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Old March 18th, 2007, 09:52 AM   #1
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Remuneration for assistant as "talent"?

From time to time, I work for a local indie producer/director/vid, always at a firm rate of $ X per day (or half-day). A few months back I was on a job for this person and was asked to be on-camera for a short segment. At the time, I was told it might not be used, but more footage was needed/wanted and there was time available to shoot it. I agreed to do it and at the time was flattered with the compliment that I was "a natural".

The producer/director/vid works under the philosophy that nothing extra is given to the client beyond what they pay/contract for; if the client is willing to pay for more, then more is provided. Otherwise, it seems the minimum gets to the client.

I recently learned that the footage of me was indeed used, but with voice-over. I've been working w/this indie for about 2 yrs now to get experience, so I didn't mind at the time...ya' know..."anything to help get the job done".

I've also recently learned that this may happen again. If/when it does, and in light of the producer/director/vid's philosophy, is it fair of me to suggest compensation different/greater than my standard rate? (I.e., since "I did more than I normally do", should I have been compensated for that)?

All input invited.
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Old March 21st, 2007, 12:56 AM   #2
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So...

You're saying that the definition of "talent" is anyone who appears in front of a camera? And that there's really no difference between YOU and a person from a talent agency who's spent some years taking acting classes, going to auditions, and dedicating themselves to becoming more than just an extra?

Following up on this thinking, if the "talent" moves a few lights helping out, would they deserve some of the gaffers budget?

I say no. A gaffer is paid for the availability of their specific expertise - not really for moving lights. Anyone can move a light, but only people with training and proven skills should be compensated as a gaffer.

What I'm essentially saying here is that as a producer, I'm really paying people for AVAILABLE EXPERTISE at my call.

If the actor pitches in and moves the case from setup 1 to setup 2 I thank them, but I'd never for one moment think of compensating them as a crew member - they're just momentarily pitching in as unskilled labor in that particular area.

Just like you're pitching in "unskilled labor" as an actor in your example.

If and when I ask someone to come on my set because I'm expecting to have their "acting expertise" available on call - at that point I think it's fair they ask for compensation.

Up to that point, you're just pitching in like the actor who after the shoot helps load a case into the car.

(Disclaimer: I'm in Arizona, a right to work state. And we're talking about industrial type productions here. On the majority of serious and/or major sets, if you move a case or light, expect at LEAST to be yelled at - or to become the subject of a formal complaint. Forewarned is forearmed!)
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Old March 21st, 2007, 07:34 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denis Danatzko View Post
From time to time, I work for a local indie producer/director/vid, always at a firm rate of $ X per day (or half-day). A few months back I was on a job for this person and was asked to be on-camera for a short segment. I recently learned that the footage of me was indeed used, but with voice-over. I've been working w/this indie for about 2 yrs now to get experience, so I didn't mind at the time...ya' know..."anything to help get the job done".

I've also recently learned that this may happen again. If/when it does, and in light of the producer/director/vid's philosophy, is it fair of me to suggest compensation different/greater than my standard rate? (I.e., since "I did more than I normally do", should I have been compensated for that)?

All input invited.
Denis I am sure that you will have an idea of when someone is having a 'lend of you'. It is at that point that you decide to move on. If they are providing a very valuable work experience then I do not think you would be asking the question.

Always your call.

Cheers,
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Old March 21st, 2007, 04:17 PM   #4
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Perhaps I was more myopic than I suspected.

Bill,
I'm not trying to be argumentative; I'm seeking the knowledge and experience of others.

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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
So...

You're saying that the definition of "talent" is anyone who appears in front of a camera?
Not entirely. I realize now I may not have been clear enough. I appeared in front of the camera, and the footage was ultimately used. Despite others being available, and even on-site, I was chosen. By using me instead of "paid talent", the producer's cost of the shoot was reduced (by the cost of one more paid talent), and his profit increased, all of which he kept. (Is it arguable that he squandered his budget for "talent" by not using other people who were available)?

FWIW, this shoot was for a short promotial work to be used at a charity event for a gallery in NYC.

I was simply wondering what "common practice" is in such situations: should someone - anyone - somehow be remunerated for increasing that profit in such a circumstance, even if only inadvertantly or unexpectedly? (If I had said "No" to the suggestion, might I never be hired again by the producer, even as an assistant, because it would have cost him more to hire "paid talent" for this specific shoot)?

My main interest is in learning if such circumstances are common or not, and how producers might view/handle them, and how "paid talent" might view it.(Did I effectively "take work" from someone - anyone - because the producer chose to use me? I suspect that might very well have been the case. Frankly, I don't know what standard practices are when dealing with/paying talent. That's one reason I posed the question).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
And that there's really no difference between YOU and a person from a talent agency who's spent some years taking acting classes, going to auditions, and dedicating themselves to becoming more than just an extra?
I understand your point and even agree to some extent, though I'd counter that I have had some training, (which I didn't mention prior to this). I've enjoyed a near-30-yr corporate career, giving untold presentations (and even training classes) to groups ranging in size from 2 to 500. I've MC'ed a few local charity events, (after being asked to do so). I have a degree in Speech Communication, which also demanded frequent presentations, and I've done voice-acting/voice-over training with what I believe is a reputable firm. While I'm not from a talent agency and have only done a handful of voice-overs (all small or non-profit), I know I'm not ready - nor looking - for big roles on stage or screen. I'm actually looking to get better behind the camera, not in front of it.

Despite all that, I think I understand your perspective.Thanks for offering it; it's exactly the
"slap" I needed to "snap me out" of an apparently myopic perspective. (Don't we all need that from time to time)?
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Old March 21st, 2007, 05:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Denis Danatzko View Post
From time to time, I work for a local indie producer/director/vid, always at a firm rate of $ X per day (or half-day). A few months back I was on a job for this person and was asked to be on-camera for a short segment. ...

...is it fair of me to suggest compensation different/greater than my standard rate? (I.e., since "I did more than I normally do", should I have been compensated for that)?
I think the last sentence is your clue if you carry on the logic. You may have 'done more' than normal in that you were on-camera but at the same time you 'did less' than normal as far as your regular duties are concerned in that the time you were on camera, you weren't doing whatever it is that you would normally do on the set. I'd call it a wash and consider it a normal part of being a team player where everyone pitches in where needed in order to get the job done. Of course if the people hired specifically to be on-camera would be paid substantially more than what you were getting per hour, then some adjustment should be due. But if you were hired to be there 8 hours at X dollars per hour and the amount paid would have been essentially the same regardless of whether you were hired to do X or Y, then what difference does it make? You were hired for 8 hours doing something at a certain rate and you got paid for 8 hours doing something at that rate - what difference does it make in that equation exactly what the "something" is from moment to moment through the day? Then again if it was a union shoot with SAG/AFTRA talent and a union crew, then what actions a person may or may not perform on the set are incredibly prescribed by the agreements and woe betide anyone who steps into another bargaining units territory. I've never quite understood why anyone would actually WANT to work in an environment that was that restrictive of individual initiative and lacking in freedom to explore a variety of new & different things to learn and do - I find doing the same thing day after day is incredibly boring and why shouldn't, say, a sound guy who was interested be able to acquire some of the skills of a camera operator when on the set in order to expand his repertoire - but that's just me.
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Old March 21st, 2007, 08:06 PM   #6
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First and foremost, Let me commend you on both your tone and attitude throughout your original post and response. This is a murky area and you've addressed it with both honesty and common sense.

I hope I managed, in my response to do a bit of the same - but it's not unusual for me to look back at a post I make and find myself surprised to find an unintended tone of censure or worse in what I write here.

Such is newsgroup/forum discourse.

I think the call as to when a producer (or possibly the client that producer is representing) is "taking advanage" of a situation for profit is much harder to descern than most people think. When I was exclusively on the talent end, I would often think a producer was pushing for that extra hour or trying to avoid hiring an extra set of hands exclusively in the quest for a better bottom line.

Now that I AM that producer, I can tell you that I really NEVER have time to be that Machiavellian in my thinking. For every case like yours where I can look back and think "Perhaps I should have compensated "Tom" for being a smiling customer in that short scene." I have a long string of "Gosh, Tina, Roger and Judy sat around all day gobbling up craft services and shooting the breeze and each of them did 4 minutes on camera work and they're each walking away with a full day rate which represents hundreds upon hundreds of dollars of my talent budget."

I've had to come to understand that it's not my fault, nor theirs. It's just the only way to do this sensibly. I MUST pay them to sit around so that when I need them, I can put out the call and the nine others on the crew can do what they do and not waste many times MORE than the talent cost.

That (and a thousand other) things occupy my brain when I'm directing/producing and the fact that someone (ANYONE!) steps up and makes a contribution without making a ruckess about it simply cements them into my "that person is a PLEASURE to have on set - the next time I'm putting a cast or crew together, they'll be among the first I call."

I never call them because of their "actiing" unless I start to see them as an actor. If and when I do, they must compete for their roles alongside everyone else in the agent's talent book.

And I suspect that's not where you want to be - precisely because I'll hire a crew person (especially one with a "pitch in" attitude) over and over and over again. But I'll hardly EVER do that with an actor, knowing that the client will get grumpy if they see the same faces over and over in their videos.

For what it's worth.
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Old March 22nd, 2007, 08:22 AM   #7
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Bill, Steve, and Robert: Thanks for your input.

While repetition can foster efficiency and prowess at a particular task, I share Steve's observation that it can also generate boredom, and, the somewhat strict separation of duties on a set can easily lend to reducing the chances of learning/doing something different and making larger/more valuable contributions. While unionization offers certain protections, it also enforces restrictions. I (at least like to think I) would resist being confined to a single "box".

Learning other perspectives helped broaden mine. Thanks for that.
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