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#1 Ben J

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 06:10 AM

I was watching extra features from the movie Network (1976, Sidney Lumet) and cinematographer Owen Roizman was talking about how they all worked only 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. My question is for those working mainly in features and TV drama - is this totally unheard of now? What kind of hours are expected now for a cinematographer working in LA or NY? To my understanding there are union rules enforcing limits. How often are these broken? I understand due to the freelance nature of the work you may only get work for part of a year so you take it when you can. I'm just curious to see what those in the industry have to say.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 09:45 AM

Not that I'm union or anything of the sort, (and a lot of people aren't union, I'd say) but my "normal" day is about 10-12 hours. Sometimes we go to 14-16 hours, which is never that much fun. But a 10 hour day is generally what I experience. Sometimes I'll get lucky and pull a 6-8 hour day, other times just a 4 hour. Rarely do people want to go into over-time... because that gets very expensive for production very quickly (in terms of money, and loosing productivity); but it happens, often when you have a location you can't come back to and something has severely snagged you up-- or you need to wait for x, y, or z. Just my experience.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 09:46 AM

I was watching extra features from the movie Network (1976, Sidney Lumet) and cinematographer Owen Roizman was talking about how they all worked only 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. My question is for those working mainly in features and TV drama - is this totally unheard of now? What kind of hours are expected now for a cinematographer working in LA or NY? To my understanding there are union rules enforcing limits. How often are these broken? I understand due to the freelance nature of the work you may only get work for part of a year so you take it when you can. I'm just curious to see what those in the industry have to say.



It does happen (doing short days) but it is pretty rare. The typical "Hollywood" day is at least 12 hours and it isn't out of the ordinary to go 14 to 16. In town, that will usually be five day weeks and on location, six day weeks.

There are rules that limit the number of hours a production can work a crew. The production just ends up paying the mandated overtime hours. There ARE, however, rules that regulate the hours between work days, called "turnaround." Generally, for most crew, it's around eight hours between official wrap and the next day's call.

And yes, you never know when the next job will come so most crew will take whatever comes their way. "Top" people in the business can generally go from show to show to show by virtue of their reputations and who they know. That's a relatively small percentage of those in the industry, though. The rest hope to pick up the "scraps" on smaller movies or by day-playing on television shows (episodics).

With the dilution of work from major production centers like Los Angeles and New York due to bribes tax incentives, crew who have homes and families and lives in one place or another are having a difficult time maintaining those lives as their income is even more tentative than it was before. Remaining "at home" to work in order to be with families isn't a concern for the Corporations that make movies now so these productions will go to whatever end of the planet offers the biggest bribe tax incentive. This forces people to make the choice to either stay home and hope that another project will come along so that they can continue to pay bills, or to take the work and be on the road for months at a time away from family and friends just to make a living.

It's a tentative existence. Far more than a job, it's a lifestyle choice. The days are long. The weeks are long. The locations distant. The pay is good, but every year even that seems to be whittled down with every contract negotiation. The health benefits are quite good, but not as good as they used to be... if you can even qualify, that is, as you need 600 hours of work in a qualifying period just to get on the plan (Motion Picture Health and Welfare) and an additional 400 per period to remain covered. Again, the top people in the industry have no problem with this. The rest hope for the occasional "lottery" win of having two movies a year and lots of day-playing to stay afloat.

Bottom line is that you really have to want this career to build one and to maintain it.
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#4 Ben J

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 08:56 PM

When you guys speak of the union, you are referring the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) right? So if your not part of any union do you then negotiate rates, health plan, retirement yourself?
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#5 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 27 June 2010 - 09:13 PM

When you guys speak of the union, you are referring the International Cinematographers Guild (Local 600) right? So if your not part of any union do you then negotiate rates, health plan, retirement yourself?


Yes and yes. Though, in most cases (from my experience), if you're not working under a negotiated contract (IATSE, NABET, SAG, DGA, Teamsters, etc.), then you will likely get paid your agreed upon rate after you invoice the company for it. They send you a check for all of it (not a payroll check, so no deductions are taken out) so you'll get a 1099 at the end of the year for tax purposes. I suppose you could attempt to get a non-union signatory company to pay you via payroll with health and all fringes, but I wouldn't hold my breath expecting them to do it. In fact, most production companies and vendors in the LA area who do work for the major studios are not union signatories, so while freelancers do work for the studios (mostly marketing form movies or DVD content), all of that work is done non-union.

Just about the only way to work under a union contract is to be hired on a significant "Hollywood" project in production (ie, not marketing). Many reality television shows are also now represented under union contracts as well. But it is also important to note that while there is a "Basic Agreement," very often, the production will negotiate a "special" contract for their own purposes. What this essentially boils down to is are concessions on rates and hours that typically negatively affect the crew. This is done just to keep the production "in town" as the Corporations in charge are able to play cities, states, and nations off each other in order to get the lowest production cost possible.
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Visual Products

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

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Ritter Battery

Aerial Filmworks

Rig Wheels Passport

Wooden Camera

Opal

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

FJS International, LLC

The Slider

Willys Widgets

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS