View Full Version : Union card...

05-23-2004, 04:41 AM
I'm thinking about taking some classes at my local college to get a Union card so that I can work on the set for movies... can someone tell me if getting a Union card will help me? Is it a good thing to do? Or will I just be wasting my time?

05-23-2004, 11:27 AM
If getting a union card is necessary for you to work on-set...

Do it...it'll be more fun than any other job you've had plus you'll meet up with very interesting and creative types. Most of the PA's i've met have wanted to be writers, actors, directors, producers, etc.

I drove a MOHO(38 foot motorhome that was used for the production staff, make-up, and to house the talent while they waited for their time on-set)...it was the most fun on a job I've ever had...and they feed you VERY well. I was the first one to arrive and the last to leave...but my job was cool because once I got to the set...the rest of the day was my own... until it was time to leave. I was able to write, watch, learn, interact, and mingle with other creative types on the set of everything from print ads(yummy models) and television spots to tv shows and feature movies.

05-23-2004, 02:55 PM
Thank you Writer... that's exactly what I wanted to know. :D In six months or less I will be working on a set for a director named Gary Beebe. He was approached by Universal to do a movie in New Mexico in the 20 million dollar range. I'm really excited about this opportunity. With a Union card I will be able to work on any movie that's being done in New Mexico, and hopefully I can go to L.A. and get work there. That's my main goal.

05-24-2004, 02:52 PM
Working on set in production was one of the hardest, exhausting, frustrating, wonderful, educational, pleasurable, confusing, inspiring things I have ever done.

It was an indie, there was no union card for me. But I highly recommend it if you're of a mind.

$20 mill pic in New Mexico? Hell, sign up and enjoy the catering....

Good Luck....:D

05-25-2004, 04:27 AM
Working on set in production was one of the hardest, exhausting, frustrating, wonderful, educational, pleasurable, confusing, inspiring things I have ever done. And this is exactly why I want to do it. No boring jobs for me. :lol I need a lot of stimulation and I believe this kind of work will give me what I crave.

They've made a total of five movies in New Mexico last year and their making another one called The Longest Yard. They're using a prison in Northern New Mexico to film a lot of scenes, my best friend had to go out to this prison and take pictures.

05-25-2004, 05:22 AM
Enjoy! I've worked as an extra on three shoots, and even though it was in Chicago and the weather was awful for two of them, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Was fascinating to see a movie being made. Once I feel like I have the time, I may 'enlist' again in San Francisco to find more extra work.


05-25-2004, 11:14 AM
Although we hate that term that's about it: props that eat. I did background work for four years while auditioning in LA for commercials and others shows.

While I wound up with prominent nonspeaking parts it doesn't translate to actual principal acting work. It even hurts those chances. Still I liked learning the business from the inside like that, but don't expect anyone to accept your script while there. Extras are worse than nobody on a set.

05-25-2004, 01:41 PM
I thought Taurbabe was talking about actually working on the whole film, rather than as a dayplayer/extra/prop that eats.

Either way, if you pay attention and don't be an ass, you can learn an awful lot just existing on set.

Just don't ask for autographs and get out of the teamster's way when they're heading for catering and you'll be fine....:D

certified instigator
05-25-2004, 03:51 PM
I'm thinking about taking some classes at my local college to get a Union card so that I can work on the set for movies
What classes do you need to take to get a Union card?
What Union do you get into?

05-25-2004, 06:34 PM
I can't think of any save in a film production program, but that wouldn't gain one a union card in IATSE. It's my understanding that all of the trade unions are hard to get into and expensive to boot. My SAG card cost me $1200 after I'd convinced AD's to give me three union vouchers over a two year period on sets.

05-25-2004, 11:44 PM
Are you doing this in order to meet people, to further your writing career?

I don't think it's wise, personally.

Write, that's what you know. If you're in LA, then get a job where you'll work and meet people who can help you out. I don't think working as a P.A. would really help.

Unless you want to strengthen your coffee fetching skills.

Just my three cents.


05-26-2004, 10:32 AM
When I drove the MOHO...I once worked on a short movie directed by a guy who'd won Sundance awards and was a rising young director...this short was for Miramax. Somehow, we got to talking and he asked me "what do you do?"...I said I was a writer(seems he understood that driving a motorhome was not my dream career)...he said, "why don't you take a look at the script?"

I read the script...it was pretty good and had been penned by the director. He then says, "well, whadd'ya think of it?" I knew I was treading on shaky ground, but I opened my mouth...and made a suggestion on how to improve a scene...not just any scene, but the climax of the film where all the symbolism and action meet in a split-second.

He stops...his jaw dropped, he smiled and said, "that's a great idea...let's walk and talk." Walk and talk? I guess that's some kinda Hollywood or West Wing kinda thing...but we did.

I never got to see "my scene" filmed because I didn't work on the day it filmed, but a few weeks later on another shoot, the producer from the previous film saw me and said, "we filmed it exactly as you suggested."

This director is now out in Hollywood...he's not huge, but big enough where he's directing for some HBO series. When I call him one day...and I will...He'll remember me as the guy who gave him an idea...y'know...Mark, the MOHO driver.

05-26-2004, 12:23 PM
You weren't in Hollywood when this happened?

05-26-2004, 12:29 PM
marky...I was in Dallas.

05-26-2004, 01:27 PM
I'd say try it here and see what happens. Dallas isn't the big time in the movie business. LA is.

05-26-2004, 02:22 PM
What a ridiculous thing to say, marky.

What percentage of films and tv series are actually filmed in LA? Hollywood is where the money comes from...but filming takes place all over the world. It's on-set that you meet these people.

By your logic, I guess when my cousin Mike comes to visit me next month to talk about some scripts, I should tell him to take a hike because he lives near San Francisco and not in LA anymore. It doesn't matter that he co-founded CAA...does it?

05-26-2004, 03:55 PM
"What percentage of films and tv series are actually filmed in LA? Hollywood is where the money comes from...but filming takes place all over the world. It's on-set that you meet these people."

Having been in a couple of indie films, I'd day for the most part people are way too busy to even thing about giving a newbie I read.

Want to get your script read? The most efficient ways are to call agents and producers at their LA or NY offices.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy I did extra work and prop that eats work. It was very educational. It's just the worst way to get read.

Mind you, if you're in that situation and by some miracle an important person wants to read you take the opportunity. Just don't hold your breath unless you like looking blue.

certified instigator
05-26-2004, 05:44 PM
What percentage of films and tv series are actually filmed in LA?
According to the Los angeles times: about 60% of all movies and 82% of all TV shot in North America are filmed in Los Angeles.

05-26-2004, 07:13 PM
I'm with Justino on this one, because I did a ton of extra work, and beyond. I was in scripts, but I doubt they would have read mine if I had one at the time. Doesn't happen.

"It doesn't matter that he co-founded CAA...does it? " Are you serious? If this is true why are you here?

I don't know what year that story was written but all of the made for TV movies are shot in Canada. Shows and sitcoms are here, but that's a closed shop for the mostpart.

No, you guys are being hopeful and distant. Don't expect those of us in the LA trenches to take it seriously.

05-26-2004, 10:38 PM
Did Taurbabe say anything at all about trying to get read???

No! The interest is in working on a film in his/her native New Mexico (or wherever, without looking again).

And Writer1 did not say he/she gave the director something to read...the director asked Writer1 to look at the script that was shooting. Then asked "what do you think?" - four of the most flattering words ever uttered. Good for you Writer1 - you've made a future contact...

which is all Taurbabe may be trying to do, Justino and Marky. You two seem to have the most trouble reading for content...

05-27-2004, 10:33 AM
The "trouble" is thinking that this can be pulled off with regularity. Rarely does the director ask a driver's opinion save in a small event out of state. It would never happen here. You can bank on that.

05-27-2004, 10:47 AM
geez, marky....can't you read? The entire thread had to do with Taurbabe wanting to work on a movie set...Not with getting reads!!!

All I did was tell her my experiences...and something that happened to me. I never told her that this is a good way to get reads...or for her to expect reads.

I've met some very nice and creative people in the 2 years I worked...THAT is what she can expect!

I'm sorry if you feel that meeting people is an impossibility while working on-set. Perhaps it's your attitude that makes you unapproachable?

05-27-2004, 11:15 AM
No, it's the naivete that say this is a viable option for breaking into the business as a writer. What is the goal in working on a set? Why does he think he can earn a trade union card at a community college?

After four years of experience working on sets as a SAG member I can testify to this much: Drivers are not asked for their creative opinions in LA. Bank on it. Telling people such factual things on message boards can get one banned whether it's about screenplays or vanity press books. People only want to hear facts they like.

We have president that's the same way from the same part of the country. A trend?

05-27-2004, 01:42 PM
Marky, it's not the "facts" you present, it's the tone and attitude you present them in.

05-27-2004, 06:49 PM
We have here a disagreement in attitude, and possibly in fact as well. The attitude comes in with presenting information some do not want to acknowledge, so this disdain is deflected to the reporter. It's very common.

It's my conclusion that many of the facts used by others are extreme exceptions to the rule not the norm. They need to believe in these exceptions and I don't. That's the difference and moreover I don't need to win over anyone to my side.

The facts concerning vanity presses and out of state screenplay sales speak for themselves. The group is free to accept the things they want. I think we can trace the tone very easily. It didn't stem from me.

05-27-2004, 07:24 PM
"It's my conclusion that many of the facts used by others are extreme exceptions to the rule not the norm. They need to believe in these exceptions and I don't."

If someone has a lot of emotional energy invested in something, any info to the contrary, no matter how it's presented, will not sit with them that well.

"out of state screenplay sales speak for themselves."

Well, one this one I submitted to an agency that has a LA office, and I submitted to another LA rep.

I'm finding that a lot of big agencies are in both LA and NY, and a couple that are in LA and in Vancouver.

I agree that for mainstream studio or studio backed work, a screenwriter out of LA (hell, one in LA) that doesn't have reps known in LA won't make a sale.

Writers and Artists is an example of a bicoastal agency. They are in both LA and NY, and their NY division has made sales to studios and prodcos.

I'm not rehashing an old arguement, by the way. Just saying that an LA connection is needed (a rep that's known in LA).

I also think the disagreements are there because of a matter of personal style. I've known people from all walks of life who always tried to get every job they had from their brother's best friend or their cousin's sister. I prefer to go out and apply myself, and do it on my own. I can handle impersonal. Some people can't.

That I think affects how people see the industry. Some here want to spend all their time getting to know people, hoping to break in that way. And that's good for them and I wish them the best of luck. As for myself, I prefer querying producers and agents myself. It's getting me read, and I see no reason to go the social route.

Of course keep in mind that there is no absolutely one way of doing things.

05-27-2004, 09:04 PM
I think either could work. It's the midwest connection that leaves me baffled. The right people have to read your work. Getting it in is the tough part. I live here but have no way to schooze my way in socially. I've never seen it work in the circles that I've had access to. That includes Beverly Hills.

When I interviewed for representation down on Wilshire I got the opening with a query. I didn't know a soul.

05-28-2004, 03:58 PM
I want to work on films for the life experience and also the work experience. I'm not looking for a read. I've only finished one screenplay, so getting it read is not my main goal, nor is it making contacts. I just want the experience of working on a film. Actually, meeting people and making contacts is a goal, but it's not the main one. I do think that making future contacts with directors and actors can only be a good thing. :D

It seems like Justino and Marky are expecting us to go from A-Z instead of starting at A and then going to B and then to C and so on... I am starting out small and working my way up. I can't expect to go to L.A. and just work on a film. I have to get to know people here first that can help me along.

05-28-2004, 06:35 PM
"I can't expect to go to L.A. and just work on a film."

I did. The chances of meeting anyone who can get you work on a film outside of LA are slim. For extra work they'll forget you as soon as the day job is over. The only way to work here is to show up, know where to register and call to land work every day. Sometimes they'll call you, but only once you're known to them.

I know a lot about this since I started at the extreme bottom, crowd scenes and worked my way up to dayplayer in the union. On the other hand I know nothing about getting a van driving job for the production company since all I did was ride with them on the way to the dressing room.

05-28-2004, 11:40 PM
I was in Los Angeles the last half of 2003. I had a crappy receptionist job at a prodco/distroco. I quit it, and when I was supposed to get a new job, the bus strike came and I couldn't find work which majorly put me in the whole financially. (in NYC I never had to drive, so I never bothered getting a car).

So that was why I left LA. (though by the time I'd left the system was back in operation for a month or so). But now I'm coming back sometime this summer. I'm saving up my money to do so. My former employer has been shooting some music vidoes and has an upcoming film this summer (I kept in touch with him and we are friends) so I can go back to work for him.

Taurbabe, I don't think anyone is saying you must come to LA instantly. And of course, learn what you can and get what you can before coming.

But at some point you must take the plunge. If you can save up enough money for a few months rent before coming you will do fine.

05-29-2004, 02:31 PM
Justino... as soon as I get some experience working on a set and save up some money, I will be on my way to Tinsel Town. :b

05-29-2004, 10:12 PM
"to get into industry jobs (depending on what you can do and what you are looking for) is to check with temp Agencies like Spherion (WB), Addecco (I think Universal), Star Staffing (Paramount I think). The temp agency for Sony is Core Staff.

Another excellent resource is Core Staff.

You can get these numbers by looking calling the main switchboards of the studios. Get those numbers from the main site www.scriptsales.com (look up prodcos)

05-30-2004, 09:57 AM
Working on sets doesn't pay much. Out of state work on those infrequent sets will be even less, so I don't know if your plan is monetarily sound based on that aspect.

05-30-2004, 11:45 AM
"Working on sets doesn't pay much.

I think she wants the general set experience. I'm sure she knows that working on a set doesn't pay much.

Outside of LA, NY, and Vancouver, film gigs are very few and far between. So everyone has to have non film jobs to support themselves. I'm sure Taurbabe has a regular job.

06-01-2004, 03:43 AM
Once I'm in the Union they pay 17.00 an hour... to me that is a lot. :p

06-01-2004, 12:05 PM
What union is that?

certified instigator
06-01-2004, 12:50 PM
Once I'm in the Union they pay 17.00 an hour... to me that is a lot.
I'm not only wondering what Union you're talking about, I'm still interested in what classes you take to get into that Union.

C'mon taurbabe. Help a guy out.

06-01-2004, 01:51 PM

06-02-2004, 02:28 AM
The way it's been explained to me is that my friend and another guy are on the board of directors for the film commission where I live. They get finanical backing for directors and producers to make movies in New Mexico. My friend and the other guy got with the University and developed a film program... they also have an agreement with the film commission to allow students to work on any films and documentaries for free in exchange for credit hours going towards a union membership and an apprentice card. That's all I know right now, I will say more when I find more out.

I will be working on my first documentary in a few weeks... I will also be an extra in it so you will see my face on the Discovery channel. :D

As far as what type of union... I have no idea, I just figured having a union membership and being able to work on a movie set was a good thing. I'm just going by what I've been told. I wish I knew more... I really don't want to chase a dream that has no chance to coming to fruition, but my friend is a Professor at the University and seems to know what he's talking about. Also, my friends have tons of movie equipment that will be used by the filming community when they make a movie.

06-02-2004, 03:10 AM
"As far as what type of union... I have no idea, I just figured having a union membership and being able to work on a movie set was a good thing. I'm just going by what I've been told."

Well, there are a lot of unions, or rather, guilds in Hollywood.

You should find out specifics, not for our sake, but for your own. Particularly if you're putting down money for classes.

Congrads on the documentary job.

I might add that the professional crew jobs are also generally obtained through agencies. Look for the good ones when you come to Los Angeles.

For that matter, you don't have to listen to any of us, but if there is anything you need to know, you can call the relevant unions (WGA, SAG, producer's DGA), agents, etc. in Hollywood. Everytime I called to ask for general info, I've found that people are very helpful.

06-02-2004, 04:12 PM
Thank you Justino... that information will come in handy when I'm ready to make it out to L.A.

06-02-2004, 06:02 PM
A sag card is for actors I don't know how getting that can possible help you , and there are no classed to get a union card of everyone and their uncle would be trying to get one. SAG is very hard to get into. Further more, there are no Vouchers anymore they have done away with that and you have to be working as an extra for a set number of hours I believe is in the high hundreds to even qualify. Below the line workers are entirley other union.

certified instigator
06-02-2004, 09:46 PM
The Guilds (PGA, SAG, WGA, DGA) are different than the craft Unions.

The craft Union representing the US and Canada is The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts - IATSE. This Union is broken down into what is called "Locals". Each State and City has different Locals of the Union. And each Local represents a different craft.

There are 34 (I believe) different IA craft Locals in Los Angeles alone.
As far as what type of union... I have no idea, I just figured having a union membership and being able to work on a movie set was a good thing.
If you get an IA card for, say, Laboratory Film/Video Technicians & Cinetechnicians in Los Angeles (Local 638) , that's not really going to help you get on set as a grip or set dresser or props person or camera loader.

Also, getting your card form an IA local in New Mexico won't necessarily help you get a card in Los Angeles. Perhaps you should ask your professor friend for a little more detail.

Do you know what craft you want to apprentice in?

If you're interested in camera work it won't do you much good to spend a couple of years apprenticing in IASTE Local 767 which is Motion Picture Studio First Aid.
Proud Member IATSE Locals: 33, 44 and 80.