Jump to content

Hurting for crew


Recommended Posts

  • Premium Member

Apparently, the film and TV industry, particularly in the UK, has a serious problem crewing productions. I have to say it's not something I have hit personally as when I occasionally need people it's often just for a day or two. For anyone setting up for a multi-week feature or high-end TV production, though, it's apparently grim out there, with crew able to charge significantly enhanced rates as there's almost nobody available. Producers, particularly on mid-range shows that can't afford the new rates, are suffering mightily.

And you know what?

p1.jpg?w=430&h=230&crop=1

Film and TV has long been an absolutely horrible employer, at least since the contractorisation of more or less all crewing. It's right up there with the most notorious boogeymen like fashion, it its enthusiasm to rapaciously exploit near-helpless young newbies. Borderline-illegal employment practices have been allowed to run rampant, from straightforward nepotism to open-secret initiatives to create closed shops by the back door. Entry involves months - probably a year or two at least - of employment at almost-illegal wages, in expensive cities with not even the hint of recognisable qualifications or employment at the end of it. At worst, it can involve taking the casual abuse of more senior people who know they can get away with it. Not seen it? Try being a new, female, grip or electrician. It's practically hazing, and it's hard to tell whether they really mean it or not. Your average five-foot-one, 105-pound school leaver would certainly be forgiven for taking it personally in the locker-room atmosphere of a film crew lunch break.

And let's not just make this about the more overtly tool-belt-wearing parts of the profession. Post-production houses are notorious for hiring minimum-wage people on zero-hour contracts to fetch takeaways for the better-paid with, generally, zero prospects of meaningful advancement. When the awkward questions about a step up the ladder begin, there's always another offspring of the wealthy who can crash in the family's Kensington apartment for a few months while they work out how comprehensively they're being screwed by a company with a nine-figure turnover.

Whether or not it was ever the producers' problem to clamp down on this sort of thing (and make no mistake: it was), the production office hardly comes off looking blameless. Training has long been perpetually someone else's problem. With a few exceptions, producers and other employing entities, such as rental houses, expect people to just somehow be available, and are rarely asked, and practically never required, to contribute anything to any sort of official training. I know this because I've done it; even on the small stuff I've organised, I have on two occasions been pressured to find some money to pay for a very new person who was acquainted with the focus puller. I did it because someone has to, but financially, that probably just makes me the idiot (I don't do it any more because the stuff I organise is generally not sufficiently like a real shoot for anyone to learn anything useful, but that's beside the point).

For a long time, the requirements for crew - again, particularly in the UK - were so low that it barely mattered, and these deeply unpleasant, catastrophically unreliable arrangements were somehow enough to train new people. Since it became clear that wasn't going to keep working, there have  been a couple of very small scale initiatives to try to regularise things, though almost any of them could be characterised as an attempt to control the labour market. One organised by a big UK rental company does deserve calling out as a high point, but in general, it hasn't been nearly enough, hence the desperate situation we're in now.

And as ungenerous as it is, I'm not going to be able to get the smile off my face for a week.

  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

  • Premium Member
On 5/30/2022 at 4:09 PM, Phil Rhodes said:

Apparently, the film and TV industry, particularly in the UK, has a serious problem crewing productions. I have to say it's not something I have hit personally as when I occasionally need people it's often just for a day or two. For anyone setting up for a multi-week feature or high-end TV production, though, it's apparently grim out there, with crew able to charge significantly enhanced rates as there's almost nobody available. Producers, particularly on mid-range shows that can't afford the new rates, are suffering mightily.

And you know what?

p1.jpg?w=430&h=230&crop=1

Film and TV has long been an absolutely horrible employer, at least since the contractorisation of more or less all crewing. It's right up there with the most notorious boogeymen like fashion, it its enthusiasm to rapaciously exploit near-helpless young newbies. Borderline-illegal employment practices have been allowed to run rampant, from straightforward nepotism to open-secret initiatives to create closed shops by the back door. Entry involves months - probably a year or two at least - of employment at almost-illegal wages, in expensive cities with not even the hint of recognisable qualifications or employment at the end of it. At worst, it can involve taking the casual abuse of more senior people who know they can get away with it. Not seen it? Try being a new, female, grip or electrician. It's practically hazing, and it's hard to tell whether they really mean it or not. Your average five-foot-one, 105-pound school leaver would certainly be forgiven for taking it personally in the locker-room atmosphere of a film crew lunch break.

And let's not just make this about the more overtly tool-belt-wearing parts of the profession. Post-production houses are notorious for hiring minimum-wage people on zero-hour contracts to fetch takeaways for the better-paid with, generally, zero prospects of meaningful advancement. When the awkward questions about a step up the ladder begin, there's always another offspring of the wealthy who can crash in the family's Kensington apartment for a few months while they work out how comprehensively they're being screwed by a company with a nine-figure turnover.

Whether or not it was ever the producers' problem to clamp down on this sort of thing (and make no mistake: it was), the production office hardly comes off looking blameless. Training has long been perpetually someone else's problem. With a few exceptions, producers and other employing entities, such as rental houses, expect people to just somehow be available, and are rarely asked, and practically never required, to contribute anything to any sort of official training. I know this because I've done it; even on the small stuff I've organised, I have on two occasions been pressured to find some money to pay for a very new person who was acquainted with the focus puller. I did it because someone has to, but financially, that probably just makes me the idiot (I don't do it any more because the stuff I organise is generally not sufficiently like a real shoot for anyone to learn anything useful, but that's beside the point).

For a long time, the requirements for crew - again, particularly in the UK - were so low that it barely mattered, and these deeply unpleasant, catastrophically unreliable arrangements were somehow enough to train new people. Since it became clear that wasn't going to keep working, there have  been a couple of very small scale initiatives to try to regularise things, though almost any of them could be characterised as an attempt to control the labour market. One organised by a big UK rental company does deserve calling out as a high point, but in general, it hasn't been nearly enough, hence the desperate situation we're in now.

And as ungenerous as it is, I'm not going to be able to get the smile off my face for a week.

I wish there was a lack of cinematographers in the UK too!.. maybe we are too many! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...