Luckily on my last show we were held to a 12-hour work day -- after eight months of that, I was pretty tired even on Mondays let alone Fridays. I remember seeing a doctor near the end of the shoot for flu-like symptoms (body aches, head aches, dizziness, etc.) and he said it was just exhaustion!
It's all a calculation on the part of production companies, the hourly rates of the crew versus the cost of the location, the equipment rentals, and most of all, the A-list actors who get paid huge sums and therefore have a limited number of days that the production can afford to have them on set. So if it's going to cost you another million dollars to hold an actor for another day or two, suddenly it looks cheaper to pay 50 or 100 people for overtime and work them 14 or 16 hours a day instead.
The LAST thing that should happen is to change the rules so that double-rate overtime begins at 14 hours instead of 12 hours, that's basically like saying that a 14-hour day is the new normal working day. People who don't work on features or TV series often don't think a 14-hour day is a big deal, but do it regularly for a few months in a row and it becomes very dangerous. Tired people are not safe -- not safe on the road, not safe operating heavy equipment, etc. And that doesn't even bring creativity into the mix.
It's not going to change unless there is either a financial penalty for working long hours, i.e. overtime gets so high that it is not cost-effective relative to the other costs, or A-list actors rates come back down into a realm closer to the rest of the people working on a production, or the government steps in puts severe restrictions on going beyond 12-hours for a work day. Or the Producers Guild of America decide that for humane reasons to limit the day to 12-hours or require a 12-hour turnaround for everyone, not just the actors.
The drivers have it the worse because they start before everyone else and finish after everyone else, so if the crew is working a 14-hour day, then they are working a 16-hour day.
For reasons of safety, efficiency, and quality, I would absolutely support 12 on/12 off.
Thanks for posting this Shane. Good stuff, and good for the producer, Gavin Palone, for sticking his neck out - pretty courageous. It could be argued that since budgets are a zero sum game - fixed for the purposes of a given show or movie - a hefty component of what drives this madness is above the line fees, especially for producers and talent. I have been waiting a long time for some of the more prominent leftists in the acting and producing worlds to put their money where their mouths are and distribute the wealth. Even 50% of their substantial fees would go a long way toward increasing pay and reducing hours for below the line crew. I'm not holding my breath, however.
In the meantime, it's a free market and as long as the glamour of the film business holds out, there will be endless lines of young people waiting to kill themselves for the "silver screen," which will drive down rates and increase hours. There are many other factors, but I don't know if this one ever gets solved.
So true that in NYC PA's who are doing the same hours as you for 1/8th the pay. Can't even pay their rent, most lived at home or with relatives in the city. 4500 hours a year for 50,000 Dollars a year dealing with the general public, primadona actors/actresses, and other stresses .. sad sad
Honestly the long hours never really bother me, because for the most part things move at an acceptable pace. You're not in a constant whirlwind of activity for those twelve hours.
What bothers me is when production tries to fit twenty shots in a day, and that pace increases. The justification is often "Yes we do have a lot of shots, but they're very short!" Of course, the length of the shot doesn't matter if it's a new setup every two shots...sometimes this has a cherry on top like "And the last shot is a zolly."
What I WOULD like to see is travel time being factored into turnaround times more.
Call me crazy, but I like to spend time with my wife in the evenings after work. I'd like to not be exhausted all weekend so I can go out to a movie with her and not fall asleep in the middle of it. 12-hour days for months on end are tolerable, not ideal, but 14-hours+ for months on end is insanity, it's for young people with lots of energy and no family or friends. And, again, it's not safe. And worst of all, you don't just put your life at risk driving home tired, you put innocent people on the road at risk.
And camera people have one of the few crew positions where you work during the set-up AND during the take. Actors mainly work during the take (and rehearsals, make-up time, etc.) and other crew people work during the set-ups and can rest during the takes. If I step away just to take a piss, there is a PA following me on a walkie reporting on when I enter and leave the john, it's crazy. Or I hear: "he's headed for the craft service table... he's looking at the donuts... no, he's headed back to set..."
Last edited by David Mullen ASC; 05-24-2012 at 11:39 PM.
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