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Non Union Survival?


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#1 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 11:51 AM

I posted these questions under the topic of "cinematographer's pay rate" but I believe this deserves it's own attention.  Let's start a discussion on this. I believe it's important...

 

 

Here are my questions: What are the non union rates for the other camera job classifications? How many camera operator jobs exist in the non union world? What sort of annual incomes are we talking about? What about healthcare? What about saving for a retirement plan? These are all of the questions our young people need to be asking themselves now, when they have the time to do something about it. I don't think a day rate matters at all. What will you make per year is the important question. 

 

Greg


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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 12:44 PM

As with all things film related you have to take a three year average.  Since everyone is freelance you have to save money like crazy when you do work because you have no idea when you'll be working again.

 

And why do so many people want to get into this profession? Makes little sense.

 

As for healthcare....well it's only an issue for Americans.  For all of us in Canada/UK/Australia/NZ/Germany/France, et al.  We all have national health coverage run by the government so no one even thinks twice about this, I know we don't in Canada.

 

R,


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#3 George Ebersole

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 05:13 PM

Health care in the US is now mandated through Obama Care.  You get slapped with a $100/month fine if you don't get it.


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#4 Richard Boddington

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 05:16 PM

Right, but under our system you just pick up your health card, done.

 

Obama Care, you need to go onto an exchange and choose either a gold, silver, or bronze plan, and then pay for it yourself?

 

The rest of the developed world watches and says, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa????????

 

R,


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#5 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 05:36 PM

Right, but under our system you just pick up your health card, done.
 
R,


And then wait for care. I personally experienced that. Obamacare has ruined our medical system with waste and fraud. It's a joke. But let's not get political. Let's stay on topic.
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#6 George Ebersole

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 06:31 PM

Right, but under our system you just pick up your health card, done.

 

Obama Care, you need to go onto an exchange and choose either a gold, silver, or bronze plan, and then pay for it yourself?

 

The rest of the developed world watches and says, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa????????

 

R,

 

There's a lot of reasons for it.  Part of it is "moral outrage" on the part of people who think everyone is entitled to health care, but, like the motorcycle helmet law in California, I suspect it more to do with trying to keep some kind of control on health care costs.

 

If you're a motorcycle driver in the State of California, you are mandated to wear a helmet; partially for your personal protection, but mostly because if you do get injured in a motorcycle accident (and survive), then someone has to spend huge amounts of money to treat head and/or brain and neural damage, which, next to heart surgery, is probably the most expensive specialization of health care.

 

Take that thinking, and think of the millions who don't have health care, and think of why those people don't get it, and how many law suits result from someone trying to get jackpot justice, not to mention that non-covered people who suffer serious illness and injury have local tax dollars pay for their misfortune, and you can see how Obama Care got through.  

 

Back in the 90s when Clinton was president, his wife Hillary proposed something very similar, but she got shouted down and the whole program was critisized because meetings regarding her program, how it would manifest in the US, were held behind closed doors without any public scrutiny, and there were allusions to things like "health care alliances" and what not, which determined what form of program was available, and what doctor would be assigned for you.  It was in effect a government control of private health care.  You could be a doctor or a nurse for any hospital or other heath care provider in the private sector, but the government determined whom you would treat.

 

Funny how unions and health care are coming up.

 

How about fees for services?


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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 06:43 PM

It depends on the market. But non-union commercial/corporate rates in SF would be approximately:

DP: 1000-2000/day (depending on experience level, potentially a lot more)
Op: 850/10
1st AC: 650/10
2nd AC: 550-600/10 plus (200/day kit for laptop if downloading)
DIT: not sure (prob same as Op, not including kit)

I've personally noticed a shift towards more W2 time card jobs over that time period versus 1099, but that varies. The overall trend over the past decade has been toward 1099s, which offers less protection for worker's comp and other employee protections. A lot of union members (not just 600, but also Art, Grip, Electric, etc) have had a tough time getting enough union days to qualify for benefits).

As for additional rental income, a lot of DP's here are camera owner/ops, and many 1st's have monitors, heads, FIZ and park them at a rental house, etc. Not too many operator jobs avail, as most DP's will operate themselves. Steadicam, jib, remote head, and other owner/op specialties are the exception.

If you're non-union, obviously you're paying for your own health insurance. I personally have Kaiser, which works well for me. Same with savings, doing mutual funds and Roth IRA. As a non-union 1st AC, I've been able to work 15-25 days a month on average the last three years, mostly top rate but also some longer doc and feature projects that pay much less (my choice, not complaining). It's a good middle class living, although my friends who have joined IA600 during the same time period have jumped up to the next tax bracket due to multiple top rate travel jobs on huge commercials, so there's definitely a bonus to joining. I'm making a lot less right now as I transition toward shooting full time, but I expected that.
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#8 Royce Allen Dudley

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 07:05 PM

Satsuki, I work SF as well... I think it's safe to say $1000-2000 per day for DP non union labor only is near the upper end in the market, surely not the average. Good corporate gigs can be $650-800 per , maybe plus gear. But I am certain a good volume of work there is under that, with no extra pay for kit.  I don't want to name companies but let's say major hi tech companies and others have discovered " tiers of service" and pay very poorly for some gigs.

 

We also have DPs being replaced with the new terms "junior shooters " and " corporate film makers".


Edited by Royce Allen Dudley, 03 September 2014 - 07:10 PM.

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#9 George Ebersole

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 07:52 PM

When I was FOS I used to shoot public speaking courses for Apple, Intel, Sunmicro, AMD (now owned by someone else) and a few others, and I never got anywhere near the standard back then.  It's part of the reason I quit camera ops.  No, I'm not going to say what I made.

 

It's part of the reason I stuck with facility and rental (near above the line) positions, hoping to wrangle crew and equipment for my own shoots should they ever happen.

 

On the low end of things I think a retired director I worked with recently told me PAs got $25/hr.  Double that for grips, double that for camera, then tack on 50% for DP.  At least that's how it USED to work in the Bay Area.  

 

Satsuki's painting a different picture now.  A little more lucrative than it used to be, and it sounds like there's more work than ever.


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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 September 2014 - 08:10 PM

Yes, I've worked for the whole range of DPs in the SF market, from top to bottom as an AC. There certainly is a huge disparity in experience, skill level and the rates that go with it! And also some folks who are just plain lucky or unlucky. Maybe average was the wrong term.

I think the corporate good times are slowly coming to an end, as you say. It amazes me sometimes where these companies valued in the billions will draw the line on rate and crew size, while grossly overspending on infrastructure and internal departments. Some of the blame goes to the small start up prod co's that underbid to get the job and promise the world to the client, then expect miracles from the crew to make up for their own short-sightedness. The client gets poor value for their money, and the crew gets shafted. Nobody wins in that scenario, except for the producer who keeps getting jobs for some reason!
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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 04:02 AM

Sounds like an absolute nirvana compared to here.

 

P


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#12 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 09:18 AM

As a DP, I've seen pay rates for A.C.'s and operators from $150 - $400 pday on  nonunion indie low budget films.  More and more though, As Satsuki pointed out, the corporate, commercial, industrial work has been embracing one man productions with no crew.  Which is a huge pain when they still want a 35mm interchangeable lens system.  So when I need an A.C., they look at you strangely when you ask for one.  

 

As an example, I was booked for a day as a DP on set at a major network studio shooting on a soundstage.  A scripted comedy sketch that spoofed a very big show.  The network show  is standard video but the show we were spoofing was shot and lit very cinematically.  Hence the hiring out of a freelancer.   I was doing a dolly push in on a 35mm toward someone coming to camera.  The shot involved a difficult pull and I was having trouble so I politely asked if anyone of my camera or grip team could pull focus.

 

You could hear a pin drop on the stage.  It seemed like no one actually knew what I meant.  Maybe that was the case cause in most network TV they don't usually do that sorta stuff.  It was a situation of different production models colliding.  They booked an outside DP but I was working with internal crew who had never had to pull focus or anything of the sort.  So I just did my best and got it after 8 takes. Which was embarrassing and frustrating.  And shocking to me that I'd be in that position on such a big show.  I expect it as a matter of course on small corporate gigs now.

 

Productions want to shoot with Cine Cameras and 35mm lenses but many newbies don't actually know what's involved with it, nor are they willing to pay for things they're not used to budgeting for.  Which may explain the dropping rates and the scaling back of crews.  At a time when we need them most.  Go figure.


Edited by Michael LaVoie, 04 September 2014 - 09:19 AM.

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#13 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 10:16 AM

As a DP, I've seen pay rates for A.C.'s and operators from $150 - $400 pday on  nonunion indie low budget films.  More and more though, As Satsuki pointed out, the corporate, commercial, industrial work has been embracing one man productions with no crew.  Which is a huge pain when they still want a 35mm interchangeable lens system.  So when I need an A.C., they look at you strangely when you ask for one.


That's an interesting story Michael. Recently, I was the key 1st AC on a so called "big budget" Toyota commercial. It was with a mainstream commercial production company. The producers budgeted for 2 camera crews early on to win the bid for the job. On the day however, we grew to 4 cameras full time (5 day shoot) but the production wouldn't hire the additional crew required to staff our needs. When I lobbied for the much needed additional help, they looked at me like I was on drugs! We were scrambling around like crazy people trying to keep up with the pace we were working and feeling over run. The producing of this commercial was complete amateur hour. They were concerned with only the bottom line rather than considering the bottom line along with the production's requirements. The latter is how good producers work.

In our union's contract, we have a mandatory staffing clause. This refers to the minimum crew that must be hired with reference to the work's necessities. As in, how many cameras are employed at once, etc. By design, this isn't to pad the payroll and get as many people working as we can via extortion but rather it's intended to maintain the high work standards that are expected of us. It was astonishing that our producers, who were signatory to the IATSE contract did not have a rudimentary understanding of the contract in which they agreed to. It quickly started to become contentious which is where I'll step back and allow our business agents to handle the conflict.

In the end, the producer reluctantly hired who SHE wanted in order to meet the staffing requirements and then it all made sense to me. The additional hires were very young, inexperienced (but union) and eager to blindly do whatever the producer asked. The producer had no previous experience with an established, veteran camera crew who knew the rules of engagement and had a complete comprehension of the mutually agreed upon contract. I think I'm done with commercials. The myopic, narrow mindedness is too much for my heart to take.

Call me old fashioned but I have the exact same expectations of my employers as they have of their employees.

Greg
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#14 George Ebersole

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 05:58 PM

This is nothing new up here.  A couple of gaffers I used work for over the years told me point blank that they only whipped out their union cards when the gig required it.  And these were guys who had grip trucks packed with equipment; how were they paying that off?

 

Michael's story isn't anything I haven't witnessed first hand.  I used to frequently work with one man shows who hired out a single grip who had to wear multiple hats; dolly, video-tech, impromptu gaffer, and what not.  They were slam productions.  It was stuff like covering Sunmicro's year end sale's meeting, or Intel's carpool program, or Chevron's health care.  Stuff like that.  

 

Those companies knew the local media environment, and knew what to call for.  On bigger productions, like industrials for manufacturers to show to retailers so they would carry their product, the crews were bigger, because the producers for those companies knew that the end product was more involved.  There're dolly moves, special setups, maybe some green or blue screen work, "extra stuff" for specialized shots.

 

And the wages were the same on both types of gigs.  Non-union what some called "slave" wages.  I personally never thought of the low pay like that.  I knew that if I stuck with it, I would eventually be able to place myself in a position to call my own shots.

 

Michael; can I ask what you were shooting?


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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 07:09 PM

Call me old fashioned but I have the exact same expectations of my employers as they have of their employees.

Greg

 

I could start telling some stories about the whining, crying, complaining, moaning, crews I have to deal with. But as you said, let's stay on topic.  :D

 

R,

 

PS: Healthcare here is excellent, no complaints.


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#16 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 07:15 PM

I could start telling some stories about the whining, crying, complaining, moaning, crews I have to deal with. But as you said, let's stay on topic.  :D

 


I would say my comment is more related to holding people accountable - not whining. But then again, I can be quite the professional whiner! ;) 

 Non-union what some called "slave" wages.  I personally never thought of the low pay like that.  I knew that if I stuck with it, I would eventually be able to place myself in a position to call my own shots.


So, is it possible for non union, below the line employees to grow professionally over time?

Edited by Gregory Irwin, 04 September 2014 - 07:18 PM.

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#17 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 07:36 PM

 
PS: Healthcare here is excellent, no complaints.


I can't believe it took you this long to respond to my previous comment! YOURE SLIPPING BODDINGTON!!!

All kidding aside, I'm glad you like your healthcare. That's important. Our health plan via the camera guild called, The Motion Picture Industry Health Plan, is completely employer driven. They don't take a penny out of my check for my or my family's health care. And it's awesome care. If you live in LA, there are several Motion Picture Hospitals tailored for our member's needs. Most care at these facilities is free. Otherwise, we pay a co-payment that isn't bad at all and go where ever we want and see the doctor of our choosing. That's where Obamacare failed. A lot of people lost the doctor of their choice and have been forced to go elsewhere. Not good.

Greg
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#18 Richard Boddington

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 08:03 PM

If you live in LA, there are several Motion Picture Hospitals tailored for our member's needs. 

 

Good grief I could write a comedy sketch about this.  Listening to crew bitch and moan on set, I can only imagine what the same people would be like in hospital.  The nurse rolls in lunch, crew member says, oh no steak....again.

 

R,


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#19 George Ebersole

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 08:19 PM

 


I would say my comment is more related to holding people accountable - not whining. But then again, I can be quite the professional whiner! ;) 


So, is it possible for non union, below the line employees to grow professionally over time?

 

In theory.  When I was in high school I met a grip in a college extension course, and he referred me to a stage operations manager in San Francisco.  The rest is history.  After a couple of years I wasn't liking the work because I was still in school, entering college, and just overall spread ultra thin.  Also, I wanted to direct my own stuff, and not crew for the rest of my life.

 

We ran into each other a couple years later, talked for about twenty minutes, who was working on what, what companies were in town, and then I finally told him that I wasn't happy because I was crewing all the time.  I told him I wanted to eventually direct, but that I was willing to learn whatever I could (even sound, if needed).

 

His response; "Oh, there's opportunities..."  Well, not really.  You have to make them.  You can't just crew hoping someone will have seen that student film or wedding video you shot, and then tap you on the shoulder for some project.

 

If you mean attitude, there were two types of crews from LA; the reserved keep to themselves types, and the young brash types.  What that meant in terms of work ethic only their production managers know.

 

In my book if someone's bitching about craft services, well, maybe you need to work for someone else.  But that's just me.


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#20 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 04 September 2014 - 08:55 PM

A Motion Picture Hospital????????  Seriously?????


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