Monday, August 18, 2008

Race Between the States

Hi all. Not much going on here this week. The SAG strike/non strike seems to still have most people in a state of confusion, me included. But work continues and there's no strike as of yet. I was suppose to be off for most of the week, but will be shooting some tests for a couple of days.

I keep hearing that the rest of the year will be busy. Around the country, Shreveport appears to be ramping up. Michigan is busy. And Atlanta, which just passed a hefty tax incentive package is poised to get busy. So continues the neverending race by the states to see who can pass the most giveaways to entice producers to shoot in their state. In a lot of ways, this is a good thing. In many of these states, the local technician pool just can't support two or three productions, so that means a rate and housing/ per diem for the rest of us. I benefitted quite well last year (Connecticut, Shreveport) and this year (Massachusetts) from this situation.What can get comical about this is the insistance by producers that you hire non-existent locals to crew up. We ran into this situation last year in Shreveport. With three other productions going on, the people just weren't there. Yet the producers insisted on hiring locals. Acording to the Best Boy, the conversation went something like this...Producer: "We want you to hire locals." Best Boy: "There aren't any. They are all working." Producer: I know, but we want you to hire locally." Best Boy: Yes, we understand, but there aren't any more." Producer: "Yes, but to maximize our tax breaks, we're going to need you to hire some local technicians." Best Boy: "If they aren't working right now, there's a reason. We can't find any more. There are three other shows right now." Producer: "We need you to hire locals." This supposedly went on for another 20 minutes or so.
Later, when one of the locals we did hire almost got run over by a bus he was lying under and another couldn't figure out how to open the does- all cart (lift the latch), more outside techs were brought in. This is a generalization and the order of events may not be exactly correct, but it all happened.
Here's the thing, I was a local on the East coast for years. I know what it's like and the good ones who are there will be the first to tell you when there aren't any more. I don't know if the local Film Commission is fudging the numbers when they tell the studios about the crew base or what, but many times they arrive in Ball Ground, Georgia or Natchitoches, La thinking the place is crawling with out of work top -of -the- line grips and juicers. And the deals they offer to bring you in are even more hilarious sometimes. Producer: "We'll give you 25.00 and hour and 100.00 a week living allowance. Best Boy: "That's against union rules and we wouldn't work for that anyway." Producer: "OK, how about 200.00 a week box rental and 28.00 an hour and you join the union there (we know a guy) and work as a local?" Best Boy: uhh No. Producer: "I'm sorry, but the prices you are asking are way out of line for _____________." Best Boy: "Well we're not from ____________. We can stay home and make our rate and go home every night."
Producer: "Allright, I'll pay your rate but you have to hire the locals that aren't working on the other four movies here in ______________." Best Boy: "There aren't any locals."
You can imagine the stories we tell.
So wherever you end up this coming year, be safe, have fun, and save your per diem.

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