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Justin Hayward

Union operator question

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Last week I was brought onto a commercial fairly last minute to direct the live action portion of a table top commercial.  This was a union job, but since I was basically second unit, I had a gaffer, but no DP.  There was a motion control set with a MC operator and a dolly set that was supposed to all be locked off, so just one AC.  On the dolly set there were several different focal length locked off shots of actors doing different things.  The commercial agency story boards included extreme close ups of mouths and eyes, but with the actors still slightly moving around.  With the camera locked off in those close ups, the actors quickly moved in and out of frame and it obviously didn't work.  We had no operator and the AC was very busy trying to hold these extreme close ups in focus, so I jumped on the camera and operated to keep the action in frame.  Again, I was brought in last minute on this job and didn't even know what I was shooting until I arrived in the morning, so the idea of hiring an operator wasn't even something I could have considered if I wanted to.  Anyway, later that day I was read the riot act from a camera union guy that I shouldn't have touched the camera cause of the union issues.  What was the right thing for me to do in that situation?  Thanks.

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I think if this was an IATSE union shoot, and there was no camera operator hired, you should not touch the camera.  But, as a director, if you insist on operating the camera, and there is a union camera operator assigned to that camera, you could request to operate the camera yourself.  I'm not sure if that is strictly within the "rules" but, the director is the boss...

But if the MC operator was a union camera operator, then...maybe sort of ok, as you are operating the same camera that he/she is assigned to.  Or you could have had the union MC operator operate the shot.

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That's a good point, thanks Bruce. So if there were an operator there that was paid, then it might be okay for me to jump in, but since no one got the job, I shouldn't have touched the camera.  The MC operator is a computer guy and has never touched a "manual" camera, so he wouldn't have done it if I wanted him to. 

It's a tough situation for me, because I want to be hired by them again and it's hard to explain to people that want a simple close up with very simple camera moves, that they can't have it because the production didn't hire an operator before I got there and nobody other than a hired operator can touch the camera... I'm not sure how to explain that without sounding like I'm telling them they can't eat the dinner they payed for at at my restaurant because I didn't pay someone to pick up their fork.

I have to find a good way to explain this kind of stuff if I'm in this situation again.  

Thanks again.

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I hate to fall into my accustomed role as basher of unions here, but this sort of shenanigans is exactly why I find it all more than a little hard to stomach.

You can't really find a good way to defend the indefensible and frankly I wouldn't try; you don't want to be held responsible for idiotic rules imposed by other people.

P

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In the UK this sort of nonsense ended in the 70s or 80s. It's utterly childish for a camera operator to be told not to touch a camera.

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On 4/1/2019 at 10:55 AM, Mark Dunn said:

In the UK this sort of nonsense ended in the 70s or 80s. It's utterly childish for a camera operator to be told not to touch a camera.

No one told the camera operator to "not touch" the camera. 

In this instance the assigned camera operator couldn't work the camera. 

 

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11 hours ago, Ed Conley said:

No one told the camera operator to "not touch" the camera. 

In this instance the assigned camera operator couldn't work the camera. 

 

 

On 3/30/2019 at 10:45 PM, Justin Hayward said:

Anyway, later that day I was read the riot act from a camera union guy that I shouldn't have touched the camera cause of the union issues.

 

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he is a director. 🙂

No Camera operator was told to not touch the camera.


 

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On 3/30/2019 at 10:45 PM, Justin Hayward said:

I jumped on the camera and operated to keep the action in frame.

 

On 3/30/2019 at 10:45 PM, Justin Hayward said:

I shouldn't have touched the camera cause of the union issues

I give up.

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I give up too.

 

let the sparky run the camera and the director can run the electric.

 

send the grips to get crafty and the PA can run the arial lift.

 

 

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Justin, did the day end with some success at least? I would take a bollocking any day as long as the job gets done and the adults are happy.These rules seem antiquated for sure, they are what they are, and its the union's prerogative to make sure they are adhered to. It's also your prerogative to do what you think is best for the shoot and get the work done. If this means ignoring the union rules (which are not legally binding btw, you can't be arrested for touching a camera) then so be it. 

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It comes down to saying in prep that if the camera has to be operated, they hire an operator or a DP who will operate.

You don't want a commercial house basically not hiring anyone to work the cameras in the hope that someone will secretly do it anyway, saving them the money of not hiring someone.  It's silly, they wouldn't expect the director to jump in and apply make-up to the actors because someone said in prep that there wasn't going to be any make-up but it turned out to be needed.

Otherwise, why bother doing the commercial under a union contract?

Though if anyone was going to get into trouble, it was the production company, not Justin personally if he wasn't a member of the union.

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