Jump to content


Photo

Sticky labor hour situation


  • Please log in to reply
12 replies to this topic

#1 Aurora Gordon

Aurora Gordon

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 7 posts
  • Student

Posted 13 August 2008 - 07:40 PM

Hi there...

Well, I was offered a job as a PA for a three day docudrama shoot paying 150 flat, for what I was told would be no longer than 12 hour days. Today they had me running around as per usual, but told me to go home four hours early so I could work a 16 hour day tomorrow. Also, suddenly my car is being using to tow picture cars and mentioning gas reimbursement got a pretty icy stare from the producer. Who is in the right in this situation? I am normally totally cool volunteering/working for next to nothing for the chance to watch the crew work, but as I've only had the opportunity to be on set for about two hours I feel a little exploited. Any thoughts? Am I being oversensitive here or is it really an unfair scenario?

Aurora "Rory" Gordon
  • 0

#2 Robert Starling SOC

Robert Starling SOC
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 101 posts
  • Steadicam Operator
  • Los Angeles and Las Vegas

Posted 15 August 2008 - 07:44 PM

Sounds like a bit of exploitation if that is what you want to call it.

$150/12 is a very modest PA rate but whatever rate works for you is a personal decision. Business practices can vary but the "go home early / 16 hour day" the next day is BS plain and simple. If you want to do that, it again is a personal decision that only you can make but in my 29 years experience that one is pure BS. It would be more honorable I think if they just asked you to work for free.

They should pay your mileage or give you some money for gas. Otherwise, don't use your car. It's one thing running a mile or so to pick up lunch but PA rates for true production errands don't include the use of your car or gas unless you agreed to it to start. Let them go rent a car and insure it and put gas in the tank. Why are you funding their film and working at a reduced rate too?

The biggest red flag here is the the use of your car to tow a picture car. For one thing, you'd better INSIST on a Certificate of Insurance showing General Liability Insurance and Rented Automobile Coverage naming you as the "Loss Payee and Additionally Insured". There are serious legal liabilities related to this activity, plus wear, tear and risk for your vehicle and safety. You wreck your car, injure someone, injure yourself, damage property and they're going after YOU and my guess is your insurance won't cover the use of your car in a business or as a rental item.

There are tons of "work for cheap" and "work for free" productions out there you can get experience on without these issues. IMHO this one is overstepping the boundary by a considerable margin. Tell them no in a polite but professional manner and insist you are compensated properly and insured. If not, thank them, wish them luck and leave. They'll have plenty enough hard time finding another sucker to do all this for them. Stand your ground or be prepared to be a door mat for them to walk on.

Let us know how it goes.

Robert Starling, SOC
Steadicam Owner Operator
  • 0

#3 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 15 August 2008 - 08:24 PM

Hey, Aurora. Sorry to hear you've already run into a production with no regard for crew.

Robert is 100% on this. It may be too late to talk about mileage for this one but keep it in mind for the future. PAs do a lot of driving and you shouldn't be left out in the cold as far as gas and maintenance of your car. There are govt. standards for mileage reimbursement; I would start there.

As for using your car for towing, I would outright tell them no, personally. If you don't mind them using it for that, AT LEAST get it covered by their insurance and get proof of it. I have seen an awful lot of cars bunged up on set and I've only been working professionally for a year and change.
  • 0

#4 Tyler Leisher

Tyler Leisher
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 91 posts
  • Director
  • El Segundo, CA

Posted 15 August 2008 - 08:39 PM

Hi there...

Well, I was offered a job as a PA for a three day docudrama shoot paying 150 flat, for what I was told would be no longer than 12 hour days. Today they had me running around as per usual, but told me to go home four hours early so I could work a 16 hour day tomorrow. Also, suddenly my car is being using to tow picture cars and mentioning gas reimbursement got a pretty icy stare from the producer. Who is in the right in this situation? I am normally totally cool volunteering/working for next to nothing for the chance to watch the crew work, but as I've only had the opportunity to be on set for about two hours I feel a little exploited. Any thoughts? Am I being oversensitive here or is it really an unfair scenario?

Aurora "Rory" Gordon


Generally, the day rate is for the entire day... but after 12 hours they go into time and a half.

There's no such thing as "Take off 4 hours today so you can work 16 tomorrow", they would be required to pay you $150 for the first day, and $150 + 4 hours overtime the next day, thats labor laws.

As for gas reimbursement, they are required to reimburse you, if they refuse to, tell them you can't drive your car and need a company vehicle.

Just because you're lowest on the totem pole, doesn't mean they can exploit you and the rules don't apply to them.

Some companies handle every hour after 12 hours as just time and a half.. some go into golden time (Double pay) after 14 hours... so you would get 2 hours overtime, 2 hours golden time.. on top of the $150.

So you SHOULD be getting:
$150 - Day 1
$150 + $11 * 4 = $194 - Day 2
$150 - Day 2
Total = $494 (Roughly)
  • 0

#5 Andrew Koch

Andrew Koch
  • Sustaining Members
  • 243 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Burbank, California

Posted 16 August 2008 - 08:58 PM

I'm just curious, what city are you shooting in? What kind of budget is this production? Are they union or non-union? From what you have told us, especially about using your car as a towing device, it does not sound like a very legitimate production. Since you said you like watching the crew work, I'm assuming you took this job as an opportunity to learn, but why work on a crappy shoot and get abused if you're not learning anything? If you are simply doing it because you need the money, that's one thing, but understand that even at the lowest end of the totem poll, you still have rights.
  • 0

#6 Alex Ellerman

Alex Ellerman
  • Sustaining Members
  • 228 posts
  • Other
  • Chicago

Posted 17 August 2008 - 10:40 AM

Look, it's 3 days. and you've already done 1 day, right? the worst thing they could ever do is fire you, and that doesn't sound like it would hurt much.

Do NOT let them use your car. it's your dad's. it's not insured. You're still paying it off. whatever you want to say, and you don't need an excuse. You tell them they can't use your car and what are they going to say -- "well then, we don't want your ridiculously cheap labor?"

they would be cutting off their nose to spite their face.

I would go so far as to get dropped off on set if i had trouble saying no. My father the policeman needed the car for his job today - he's got an all day long stakeout that he wants it for - trying to catch a murderer/drug dealer!!! :)

and tomorrow, my mom is using the car to deliver mail b/c her mail truck is broken, etc. etc. etc. everybody wants your car for their job.
  • 0

#7 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 17 August 2008 - 11:50 AM

Clearly, they need you more than you need them. By definition, working for less than a "standard" rate is exploitive, yet many of us have done just that because in exchange for them having a body on set to do "whatever," a new aspiring filmmaker hopes to gain experience and build a contact list.

And you are learning a great deal here. Experience on set isn't just about watching how a Director blocks Actors and how a DP lights a scene. Experience extends into learning about the BUSINESS of filmmaking and this is something you are learning firsthand.

Ask yourself some questions before ever agreeing to a "free" or "low-budget" production. What am I going to get out of this? How much of my time can I afford to give them? Does that time/money equal the amount of "experience" I'll take from the project?

In this situation, you agreed to twelve hour days at a flat. The money isn't in question and shouldn't be once you've agreed to it. But they don't have the right to "shift" your agreed to time in the way asked. What would stop them from suggesting you work just one hour on Tuesday and then shift the remaining eleven to the next day to make a 23 hour day on Wednesday? It's a completely ridiculous request. The agreement was for twelve-hour days and how they choose to fill them is their problem. So if they only have ten hours of work for you to do on Tuesday, they still owe you for the agreed to flat... no prorating because they scheduled poorly. On the other side, they can't insist on "shifting" unused hours from Tuesday to another day like celphone rollover minutes if Wednesday will go long. It just doesn't work that way.

As far as the vehicle goes, you don't need a host of excuses to get out of that one. For starters, you really don't want to work for such a shyster again so insulting him isn't an issue. More than that, why isn't he volunteering his own vehicle for the cause? Why is he asking you? Just say no. On both counts (hours and vehicle), this hack is clearly trying to exploit a newcomer who is eager to break into the industry. No doubt he's done it before and will continue to exist on the lower levels of the system, able to do so because newbies are a little to willing to agree.

Your best move? Just show up to do your twelve each day and leave without kicking in anymore or less than agreed to. Show up with a smile each day, do your best, and then leave. Make friends with other crew, leave them your contact info, and then look for another project where you'll learn more and meet more people.

Remember, they need you or else they wouldn't be willing to shell out ANY money at all. But you're just a warm body with a pulse (and a car). If you won't cave in to unreasonable requests, they'll find someone else who will. If you do cave, they'll see you as naive and exploitable for the next one. You don't want to work for that guy ever again, so don't worry about it. There are plenty more projects out there where you can learn and build a career.

Edited by Brian Dzyak, 17 August 2008 - 11:51 AM.

  • 0

#8 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 17 August 2008 - 05:41 PM

Brian brings up something I hadn't thought to mention before, but I have experienced. On these "learning" low-budget jobs the contacts you gain are more often other crew members rather than anyone in production. I have found that those people you work closer with and become better friends with are the people to impress and build relationships with.

For example, I was fired from a best boy grip job after my agreed-to 12 hours days (I was working flat rate as you are) started turning into longer and longer days. After some of these, the key grip and I started walking after our 12 hours of work. A couple of those and we were both fired. I have worked with the gaffer and best boy electric several times since.

I'm also about the pull focus on a feature shot by a DP I met on a short film that was one of the worst experiences I have ever had on set. There was yelling, screaming, crying, and we lost half a day when most of the crew was directed to the wrong location.

There's just something about jobs that suck that creates crew bonding experiences. Don't ask me the how or the why.
  • 0

#9 Brian Dzyak

Brian Dzyak
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1517 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Encino, California USA

Posted 17 August 2008 - 06:41 PM

Right. In my book, I've dubbed these the "Great Project" calls. In other words, you get a phone call and the person on the other side declares that they have a "great project" and would love for you to join them. It's a "great opportunity."

Sure it is.

And it can be so long as you're aware of what YOU can take away from it. There is more about this in the book, but quickly, the gist is that the project is certainly "great" for the people who are organizing it (read: Director, Producer), but for everyone else, the likelihood of being brought along for the ride (to success with a studio film) is pretty much nil. Newcomers MUST know that under no circumstances, will working for free for a production guarantee them a paid position on a future film. It might happen, but the odds are against it.

So, again, if faced with that opportunity (to work on a movie for little or no money), it is important to figure out what what you will get out of it. It is more than okay to be selfish at this stage. Afterall, it is YOUR time and your gas money at stake. At over $4 a gallon to get to and from work, this is not an unreasonable consideration.

To put it in more substantial terms, doing what I do for a living typically earns me $70 an hour for 10 hours of work. Over that and I earn overtime at time and a half for the next two hours and double time for everything after 12. So when faced with a call that offers less than that I have to weigh the value of what that particular job might offer. Will I meet someone or work for a company that will get me more and/or better work in the future? Maybe there is equipment that I might otherwise not have the opportunity to use? Or maybe the job will take me to far-flung reaches of the Earth that I might otherwise not visit on my own.

Setting rates and working conditions isn't so black & white that accepting or rejecting a job is a matter of saying "this is right and this is wrong." Particularly in this worldwide economy we must all be a little flexible when it comes to what is good enough and what isn't. But that shouldn't preclude being abused or taken advantage of if possible. So the questioning of whether to take a job or not should happen before stepping on set the first day. Ask "what is in it for me?" You have to. They don't care about you or your career. "They" really don't.
  • 0

#10 Aurora Gordon

Aurora Gordon

    New

  • Basic Members
  • Pip
  • 7 posts
  • Student

Posted 17 August 2008 - 08:55 PM

Thanks for all the input, guys. I'm in Rochester, NY by the way and this is only my third paying gig aside from minor videography stuff... so I really appreciate the advice! This was definately a non-union gig with some overseas filmmakers doing a docudrama on an old cold case murder.

Well, I called the producer back and said I was uncomfortable with 16 hours and also with using my car. I said I would try to find a replacement PA to split the day with as well to help them avoid the headache of finding a replacement. The response was "I thought I told you the hours were long so never mind, I'll find someone I can trust." I'm not sure if I got fired or quit!

I was pretty freaked out but fortunately the guy that got me the job in the first place was totally understanding and when I called him up to explain, and actually said he was proud of me for standing up for my rights. I hope you are right, Chris, and he hires me again :) Hey, everyone needs at least one horror story, right?

Anyway, hoping even the rest of the PA gigs I need to work before I can gain enough street cred to get going in the camera department go smoother than this!

Aurora "Rory" Gordon
  • 0

#11 Robert Starling SOC

Robert Starling SOC
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 101 posts
  • Steadicam Operator
  • Los Angeles and Las Vegas

Posted 17 August 2008 - 09:53 PM

Good for you Rory! You did the right thing and that guy is not someone you want to ever work for again anyway.

Decent and honest filmmakers who know how hard it is to get a start are generally very appreciative of crew who donate their time in the form of low pay, no pay, long days or both... and they show it. $150 isn't great for a PA position but it's not horrible either for just getting started. As you've found out it's not just about the money.

You'll accumulate lots of screwed up production stories over the course of your career and encounter some pretty quirky situations and people. You'll also meet a lot of very dedicated people and a lot of wonderful people with whom you'll enjoy working with so much that you probably would do it for free. I can think of a few over the course of my career that I wouldn't work for at 10x my rate or for any rate and even more that I'd do anything I could to help them.

You'll begin to accumulate enough experiences that you'll spot the ego-freaks and BS a mile away.

Good luck to you!

Robert Starling, SOC
Steadicam Owner Operator
  • 0

#12 Chris Keth

Chris Keth
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4427 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • Los Angeles

Posted 18 August 2008 - 01:20 AM

You did it right. I have found that when you respectfully stand up for yourself you get treated with more respect than if you expect to be treated poorly because you're "paying your dues" or whatever.

I wouldn't be surprised if the guy who got you the job calls you again sometime.
  • 0

#13 Jamie Metzger

Jamie Metzger
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 773 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • San Francisco

Posted 02 September 2008 - 04:52 AM

When they said "flat rate", there is no overtime with that rate. Depending on how much you like the work, I wouldn't go a minute over 12 if they verbally said "nothing over 12", but then again, you are expendable, and you probably do not have that agreement in writing.

Jamie
  • 0


Glidecam

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Rig Wheels Passport

Technodolly

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

CineTape

Wooden Camera

Willys Widgets

Abel Cine

Metropolis Post

Visual Products

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Opal

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery

Tai Audio

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

The Slider

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

Abel Cine

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Visual Products

Technodolly

Rig Wheels Passport

Glidecam

Aerial Filmworks

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Metropolis Post

Willys Widgets

Opal

Wooden Camera

Tai Audio

The Slider

CineLab

Ritter Battery

FJS International, LLC

rebotnix Technologies

Paralinx LLC

CineTape