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International Working Practices


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#1 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 12:11 PM

At the moment the union over here is in negotiations with American studios/producers over working practices, wages and working conditions etc.
The local producers are trying to make our country more competitive with Praque, New Zealand and Canada to attract American productions. In their eyes this means taking a cut in our wages or having us work longer hours for the same money (which none of us want).
Our local producers are citing crew costs in the above countries as a benchmark to which we should be compared, claiming we are too expensive. So my question to the forum is this: is there anybody from the above countries who would be willing to contact me, on or off the forum, so i could compare working practices and rates?
I dont want to get into a whole arguement about runaway production or udercutting im just trying to get some solid background info to provide my union with a counter arguement. Specifically im looking for things like how many hours constitutes a basic day? a basic week? when are meal penalties imposed(if any)? when does overtime kick in? penalties for nightshoots, traveltime/mileage? maximum length to a working day etc. The more info the better.
None of the crew in this country want to be hired because they are cheap: they want movies made over here because of the location, high standard of craftmanship etc. and this is being seen as a direct effort to undermine that by the studios, so any info would be gratefully appreciated.

Cheers,
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#2 IanMcMillan

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Posted 30 March 2004 - 04:22 PM

Hi Stephen,
Haven't seen you on the forum for a while so I haope that means your busy.
I can't speak for the Kiwis but we have the same issues here in Oz. Essentially we work a 50 hr week, 5days by 10. Overtime is calculated on an 8 hr day then 2 hrs @ 1.5 Time. Meal are due every 5 hrs. As with everyone we negotiate our rates so we end up working for around the $30. per hour mark.
The US producers here opt for a 12 hr day, meal breaks after 6 hrs. So far we have managed to resist a six day week. My main issue in hours is saftey. The producers try to keep equipment and facility rentals down by extending work hours. Here in Oz we have no teamsters so Grips Gaffers unit etc may be driving their trucks after a very long day. Workplace saftey laws are actually on our side at the moment so crew can only work a certain amount of time, which is a very good thing. We also don't usually have craft service so after about 4 hours of pushing a rig around I get pretty damn hungry.
Will contact you about this further Steve, but must go to my other job, driving cars at Motor Auctions.
All the best
Ian, its not so busy here, Mc Millan
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#3 WillArnot

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 02:59 AM

Stephen,
It's 2 am and just got in from work so don't want to get started rt now. But very good question. If we are all aware of what the other guy is asking hopefully we all keep the rates where they should be for top quality operators.

Now more than ever there seem to be lots of rigs around, but after 8 yrs i am still getting better. There is no graduation. Here is what i've come to after that time, and conversations with people like Jim McConkey, Andy Casey, Steve Consentino, and Sandy Hayes all here in New York.

$1,000.00 / day flat steadicam equipment package. (focus, video, sled everything)
$140.00 / hr for guaranteed 10 - Features / Commercials
$96.00 / hr guaranteed 10 - Feature combo rate (A or B camera op & Steadicam - Rig @ a 3-day week guarantee
$80.00 - $90.00 / hr for 10 - Television combo rate (cam op & steadi - rig 3-day wk)

TV rate fluctuates the most tho. And certainly sometimes they can't afford it. You have to decide if it's worth it to you. If they don't want to do a combo rate and they want to day play you as the steadicam operator, still get the gear on a 3 day week (they can't just keep it on the truck and not pay... imagine if they asked the camera rental house 'we only want to pay you for the 2nd camera body if we roll film through it!'), work for scale operator rate, then bump up to your Steadicam rate if the rig comes out. That rate would be for the whole day even if it's the last shot of the day that the rig works, it's retroactive. But beware of working as a 'daily' w/ rig when on long term project. You want to go for some kind of guarantee, not just for the gear but @ your steadi operator rate.

Scale operator rate varies from $33 - $63 / hr depending on which contract one is working under for the particular job. If no contract, be Vigilant! If you've got the goods they will pay.

To those not working at these rates yet, be mindful of your potential worth. It's a very taxing job at which our health and physical ability are not unlimited. We are all responsible for keeping the bar where it has been for a long time already.

Ok so you got me started. Prob have missed some stuff. V. tired. Nighty nite.

Will
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#4 JamieSilverstein

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Posted 31 March 2004 - 01:30 PM

Stephen;
I think that more importantly than the rates that Will quoted, you should go to the Iatse 600 cinematographers guild web site and look at standards and conditions for a bench mark of what we have. Similarily you should be able to get contracts from the Iatse INternational web site too.
These contracts cover the United States and Canada.
Thank you for your interest in contracts. Its time to stop fighting each other about runaway production and start getting together and demanding similar conditions for all film workers world wide. That should be your rallying cry when your union gets together to discuss wages and conditions. If they start to downgrade your contract in any way, that becomes the beginning of the long and terrible slide. Stand firm and demand what you as film workers deserve, reasonable hours, reasonable wages, and reasonable conditions!
Good luck in negociations
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#5 WillArnot

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 12:35 AM

Yes, in my mild delirium last night I knew I was not answering the question properly. But I hope the info i gave is a good point of reference for some.

As Jamie so rightly suggested, seeking out the details of our contracts here in the US is obviously the place to look for your answers. It is a dangerous trend that you allude to Stephen. I was up in Toronto a little while ago being fitted for my Klassen vest, and did some networking while there too. I got the distinct impression that Toronto was most certainly not the flavour of the month anymore. Now that the crews have come to expect higher wages etc. due to the high demand over the past couple of yrs, productions are rapidly headed towards the cheapest labour... ie Romania - Cold mountain ...

Gotta run. Shots up

Will
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#6 Stephen Murphy

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 04:09 AM

Thanks for the great response guys. Ive done some searching on the net based on your recommendations and i've found quite a bit of info that should help us. For anyone else thats interested here is a link to a "Working Practices Worlwide" document that Geoff Boyle has set up on his Cinematography.net website: it gives a basic overview of working practices worldwide:

http://www.cinematog.....ours v0.2.pdf

I also found the agreement that Jamie mentioned on the Iatse site: www.iatse.com
which should prove very helpfull.

Will, I think you're right about this being the begining of a dangerous trend. The message we are being given is that the producers want access to the crew for any 11 hours in any 6 consecetive days, day or night, with no meal penalties, no night shoot penalties, no overtime on the 6th day, an obligatory hour prep and wrap (unpaid) and very reduced (almost non existant) mileage and travel!! Another worrying trend is that more and more produtions are shortening their shooting schedule but without reducing the workload: a 10 week shoot becomes 8 and a 16 week becomes 13 etc etc. the studios still get their movie so they are happy but we have to work dangerous hours and never get to see our families. The unfortunate reality is there are countries where this is acceptable practice, and production dont seem to give a shit if the crew or the work suffer just to save a few quid. Ill stop ranting now:)

Is their anyone based in Prauge: id still be curious to hear what kind of hours/deals you guys are being forced into?

Thanks again guys
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#7 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 11:39 AM

I just want to say something, the rates that Will quoted are the "Michael Jordan" rates. Meaning these are top rates for top operators on top level shows!
This is why SO MANY people are "getting into" Steadicam and why so many people who don't really care about the job are buying rigs.

Not to conflict those rates Will, but people have to be clear, there are VERY few, and I mean VERY, VERY few people who can command those rates on every show and by no means is that "standard" around here
I don't know of anybody short of Chris, Mark, Jimmy, etc that get $140 an hour on features. I also don't know anybody on a TV show making $90 an hour everyday. Maybe a dayplayer from time to time

Here in LA rates have come WAY down in the last few years, mostly due to "Runaway Production" and the flood of operators here.

Most guys now get OFFERED a rate that's about $5-10 above standard operating rate and rentals of 2.5 to 3 day weekly rates. If you don't like it, they find someone else. Producers don't call up much anymore and say, "what's your rate?" They say, "Hello, we'd like to check your availability on...we have such and such in the budget...is that okay with you?"

I personally don't know any producer that pays a Steadicam operator on a feature or TV show twice the scale operator rate. Again, maybe a dayplayer from time to time, or a $80+ million dollar budget. I have gotten $90 an hour as a dayplayer, but it's rare they use dayplayers or features and TV shows.
The guys I know here with 10-15 years of Steadicam experience are getting A LOT less on the shows.

Most shows (features and TV) the "A" or "B" Op will also be the Steadicam Op. and I know of A LOT more shows where the Steadicam Op. is getting only a few dollars more per hour than the standard dolly Operator, than I do shows where there getting over $75 per hour. You take it or leave it in this town, there's ALWAYS and especially now with this flooded market here in LA, somebody willing to work for the few dollars above scale rate. They're struggling to get by and have to to pay rent/mortgage. The view/idea of so many people that Steadicam Operators make a bunch of money is off base. It's like actors, there's the top percentage who make a bundle, but then there's a large percentage who do pretty well, and a large junk who struggle to make ends meet and take other jobs to get by. There are more of these guys then guys who make tons of money.

If you live in a town where there's only a handful of Steadicam Ops. you can command those rates. But here in LA where there's probably a couple hundred, maybe/probably MORE, they just move onto the next guy if you turn down the rate.

Sorry this was so long, I just wanted to clear up those things so newbies don't get on this board and go WOW, they make that much...I'm going to go buy a rig and become a Steadicam Operator tomorrow! That will give them the COMPLETELY wrong impression. And it takes A LOT of hard work along with talent, and the right personality to make it in this position. Probably more so than any other.
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#8 David Allen Grove

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 01:22 PM

Not to conflict those rates Will, but people have to be clear, there are VERY few, and I mean VERY, VERY few people who can command those rates on every show and by no means is that "standard" around here

I did one day of steadicam on a union show last september. The producer was frantically searching for a steadicam operator because they forgot to tell their steadicam op. They were unbable to reach their guy.
So they called the union and got my name from the availabilty list.

The producer calls me and says, "We need a steadicam operator NOW are you available?" I said sure but it will take me around 10 minutes to get my van loaded and another 20 to get to set. She was about to hang up and I said, we should probably talk about rate. I said my rate is $1,500 and she said, "hmmm, I guess I don't have a choice do I?"

This was for the PBS show "American Family" I guess this is a lower budget union show? I think the steadicam rate on that show was like $4000/week with a 3 day week rate on gear. I was VERY LUCKY to get what I got.

When the producers are desperate, some how, the money magically appears. :)

I think it's about time the union has a strike! I mean a big strike. I heard rumors that our union hasn't gone on strike for 70 some years?!?!?!?!??! Is this right?
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#9 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 02:08 PM

I think it's about time the union has a strike!  I mean a big strike. I heard rumors that our union hasn't gone on strike for 70 some years?!?!?!?!??! Is this right?

Right now striking is not the answer, Unless you want zero production in LA.

From the sounds of it David the Union hasn't worked out for you. But it's been good to me. In the last 3 years I can count on both hands the number of non-union days that I have done. 99% of my work is union and yes at times I wish we had better contracts but overall the union has done well for me.

I personally don't know any producer that pays a Steadicam operator on a feature or TV show twice the scale operator rate. Again, maybe a dayplayer from time to time, or a $80+ million dollar budget. I have gotten $90 an hour as a dayplayer, but it's rare they use dayplayers or features and TV shows.


Depends on the show. I dayplayed a TV series that wrapped 6 weeks ago and they worked me 3 days a week and I was Getting $100/hour plus Rig and it was for a VERY cheap company... Right now I'm doing the same thing dayplaying on a feature. Those deals are out there it just takes work to get them to give it to you. It also helps when the DP fights for you and you have a good realtionship with the directors.
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#10 WillArnot

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 05:34 PM

Yes, steadicam ops can be a dime a dozen nowadays. But the question is do they want a steadicam or do they want YOU? Let's not forget that the camera operator can be an amazingly influential position. It is a very delicate political line to walk between the DP, the Director and the actors. But one that can greatly enhance the efficiency of a shoot and help set the overall tone on set. You are the connective tissue often between all the departments and people working very hard to put a good product in front of the lens.

"Operating Cinematography" - written by William E. Hines is invaluable to understanding the role of the operator from bygone days, but still absolutely pertinent to today. The 'myth' of steadicam is gone now, it's just another tool with wich to move the camera, and as an operator I think it's important to realize that. It takes several yrs i think to get beyond just the physical mechanics of operating the rig, to get to a point where you are really contributing to the shot rather than just being a dolly (or not) that bleeds.

The point is that Steadicam is everywhere now. It's an integral part of most productions. But it doesn't mean that it's any easier to be really good, or that it should be any cheaper. It is still a highly specialized role that takes many yrs of practice and dedication, and personal investment. I know of several people who have bought full set ups anticipating great rewards, only to sell their investment at a great loss a yr or two later.

The line between the Operator and the Steadicam guy is so different now. Remember, we used to just get hired to come in and do one or two shots and then leave, having made vastly more than the on set operator. These are fairly bygone days but not to be forgotten, as the producers get more and more of what they want, and the worker bees giving them great product get less and less. Ie. the combo cam op / Steadi role. YOU MUST stand up for your compensation. I understand the dilemma in somewhere like LA where the market is so saturated. There's also a shitload more work out there than NYC tho.

I will leave you with a story I love about a cam assistant who moved to San Fran as he was transitioning into shooting. He got a call to shoot a commercial and they asked his rate and he quoted a couple of hundred bucks over his AC rate. Let's say 700 for the day. They said thanks, we'll call you back. Nothing.
Same company calls about 2 months later, different people, and ask same question. This time he says confidently w/out hesitation, $3,000.00 for the day.

They hired hiim on the spot.

I love working B-cam/Steadi, simply b/c I get to watch the really good A-guys do their thing. I am more in awe of their skills than anything. The operating is only half of it.

Will
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#11 WillArnot

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 05:46 PM

The other point I neglected is that you get what you pay for. Any project looking for a good operator isn't going to be fishing around in the $700 / day pool. Producers know what's what, when they need someone good they will pay for it. God knows they ALWAYS come up with the $ somehow as David pointed out.

If you believe you're not in the league then you aren't. I'm sure Michael Jordan didn't just wake up one morning and all of a sudden dunk from the free throw line.

W.
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#12 David Allen Grove

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 06:46 PM

From the sounds of it David the Union hasn't worked out for you.  But it's been good to me. In the last 3 years I can count on both hands the number of non-union days that I have done. 99% of my work is union and yes at times I wish we had better contracts but overall the union has done well for me.

Eric, glad to hear the union has been good for you!
Although, I was kidding about the strike (sort of). (I forgot to add a smiley face)

I don't know how long you've been in the union but it hasn't been quite 2 years since I've joined and to be honest I wasn't expecting to get a lot of work right away.

I've talked to several union steadicam ops and many have told me it took a number of years before they got their name out there and really started working a lot on union shows (the person I was refering to earlier was actually not a camera operator but an assistant, not that that makes a difference..or maybe it does? hmm.)

I'm in that akward transition phase between non-union and union shows. It kind of feels like going through puberity again except I don't have pimples, the squeeky voice or the growth spurts.

I'm also in the union's mentorship and Job coaching programs which, I think, will prove to be helpful to me in the near future. My current mentor, Russell Carpenter, said that it just takes time and that he thinks that I'm on the right track. The mentorship and job coaching program is for anyone that is in the union no matter how long you've been a member so if you are in the union, take advantage of it.
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#13 David Allen Grove

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 06:52 PM

Producers know what's what, when they need someone good they will pay for it. God knows they ALWAYS come up with the $ somehow as David pointed out.
W.

:)
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#14 David Allen Grove

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 07:20 PM

It also helps when the DP fights for you and you have a good realtionship with the directors.

I'm on good terms with a director that I worked with last year on a short. It was a low budget short- referal type of thing.. so I gave them a deal. The director really liked my work and we got along really well so that led to a REALLY good paying steadi gig on a reality promo that he directed which he also really liked.

Of course the Producer of that short only seemed to have the same amount of money for me for his next project.

Funny how that works huh?

Even worse....
One time I worked on a super low budget short and the director, again, (different director) really liked my stuff.. the producer calls me 6 months later and has a music video that needs steadicam.. it's for alanis morissette. I thought, oh cool, a good paying gig.... Producer "We need a steadicam operator and you did a really nice job on the movie so I thought I'd give you a call first." he pauses, "The only thing there's.... no pay" I said, You're kidding me right?" I said, "no sorry I can't. He said, "oh, hang on a second................I guess the DP just found a steadicam operator that will do it. We'll call you for the next one." uh, huh.
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#15 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 01 April 2004 - 08:54 PM

Will,

I agree with a large part of your responses.

However, I think there's a fine line between some of the points you made.

Thinking you are the greatest op out there and telling a producer that calls that your rate is $1000 a day rental and $110 an hour when you've been an Steadicam op for a few months isn't going to get you the job. And if it does, you'll probably do more harm than good to yourself once you show up and they SEE you aren't worth that much.

I agree with your points about the political line and cohesiveness of a good operator to the DP and Director. That's why in my first response I said, the role of the operator, and especially the Steadicam operator needs to be a great mixture of talent and personality. You can have a crappy personality and work as a grip.
But do that as an operator, or Steadicam op and you'll quickly be replaced.

Rates don't determine talent necessarily. And only in a small number of cases will it get you the job.

Of course, a producer who has a budget of $700 a day for a Steadicam op isn't going to expect to get Jimmy Muro.
But a producer who pays a guy $2000 a day WILL expect to have someone near that caliber.

My point was that the rates you specified were high and I didn't want to people to get the delusional idea that those rates are "standard" on shows.

Like Eric says, you can get $100 an hour as a dayplayer on a show, if you push. And that's what his AGENT did for him. And the more power to him for that.

But, as I'm sure you are well aware, there's many times MORE operators out there making less than $100K a year, then there are making more than that! I know of guys who haven't broke the $50K mark and they've been operating for 6-7 years!

As for Michael Jordan...well remember he didn't start making the big money until he proved himself and was in the league MANY years by that point. There will always be standouts and there will always be dreamers and people who THINK they are standouts.

I personally know I do a great job, I'm confident of that, but I don't pretend to be Jimmy or Chris and don't ask or fight for their rates either. When asked I ask for what I think I'm worth, as I'm sure everyone does.


And David, I have to agree with Eric. Strikes don't do ANYBODY, ANY good. Striking now and asking for MORE money in a time when budgets are being slashed and jobs are going away would completely kill all of us.
Personally, I'd like to follow in the LA Firefighters footsteps and agree to a current pay rate freeze for the next 3 years after our current contract expires. This will let the producers know we are doing what WE can to keep the jobs local and might just do exactly that. The more work, regardless if it's at a rate that hasn't changed in a few years, the better for all of us!

Michael

P.S. Will, I hope you don't think I'm being confrontational in my responses. I don't want to come across as that. Sure I'd love it if we could all have "minimum" rates that were above union scale all the time, and get $1000 a day rental/ $3000 a week rental on every show, but the reality is, that's a smaller percentage than the shows that offer and budget for less, often quite a bit less. And as stated before, people (especially the newbies who are in the deluded state that all Steadicam Operators make $100, $200, or even $300 thousand a year) need to know that's just NOT the case.
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