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How are union shoots put together


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#1 Albion Hockney

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 12:12 PM

I have several questions regarding union film shoots. I am non union but many up and coming crew members I work with have been joining (ie my main gaffer and key grip)

What makes a project go union or not ... Why would a given producer decide to go with union members? Or what power does a union have to push a shoot union? Talking mostly about commercials here

If a dp is non union can a shoot still be union for grip and electric crew? .... In addition if one union is hired like iatse are other positions like transpo with other unions also need to be union?

What are rules for union crew working non union commercials?
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#2 Albion Hockney

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 12:13 PM

If I want to bring my gaffer who is in a union on to a non commercial what issues might arise ?
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:19 PM

Some commercial production companies have a contract with IATSE and some do not.  Since commercials & music videos pop up and shoot only a few days here and there, it's much harder for IA to visit the sets and push for a deal with the production company.  

 

The main "power" that IATSE has to get a producer to sign a deal with the union is if the majority of the crew are union members already, which is not uncommon.  So if the IA shows up on the set, they can ask all of their members to step outside and wait while they talk to the producers.  As for why a producer would hire IA members in the first place if he is doing a non-union shoot, that's because so many experienced people are already IA members and he can't legally discriminate in hiring against people who happen to be union members.  IA does allow members to work on non-union shoots as long as they tell the union ("call in the job").

 

The basic unions are SAG-AFTRA (actors), DGA (directors), WGA (writers), IATSE (below-the-line technicians), and the Teamsters (transportation.)  A production may have signed contracts with some or all of those unions but they are all separate, you could have a "non-union" shoot that still has SAG actors and Teamsters driving under a contract, so to be more accurate, you'd call that a non-IATSE shoot.  Almost all shoots are done under a SAG contract for example since almost every actor is a member of SAG.

 

Under IATSE, the camera, grip, and electric departments are all under different Locals, so if IATSE decides to visit a non-IA shoot and get the producer to sign a contract, they send a business rep from each of the Locals.  If the producer agrees to sign the deal, then generally any non-union crew members are offered a chance to join the union.  

 

I don't know the criteria for IA in terms of when they decide a production is worth turning into a union shoot, probably some combination of a critical mass of union members already working on the set anyway and the budget.

 

These issues are different in different states.

 

As I said, your union gaffer is allowed to work on non-union commercials as long as he calls in the job.


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#4 robert duke

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 01:19 PM

None, he is free to take the job.  


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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 02:41 PM

I would have assumed that most experienced union people in the US would be much too expensive for non-union shows, anyway.


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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 02:44 PM

There are always people willing to take a pay cut to get a job when times are tough.  And as for commercial shoots, even the non-union ones can pay quite well.  It's mainly in non-union features that you see the really low rates being offered.


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#7 Albion Hockney

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 03:47 PM

great this is everything I wanted to know.... yea commericals are weird ....from what I know the more interesting the spots or young/creative the prod company the less likley it is to be union

... even big budget stuff as david said.

 

I have done a couple projects that even that paid over union scale that is non union and they were not big deal projects or anything


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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 04:46 PM

Corporate stuff tends to pay better because people don't shoot corporate stuff for the love of it, unlike narrative films.


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#9 Albion Hockney

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Posted 10 December 2014 - 06:33 PM

That is the truth, that is unless you are a dp in the ASC ; )

 

 

Guys who get caught up in that work for the money (which can be really really good) .....the worst is union crew that do alot of commerical/corp shoots for really generic things .... not to generalize a whole group of people Im sure there some guys doing that who are cool but I have seen some of these older guys in passing a few times and the crew is the most cynical jaded group of people ever clocking in and out like they work in a factory making pencil sharpeners


Edited by Albion Hockney, 10 December 2014 - 06:35 PM.

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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 December 2014 - 11:58 AM

No matter how you slice it the unions are a massive pain in the ass for the producer to deal with.  If you're a Hollywood studio blowing 250 million on a movie you don't care.  If you have a budget of 1.5-2.0M, you are in a jam because that's not really big enough to support union wages, but it is big enough to get on their radar.  If your budget is say $300, 000.00 the unions won't care about you.

 

Since the unions are so problematic to deal with it's a big reason why so many US shoots pack up and leave for countries where there are no film unions, Australia, Romania, South Africa.  Inside the USA there are states where the film unions have little to no power, I lived in Utah for five years and the film unions really have zero power there.

 

I know film crew members will all hold up the glorious benefits of being in a union, that's fine.  Try working with a union as an independent film producer....all of a sudden the union is viewed in an entirely new light.  I won't have to deal with them on my next shoot, as I've packed up and moved the production overseas.

 

R,


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#11 Richard Boddington

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Posted 13 December 2014 - 12:02 PM

As I said, your union gaffer is allowed to work on non-union commercials as long as he calls in the job.

 

At least the technical unions offer their members this option.  SAG and ACTRA have no such provisions.  Once you join them you cannot accept any non-union work under any circumstances, even if you're desperate for money.

 

R,


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#12 Albion Hockney

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Posted 01 October 2015 - 04:50 PM

Bringing back an old post here. Since making this I have had quite a few experiences now with this and can say many production companies doing non union work require you to hire non union crew. the "call in the job" thing I think is ok if it's a small thing and most of the other crew will be non union, but on a larger Job I don't think that will happen much as of course you might have the set visited by the union if they know 10 of there members are working it.

 

 

One question, what about when things go the other way, can a Non union DP shoot a union commercial?


Edited by Albion Hockney, 01 October 2015 - 04:51 PM.

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