Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2nd Unit

I start a second unit tomorrow night on a very large movie. It's with a Key Grip and DP I've never worked with. The Best Boy is an old friend of mine who called me for the gig. Anyway, I always dislike starting from scratch with guys I don't know and who don't know me. The first day is always like an audition. I always fear the infrequent but occasional personality clash (which has actually only really happened once in 20 years, but is always a possibility). A buddy of mine was supposed to push on it but decided he didn't want to be locked in to a 2nd unit for 3 months. I'll take it cause I've got nothing steady until possibly October anyway.
One of the music videos I did about 3 weeks ago is giving us money problems. They only sent half of what they owe and supposedly will send the rest later this week. I smell a rat. What is it with these guys? They made the budget and hired the crew and they decided to shoot a 16 and then a 20 hour day and now they don't have the money (or decency) to pay what they owe? I have never understood this mentality which seems to run rampant in the world of music videos. If we were plumbers and they didn't pay us they would expect to be taken to court (or the parking lot) immediately. But since it's the film business they think we're somehow so priviledged to work on their crap that they can't pay us the full amount even after a month? Gee, I wonder if the director got paid? If you want to hire people for free or only pay half of what you owe, take that crap to craigslist.


Azurgrip said...

Have fun on your second unit. Who know, maybe it'll be the start of a wonderful new friendship... Generally, you don't have to worry much about your own guys, it's the camera folk you have to worry about - starting with the Operator. It will all fall into place.

As for the music video people - have you checked http://hollywoodcrewblacklist.blogspot.com/ for their reputation?

The Grip Works said...

Hi D! A couple of things , 2nd unit can either be terrible or great, like all things it tends to depend on who you are working with. If the operator , DoP & Director are fun, it can be a blast. However you will almost certainly be treated as the stepchild as far as requirements for equipment go. Catering will not be that great, and you may get second rung support crew (AD's, PA's location gang etc.) If however 2nd unit is on a huge action film (such as spiderman etc) then it can be amazing working with the 2nd unit director.
Getting to the not being paid part of your post.In India there is a great system . If you are working with a producer you think is dodgy, all you do is register with the lab they process their negative at, before or during the shoot. The lab then, by union law, cannot hand over the negative to the producer till you give the lab approval in writing, if you are a member of an approved union.
Works very well ;-)

D said...

Hi Azurgrip, Yeah, That's all I really ever think about is the operator. Me and the grips get along fine. Great site.
Gripworks, I haven't done a full second in probably 15 years, but the last one I did was a blast.
That is the coolest thing I have ever heard about the film lab. We need that here!

Michael Taylor said...

2nd Unit can be fun, with little of the tension and pompous sense of self-importance that so often permeates the first unit set.

Back in the bad old days when I was doing too many music videos, I once had to wait three months to get paid for a six day video we did for The Artist Formerly Known as The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

As it turned out, TAFKAP kept a close hand on the purse strings, and had simply ignored his producer's continual requests that we -- and other crews who worked for TAFKAP during that same time period -- be paid. We finally got our money, and the producer got fired for having the temerity to insist that the crews he hired be paid.

I haven't listened to a Prince song since. What a royal jerk.