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No more camera operators ?


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#1 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 06:26 PM

I'm reading on the AFC site that a association of producers has signed a new agreement so that camera operators would since now be considered as an "option" on a production in Hollywood.

Both the ASC and SOC, as well as local 600 would be reacting.

The french operators' association AFCF says is interdependent.

What do you Hollywood guys can tell about this ?

http://afcinema.com/...id_article=3519
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 07:15 PM

IATSE, the main below-the-line union, covers everyone from grips, electricians, editors, camera people, art department, etc. Their new contract with the producers' guild eliminated the mandatory camera operator position as a concession to the producers.

Since it only affected the camera local (Local 600), which voted against the contract, the rest of the locals for the most part voted for the contract, since the elimination of the operator requirement didn't affect them. And since the camera local is part of IATSE, it had to accept the new contract. I'm waiting to see how this plays out.
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#3 Josh Bass

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 07:45 PM

I thought it was a pretty important position--otherwise the DP has to operate and can't concentrate on all the other DP stuff. . .wasn't that the point of having separate operators? I know a few dudes operate their own, but it's not the norm (on large productions), right?
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#4 Andrew Roddewig

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 08:50 PM

the long and short of it seems to be this, up till now certain productions (Based on size, i believe) were required to have an operator, even if the DP was his own operator. Meaning, there would be a highly paid individual on set, just hanging like a Teamster.
The new contract makes it no longer mandatory that production hire an operator, if the D.P. operates. That makes sense to me, but I also understand how members of the 600 would not like this. It seems very likely that productions will give priority to D.P.'s who operate, since the production won't have to hire a seperate operator.


Of course this is all what i have heard through the grapevine, if anyone has more info please do tell.
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#5 Logan Schneider

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 09:00 PM

I talked to Dan Kneece about this. He pointed out that an operator only has to save 15 minutes a day to justify his position, which easily happens. It's going to be stupid low budget producers that take advantage of this, not realizing that it doesn't actually save money. It's going to be the same ones who thought that HD meant no lights.

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#6 Richard Boddington

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 09:27 PM

A question for you union LA types.

On a major production is the director allowed to be his own DOP and operate the camera?

I've heard there a few "major" directors that do this, how does the union react when the director/DOP/operator are all the same guy?

Another question, can the LA based unions enforce their rules on Hollywood productions being done over seas? If they can?t then why doesn?t Hollywood just shoot every thing where the unions can?t touch them?

R,

PS: My question is not meant to provoke another debate about whether a director should also be the DOP. After all on many low budget indies it's a necessatity not a luxury.
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 11:31 PM

If the show's producers sign the IA contract, I believe the director, if he also is the DP, might have to be an IA member. I notice that Peter Hyams and Steve Soderberg are both listed in the Local 600 directory as members.

I don't see a big rush for directors to start doing their own DP work though -- most of them find the job of directing time-consuming enough. They already work longer hours than the DP!

Since more and more shows with any budget are going towards a 2-camera shooting style, while it seems to make sense for the DP to just man the B-camera when needed, if it becomes a constant thing, the problem I find with that is that, as the DP, I cannot monitor what the other camera is shooting, plus all my attention gets focused on just the camera that I'm operating. On a single-camera show, especially if it is a small production, I find it easier to operate my own stuff as a DP, but as soon as it becomes a complex production with big set-ups, I prefer to have an operator. And even more so if it is 2-camera show. Plus I can't use a geared head, which is nice for some types of shots.

As for why doesn't Hollywood move overseas, well, to some small degree they do -- look at the rise of shooting in Bulgaria lately. But many other countries also have unionized labor, and many have more restrictive work hours. Plus if you go to a country without a strong filmmaking infrastructure and hire locally, you may not be able to stay on schedule using an inexperienced crew, which can cost you more in the long run. And there are extra costs to shooting overseas of course.

Maybe our definition of "low budget" is different, but a movie would have to be pretty rock-bottom in budget to force the director to serve as his own DP. A camera and sound person tend to be the two basic crew positions you always fill, even on the most basic ENG shoot.

Also, don't assume that all studio producers want to avoid hiring union members and would flee overseas to do so. Yes, they sometimes go to Canada because of residual issues with SAG actors, etc. but they also want to hire certain people for certain jobs. They often want a certain DGA director and a certain IATSE cinematographer and a certain WGA writer, etc.
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#8 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 02:12 AM

The film business is very conservative. Just because it's always been like that doesn't mean it's right. I welcome this kind of change - if a production wants the DP to operate or he himself prefers to (like Roger
Deakins does) then they're now free to do so without having to hire a operator to sit around and feel unwanted.
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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 02:55 AM

The film business is very conservative. Just because it's always been like that doesn't mean it's right. I welcome this kind of change - if a production wants the DP to operate or he himself prefers to (like Roger
Deakins does) then they're now free to do so without having to hire a operator to sit around and feel unwanted.


I don't think that's the problem, because the DP was always free to operate even if someone else had to be hired; the problem is the opposite when the DP may be forced to operate in order to get the job.

I've already listed the problems I would have if I had to operate on a bigger two-camera show, and almost all my shows are becoming two-camera shoots. When that happens, only the director at the monitors can see if the two cameras are framing in a similar way with the same headroom, plus I can't look for any technical problems or other issues from the other camera. The other operator may say that he had a problem and the director, not really knowing what to look for, might say that it was fine and to move on, and then later I get the dailies and see exactly what the operator was worried about, and had I been the one watching the monitor, I perhaps could have convinced the director to go for another take. Plus I lose all that quality time interacting with the director at the monitors, so it becomes just the script supervisor, producers, and director discussing the shots if they are in a different room with the monitors than where I am stuck behind one of the two cameras. Suddenly I'm the last one involved in all the discussions right before, during, and after the takes.
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#10 Dan Goulder

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 04:16 AM

Then, of course, there's Robert Rodriguez, who directs, dops, and ops. Either he belongs to every union, or he works outside the union system altogether (except for using SAG actors). Does anyone know if he belongs to any union?
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#11 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 09:46 AM

Then, of course, there's Robert Rodriguez, who directs, dops, and ops. Either he belongs to every union, or he works outside the union system altogether (except for using SAG actors). Does anyone know if he belongs to any union?



He's in Local 600 as a DP, although I think he joined the union as an operator. He was also part of the Director's Guild, but he quit when they wouldn't allow him to give Frank Miller a co-directing credit on SIN CITY.
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#12 Arni Heimir

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 10:41 AM

Dear Communists and Socialist:

If a producer wishes to omit a camera operator in his payroll and hire a DOP who is willing to do a double duty. Then he or she ought to be free to do so.

However, it is very unwise to omit a camera operator in the production because he or she has honed a skill which is incidentally invaluable to the ongoing craft of film-making.

I, for one, believe that the reason why "The Bourne Supremacy" was such as enjoyable viewing experience for me, was because of Klemens Becker's involvement.

Cordially,
The radical right wing nut in the cinematography.com forum.

P.s. Labour unions have become the new de facto censorship bureau for alternative film-making in the film industry
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#13 Bob Hayes

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 11:54 AM

This is potentially a huge problem creatively, financially, and socially for the US film industry. It was a huge mistake for the other Unions to not rally behind the camera operator a key member of a key department. By creating wedge issues there has been a drastic weakening of many rights and protections through out our country.

Although this seems on the surface to be an assault on the operator it is also an assault on the DP. It forces the DP to do two jobs with out any extra pay. A good operator can save production a lot of time. A good DP can save production hours each day. But to do that he has to be able to see and respond to what is happening on the set. Something that is very hard to do with your eye stuck in a camera viewing system.

Also, when I hear threats of communism and socialism it bring me back to nostalgic times of flag waving patriots like Joe McCarthy or the death of Joe Hill. When greedy selfish men felt destroying the working man made for a better America.
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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 01:21 PM

"When greedy selfish men felt destroying the working man made for a better America."

Naturally I don't think we should go that far, and it's a shame when it happens.

But I've never belonged to a union, or enjoyed the so called "protections" they offer.

I have worked for TV networks where I was a non-union producer surrounded by union technical people. Here's what it was like:

1) We would frequently work on projects past 5pm. At 5pm my hourly rate went to zero, the editor went to 1.5 times. Was this fair? Of course not, but that's how it was. In exchange for this there was an un-written rule that the producers where on their own clock, and could come in late and leave early, so long as the work was done. I was always fine with that.

2) I kept my job based on skill and performance, the union people on the other hand where impossible to fire, no matter how badly they screwed up. Of course this lead to a huge number of guys who only had jobs because of the union protection. They where usually refered to as "lifers", or mangers called them the "dead wood." Fact is these guys knew they could not be fired so they acted accordingly.

3) I was always free to leave any of these jobs and pursue new options at any time, which is exactly what I did, and boy am I glad I did. People who think they need a union to protect them from management also have this same freedom, don't like your job, then quit and find a new one. Non union people do this every day of the week, so why can't unionized workers?

If management treats their workers so badly that people are quitting left, right, and centre, they'll be out of business. This will be their motivation to keep the workers happy.

R,
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#15 timHealy

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 01:53 PM

just hanging like a Teamster.



I wouldn't even go there....

best

Tim
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#16 timHealy

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 02:11 PM

Having worked on plenty of movies with operators I agree that it is a loss to productions not to have an operator. They do contribute to the workflow on a set. At a certain point where a shot has been approved, a DP can move on to lighting a shot with the gaffer and key grip, while the operator can work with a dolly grip and camera assistant getting focus marks and making sure equipment is not in the frame. They can also spend time rehearsing the move with stand ins and checking frame lines with the sound department if necessary.

I think it was terrific that 600 unified against a contract with such great numbers. But unfortunately as part of the Basic Hollywood contract, they had the issue forced down their throats by the other locals who did not support them. I agree with Bobdp1 on that issue.

I also agree with some who think this will affect younger DP's who may not get a job if they want an operator. It probably won't affect established DP's.

As I understand it though from a 600 member, the local's members may have had a hand in weakening the operators position and would be interested in what other 600 members thought. The criticism had to do with camera assistants bumping themselves up to an operator position on a job with a second camera shot when one had not been planned. So instead of calling the hall or hiring an operator, they just take the job themselves. Anyone think that is accurate?

Best

Tim
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#17 Paul Maibaum ASC

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Posted 10 June 2006 - 03:12 PM

"So instead of calling the hall or hiring an operator, they just take the job themselves. Anyone think that is accurate?"

The issue brought forth had more to do with DP's doing their own operating and the union not enforcing the existing contract, the only contract in the IA that had mandatory staffing requirements, i.e. the camera operator.
As the language exits now, in the new contract about to start 8-1-06,
" A. when 2 cameras are used on a television or theatrical motion picture and the Direactor of Photography makes a request to the Local Union to operate one of the cameras, he may do do provided that:
(i) the Producer notifies the local union and the International in writing of the request during pre-production; and
(ii) a Camera Operator is engaged to operate the other camera and is employed at all times the Director of Photography is operating.
B. When a single camera is used on a theatrical motion picture and the Director of Photography makes a request to the Local Union to operate the camera, he may do so provided that the Producer notifies the Local Union and the International Union in writing of the request during pre-production.
C. In either situation described in subparagraph A. or B. above, if the Director of Photography is not a permanent resident of the United States and has not been employed as a Director of Photography under the Local #600 Agreement (or its predecessor agreement) and makes such a request to the Local Union, he may operate the Camera only if the Producer first notifies both the Local Union and the International Union of the request in writing during pre-production and recieves the written approval of the request from the International Union. The International Union agrees that it will not unreasonably deny any request for a non-U.S. resident Director of Photography to operate the camera."

As one can see, item A. refers to both TV and feature production where item B. refers only to feature production. Item C. seems to open up a brand new way of keeping American DPs from gaining employment.
There are also guidlines established by local 600 itself that must be adhered to when a DP wants to operate, i.e. the DP must make the request to operate a camera directly to Local 600's National Executive Director during pre-production and must acknowledge that he or she is denying an operator the opportunity to work, and have a longstanding history of operating a camera under Local 600's feature and television contract. As far as I remember, the only contrac that permitted a DP to operate was the so-called NBC side-letter wherby a DP could operate on certain lower budget MOWs working under that sideletter.
I am am posting this for clarification purposes. I would also like to mention, that at the last General Membership meeting of Local 600 where this issue was to be discussed and where a printed hand-out of the contract language was made available, the turn out was pathetic. I thought with such an important issue at stake that it would have been standing room only, if for no other reason than making sure, as a member of Local 600, one would want to know exactly what the contract language was.
Paul Maibaum
Local 600 DP/LA
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