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Meal Penalty


Kenny Williams
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Long story cut very short. I'm a production assitant and I've done a few gigs and one reality show. I'm working on another show, and I had a call of 8am but was in runs all day. I was told around 2pm that while on my runs to grab lunch. While I was trying to do that I was rushed back to set and never got it. I got back to set sround 3 and they assumed I had eaten then at 3:30 they finally broke me. Don't I have to eat by hour 6?

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Yes, they should have broken you at 6hr and had another PA take over for you for 30min or however long lunch was supposed to be. I think sometimes things get hectic in production dept, but that’s no excuse for not feeding people properly.

Maybe at the end of the day, you can have a private conversation with your 2nd AD or Key PA and let them know what happened so the meal penalty can be added to your timecard? If this starts to happen repeatedly, then that’s a bigger issue. 

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I guess they owe you a meal penalty (not sure what the rules for PA's are, if meal penalties are just a union contract issue and whether those apply to PA's, etc.)... although since they told you to get lunch, if this happens again, when they ask you back too early, you should make it clear to them that this would cause you to miss your lunch break so they can decide if they want to pay for a meal penalty or let you stay out longer, eat, and then come back. But having them pay for a meal penalty is also a way for the producer to lean on production to keep better track of things like that in the future, otherwise they might just keep opting to go for the meal penalty.

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I think the art is ,standing up for yourself, and eating is pretty fundamental , without being the angry guy ..  and so its best to bring up any grievances early , in a non confrontational way..state the facts.. rather then let it all fester and then blowing your top .. don't want to sound like Yoda .. but I was often the hot head back in the day.. never ends well .. just say what you have here, to the relevant person in production.. but also don't be a door matt either..  some productions will just be dicks and people have died as a result.. and Ive never worked on anything worth dying for yet .. 🙂 

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9 hours ago, Kenny Williams said:

Gotcha thanks! It's a non union show if that helps, and as a pa it's always a strange fine line of trying to stand up for yourself to superiors while also not trying to sound like a problem person. 

That’s very true, though as Robin says there are ways to stand up for yourself without being a dick. Bring it up quietly when it happens, or if it’s not a good time, then at the end of the day. Keep it simple and to the point, don’t embarrass anybody if you don’t have to. They need to know, so just let them know. Things like safety and being fed are pretty basic things.

It’s also good if you can get advice from someone responsible directly above you, which is why I mentioned talking to the Key Set PA, if there is one. I remember one time I was the local 2nd AC on a big Korean car commercial, and the whole shoot was full of irregular things like the whole crew driving personal vehicles hundreds of miles a day in multiple company moves, or the whole company going two hours into meal penalty at lunch.

I asked the very experienced 1st AC who had worked on several of these Korean jobs and said this was normal for the company and to just roll with it. Apparently these guys came over to the US with suitcases of cash and just threw money at their problems. The keys never let their crew do anything unsafe, so I just went with it. It was very strange though.

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Yeah a similar thing ended up happening. It's a very very small crew and it was actually our covid officer who was pushing and fighting for me to take my lunch because the crew had lunch on set hours prior when I returned from all my runs, and he told me that they'll take advantage of people who don't know because of inexperience. 

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6 hours ago, Robin R Probyn said:

Ive never worked on anything worth dying for yet

Oh I dont' know............doesn't "Tokyo Dogs" sound like one you'd have been proud to get an ".In Loving Memory of......." in the credits? Or "Ninja Shadow Warriors"? I bet the sound recordist's wallet had its own transport on that one.

Edited by Mark Dunn
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3 minutes ago, Kenny Williams said:

Yeah a similar thing ended up happening. It's a very very small crew and it was actually our covid officer who was pushing and fighting for me to take my lunch because the crew had lunch on set hours prior when I returned from all my runs, and he told me that they'll take advantage of people who don't know because of inexperience. 

Ah, well good for the Covid officer at least. Was the lunch catered, or individually prepared orders?

For catering pre-Covid, we would usually make someone in our department a plate if they had to continue working during lunch. The keys should know which of their guys have broken for lunch and who is still working, and have meal plates prepared accordingly.

Haven’t been back on set on a crew of that size post-Covid yet, but presumably since meals are now being prepared and packaged individually, this should be even simpler. Just let you boss know you need a meal set aside for you next time. 

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7 hours ago, Mark Dunn said:

Oh I dont' know............doesn't "Tokyo Dogs" sound like one you'd have been proud to get an ".In Loving Memory of......." in the credits? Or "Ninja Shadow Warriors"? I bet the sound recordist's wallet had its own transport on that one.

Sound recordists wallet was used as counter weight for all crane shots ..  "Tokyo Dogs".. wow thats going back and was shot on film !! 

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22 hours ago, Kenny Williams said:

Yeah a similar thing ended up happening. It's a very very small crew and it was actually our covid officer who was pushing and fighting for me to take my lunch because the crew had lunch on set hours prior when I returned from all my runs, and he told me that they'll take advantage of people who don't know because of inexperience. 

PA life is hard. More often than not PA's are given a working lunch and barely have time to rest, at least in the US. My wife was working towards joining the DGA as a PA on a number of large budget projects for years. The producers would sometimes allow one meal penalty a day, but the general culture for PA's on those large budgets was that you were working from call to wrap and were required to take an hour off on your timecard regardless if you had an hour break or not. She would seldom get a full meal because PA's always ate last and almost all the food would be gone. The reality of the PA culture is that PA's are viewed as easily replaceable on big budgets and if any PA objected to the aforementioned problems, they simply wouldn't be called back. In the US, the whole show is union except for the PA's who have no representation. It's a hard, thankless, and, at times, demeaning job.

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  • 5 months later...

Hi Kenny,

it looks like you’re in Los Angeles, first of all meal penalties only apply to union contracts, if you’re in the nonunion world you’re just an employee meaning yes you are correct- legally you must be broken by hour 6- the caveat here is that if you are not then you get a “penalty” but it’s not calculated like union penalties, it does not accrue and the total penalty is equal to one additional hour of your rate, no matter how long over that 6 hour mark you eat. Fun fact, calling grace is also exclusive to union shows and there are no California labor laws I am aware of that allow for an extra twelve minutes of work to be performed past that 6 hour mark. Does grace get called all the time on nonunion gigs? Absolutely, and you probably won’t make friends pointing that out to the first AD but it is a good example of seeing how things can get skewed from union to non union- unfortunately these things happens to the PAs even more than it should, my best advice is to continue what you’re doing here which is taking note when something seems wrong and following up on it later. 
 

Note: I’ve been a nonunion 1st AC in Los Angeles for about eight years and through my own personal findings and legal discussions I’ve found all this info to be accurate and have never experienced pushback, that being said I’m not in labor law and anybody that knows better or can source these easily please feel free to chime in. 

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4 hours ago, Travis Shannon said:

Fun fact, calling grace is also exclusive to union shows and there are no California labor laws I am aware of that allow for an extra twelve minutes of work to be performed past that 6 hour mark. Does grace get called all the time on nonunion gigs? Absolutely, and you probably won’t make friends pointing that out to the first AD

I’ve had to point out numerous times in the past that there’s no such thing as Grace on a non union show, therefore the 1st AD can’t “call” it, they can only ask for it. It’s not always the most popular comment to make, but it doesn’t hurt to occasionally  remind them that you are doing them a favor by working on.

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7 hours ago, Stuart Brereton said:

I’ve had to point out numerous times in the past that there’s no such thing as Grace on a non union show, therefore the 1st AD can’t “call” it, they can only ask for it. It’s not always the most popular comment to make, but it doesn’t hurt to occasionally  remind them that you are doing them a favor by working on.

Yes, the calling vs asking thing is critical, I remember a particularly maddening feature shoot that was non union but somehow SAG so they would call Grace for talent literally every day even though there was no benefit to any BTL crew member, they thought it was a mutiny when we all docked them for six extra hours per week but they stopped the funny timekeeping as well, sometimes you’ve just gotta say no- glad I’m not the only one.

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On 8/30/2020 at 10:16 AM, Satsuki Murashige said:

Ah, well good for the Covid officer at least. Was the lunch catered, or individually prepared orders?

For catering pre-Covid, we would usually make someone in our department a plate if they had to continue working during lunch. The keys should know which of their guys have broken for lunch and who is still working, and have meal plates prepared accordingly.

Haven’t been back on set on a crew of that size post-Covid yet, but presumably since meals are now being prepared and packaged individually, this should be even simpler. Just let you boss know you need a meal set aside for you next time. 

It was catering, so I got to buy myself something at the closest spot which was Wendy's. Long story short I don't really work on that show anymore. There are numerous problems with the way it is organized again, it's a very small crew it's MAYBE 20 total, and its non union reality. I'm starting to realize a "producer" in reality doesn't seem to take much intelligence or knowledge as the same position on a commercial, a game show, or narrative. 

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18 hours ago, Travis Shannon said:

Hi Kenny,

it looks like you’re in Los Angeles, first of all meal penalties only apply to union contracts, if you’re in the nonunion world you’re just an employee meaning yes you are correct- legally you must be broken by hour 6- the caveat here is that if you are not then you get a “penalty” but it’s not calculated like union penalties, it does not accrue and the total penalty is equal to one additional hour of your rate, no matter how long over that 6 hour mark you eat. Fun fact, calling grace is also exclusive to union shows and there are no California labor laws I am aware of that allow for an extra twelve minutes of work to be performed past that 6 hour mark. Does grace get called all the time on nonunion gigs? Absolutely, and you probably won’t make friends pointing that out to the first AD but it is a good example of seeing how things can get skewed from union to non union- unfortunately these things happens to the PAs even more than it should, my best advice is to continue what you’re doing here which is taking note when something seems wrong and following up on it later. 
 

Note: I’ve been a nonunion 1st AC in Los Angeles for about eight years and through my own personal findings and legal discussions I’ve found all this info to be accurate and have never experienced pushback, that being said I’m not in labor law and anybody that knows better or can source these easily please feel free to chime in. 

Appreciate the advice! That's all I'm trying to figure is I wanna know when I'm being mistreated or maybe this is normal. There really isn't a book you kinda just figure it out. 

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