience.
I've worked on a number of Guillermo Del Toro's projects now and the big difference between him and other director's who's vision I've helped bring to life is his vision. When after a number of iterations he still isn't seeing what he imagined infront of his inner eye, he'd visit the art department during the visual development process and start painting over stuff in Photoshop. On the spot. Guillermo not only cares about details but has something specific in mind that he's aiming to communicate. What sets him apart is how successful he is at minimizing that gap between the thing he conjures up on the inside and the final product we get to see. That's movie magic.
I fully encourage to give talented people a chance at something they're passionate about. An illustrator who wants to be a matte painter, a 3D artist (cg lighter) with an interest in physical lighting (gaffer), a photographer dying to become a cinematographer etc. Since you already know that they have succeeded in their original field and they really want to do an outstanding job at the "next" thing, you can give them the chance nobody else is willing to risk. Plus, who wants to join your team as what they already do professionally and work for free or at a discounted rate. Hard to motivate an actor who has proper imdb credits and gets "real" job offers that pay the bills, to come onboard and do a fantastic job. Even if your script rocks, they know that your budget won't do the production justice in the end. So, think outside of the box when "befriending" your crew and finding your cast because a hard-working talented individual who believes in your vision is worth more than the premium artist doing you a favour.
It's hard to start budgeting at the beginning, especially if you really want a job but consider that if you quote too low, your client will not only think less of your skills and treat you that way but you'll probably end up not enjoying the work halfway into the project, unless there's some type of deeper connection. Meaning, unless it's driven by passion, set your price above the threshold that you think would make it worth doing it. Underbidding one thing might make you hate the job while you'd be happy to do another one for free. If it takes extra motivation to tackle a task create yourself a financial incentive.
As for numbers, think about each project broken down into tasks even if you're a one man show. Writing, storyboarding, directing, lighting, camera operation, editing, visual effects or grading, etc. Just because you're multi-skilled doesn't mean these come for free. Aim for indutry standard pricing within three years:
Cinematographer/Videographer $1000 per day
Gaffer (lighting) $450 per day
Grip $450 per day
Camera Assistant $400 per day
Swing / P.A. person $250 per day
Sound Person with gear - $650 per day
The other positions needed are more of a creative crew nature like Assistant Director / Production Manager / Hair & Make Up / Wardrobe / Art Director, and pricing is rather flexible depending on region. A good visual effects artist or editor for example is between $650-1000 per day.
When you start out, split these rates into half due to lack of experience and then increase them after each successfully completed job! Equipment is the same. An Alexa is around $2000 per day, a RED half of that and if you got your own professional gear like an URSA Mini, TERRA or Bolex D16, you might be able to squeeze $500 out, but shooting on your own DSLR should probably not cost extra.
When you put together your budget, basically figure out how many days you'll need to prep, shoot, edit and do post. Associate each 8 hours of work to the equivalent day rate, like $500 per day for the filming but only $325 for editing. Then add other expanses such as transportation, music licensing and equipment, if applicable. If the final number covers your costs and makes you happy in exchange for the time it takes up from your life, you're done.
However, this is all subjective and a crued simplified exploration. Please, don't shoot me. I'm just trying to help. It would be a tremendous resource to have an anonymous database like Glassdoor for our industry. Sorted by location and kept up to date. Someone get on that! New Linkedin feature?!?
Give it to someone you don't like :D made me laugh out loud. Your comment is good and has valuable advice but your reel on your profile page is even better!
I think we're doing this all to ourselves. Everyone complains about how horrible the latest blockbuster is but by going to the movies to watch it you just fuel the evil machine and in the long run kill your own projects. Power to the people, so to speak. Without us there would be no Dredd, Deadpool, Moon, Ex Machina, Pan's Labyrinth, etc.
What Matthias said! The most versatile battery powered affordable lighting: Aputure
That said, using white boards, diffusers, flags and all that from the Dollar store will help. Shower curtains etc. Maybe buy batteries off of Ebay at 1/4 of the cost.
If you're shooting interior, you've got way more options at a lower price tag. Stay close to power outlets? Otherwise, I second Matthias' notion about a camera with low light capabilities such as the a7s2