No matter the size of a production, from a small photoshoot to a feature film, crew members are expected to show up with the necessary tools to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
As a food stylist, those tools could be simple tools that you don’t worry too much about needing to replace, like a six-dollar pair of kitchen tweezers, paintbrushes, or mounting putty. On the other side are tools that are more of a flex with a price tag to match such as a knife or, a kitchen torch for sear marks and toasting meringue or a heat gun to melt cheese and butter. Which is where your kit fee comes in.
Put simply, a kit fee is a flat rate of supplementary compensation your client should pay you for use of your personal equipment or property. Whatever your hourly/day rate for a project, that cash is meant to go into your pocket to pay for your valuable time and unrivaled expertise. Cash spent on rentals and food that’s not going in your own fridge are meant to pay for exactly that. A kit fee, if you choose to charge one (and you should!), offsets the cost of personal materials you use on the job so that you’re not wearing down your belongings for free in order to get your job done effectively.
There is a downside to keep in mind though. Since production is essentially choosing to rent out your equipment if anything breaks on set, it’s on you as production is no longer responsible for broken, stolen, nor lost items, so don’t accidentally leave anything behind!
So how to determine what to charge? A go-to base rate for a kit fee is about $50 USD per week. However, if you’re rolling in high niche equipment and that dollar amount doesn’t seem sufficient, here’s an easy rule of thumb:
Assume that 100 shoot days should pay back the cost of the majority of the equipment in your kit before it begins to deteriorate and needs replacing. You can adjust that depending on the fragility of the items in your kit depending on your faith in the warranties. To calculate a day rate for your kit, negating the less fun expendables like spray bottles, tooth pics, or cheap brushes, add up the cost of all the specialty items, then simply divide the total cost by shoot days. So a kit worth about $6,500/100 shot days = $65 a day fee. This step will ensure you’re not bleeding unperceived costs!
While kit fees are classified separately from actual income, they are still taxable and any 1099-MISC will reflect them as passive income. Best practice to ensure everything is clear come April is to keep (and upload to Lili!) all the receipts for every item you list on your kit fee!