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How do guys like Luc Besson pull it off with the unions?

I mean, he directs, DP's and operates on his films.

Luc Besson does not DP his films. He does operate them, but he is a lousy geared head operator I'm told...

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There seems to be a supposition that the Operating job is not a complete, full time job. Having done it on several features let me assure you that it is. Unless every shot is a lockoff static closeup there is a need for a thinking person behind that eyepiece. And the DP can be very active during a take as well, noting how the light effects things as actors or the camera move during the shot.

 

Anytime multiple jobs are combined it simply means that they are not being done as well.

 

In England they don't even say DP and Camera Operator. THere's the Lighting Cameraperson and the Operating Cameraperson. With the director this forms a little triangle and raises the perceived importance of the Operator all the more.

 

"Just what exactly are you doing while the camera is roling?"

 

If you are a good filmmaker, then a lot of things no matter what your position on the crew.

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Well, in my case, when I'm one of the operators on a 2-camera shoot, as well as the DP, I can't see what the other camera is doing during the take! Sometimes I get dailies back and look at the other camera's footage and think "if I had seen that take, I would have told the dolly grip to slow down the move a little... I would have asked for some more headroom... I would have suggested that they rack-focus a beat later and rack slower... etc." But instead, I have to concentrate on my own camera when operating so I'm pretty much not supervising the other camera unless I want to run playback after every take to double-check.

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Good point David.

I didn't think about the two camera situation, that makes sense.

 

And Phil, I would suggest that union requirements remove market forces completely, and that's their point.

I mean, it's not market forces that have Teamsters driving in the morning, and driving at the end of the shoot, and standing around drinking coffee for the 7-12 hours in between, collecting OT, right?

 

It just seems like some of these rules are designed specifically to get as many union paychecks handed out as is humanly possible.

I mean, can you see any reason why a dolly grip can't learn to load?

Is it because he's likely to need to run the dolly while loading is going on?

I think probably not.

Is it because each one of these jobs is too difficult for one person to possibly be skilled at?

There's gotta be one person doing every single job, and as has been mentioned in other posts lately (on loading) it doesn't take a brain surgeon to do some of this stuff.

(I'm not referring to DP'ing or operating, obviously).

I'm not trying to insult anyone, I hope that's obvious.

It's just that we've all been on shoots where 80% of the crew is standing around most of the time drinking coffee and eating donuts.

It seems like there's never more than 3 people doing anything at any one time.

 

Matt Pacini

 

P.S. Luc Besson works on union shoots... unless Bruce Willis was scabbing.

 

P.S.S. Any Teamsters reading this, i was just kidding about those Teamster remarks.

No really, just kidding, ha ha.

Oh, and I just moved yesterday... to a different country, so I'm not at the same address anymore... Tansania, I think...

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Max,

 

You may not be comfortable answering this, but was that actor Rutger Hauer? I looked at your IMDB link and saw you worked with him. Again, no pressure to answer.

 

Mike

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And now with me having to use operators on my union shoots, obviously I'd like to see the framing during the take as well!

And what happens when the director describes the shot? Does he talk to the operator directly or say it through you?

 

And is there a quota of shots which you can steal from the operator? I'd feel strange to make an explanation to operate a particular shot...

 

What if the director wants to operate a shot? I think the question is should there be a rational reason for anybody other than the operator to operate?

 

I'm glad we don't have this restriction in Europe!

 

What's the situation in UK, anyone?

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On a union shoot, I'm in charge of the operator and the director talks to me and I then talk to the operator, but it's not set in stone - it's more casual than that. We are all standing next to each other anyway. The director can say something to the operator directly and vice-versa. Whatever keeps things moving along on the set.

 

I can operate the shot if I want, and so can the director (Ridley Scott is well-known for operating many of his shots). Some DP's are known for doing their own operating on union shows: Roger Deakins and Robert Richardson for example.

 

The only "rule" is that there is an operator there on the set or at least, on the payroll.

 

On "D.E.B.S." we went union on the second week and decided to promote our part-time Steadicam operator to full-time operator, but I kept operating A-camera anyway for the rest of the show. Turned out though that the Steadicam operator, Michael Gfelner, had been a regular operator for years and was quite experienced. The only reason I didn't let him operate more was that when it was a non-union show, I had promised my 1st AC that he could operate whenever I wasn't operating, so when it became a union show, it seemed easier to keep operating rather than have my 1st AC work under another operator and hurt his feelings in any way. On the next show that also turned union in the second week, I did promote the same 1st AC to operator this time.

 

In retrospect, I probably should have just let Michael operate because he turned out to be a lot better at it than me!

 

On the last show, which was union from the start, I interviewed and then hired on operator, which was great. But on the two last year, both started out with me operating because I was told there was no budget for a separate operator, so it was somewhat disruptive to have to deal with the finding an operator once it went union after we had already started. On the first one, I dealt with it by not changing anything, kept on operating, and just let someone get paid as an operator who was only there to do Steadicam shots; on the second one, I promoted the 1st AC to operator, the 2nd AC to 1st AC, etc. I really don't care one way or the other -- I'm not in love with operating frankly -- but it is a lot better when I know from the start which way the shoot is going to be. The union rep thought I had some beef against operators since I kept on operating on "D.E.B.S." but it was simply because I didn't want to confuse the shoot by changing gears and I didn't want to deal with whether to promote my first versus have him work under the Steadicam operator for the whole show, so I dealt with it by avoiding it.

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Hi,

 

 

>The union rep thought I had some beef against operators

 

Is that the creepy guy who you always see hanging around looking for likely tyre-slash victims?

 

I am reminded vividly of a runin I had with a shop steward at [company].

 

Phil

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No, she is a very nice lady actually... she just didn't understand why I didn't want to drop the operating cold one day, after a week of shooting, and start letting someone else do it. You know, you get into a groove of working and you'd rather not make a change at that point.

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I have it on first-hand account from three different people that union crews in the US are workshy;

This is one of the things I use as comfort when reflecting upon the fact that I'll never work on big union film shoots anyway!

Preposterous. I'm an IATSE member, I've worked on dozens a TV shows, big movies, small movies, you name it; so I can tell you firsthand that U.S. crews are not workshy. We routinely work 16 hour days, go 9 hours between meal breaks, endure bad weather, unhealthy environments, and on and on. The average TV show begins filming on Monday morning at 6 or 7am, and the week ends sometime around 3 or 4 am the next Saturday morning. Workshy? Are you f*ing kidding me? These hours and conditions exist DESPITE the few workrules that producers are still obligated to observe. Sure, once in a while someone gets a paycheck for just showing up, (or even not showing up) but that's hardly cause to shed tears for the above-the-liners. What do you think things would be like if the producers had a blank check?

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The only difference between a union and a non-union feature shoot is that you generally work a 5-day week instead of a 6-day week. Other than that, it simply is costing the producers more to go into overtime, but that doesn't seem to stop them anyway. But we work just as hard, shoot just as many set-ups per day, etc.

 

I mean, I'm still having to average shooting 5 pages of script per day on the lower-end union shoots, so there's no relief in terms of the amount of work that has to get done. We all work our tails off, we all go home exhausted.

 

Maybe it's less stressful on a big show, but I doubt it (from talking to Greg Irwin) -- even with a longer schedule and more money, the shots get more ambitious, more complex, and the money and time are stretched the same to accomplish it.

 

Anyway, I hope I never have to shoot any more 6-days per week features, but I somehow doubt it.

 

If the thought of paying overtime keeps producers down to 12-hour work days in general, I'm all for it even if occasionally I want to work a little longer.

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Hi,

 

We can all pull counter-examples out. I once worked on a concert lighting crew. 8am loadout at the warehouse, an hour from where I live. Two hour drive. Rig until about 2pm. Program intelligent lighting and plot followspots (which is what I was doing, as well as everything else.) Run the show until around midnight. Wait for the crowd to clear. Derig and drive it home. I kept having to pinch the guy who was driving the truck I was riding in order to avoid getting spread all over the crash barriers. It was overwork, gratuitously unsafe, and should not have been allowed.

 

Unfortunately in the UK it isn't terribly uncommon.

 

Phil

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Forgive me if someone else suggested or discussed this option to Phil and David's union issue...but....what if the producer had two options:

 

1) Pay for an operator for every camera (as is required now)

 

or

 

2) If for any reason, it is decided that the DP is going to operate any camera, then the producer is required to add the operator's day rate to the DP's day rate.

 

Either way, the producer's bottom line is the same and has no financial incentive to pressure the DP to operate.....and nobody is getting paid for NOT doing work (making Phil happy).

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  • 2 weeks later...
2) If for any reason, it is decided that the DP is going to operate any camera, then the producer is required to add the operator's day rate to the DP's day rate.

 

Either way, the producer's bottom line is the same and has no financial incentive to pressure the DP to operate.....and nobody is getting paid for NOT doing work (making Phil happy).

You're forgetting the fringe payments to pension/welfare, workman's comp. and other additionals that come into play when another human being is put into the mix.

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Does anyone NOT shoot with video assist anymore? (I'm talking about studio films, etc.)

I believe Clint Eastwood is one of the few people that doesn't use video assist....at least not in the traditional way. I think at most he used a modulus with a little hand-held monitor. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

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I mean, can you see any reason why a dolly grip can't learn to load?

Is it because he's likely to need to run the dolly while loading is going on?

I think probably not.

Is it because each one of these jobs is too difficult for one person to possibly be skilled at?

That's just silly. I doubt anyone's ever seen someone load a mag while laying track for a dolly at the same time. Maybe David Copperfield could pull that off....

And sometimes a dolly grip may have to push the dolly for a rehearsal while camera is waiting on a mag to be loaded. There are very good reason's why there are so many positions on a set. Sure, sometimes someone could do two jobs, but like Mitch said, they may be doing both jobs, but not doing either very well.

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It seems like its well time video assist became a wireless affair, whether shooting film or video.

 

A good way to go about it would be to use a standardized format, such as 802.11 (WiFi). A WiFi transmitter attached or built into the camera?s video assist. Sending out the general signal for all to receive.

 

WiFi is now up to 54Mbps and coming soon a new standard of it will be 100Mbps. And as much as 50 connection can be made from one transmitter. The signal can have 128 bit encryption which would render the signal useless to anyone with out the encryption key. The 802.11 also was made to fluctuate constantly so it does not receive interference from other radio transmitters or receivers.

 

Pretty much all new computers come with WiFi capability built into them so any computer on set will be able to receive a video feed directly from the camera. The editor or visual effects supervisor can sit on set with a Power Book taking picture feed from the camera and using it right away.

 

It would be very easy to fashion a receiver for CRT or flat screen monitors. Since the video village is going flat screen because of its form and weight, then their can be a direct digital to digital interface.

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