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TV rates and some producers new tactic!


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#1 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 03:22 PM

Very long (sorry), but very important:

Guys, a DP that I have worked with for 10 years got a new TV show several weeks ago and, as usual I was called and "booked" for it.
I did not hear from production for a few weeks though and two days ago, final got the call.

They wanted to pay me only operator scale on non steadicam days and then only about a $15 an hour bump for steadicam days.
Further, they do not want to rent my steadicam for the usual weekly rental but rather on a day to day basis.

They claim they don't plan on using steadicam that much.

We did not agree to that unless they guarantee 2 days minimum of Steadicam per week and the Steadicam days are paid at a daily hourly rate since it's a "day playing" scenario.
Of course they balked at that and wanted a lower "combo" rate even on a day-playing situation. We had to explain to them a "combo" rate is made because it's a guaranteed rate for all 5 days a week whether steadicam is used that day or not, and is not a day playing rate.
Further we had to explain that you don't rent camera, grip and electric gear on a day to day basis as used/needed, if it comes out of the rental house and is on the truck it's on a weekly rental, whether that light, lens, or dolly track is used or not.

They still refused, and to add insult to injury they stated, "if after the first 3 weeks we use steadicam more than expected, they want to renegotiate the rate.????
Of course that's not kosher, because how many times have we all been told "there isn't going to be too much steadicam" only to use it everyday on multiple shots a day. We of course could never go into a producers office after 3 weeks and say, "I want to renegotiate and get a higher rate because I feel we are using the steadicam too much."

And the last part is the worst part.
I've been this DP's "A" camera/steadicam operator for 10 years.
They actually called him and said, "we are thinking of making Michael the "B" camera/steadicam operator" and the DP said, "what? why?"
And they said, well because this way we can have him on a 10 hour day and cut him after 10 hours to save money since he'd be the higher paid operator.

Well of course that did not go over well with my DP saying, "that does not work for me and how I plan on shooting this show."

I get a feeling because of this, and because I am, once again, unwilling to take part in any precedence that will DIRECTLY hurt me and my fellow steadicam operators income and careers by stooping down to a terrible offer, they are, if not already calling around town to find an operator who WILL accept this offer!

Please guys, I've been doing this career for over a decade and I've always stood up for us ALL and I've turned down many, many jobs over the years for the betterment of us all and our hard working technically difficult jobs, only to have somebody low ball and take the job, hurting us all.
This tactic (and I was told another show tried it) is the latest and one of the most hurtful and ridiculous to come up.

So if you DO get a call for a new TV show with this camera operator rate with no guarantee for steadicam with no weekly rental, and a combo rate for day playing offer, please, please TURN IT DOWN.
We have all got to band together guys, it doesn't work if only a handful of us stand up for our jobs and our compensation for what we do.
As they say, we are only as strong as our weakest link. And the weakest link is the guy who sabotages everybody else by accepting a bad offer that could be made more ridiculous 3 weeks later if/when the producers decide they want to change (renegotiate) your deal. And further potentially circumvents the DP's ability to hire who THEY want and who is THEIR best choice to be their "A" and "B" camera operator.

Sadly I'm between a rock and a hard place here. I have turned down bigger and better projects over the years (Dexter, Grey's Anatomy, Halloween and many, many others) to be loyal to my DP and work on the shows he's on, even if that's only a 6 week movie that was paying less and those many shows I turned down led to other movies or 4-5 years of work on the respective shows. I feel, on precedence, I can't accept the current terms this producer wants, and in doing so feel like I'm letting my DP down. Though he said if it comes to that he FULLY understands.
At the same time, if I were to accept this subpar deal, I am not only letting myself down, but I am hurting the future of all of your jobs and therefore sabotaging myself and you all. Neither do I want to do.

I am truly hopeful these producers will see the importance of the "A" camera/Steadicam operator to the DP and their show and realize that in the interest of getting the best possible product, they'd pay a fair combo hourly rate and weekly rental for the steadicam that has been the established way for a long time now.
This way all would be happy and hopefully nobody else will have to go through this again.
But if that ends up NOT being the case and they are in fact calling around for other operators today, tomorrow and this weekend, I'd hope all of you LA locals would realize how bad this deal is and how hurtful it would be to other operators and simply say, "thanks but no thanks, I can't work for that kind of a deal."

Thanks all.
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#2 BJMcDonnell SOC

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 07:21 PM

Halloween?


I agree that we all should hold together our rates and no low balling. We only hurt each other by this. I've heard many accounts of this going on. I've even heard of people giving the gear for free just to get the job. Come on guys REALLY?! I know that alot of new guys coming up want the big shows but please guys don't take the bad rate because it causes a snowball effect for everyone. And stand up for the gear you paid for. You didn't pay all that money to get stepped on. Who cares if you are a "A" or "B" or "F" camera operator. We work hard for what we make and lets keep it that way. Especially as a steadicam operator because it is wear on the gear and not to mention your body. Especially in the Television world I hear more and more the producers trying to pay less and less. Don't stand for it.
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#3 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 10:14 PM

Halloween?


I agree that we all should hold together our rates and no low balling. We only hurt each other by this. I've heard many accounts of this going on. I've even heard of people giving the gear for free just to get the job. Come on guys REALLY?! I know that alot of new guys coming up want the big shows but please guys don't take the bad rate because it causes a snowball effect for everyone. And stand up for the gear you paid for. You didn't pay all that money to get stepped on. Who cares if you are a "A" or "B" or "F" camera operator. We work hard for what we make and lets keep it that way. Especially as a steadicam operator because it is wear on the gear and not to mention your body. Especially in the Television world I hear more and more the producers trying to pay less and less. Don't stand for it.


I don't care which camera I'm on personally but I do care when a DP you've built a 10 year relationship with wants you on a certain camera and the producers want to put you on a different camera so they can cut you first to leave the other camera operator there to finish up the day and therefore don't have to pay you even if that other camera operator has never worked with the DP before. That's not right and not in the best interest of the DP or the show.

That would be like the producers telling the director we want to send the 1st AD home after 10 hours so we can save money on his rate and just use the 2nd AD for the last hour or so since he's cheaper.
That was my point regarding the camera. If a DP has a normal "A" camera guy and wants to hire me as "B" op/steadi, that's perfectly ok with me.
I actually don't mind "B" camera on many shows, you get breaks and have time to hit up crafty and drop a deuce.
But I thank you for agreeing about holding up to rate standards and so forth.

An update here too:
From what I've been told they really want to make it work for me, but apparently they are up against a wall budget wise too and "truly" don't think there is going to be much steadicam on the show. I was told there was one steadicam shot on the pilot. So in that regard I can't expect them to want to pay a steadicam combo rate if they are only doing 1 shot every 2-3 weeks. But God knows I don't want to stay on a show where I'm making regular camera op rate 98% of the time and turning down shows that carry and pay the Steadicam and my rate full time either.
So I'll have to see what pans out, but I truly hope this does not become a norm for TV, as over the years I've actually preferred TV work as I get to stay home with my wife and new child and sleep in my own bed, ability to move up to director, and so forth. But if TV is going to continue to erode like it has been for the past 2 years, then I'll have to re-evaluate TV work.

And thank you to those who've sent me emails in support and gratitude, I appreciate it. I truly hope it all works out for the best.
Cheers.
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#4 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 10:40 PM

It may sound overly simple but just decline the job and hope your fellow operators will do the same.

I don't think "they really want to make it work for you"... they just want you to feel better about swallowing their bitter little pill.

You're an established operator so I doubt they'll be happy in the long run trading someone with your experience out for a new guy willing to take a crappy deal; if they do they'll get what they pay for.

Hang in there!

Robert
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#5 BJMcDonnell SOC

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 12:27 PM

It may sound overly simple but just decline the job and hope your fellow operators will do the same.

I don't think "they really want to make it work for you"... they just want you to feel better about swallowing their bitter little pill.

You're an established operator so I doubt they'll be happy in the long run trading someone with your experience out for a new guy willing to take a crappy deal; if they do they'll get what they pay for.

Hang in there!

Robert



Yea Robert but it is funny how I've interviewed on jobs before and the D.P. was all into bringing me aboard and then radio silence. A few weeks later I hear they got a cheaper guy and is giving them a break on the rental AND the rate. I hold my ground and I have a great agent so I let him beat up the producers. So far I've been really lucky getting what I ask for but I have been put aside a few times due to "The Cheaper Guy" crap.

Michael I agree with you that it is lame if they want you to be the B guy to send you home early because you are more expensive. I think that is B.S. as well as other things. Once again we all see it as the producers are trying to push for lower and lower rates. It is retarded. Im not saying that all Producers are slime because I do know many fair ones out there. Make the deals guys and keep up the rates.

And like Robert said it is a simple "NO" answer if they don't want to pay. In the long run they will get what they paid for and it will show. I honestly want films to come back to LA. My house feels like a vacation home now. Im never home anymore.
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#6 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 12:42 PM

It may sound overly simple but just decline the job and hope your fellow operators will do the same.

I don't think "they really want to make it work for you"... they just want you to feel better about swallowing their bitter little pill.

You're an established operator so I doubt they'll be happy in the long run trading someone with your experience out for a new guy willing to take a crappy deal; if they do they'll get what they pay for.

Hang in there!

Robert



Yea Robert but it is funny how I've interviewed on jobs before and the D.P. was all into bringing me aboard and then radio silence. A few weeks later I hear they got a cheaper guy and is giving them a break on the rental AND the rate. I hold my ground and I have a great agent so I let him beat up the producers. So far I've been really lucky getting what I ask for but I have been put aside a few times due to "The Cheaper Guy" crap.

Michael I agree with you that it is lame if they want you to be the B guy to send you home early because you are more expensive. I think that is B.S. as well as other things. Once again we all see it as the producers are trying to push for lower and lower rates. It is retarded. Im not saying that all Producers are slime because I do know many fair ones out there. Make the deals guys and keep up the rates.

And like Robert said it is a simple "NO" answer if they don't want to pay. In the long run they will get what they paid for and it will show. I honestly want films to come back to LA. My house feels like a vacation home now. Im never home anymore.



I agree with you on the producers BJ, I have worked with MANY, MANY great producers that I really adore and vice versa. They work hard to pay fair or even above fair rates to make me and the other crew members happy. But as you said, there are the low ball ones whose only motivation seems to be to get the lowest rate out of people so they stay way under budget and their bonus checks are bigger.

I also would like to see work come back to LA. I've turned down a half dozen movies and TV shows over the last 12 months that were all out of town simply because as I stated above, I like being home (and my wife was pregnant (and now with our boy) it's ten fold the desire to come home at night and see the little smiling bundle of happiness.
I recently took a show out of town for 5 weeks simply because I had been day playing so much (though still staying moderately busy) just to stay in town, but I was starting to fear losing too much work. The iphone 4 and it's Facetime was a saving grace in being able to see and talk to my wife and boy each day.

You guys are right though, if they don't come to a decent agreement I will have no choice but to say no.
If they come to a somewhat acceptable, but still not ideal agreement (no cutting me after 10 hours and a decent rate and so forth) I will say yes but on the understanding I'm gone when another show that's paying full rate and weekly rental comes along. I can't expect every show to desire Steadicam full time, but they have to understand I can't turn down shows that do.
But as the current offer stands I won't accept it and I'd pass not only for me but for the betterment of our camera/steadicam careers.
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#7 RonBaldwin

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Posted 14 August 2010 - 02:39 PM

Just say no. If the dp wants you bad enough he will get you there eventually. Anyone here working for less than $65/hr on network tv should have their thumbs broken and lisagav poured into their eyes. I often have to wheel and deal with the equipment rental (as we all do) to stay at a decent hourly...and be careful of going on weeklies. If you are put on a weekly tell the producer to add $3.50/hr you lose in ot. Do the math. It's like buying a car...they are gonna get the $$ out of you somehow.

Ron
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#8 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 03:32 PM

Well the good news is they were apparently playing hard ball in a big way.
But as of this morning they made the deal.
Full combo rate (actually one of the best in TV in LA I'm told) and full weekly rental.

Persistence and sticking to your guns once again pays off. Thanks again for all those who showed support.
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#9 Bryan Trieb SOC

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 05:32 PM

Nicely done Michael!
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#10 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 10:14 PM

Well the good news is they were apparently playing hard ball in a big way.
But as of this morning they made the deal.
Full combo rate (actually one of the best in TV in LA I'm told) and full weekly rental.

Persistence and sticking to your guns once again pays off. Thanks again for all those who showed support.

Well done Michael,
Next time, tell your buddy the DP,to comply to production and give him our numbers after you have talked to us and we'll all quote them higher and turn them down for ya . . . .

We can play that game too

Congrats, Fly safe
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#11 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 16 August 2010 - 11:10 PM

Well the good news is they were apparently playing hard ball in a big way.
But as of this morning they made the deal.
Full combo rate (actually one of the best in TV in LA I'm told) and full weekly rental.

Persistence and sticking to your guns once again pays off. Thanks again for all those who showed support.

Well done Michael,
Next time, tell your buddy the DP,to comply to production and give him our numbers after you have talked to us and we'll all quote them higher and turn them down for ya . . . .

We can play that game too

Congrats, Fly safe




Thanks guys, and that's a great point Rob and what we should ALL do for each other on jobs where the producers are really trying to low ball rates and rentals.

Be well all.
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#12 RonBaldwin

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 02:08 AM

so please let us know what the best tv rate in LA is so we have a goal to strive for. PM me if necessary. Always interested in what is going on on different shows
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#13 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 17 August 2010 - 05:19 PM

so please let us know what the best tv rate in LA is so we have a goal to strive for. PM me if necessary. Always interested in what is going on on different shows


I don't think it's THE best, just told "one of the higher rates any TV show in LA is paying."
Apparently in NY they pay on average $10-15 an hour higher than they do in LA due to cost of living and such.
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#14 Rick Drapkin

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Posted 18 August 2010 - 11:25 AM

so please let us know what the best tv rate in LA is so we have a goal to strive for. PM me if necessary. Always interested in what is going on on different shows


I don't think it's THE best, just told "one of the higher rates any TV show in LA is paying."
Apparently in NY they pay on average $10-15 an hour higher than they do in LA due to cost of living and such.

Hey Michael,
I just got offered a pilot for HBO with Allen Ball directing( 6 Feet Under,TrueBlood ). They offered a pretty good combp rate for tv $75 /hr , but only wanted to pay $500. per day for the rig. It's only 4 days for the whole shoot broken into 2 different weeks. I have a hard time accepting a job that I want to do, But it's the principal that you should get a normal rental rate as a daily . This is what some producers try to do. If we all accept these "favors" ,this will drive all the rental rates down. As hard as it is to find tv work right now, we have to remain united.I had my agent decline to offer.
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