Just like buying or renting equipment, cables and accessories, expendables are another cost we have as sound mixers. Typically, we only think of batteries as expendables, but there are other items as well: overcovers, Joe’s Sticky Stuff, Moleskin, medical tape, etc. Basically, anything that can be used between one and a handful of times before being discarded is considered an expendable.
Lavaliere windscreens and caps can also be considered expendables, because they’re easily lost.
Every production determines what is an expendable. In some productions, even NP1 batteries or headphones for video village can be considered expendables, so it’s a flexible concept.
So, expendables are a cost that should be passed on to production. If you’re one- or two-day job, don’t add it as a line item, but you can have a calculation, just for you – for example, you can add up every wireless device (Comtek receiver, wireless lav, camera hop, etc.) and multiply the total by, say $3. The final figure would be your daily cost of expendables. On a typical single-camera production that amounts to $20-50 per day.
If you’re on a multi-week job, then production will either purchase what you need every week, or you’ll provide them with receipts for a refund.
If you’re dealing with an inexperienced production manager, you can show them all the gak that’s collected and trashed at the end of the day, and let them know the price of various items (tape, stickies, Lithium batteries, etc.)
Just like you buy equipment, data cards, cables, etc. you may think that it’s the cost of doing business, like paying for electricity, but producers know that they’re costly, and that they should compensate you for that.
On the other hand, there’s always someone who charges for a roll of tape on each production just because they can. Both extremes are wrong.
It helps if you don’t see Production as an adversary. If you find batteries or tape cheaper, and you can save them money, do it. They’ll appreciate it.