Time for Some Union Rules


Though we’re not quite in the union, all our film sets are run using their rules (with the addition of some film school rules). This plays a very important part in how film sets are run and the day is scheduled, so I figured an overview is in order.

A typical day is 13 hours. You can’t work more than 6 hours without having a meal, so that’s 6 hours of work, 1 hour for lunch ((If you need to have a shorter lunch (ex: you need all the daylight you can get), you can have a 30-minute last man through lunch, which is a 30 minute lunch after the last person gets their food.)), and 6 hours after lunch. The end of the day means “doors down” on the grip truck, not finishing the last shot and starting to wrap. Wrapping all the equipment to the grip truck takes 45 minutes, which must be taken into account, unless you want to go into overtime.

In the union different amounts of overtime get different pay scales (1.5x, 2x, 3x, etc.). Since we don’t get paid for work, each production gets 1 hour of overtime for each production day. This means each thesis show gets 3 hours (doubles get 6).

If you need to use overtime and go past the 13 hour day, you have to feed the crew a second-lunch since it will be past the 6 hour limit. This is usually pizza or tacos and is called a 15-minute walking meal. Once the meal is done you start going into overtime minute-for-minute.

The Script Supervisor (pictured above) is the official time-keeper. Throughout the day they take note of certain times (crew call, first shot of the day, meal start, meal end, camera wrap, doors down). This is transferred to the Daily Production Report and turned into the Head of Production, where it is reviewed each day.

The main rule that gets broken is the 6 hour limit. Sometimes lunch is late, or if it’s the end of the day it might not be worth it to order a second-lunch when you just need a few more minutes. If you go over the limit, you start using double overtime. So if you go 5 minutes over meal penalty, you’ve just used 10 minutes of overtime. If you use all your overtime and still go over, I think the Director and Producer lose one day of editing from their films (not 100% positive).

If the entire crew is students without faculty supervision, what’s to keep us from fixing the numbers? We are required to call the Head of Production throughout the day, but I’d say it’s more the honors system and power in numbers. No one likes to be taken advantage of. Like I said, we’re not getting paid, so the least you can do is let us eat and rest. And I don’t think anyone wants to take the risk that none of the 15 crew members will go to the Head of Production to report them.

Besides, with proper planning, the time we’re given is enough to not have to overwork the crew. I haven’t been on a set that has not followed the overtime rules. It’s something we understand and it prepares us for the real-world.

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