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Do you have to be part of the union to get your rates paid

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#1 Scott W Warren

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:45 AM

Hi, my name is Scott and I am new to the forum but not new to steadicam operating. I just had a simple question. I have been doing steadicam operating now for about 4 years and have never once had my rate paid at what I think I deserve. Do you have to be part of the union for respect for your rates. Sometimes I feel it is this way or it could just be the market that I am in.

Let me start off by saying that I am in Salt Lake City Utah and am one of 2 steadicam operators in the state with a professional rig. I fly a Actioncam Red Rebel Pro system and have put extras into my package. I feel like I am a really good operator. Not the best because I know there are guys out there that have been doing this for 20 years and I am still learning everyday.

Right now I can't even get anyone to pay over $250 a day for me to fly my steadicam. The boom operator is making more then I am. I am finding it extremely hard to even find work here because I keep telling people no on that rate. Even the Film commissioner said don't dip on your rate so I haven't but now I don't even get phone calls. My guess is I need to get out of this state and find a better home to do steadicam operating.

So funny story I was asked to do steadicam operating for a feature film for $50 a day here in the state. What are people thinking. Maybe people here in Utah just don't understand the type of money you spent on training and equipment plus the fact that it does take a ware on your body running steadicam.

Suggestions please. I think I all ready know the answer to my question, but wanted some good input from all you professionals out there.

I am thinking about moving to the bay area for a while. Thoughts?

Thanks

Scott W Warren
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#2 Lawrence Karman

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:21 PM

Union membership does not guarantee you will get better rates for Steadicam, but if you can get yourself on a union production then you can potentially make more than $50/hr rather than your aforementioned $50/day as a regular camera operator. There are no set rates for Steadicam operating in the Basic Agreement, however if you were to get on a Union production, the likelihood is you would be offered a better rate than what you have quoted here, plus potentially health benefits. While the Bay Area is a great (and expensive) place to live I would advise heading to an incentive state where there is much more production work. Good Luck!
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#3 Michael Maga

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 12:25 PM

Hello Scott..
As far as equipment rental rates..
You rig is not a pro rig compared to the ones that the majority of "pros" use.
You are comparing a 25k-ish rig to operators that have over 100k invested... and
as such you should not expect to get near the same rental rates they do..
On a non union show you cant expect to get paid what the union guys are making..
producers know they dont have to pay that rate...and wont... they will try to be as cheap as they can.
That being said, $250 for your rig rental and your labor for a day is terrible...
On a 8 hour day that would be like $150 rental, and $12.50 an hour to operate...
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#4 Scott W Warren

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:48 PM

Michael,

I am not trying to defend my rig or anything but if you rig can fly the same camera that other rigs can and you can put on the same equipment why can't you consider it a pro rig? Just a question. I can fly any camera on the market fully loaded with my rig and put any components on it. I have worn pro rigs as you say and my rig and they feel and can do the same thing. Just asking. I know I didn't spend $100K on my rig, but I have put into it around $50K. Are we talking just the name that makes it professional? Thanks for the message.
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#5 Janice Arthur

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 02:34 PM

Scott;

There is a guy here who has your set up and it seems to work for him. He goes out for any job that his rig will hold and he thinks he can get.

He's put in his time and gotten beaten up a bunch on low-budget stuff and in short paid his dues.

Now its up to his reel and his ambition to see what producers will pay for. I'd say figure out a market that works for you and start out withh the "big-boys" and see what you can get a producer to pay you (i.e. work your way up). If his/your gear isn't good enough or breaks a lot then it will be obvious.

If you get some work and figure out you want/need to buy different gear then great, you'll be doing what we all did too.

Good luck and yes, you need to get paid more even if you had a flyer!


Janice
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#6 JamieSilverstein

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:00 PM

Scott;

The other thing you need to realize is that if you are working on a union show, your MINIMUM rate is an hourly, which in the states outside of the eastern corridor is above $50 per hour.... as an operator. In the eastern corridor the rate is even better. That does not include any additional increase for the challenges of operating a steadicam, and it does not include the rental of the equipment.

So if you are asking if you'll make more money if you were working on a union show, the answer is most decidedly yes. If you are asking if you'd make more money merely by holding a union card, the answer is not necessairly.

In moving to another, more union friendly state, you have to think about where you have connections, how busy that state and area within that state are, and finally if there is enough work for you to come in an be able to succeed in building a career, and making money in a reasonable amount of time. To my knowledge, which is limited regarding this part of CA, the bay area is a small market, with plenty of man power locally available. Other operators who live closer and are more intimate with the area can give you a better assessment. If that's the case, you might want to consider another location. One with betters film incentives than California offers.
One way or another, good luck
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#7 Janice Arthur

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:21 PM

Jaime;

You're way too nice. All you said is true but I say to all new guys, "Go to California."

"Don't come to my town, no work, too many ops."

Kidding but kind of really.

Janice
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#8 Osvaldo Silvera SOC

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 03:57 PM

Hi there Scott,

Each market is totally different. but In my opinion here in the Southeast, your reel is what will get you work. Not what rig you have.
I've been asked maybe just MAYBE 3 times what rig I own by a producer or person calling on the phone. ....in 16 years of operating....
And when they did ask, I actually took notice, because for me in my own personal experience, never get asked that... and none of those calls for work ended up in....work.

You may be in such a small market that they just don't understand what the steadicam op is worth.

You can try and pitch yourself as the human tripod, although I don't recommend that.
You could say that you'll save them tons of time with dolly set ups and that in turn will get them done faster, or get more set ups done in a day, although its not true,
Dolly's have their place for certain shots, where Steadicam also has it's place, they are both tools, both priceless tools when used properly to move the story.

Work on your reel, showcase your reel. advertise yourself. Maybe a local University film program has some very enterprising young students in te graduate program who have a great idea that could benefit from you being part of it. You in turn will gain some great work for your reel, and you will be in the mind of budding young filmmakers about to branch out on their own....network network network!!!.
Enough rambling for me...... off I go.

best,
Ozzie
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#9 Michael Maga

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 04:17 PM

Scott, I am not trying to say anything bad about your rig...
If you can fly the same camera, great.
But if we are talking about professional operators that are sucessful and get top rental on the rigs..... how many union operators
in Hollywood show up to day play with an Actioncam? I cant even think of the
last time someone showed up and didn't have a preston...
Does that mean the bartech sucks? Not at all. It just means most of the top
operators prefer preston. When you get to a certain level, you
invest in the best equipment you can get your hands on... and your rental should reflect that.
Does a Ferrari rent for the same price as a Honda? Doesn't mean Hondas are bad cars..
Ferrari's just perform better and cost more.
You asked about rates, and this is part of it.

And NO, we are not just talking about names. We are talking about how the gear actually performs..
If you have flown a PRO arm and your arm performs exactly the same...
I think there would be a lot more Actioncam arms being used.
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#10 JamieSilverstein

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 08:59 PM

I sort of agree with Michael, but then again, many amazing shots have been made with 3A arms and sleds using Seitz follow focus units (any of you remember Seitz?). Great equipment is just that, great equipment, no excuses can be made. But can Tiger Woods hit a ball 300 yards with steel shaft clubs from Sears? Yep he can. Great operating be it in golf or in steadicam wins out.
If you can make the rig that you have work for you in all situations then your reel will speak for itself. I for one need all the help that I can get, so give me the carbon shaft titanium head suckers and I might just be able to get 250 yards out of it, with the wind...... and a good roll..... and a swift kick up the fairway.
You've gotten a lot of great insight from this thread. Some really good people chiming in good ideas.
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#11 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:19 PM

Do you have a reel we can see? If saying no isn't working are they skipping steadicam? Are you going up against the other operator and he's getting the jobs?
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#12 William Demeritt

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 11:24 PM

"No" is the most powerful word in your vocabulary.

The equipment is an important component of this discussion, but I'd like to recommend that the problem seems to be rooted much deeper. Even if you had a GPI-PRO or XCS or Ultra 2, or better yet had 2 complete sled packages, plus Preston plus $15,000 in cables, plus batteries, cart, shipping boxes, etc... $150,000...

...do you still think you could negotiate a better rate than $250/day?

If I were hiring in Utah, and I didn't know Actioncam from an eBay bought chinese rig from an XCS Ultimate 2, what about my hiring you makes you worth more than $250? Maybe Steadicam will save my day, but should my day be saved? Is my production yours to save? Furthermore, when you work for low rates, do you think you're making your way towards a better rate? Will better gear really help? More often than not, better gear that you owe money on makes you more desperate for work, at any rate.

"No" is the most powerful word in your vocabulary.

You must do everything possible to insulate yourself from the problems associated with declining a job. If "no" had no drawbacks, you'd use it more often. You need to negotiate every job like you could walk away with no qualms. In every negotiation, the person who can walk away holds all the power. Be that person, and if there's work to be had, then you'll get your rate.

Of course, the other question is: does Utah have enough work to keep you working? Is the market such that you can get your rate?

EDIT: also, if you are saying no, what are you doing to try and get clients that will say yes? Are you networking with the shows that are in town? Do you have other connections to that work? How else do you advertise yourself or try to access the gigs you hear about?
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#13 Victor Lazaro

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Posted 12 February 2013 - 09:49 AM

This seems like an extremely low rate. It's actually bellow my non union AC rate.
Lets say you turn down a job at this low rate. What will happen? Is there another operator that undercuts you? You may want to go talk to him. Rising both your rates will benefit the both of you. Are the production going without Steadicam at all? Then they might not even need a Steadicam in the first place am you will end up doing the human tripod for the day.

I noticed something interesting that the lower your rate the less you are respected on set and the more crap you get at the end of the day.

As said before have the power to say no to a low rate. They may struggle on one shoot without you then when they failed their plan B will come back to you and accept any rate.
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