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Unioin DP vs. Non-Union Indie


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#1 Palladin

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Posted 07 June 2005 - 11:26 PM

Your input is very appreciated:

Can a union DP get a waiver to work a non-union Indie on a half a milliion dollar budget film?

If so how does a producer aproach the situation, union, etc. (DP is interested but curious)?

What if the DP is well known? Does that throw a wrench in the equation?

thanks so much,

indie producer
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 12:54 AM

The union (IATSE Local 600) allows its members to work on non-union films, no waiver needed. Technically, though, a member is supposed to tell the union what they are up to so the union is aware of non-union production going on.

A typical indie production, unless really low-ball and student-film level, will often have a crew containing a number of union members in all departments (meaning out of all those people, someone will inform the union of the production.)

It's hard to find a decent AC who ISN'T in the union, considering it doesn't take a lot to qualify for Local 600 (you just have to prove 100 days of paid work in your particular area of expertise, within a 3-year period going back from the date of application, within the U.S. and its territories. I'd be hesitant to hire an AC who didn't have 100 days of experience anyway!) The Grip & Electric unions are a little harder to join though.

I did an under 1-mil feature in Austin, TX last year that was non-union, and another one the year before that.

Of course, if the producer hires a mostly union crew, and the budget is high enough (maybe over 1-mil, definitely over 3-mil), there is the chance that the producer will end up having to sign a contract with the union, at least to pay into the union health & pension funds, rather than deal with a work shutdown. However, here on the west coast, I haven't heard of any half-mil features going union. I've shot at least a dozen features in that budget range here in Los Angeles, all non-union, although only one since I joined the union three years ago.
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#3 Alex Ellerman

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 10:15 AM

David -

When you say the Union would shut you down, which Union do you think would
most likely be doing the shutting? SAG? IATSE? Other?

Thankyou
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#4 Matt Pacini

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 12:20 PM

David, I'm curious about one thing you mentioned:

I was once offered an audio engineering position at a post house in Glendale, but they said they had just gone union, so I should call the union guy, which I did.
He said I had to work the required amount of days ON UNION PRODUCTIONS!
Which of course, is impossible, because union productions can't hire non-union people.
So, once again stung by the union catch-22 protectionist scheme.

I'm wondering if those 100 days you're referring to, are on ANY production, or just UNION productions?

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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 01:17 PM

Those are just the rules for Local 600, the camera union. The 100 days of paid work can be non-union (and usually is.) I got into Local 600 based on 100 days of paid non-union work as a DP. I just had the payroll company send a letter to Contract Services and a few months later, after approval, I got the bill for joining the union...

The other locals have different requirements, some so restrictive (as a way of keeping membership down) that you practically can only get in if you are "grandfathered" in -- i.e. are working on a non-union film that goes union. I've heard the the electrical union is a bear to get into. That's what would happen in your case probably -- you'd have to be grandfathered in.

By law, no one working already on a film can be fired just for not being in the union if the film shoot turns union (and no union member can be denied a job on a non-union film just for being in a union), so more than likely you'd be allowed to join.

I don't know if "work shutdown" is ther right term. A union can't come onto a non-union set and shut it down. However, they can stand outside of the property and ask union members to step off the set and not go back to work until the producer signs the IA agreement. Of course, the producer could then try and replace everyone with non-union labor at the last minute, etc.

Hardly any production is non-SAG in this country; the only one I ever worked on was shot in Russia.

DGA only affects the director and the AD department. Usually if the film is SAG and IATSE, then it is also DGA, but I have worked on films where that wasn't true. The DGA doesn't allow its members to work on non-union films, unlike the IATSE. So if a film starts out non-union, usually the director and AD staff will not be DGA even if a lot of the crew is IATSE. And of course, the actors are always in SAG and the film is almost always a SAG production, big or small.

Personally, I think all the unions should follow the Local 600 camera union model and let anyone in who is qualified based on work experience, regardless of whether that work was non-union or not. Otherwise you create an enormous, well-trained, experienced, non-union work force that becomes a reasonable alternative for a producer. However, if most people with real skill or experience are in the union, then it makes it more attractive to the producer to go union unless he is merely cheap or can't afford them.
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#6 Palladin

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 05:15 PM

[quote name='David Mullen' date='Jun 8 2005, 01:54 AM']
The union (IATSE Local 600) allows its members to work on non-union films, no waiver needed. Technically, though, a member is supposed to tell the union what they are up to so the union is aware of non-union production going on.


Thanks for your input David. However, I was just told by the agent of a dp that he would not be able to obtain a waiver from IATSE Local 600 and that there was a low budget contract. I have not heard of any such contract for a half mil picture and I am confused about his inability to get a waiver if non is needed. Could you clarify please. Also is it best that I (the producer) directly approach the local 600 and ask for their blessing.

thanks again...
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#7 Matt Pacini

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Posted 08 June 2005 - 05:25 PM

"... Otherwise you create an enormous, well-trained, experienced, non-union work force that becomes a reasonable alternative for a producer. "

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


That's always been my argument about the protective practices of some entertainment unions.
IMO, they've had a large hand in creating the huge independent movement by keeping people out who absolutely want to work in films, no matter what they have to do.

Sort of like how the state of California being "fee-crazy" and having the attitude that a film production in their town is a huge cash cow, to be squeezed for $$$ any way they can, has created the "let's shoot this in Canada" situation.

After my ordeal described above, I ran into a guy who was an engineer at another place, and I asked him how he got in.
His friend owned the studio, so every day, his buddy would call the union to send out engineers, and he'd find some reason not to hire them for the day, until there were no more left.
Then he could hire this guy for the day.Hhe did that every day until the guy had enough days to qualify.
Pretty sad way to run an organization if you ask me.

Matt
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#8 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 10 June 2005 - 12:38 AM

To answer the original post, I talked to a IATSE Local 600 rep and she confirmed what I knew: a Local 600 crew member does not need to get a waiver to work on non-union shows.

They are allowed to work on non-union shows; they just have to report that they are working on one.

Maybe this DP's agent is just trying to get rid of you...

And a half-mil production is probably too low to fall under the union's radar anyway, so I have no idea why this agent is telling you the DP needs a waiver to work non-union.
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