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Dishonorable Productions


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#1 Larry McConkey

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 09:34 PM

A Heads Up about another in the increasing occurences of dishonorable conduct from production companies.

I have been happily doing dayplaying every week or so on Ugly Betty and it has been a great deal of fun. Each time I was booked by the Production Coordinator through my agent and although the call times were often changed at the last minute and I was never informed by Production about the change, and often not about the call time at all, the stellar camera department filled in the details for me and I always got to the right set at the right time. As far as I know, it was a mutual love fest.

Several weeks ago, before the Xmas break, I was booked for two and subsequently three days this week on the show. At the end of last week my agent reconfirmed with the Production Coordinator. My parents both suffered unexpected health problems and I rushed up last week to help them with all the details of hospital stays and surgery, along with my brother Jim, but my father returned home and then my mother was released from the hospital yesterday, so I made the trip home today in time to get the equipment ready for the job the next three days - and these details don't really matter, but I spent a great deal of money, more than I would be making on the job, to rush home because I had made the commitment to work on the show.

Tonight I called the camera department to get a heads up on the call time for tomorrow and was told that they were informed that another operator was booked for the same three days! The "explanation" was that he was interested in doing the show full time next season and the Production Manager had heard that neither I nor my brother Jim (who had also been dayplaying when I had a conflict) were not. My agent had only expressed both our interests in doing the show, however, and I had never said I was not interested, but this is really beside the point! I was booked for three days and then, without even informing me, the Production Manager decided to book someone else. My agent called the coordinator who had done the booking who confirmed that I had indeed been booked, but then the Production Manager claimed that the coordinator never did the bookings (she had ALWAYS done the bookings), so there really had been some misunderstanding.

My problem with this "confusion" is that it is too convenient, obviously not true (did I just happen to show up all those other days without being booked and got paid but was never booked??) but more important, is indicative of a growing attitude to disrespect individuals in this business and regard them as mere chess pieces to be manipulated in the grand game of advancing the studio's interests. There should be honor among individuals in this society. It is the fabric that holds us together. To make it always and only about money and advancement, regardless of what is the right and honorable thing to do is indefensible.

Enough of the high-handed rhetoric, but the bottom line is beware of bookings for Ugly Betty... it can become ugly. I was really shocked when my agent informed me that the Production Manager than said she had a couple of days next week and would I be interested???k!!@!!!!!

Let us all strive to stick together and keep each informed of what is happening in the industry especially as we enter these turbulent economic times.

As a footnote, I just got a call from my agent saying that the Production Manager, who still claims I was never booked, now told her that they will pay me for two days! For work she still claims I was never booked for.....and she didn't understand why my agent was disturbed about what was going on!!!

Peace,

Larry
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#2 Rob Vuona SOC

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 10:12 PM

A Heads Up about another in the increasing occurences of dishonorable conduct from production companies.

I have been happily doing dayplaying every week or so on Ugly Betty and it has been a great deal of fun. Each time I was booked by the Production Coordinator through my agent and although the call times were often changed at the last minute and I was never informed by Production about the change, and often not about the call time at all, the stellar camera department filled in the details for me and I always got to the right set at the right time. As far as I know, it was a mutual love fest.

Several weeks ago, before the Xmas break, I was booked for two and subsequently three days this week on the show. At the end of last week my agent reconfirmed with the Production Coordinator. My parents both suffered unexpected health problems and I rushed up last week to help them with all the details of hospital stays and surgery, along with my brother Jim, but my father returned home and then my mother was released from the hospital yesterday, so I made the trip home today in time to get the equipment ready for the job the next three days - and these details don't really matter, but I spent a great deal of money, more than I would be making on the job, to rush home because I had made the commitment to work on the show.

Tonight I called the camera department to get a heads up on the call time for tomorrow and was told that they were informed that another operator was booked for the same three days! The "explanation" was that he was interested in doing the show full time next season and the Production Manager had heard that neither I nor my brother Jim (who had also been dayplaying when I had a conflict) were not. My agent had only expressed both our interests in doing the show, however, and I had never said I was not interested, but this is really beside the point! I was booked for three days and then, without even informing me, the Production Manager decided to book someone else. My agent called the coordinator who had done the booking who confirmed that I had indeed been booked, but then the Production Manager claimed that the coordinator never did the bookings (she had ALWAYS done the bookings), so there really had been some misunderstanding.

My problem with this "confusion" is that it is too convenient, obviously not true (did I just happen to show up all those other days without being booked and got paid but was never booked??) but more important, is indicative of a growing attitude to disrespect individuals in this business and regard them as mere chess pieces to be manipulated in the grand game of advancing the studio's interests. There should be honor among individuals in this society. It is the fabric that holds us together. To make it always and only about money and advancement, regardless of what is the right and honorable thing to do is indefensible.

Enough of the high-handed rhetoric, but the bottom line is beware of bookings for Ugly Betty... it can become ugly. I was really shocked when my agent informed me that the Production Manager than said she had a couple of days next week and would I be interested???k!!@!!!!!

Let us all strive to stick together and keep each informed of what is happening in the industry especially as we enter these turbulent economic times.

As a footnote, I just got a call from my agent saying that the Production Manager, who still claims I was never booked, now told her that they will pay me for two days! For work she still claims I was never booked for.....and she didn't understand why my agent was disturbed about what was going on!!!

Peace,

Larry


Hey Larry,
that's messed up and sorry to hear that. Although it may indeed be a misunderstanding or a miscommunication, your assessment is absolutely correct, we all do need to keep each other informed.

Something sort of similar has happened in my circles and without going into details, phone calls were made between us operators and a plan was hatched behind the production coordinators back making him look bad in the end. That show should be honored to have you and the operator that took the days should have inquired as to who was on it in the past and why they aren't doing it for those days and then contacted you. At least thats what I do, If I'm filling in or day playing, I make sure the current operator and I are on the same page.


Thanks for the heads up

Hope your parents are doing better

All the best.
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#3 RonBaldwin

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 10:21 PM

holy shiite on a stick Larry -- I'm so sorry to hear about your problems and the bs in the office. I heard on my way out today that you weren't coming in this week and didn't know why (Jonny Mac was upset about it). Glad they at least will cover a few days but it's still bs. Very sorry about your parents and that you left them to be here and here's not happening.

Ron B
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#4 Larry McConkey

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 10:31 PM

Thank you Rob, but to be clear about this, the operator replacing me had no knowledge about this whole thing (we have talked about it on the phone) and he also made a trip to be here for the three days. There may have indeed been some miscommunication, but it was convenient miscommunication which has clearly been going on as standard operating procedure - a "fog of war" that allows for maneuvering without having to be upfront about it. At best, a very sloppy way to do business. In addition, clearly my agent has been given contradictory and shifting verions of what has happened. There have also been such striking contradictions that clearly somebody or somebodies are lying - and that is something I can't stand. I understand changing your mind, shifting schedules, making mistakes, having miscommunications, but what I cannot condone is lying about this. I don't mind anything done or said as long as everyone is honest about what they are doing. I want to be able to take people at their word. That should happen no matter what the circumstances.

Larry
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#5 Larry McConkey

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 10:33 PM

holy shiite on a stick Larry -- I'm so sorry to hear about your problems and the bs in the office. I heard on my way out today that you weren't coming in this week and didn't know why (Jonny Mac was upset about it). Glad they at least will cover a few days but it's still bs. Very sorry about your parents and that you left them to be here and here's not happening.

Ron B


Thanks Ron. I don't care about losing the work, only about how it was handled. Thanks for your concern.

Larry
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#6 Mike McGowan SOC

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Posted 26 January 2009 - 11:21 PM

I like and agree with the concept of always asking who you are replacing and why when you day play. It would solve many problems if everybody did that.
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#7 Larry McConkey

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 06:26 AM

I agree. But again, this wasn't a case of being replaced - they are trying to find an Operator/Steadicam Operator to work the next season fulltime. Apparently the PM doesn't think I would do that if offered it and is more hopeful someone else will - they may have done this completely by accident, it is hard to figure out really what the motive would be otherwise, but what I can't stand is they not being upfront and honest about what happened... it seems more and more productions are run on the belief they can and should do whatever it takes to get the best deal from everybody, especially crew, and try to devalue crew members to just a commodity. At least in this case they are willing to give me two days payment, which is the right thing to do (even though they "never booked" me) - so in the end I am not losing out financially, but I have to wonder if someone else in my place might have...

I am really ranting about the overall slide this business seems to be taking towards devaluing people whenever possible and making decisions based on what looks best on a spreadsheet instead of what actually gives the product value. I know this incident doesn't fit perfectly into that description of a declining system, but one component of this decline is the growing disregard for honesty and integrity.

The single most troublesome component is the long, long hours without serious additional compensation to help control it, especially with ever later call times during the week which result in crewmembers staggering around inefficiently and sometimes dangerously. It rarely makes sense except on a spreadsheet, and almost never in terms of treating people with care and respect. Quite often I see fairly simple setups becoming long, complicated affairs because everybody is too tired to function well, but that doesn't show up on those spreadsheets!

The most telling aspect of this decline has been the consistent advice given to a young friend of mine who has become interested in the business through his relationship with me. I began taking him along to jobs and introduced him to my fellow crewmembers explaining that he was very interested in getting into the business. They have all said the same thing without hesitation or exception: "Don't do it!!" Now that is really sad.

Larry
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#8 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 10:34 AM

I am really ranting about the overall slide this business seems to be taking towards devaluing people whenever possible and making decisions based on what looks best on a spreadsheet instead of what actually gives the product value. I know this incident doesn't fit perfectly into that description of a declining system, but one component of this decline is the growing disregard for honesty and integrity.


Hi Larry, you really hit the nail on the head here; production, the studios almost all businesses across the board are now controlled by and large by people in accounting, risk management and lawyers. It's coming from the top down but ultimately the leaders and heads of companies are being driven by an ever increasing layer of middle-management whose sole job description and tools include the dreaded spreadsheet and creating another layer of "corporate policy".

It hasn't happened overnight and it's not just our profession. My wife is Director of Interior Architecture for one of the largest casino / resort companies in the world and she's seen her profession and department's creative work become commoditized and micro-managed as well. Their company is struggling and had layoffs last year. At a time when they all need to be working and focusing on greater productivity and improving the guest experience, about 1,000 staff members spent most of yesterday filling out and signing some BS "Violence In The Workplace" paperwork. Not a single line of the 100+ pages was anything more than common sense. After her staff signed it, then she had to sign each of their forms to confirm they signed it.

Honest, integrity and common sense has left the building!
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#9 Brant S. Fagan SOC

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 02:56 PM

Gents--

I can sadly only echo these developments.

My experiences of late also mirror Larry's situation and this was on large budget shows where one would think, there would be a line item for decency.

People in positions of authority seem to have risen to that level by making the numbers work no matter what the end product's dimension or quality.

Case in point; right before the holidays, I signed on to a local tv pilot in Boston which was shot by a famous DP from away. At one point in the run of the show, he asked me to act as Second Unit DP and shoot some inserts, pickups, etc. without his direct supervision. I graciously accepted and moved out on his orders. After reviewing my work at dailies the next day, he noted his pleasure at my work and promised more since it looked great and saved the show time and money. Three days of work like this had gone by with both the DP and Director's blessings when the Executive Producer got wind of this process and freaked out. He stated he would not pay me more nor allow any more Second Unit work since this hadn't been approved by him and should not have happened without his consultation or approval. The DP defended me all the way and I just kept my mouth shut. The line producer, a local whom I have worked for in the past stood by and watched the fireworks by said nothing either way. The end result of this was less "uprated" work for me and lost time for the production.

Did I mention this was all shot exterior in Boston the two weeks leading up to Christmas? Ten days of freezing cold rain sleet and snow for a minmum of fourteen hours a day?

It is sad when people are too interested in their numbers to step outside the office and see what actually happens on set during production.

Production folks truly ought to realize that at the end of the phone into which they bark is a live human being deserving respect and compassion, just as they would like done to them.
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#10 Henry Gelhart

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Posted 29 January 2009 - 10:32 AM

The most telling aspect of this decline has been the consistent advice given to a young friend of mine who has become interested in the business through his relationship with me. I began taking him along to jobs and introduced him to my fellow crewmembers explaining that he was very interested in getting into the business. They have all said the same thing without hesitation or exception: "Don't do it!!" Now that is really sad.


Hello Larry,
yes you are right; it is sad.
Now see... he is young (so I am) and I guess he loves the job like everybody else here and he really wants to get into the business, so of course you support him and motivate him.

Welcome to the modern (friendly) world, were people say "Hey new guy! Don't do it"

So! Be happy and I hope your parents are feeling better!

Henry
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#11 Amando Crespo

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 12:49 AM

:angry: :angry: :angry:
It´s the same for me at my last work.....Well... It´snt the last, because the film....is still alive...!!!.
Well, I´m gonna introduce the situation and the problems.
This film, "The Sindone" (IMDb), directed by Miguel Angel Fabre is a perfect example of attempt from swindle to the Spanish goverment helps to the filming industry.
My rates, very high...for our industry... (A camera/ steadicam, is 24.000€/month). But... Are you worked in a film without 1st director assistant?...Or withput script?.... 69% of the crew are in the academy still....!!!!!!, and they need the permissions from the producer not to attend to the academy....CRAZY CRAZY...
The tricks are in the spainish laws...."You´ve a legal crew.... actors.... camera....tech crew...." and you made and show only the trailer.... You can secure the subsidys of "Culture Minister..." No problems if the movie never ends.... You must only to pay all the crew.... and show the bills at the Ministerium...Whatever most spensives invoices you have....BETTER!... Moore helps you´ll get...
The film, the art, the ilussions....Are for nothing....ONLY THE MONEY IS IMPORTANT.
:( :(
Time....
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#12 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 11 February 2009 - 04:28 AM

Whatever most spensives invoices you have....BETTER!

I'm waiting with much anticipation for the day a producer says that to me!
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