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Lost equipment - cost?


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#1 Oscar Petersson

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 10:38 AM

Hope this is not the wrong place to ask this. I did a shoot as a cameraman lately which involved a lot of running around with a heavy camera and somehow I lost the lens cap and now the production company wants me to take that cost off my salary. I was hired as a freelance (no written contract) and the company provided the equipment so in my mind its the company that should take this cost... Its not about the cost but the principal. What do you guys think? What is normal?


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#2 Mark Dunn

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 10:44 AM

It's not your equipment, so you shouldn't be liable for a piece of equipment which you were hired to use, not babysit. It depends what standing your ground will do to your relationship with the company, although the fact that they're nitpicking over such a petty item may tell you something about that.

If it's a deal-breaker, you can probably source it a lot cheaper than list price yourself.


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#3 JD Hartman

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 11:00 AM

They don't want to claim it on their L&D policy because there is a deducible on the policy.  If they can get you to pay for it, cost $0.00.


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#4 Mark Dunn

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 11:04 AM

Unsurprisingly I buy my replacement lens caps from China, usually for about 99p off ebay. That's probably 99¢ to you.


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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 11:12 AM

I've heard one story where the camera assistants took out shelving on a camera truck to find a missing lens cap because they didn't want to go through the grieve of explaining it to the rental company manager. I don't think there was any suggestion he was going to charge for it, just give them a hard time for losing it.

 

I'm surprised they want to charge for the replacement, I'd hate to think what they'd do with the insurance excess if their camera got damaged or stolen.


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#6 Landon D. Parks

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 12:44 PM

Wait a second: They want you to pay for a lens cap? Seriously. Where are they buying these lens caps at? If there is no contract, tell them to bite it and buy it themselves. Oh, and NEVER work without a contract.

 

Are lens caps really so expensive that it requires a big deal be made over a lost one? If so, I think people need to start standing up to the high prices people place on a piece of plastic and refuse to pay it. I can buy a lens cap at my local camera store for $15, even less if I want a cheaper one.


Edited by Landon D. Parks, 06 June 2016 - 12:47 PM.

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#7 Macks Fiiod

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 02:08 PM

Yeah I'm actually wondering how much they're trying to take out of your paycheck?


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#8 Oscar Petersson

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 05:23 PM

Yeah I'm actually wondering how much they're trying to take out of your paycheck?

For this item about 50 USD. It was rented by them so its what the rental company charged them.


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#9 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 08:29 PM

Wow, that is ridiculous. No way you should be paying for any L&D on their project. That is what their insurance policy is for. This is not a production company I would ever want to work for.

If I borrow gear from a friend, then I do replace lost or damaged items to them as a matter of courtesy. But not on a professional job with production insurance.

$50 for a lens cap is also ridiculous, btw. Maybe point them to a cheaper replacement? This whole situation sounds really awful. Sorry you've had to experience that.
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#10 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 08:26 AM

Oscar.. welcome to China..  the reason to be cheerful is they are even considering to pay you in the first place ..  fairness and money are not concepts that combine  in this part of the world.. 

 

There is no insurance for camera gear in China.. any shoot Ive done there .. you have to employ at least one camera assistants from the rental company.. who is there to make sure they get the gear back,and thats its all in one piece.. I got told off got even carrying the camera between set up,s.. its a good system really.. anything gets lost or broken its their guy who does it.. and Im sure taken straight off his wages..


Edited by Robin R Probyn, 07 June 2016 - 08:30 AM.

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#11 Oscar Petersson

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 09:44 AM

Oscar.. welcome to China..  the reason to be cheerful is they are even considering to pay you in the first place ..  fairness and money are not concepts that combine  in this part of the world.. 

 

There is no insurance for camera gear in China.. any shoot Ive done there .. you have to employ at least one camera assistants from the rental company.. who is there to make sure they get the gear back,and thats its all in one piece.. I got told off got even carrying the camera between set up,s.. its a good system really.. anything gets lost or broken its their guy who does it.. and Im sure taken straight off his wages..

Yeah, China is a special place to work in. No unions, no insurances, no regulations (that anyone follows anyway)... The only real language people understand here is money.


Edited by Oscar Petersson, 07 June 2016 - 09:49 AM.

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#12 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 10:25 AM

A big production company in Singapore just went tits up.. owing alot of freelancers money.. they don't care.. no one will touch the Japanese in Australia without money up front.. I know someone who lost her company due to non payment from Indonesia way back..  my sound guy in Japan told me.. he is told his rate AFTER the shoot !.. then the norm is min 3 months to be paid .. often its 6 months.. I'm not saying there are not dodgy types in all countries .. but in Asia TBH its the norm rather than the exception and the whole concept of "fairness" just doesn't exist at all.. Ive been told straight out that a good accountant is one that will do anything but actually pay invoices !!  I would always request money up front from an prod co in Asia or the middle east.. 


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#13 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 04:05 PM

I'm confused about something... If someone lets you use a piece of equipment and you don't bring back parts of that equipment, you should replace what's missing. Usually this is done through insurance but if I lost something you bet your ass Id try to find a suitable replacement. That's the only way to keep things right between you and the supplier. A lens cap isn't a big deal though and I wouldn't have thought twice about telling them my mistake and supplying a replacement.

People today don't take responsibility for their mistakes and it pisses me off.
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#14 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 05:09 PM

I'm confused about something... If someone lets you use a piece of equipment and you don't bring back parts of that equipment, you should replace what's missing. Usually this is done through insurance but if I lost something you bet your ass Id try to find a suitable replacement. That's the only way to keep things right between you and the supplier. A lens cap isn't a big deal though and I wouldn't have thought twice about telling them my mistake and supplying a replacement.

People today don't take responsibility for their mistakes and it pisses me off.


Having been a camera assistant for eight years, I'm quite sensitive to this topic. The 1st AC is typically the point of contact between the rental house and the production company. When there is an issue with L&D, they are often caught right in the middle. Obviously, you do what you can within reason to keep the rental house and prod co happy. Small bits and pieces on large jobs often get left in run bags, filters break, etc. I've replaced lens caps, CF cards, and other small items over the years to make things right. I have no problem with that.

But there is a limit to how much responsiblity you can assume as a freelancer, both financially and from a general principle of what's right. You are probably not going to be personally replacing a giant plate glass window that you broke on location, or a fried Microforce zoom controller plugged into D-tap the wrong way, or a 4K HMI that falls into the sea, or a set of Cookes that get demolished when the camera truck flips over, or an Arri 435 that gets smashed by a tree while on a Russian Arm. These things happen occasionally on while on the job, and that is what production insurance is for.

I think it is never ok for an employer to deduct these losses from your labor. I'm not even sure that is legal, at least in the US. The employer assumes financial responsibility for the camera rental when they hire the equipment from the rental house and provide the insurance coverage for said equipment.

I replace things personally as a gesture of goodwill, especially when borrowing items. That is between me and the rental house or the individual I am personally borrowing from. But the business of filmmaking can't operate like that when you are hired as a freelancer on someone else's job. Otherwise, none of us would be willing to do the work as the personal financial risk would be way too high.
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#15 Oscar Petersson

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 08:02 PM

@Satsuki Murashige. Well said. Yes, an employer deducting these losses from his labor is illegal in my home country in Europe too. The employer could claim damages but would then have to prove that the employee have been damaging or loosing the item on purpose, which is almost impossible and in reality almost never happens. And I think that's the point here, no one loses or destroys things on purpose, but given the nature of a film production it's inevitable that it happens sometimes. Not seldom due to the stressful situation created by the producers. And to then say that the cameraman or 1st AC should be personally responsible and compensate is just wrong in my mind. Its almost like asking a soldier who lost his helmet fleeing from the enemy to deduct the cost from his paycheck...

 
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#16 Robin R Probyn

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 02:27 AM

Well said both of you..


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#17 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 10:53 AM

Right, but again... big things are covered by insurance. Small things like a missing lens cap, filter, screw, etc... stuff that is clearly YOUR fault as an operator, just replace'em ya know?

Someone lost the gate cover on my LTR. They were so nonchalant about it, pissed the living crap out of me. This is a one-off item, you can't go buy one. There were a total of 5 things wrong with my camera when I got it back and renter wiped his hands clean and walked away as if I had a box of spares already.

If you bring me back something completely damaged, I'd be totally cool with it, that's what insurance is good at. If you're going to nickel and dime me with little things missing, I'm going to be super pissed off because insurance doesn't really cover missing stuff. It's very hard to prove something existed unless there is a line item associated with it and OLDER equipment, barely has serial numbers, let alone good accurate part numbers.
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#18 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 10:54 AM

I'm with Mr Purcell on this. If it's a small thing, just replace it for the goodwill factor.

 

P


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#19 Mark Dunn

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 11:14 AM

Right, but again... big things are covered by insurance. Small things like a missing lens cap, filter, screw, etc... stuff that is clearly YOUR fault as an operator, just replace'em ya know?

Someone lost the gate cover on my LTR. They were so nonchalant about it, pissed the living crap out of me. This is a one-off item, you can't go buy one. There were a total of 5 things wrong with my camera when I got it back and renter wiped his hands clean and walked away as if I had a box of spares already.

If you bring me back something completely damaged, I'd be totally cool with it, that's what insurance is good at. If you're going to nickel and dime me with little things missing, I'm going to be super pissed off because insurance doesn't really cover missing stuff. It's very hard to prove something existed unless there is a line item associated with it and OLDER equipment, barely has serial numbers, let alone good accurate part numbers.

Sorry but $50 for a lens cap isn't penny-pinching. They're not irreplaceable. It's someone trying to enrich themselves at the expense of someone lower down the food chain.

Phil, it's China. There's no goodwill factor.


Edited by Mark Dunn, 08 June 2016 - 11:17 AM.

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#20 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 11:38 AM

There's a diffence between renting equipment and usung the camera supplied by the production company. If you're renting it;s up to you to make good anything other than reasonable wear and tear from everyday use. That would include gate covers and lens caps, insurance normally has an excess, so this isn't unreasonable, although they may or may not charge for a lens cap replacement depending on good will. However, losing the gate cover I would expect to get charged for.

 

The production company's own gear on their own productions isn't in the same situation. although as the operator you should take reasonable care.


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