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Ripped off and never payed


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#1 Aaron Biller

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 02:33 PM

I was recently part of a non-union crew working on a small independent
feature. Not a single member of the crew was ever payed and the
producers have literally disappeared and there seems to be no way of
contacting them. As a student I am happy to get pretty much any job
that comes my way, I'd much rather work than be doing nothing at all,
so in that sense, yes, I benefitted from the situation. But, I do feel
like we shouldn't allow people to do these things, they will just as
confidently just do it to the next group of guys just trying to catch
a break. This project took up a month of 20 peoples lives and i do
feel like they deserve to be compensated especially when that was the
agreement made from the beginning,

Has anyone ever dealt with a similar situation? I would greatly
appreciate any feedback on what I may be able to do. Thank you for
your time.

Aaron Biller
1AC/2AC/Loader -LA


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#2 Ayz Waraich

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 03:03 PM

Wow. Good luck trying to get the film distributed while trying to hide from everyone involved. This makes about zero sense to me. Unless they meant to make the film for private viewings only, and to pass down as a keepsake to family members. Then it's brilliant.

I hope you find them Aaron. Good luck.
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#3 Niki Mundo

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 03:20 PM

I've done this to cast and crew a few times on shorts, not on purpose. It's been done to me.
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#4 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 05:45 PM

I've done this to cast and crew a few times on shorts, not on purpose. It's been done to me.


WOW! We have an honest response! Not because it has been done to you makes it OK to do to other people, mind you. This has been done to me once and I NEVER passed the buck to anyone else.

Having a verbal or written agreement to pay ANYONE who works hard to make their project come to life and not fulfilling their end of the deal is the worst thing anyone who is trying to get a name for themselves as producer or whatever can do, ethics aside. A lawsuit would be the best way to deal with people who, purposely or not, incur in such practices.

Shame on people who take advantage of hard-working professionals in such dishonest, specious ways.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 19 April 2008 - 05:50 PM.

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#5 John Brawley

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 06:21 PM

Having a verbal or written agreement to pay ANYONE who works hard to make their project come to life and not fulfilling their end of the deal is the worst thing anyone who is trying to get a name for themselves as producer or whatever can do, ethics aside. A lawsuit would be the best way to deal with people who, purposely or not, incur in such practices.



It's usually a bit late and not really worth it by the time you get to the end.

Im in the middle of a TV show at the moment. The producer so far hasn't paid me anything and we're halfway through the shoot. They keep saying that they'll pay me the next day and there are always dubious excuses. I've made the decision to now withhold the footage. I know they have an airdate pretty soon so we'll see if that produces the result. I suspect it will. He hasn't realised it yet.....I'm looking forward to explaining why I've taken this decision.

I think if i was to wait until after we've finsihed shooting, then I've got nothing left to *hold* over them.

jb
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#6 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 06:59 PM

I don't know about the rest of the country but for those of you in California, file a case with the Labor Commission. I ran into a company last year that decided after the fact not to pay us our agreed upon rates. The company's lawyer even told me that the last thing they wanted was to get the Labor Commission involved because the workers usually win when it gets to that point. I have an open case right now with them and while it's a long drawn out bureaucratic process it works in the workers favor. If they do find in your favor you are also due 30 days wages at your full rate if they are more than 30 days past due paying you.
I usually only work for reputable union companies but we jumped over to a non-union music video for one job and it was a complete nightmare AND they didn't pay us our agreed upon rates. I guess that'll teach me to stay away from non-union gigs. If it had been a union gig then the Labor Commission can't touch it.
Hope it works out for you,
Andy
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#7 Hemant Tavathia

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:06 PM

You can file a case in court. One of my friends took a producer to court. It took more than 6 months. I never followed through.
Always have a written agreement prior to the first day of production. Tell everyone the names of people who screwed you. The word travels fast because the industry is small even if it appears big.
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#8 David Carstens

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 07:23 PM

Is the production company on this list?

http://hollywoodcrew...st.blogspot.com
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#9 Steve Phipps

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 08:05 PM

Hi Aaron,

Sorry to hear about your experience.

There is a story back from 2005 you might be interested in. A crew -- including established, industry professionals -- believed that they were working on a show for HBO. The costume designer spent $3000 of her own money on supplies for the production, for example. In fact, no deal with HBO existed. No one from the crew was paid.

If you're a paid subscriber to the LA Times, it's in an August 27, 2005 article: Dreams of Hollywood Disappear Along With Fake 'Real Rome'. Look for it in the paper's online archives.

Here's a clip from the article summary:

"Real Rome" looked legit. Hanks housed his enterprise in a Studio City bungalow across from the CBS Studio Center soundstages on Radford Avenue. But it turns out that he never paid the rent. "Real Rome" employees were hired at competitive rates that seemed to imply Hanks had both cash and credibility. But not a single paycheck ever materialized.

If you're not a paid subscriber to the LA Times, you may still be able to get access to the LA Times archive through your local library. I'm able to access the entire LA Times article through my public library's web site, for example.

I heard about it when one of the writers from 'Real Rome' posted about his experience on a different message forum back in 2005. I dug up this, which seems to be a re-post:

http://www.absolutew...amp;postcount=7
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#10 Andrew Rawson

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Posted 19 April 2008 - 09:03 PM

Is it worthwhile to start a new topic on here that calls out scumbag companies that don't pay.
The job we worked on most of the crew were only paid partial payment and some not at all and this is a company that seems to keep on working steadily in Santa Monica.
These people are criminals and scum and deserve to be called out, however I hesitate to name them in a public forum like this because I worry about the legal ramifications.
Andy
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#11 timHealy

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 10:21 AM

I don't know about the rest of the country but for those of you in California, file a case with the Labor Commission. I ran into a company last year that decided after the fact not to pay us our agreed upon rates. The company's lawyer even told me that the last thing they wanted was to get the Labor Commission involved because the workers usually win when it gets to that point. I have an open case right now with them and while it's a long drawn out bureaucratic process it works in the workers favor. If they do find in your favor you are also due 30 days wages at your full rate if they are more than 30 days past due paying you.
I usually only work for reputable union companies but we jumped over to a non-union music video for one job and it was a complete nightmare AND they didn't pay us our agreed upon rates. I guess that'll teach me to stay away from non-union gigs. If it had been a union gig then the Labor Commission can't touch it.
Hope it works out for you,
Andy



I agree if you are in California. I have friends who were successful going through the Labor Commission.

I live in NY and there doesn't seem or at least I have never heard of a like agency here.

Best

Tim
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#12 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 02:28 PM

It's usually a bit late and not really worth it by the time you get to the end.

Im in the middle of a TV show at the moment. The producer so far hasn't paid me anything and we're halfway through the shoot. They keep saying that they'll pay me the next day and there are always dubious excuses. I've made the decision to now withhold the footage. I know they have an airdate pretty soon so we'll see if that produces the result. I suspect it will. He hasn't realised it yet.....I'm looking forward to explaining why I've taken this decision.

I think if i was to wait until after we've finsihed shooting, then I've got nothing left to *hold* over them.

jb


You are doing the right thing man! I originally had posted to publicly flog non-paying producers, but thought it was a bit much, so I changed it to merely suing them. The PC in me kicked in. :P But yeah, if you have the footage you are shooting for the producers, that is the way to do it. I did that once.

BUT, in most productions, at least in the US, production gets all the footage at the end of the day from the loader to be sent to the lab. So that is pretty much the end of that solution in 99.9 gigs I have worked on or will work on.

Here in New Mexico, last year a production I day-played on, ran out of money and didn't pay any of their employees for the last week of principal photography, the rest of the crew who wrapped up the film, and vendors. I was spared, thankfully. But, being that they were getting tax rebates from the state, a claim was filed with the NM film office and their tax rebates and additional money-back checks were withheld until they paid EVERYONE, which happened a couple of months after. So that is how they got them.

Edited by Saul Rodgar, 20 April 2008 - 02:29 PM.

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#13 Aaron Biller

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 08:36 PM

Thanks for all the feedback , I'm going to make a call to the Labor Commission on Monday and see what they say.

Aaron Biller
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#14 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 20 April 2008 - 09:56 PM

One gig I AC'd on, the DP said his check for the first week of prep had bounced, so we should all get paid in cash EVERYDAY. Which I insisted on and received, until the last day. They wrote out checks for everyone on the last day, so the sound guy held onto the tracks until everyone's checks had cleared with the bank. It's pretty much standard practice if you're dealing with a shady prod. company.

But it's interesting how I usually only hear about this happening in the film industry. Student or not, if they told you you're getting paid, then you have a legal and moral obligation to pursue and get paid for your labors. Otherwise they'll just do it again to some other poor guy who's trying to support his family and pay the bills.

Always take down names, numbers, emails and be sure to finalize your dealings and method of payment sometime during production. You gotta protect yourself.
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#15 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 21 April 2008 - 03:01 PM

They wrote out checks for everyone on the last day, so the sound guy held onto the tracks until everyone's checks had cleared with the bank. It's pretty much standard practice if you're dealing with a shady prod. company.

From what I understand, this practice is illegal, unless it's agreed to by the producers. I've been on a few jobs where this happened and everyone got paid, but I've also been on a job in which the AC took the shot footage and the police showed up at his hotel room to either get the footage back or arrest him (they got it back of course). Just be aware of what you're doing and the possible consequences if you're thinking of doing something like this. I'm not saying I disagree with the practice, but the results of that action could be much worse than not getting paid for a couple days.
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