Thursday, June 19, 2008

More News About Me...

...and you know that's why you come here!

So, I told you I'm starting a new job next week. I also told you the interview had very little interview involved. I didn't tell you one of the ramifications of taking this job. Frankly, I left the interview after about 90 minutes and felt a little like I'd been run over by the Noon Acela to Philly.

Here's the deal. Once upon a time, in a comment thread, I responded to Janiece (I think) that I had once been a member of the Directors Guild of America...and had resigned...and that it was a long story I might tell somewhere else at some other time. Time and place seems to have arrived.

I joined the DGA in the mid-nineties. I had the documented qualifications by something like 1991, but I'd seen too many people join as soon as they were technically qualified...and then not work because they didn't have a strong resume yet. I decided I'd wait until I had a few Location Manager credits to beef up my resume before restricting myself to DGA jobs. For a few years, that seemed to work out fine. At the time, there was a thing called the "New York Area Amendment" in force. If you didn't look too closely, you'd read it as saying that when you're shooting in the New York area, you had to hire a DGA member to be your Location Manager. So, I joined the Guild under the mistaken impression that if I wanted to work on real movies, I had to be a Guild member.

About four years after joining, I started to see a rash of movies being shot under DGA contract that had Non-Guild Location Managers. And, most of these Non-Guild Location Managers were being hired by Production Managers who had started as Location Managers. A bit of research revealed that the "New York Area Amendment" said something along the lines of This amendment shall be in force for Producers who choose to sign it. WTF?

I had been told that I'd need to join the Guild if I wanted to work on real movies and then I discovered that the whole thing was voluntary. Suddenly, the folks who had risen through the ranks were impressing their bosses by knowing about the loophole that would let them save $1oo0 a week in salary, benefits and Pension payments by hiring some Non-Guild schlub. Needless to say...I felt betrayed.

I became active in the Assistant Director/Unit Production Manager Council for the Eastern Region. My CAUSE was getting Location Managers officially recognized. My fellow Council members were totally in my corner. They wanted the issue to be on the table for the next contract negotiation. Sadly, the staff was indifferent and the West Coast Council, where, (duh), all the power actually lies, was actively hostile to the idea. (Note: The chairperson for the West Coast Council at the time was the 1st Asst. Director of a very successful TV sitcom and in an illustrious 20+ year career, she'd never shot one single day on location outside of a studio. In other words, she had no idea what I do for a living.)

To make a really long story less agonizingly long than it could be, I spent three years beating my head bloody against a brick wall without any visible results. (Another side note: One question that I was repeatedly asked to try to justify my position was , "Just how many people are we talking about?" My answer was, "You've refused to grant me access to employment records, so I don't have a number for you, but you care about Production Managers, right? There's one of those for every project. Guess how many Location Managers there are. One for each project!") In the face of such arguments, I finally gave up.

In my own heroic fantasizing memory, I stood up in the middle of a Council meeting, pulled my membership card out of my wallet, tore it in half and threw it in the face of some executive. In reality, I'm pretty sure I left a meeting feeling more dejected than usual and just stopped paying my dues.

Well...AMPAS and the DGA completed their negotiation for a new contract a couple of months ago. Some of my fellow Location Managers took up the fight and....TA DA...they were successful. As of some time this month, when a Producer is shooting within 75 miles of NYC or Chicago, they're required to hire a DGA member as their Location Manager. This makes me happy. Really happy.

It also means that I have to rejoin the Guild to work on the job I've just been hired to manage. On the one hand, this is going to be fairly easy, because even though I resigned, I'm still on the Qualifications List to become a member. (Resigning does not remove the list of credits I documented to the Guild all those years ago.) On the other hand, I've been informed that I'll have to pay the initiation fee all over again...and the fee has gone up a bit since I joined the first time. If I recall, the first time, I paid in the neighborhood of $3,000 to join. The rate now is a little bit north of $5,300. Damn! The good news is that I can pay 10% as a down payment and then pay the rest during my first year of membership. Also, by the end of this first movie, I'll have earned enough to be vested in the Health Plan (which is a really excellent health plan). On the iffy side, when I resigned I was pretty close to having enough Credit Service Months (don't ask), to be vested in the retirement plan. As I understand it, because of the interruption in my Guild covered earning months, I'll need to double the amount of Credit Service Months to be vested. (Between Employer and Employee contributions to the fund, I've got a lot of my own money in there that I'd like to get back in my dotage.)

The other piece of good news? I spoke to another Location Manager who was on the negotiating committee that pushed this new clause through. He said that my name had come up a bunch of times when they were waging their war. It made me feel really good to know that the people who were carrying on acknowledged my part in the fight. When I told him I was rejoining, he said that he considered that to be the first good tangible result. That makes me feel totally shiny.


Ilya said...

You now have a "revolutionary" as part of your legacy, Nathan. That's pretty cool, in my book. Congrats! (despite the fact that you out of a chunk of cash...)

Jim Wright said...

Che Gendzier? Hmmm, that just sounds cool.

I'll have some T-shirts printed up, you want the picture where you're wearing the bench on your head? Or something else?

But, yeah, bright and shiny, excellent, Nathan.

Anne C. said...

That is awesome, Nathan. I'm so glad your revolution finally bore fruit!

Nathan said...

I'm glad you folks seem to admire the stand I took, but, like I said, I beat my head a little bloody and then quit.

I'm glad that the folks who took up the cause feel like I started something, but they're the ones who actually got it done.

I really don't rate a whole lot of credit here.

Steve Buchheit said...

Sometimes that's what it takes. Hey, at least your point finally got through.