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Filming in stadium / union question

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Daniel Stone
Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 16, 2014 at 1:44:15 am

Hey guys,

Anyone ever film anything in a stadium under rule of a local union? How did you get around having to use their guys?

A client of ours has requested a major stadium as a film location. We've been told that we have to either hire their crew or match union guys to our crew (pay a union crew member to sit on the side for every crew member we bring). Anyone have any experience with this?


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Todd Terry
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:59:43 am

I've only had one slightly similar experience in the distant past... with a non-union crew from here in Alabama, needing to shoot in the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, which is a very uber-union house.

We paid off the stage manager, who happened to also be the IATSE shop steward. Literally paid him off. Yes, bribed him to look the other way. This was pushing 20 years ago and I don't even remotely remember how much (couple hundred bucks, maybe?), but hey, it worked.

And it made me feel like I was in a Scorsese movie.

No doubt there are more above-board ways to do this, but typically if a facility itself is a union house, you have to use union people.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Mark Suszko
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 16, 2014 at 3:27:07 pm

"Todd never used the phone. He paid a guy to make his phone calls for him."


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Roy Schneider
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 16, 2014 at 6:55:46 pm

Daniel:
As someone that works for one of those arenas and on of those Unions, I would tell you you can't. You are going to have to use Union electricians and possibly Unions Dock workers depending on the size of the load-in.

If you want the screens on, you will have to bring in someone to do that. It's just the nature of the beast in a Union facility.

Roy Schneider

Roy Schneider
Long Live Da Cow!


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Tim Wilson
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:21:10 pm

Hi Daniel,

Have you already secured permission to use the stadium? If not, I think you'll find that union labor is the least of your worries -- a small fraction of one percent of your costs, almost all of of which will be going straight to the oligarchs.

I'd love to hear if you were able to work something out, but trying to go down this road a while back,

When you say "major" stadium, that says NFL or Division I college - stadiums which are often bigger than NFL stadiums. They just tend not to have all the issues related to named sponsorships that pro stadiums do. For example, if YOUR version of "Jimmette" Stadium is even vaguely identifiable as "Gilette" Stadium, guess who gets to weigh in?

Which gets to the script. ALL stadiums are going to have boards of directors who'll want to sign off on it. And not just the stadiums, but their corporate overlords, and municipalities who have a stake in ownership.

For example, the City of Green Bay is the primary owner of Lambeau Field. The Canton, OH City School District is the owner of Fawcett Stadium, home of the NFL Hall of Fame game, the McKinley Senior High School Bulldogs, the Timken Senior High School Trojans, and two colleges whose names I've forgotten...but at 22,000-ish capacity if I recall, hardly major.

Still, you ready for somebody's School Board to sign off on how your movie, TV show, or commercial will make their stadium look?

The Boards of Regents at a college will be even more adamant, since your portrayal of the stadium might reflect on the institution as a whole in a way that they have to explain to parents, alumni or potential donors, and that may affect the "brand" of the college for recruiting students (and athletes) at all.

One of a handful of privately-owned NFL stadiums is Sun Life Stadium in Miami, owned by Stephen M. Ross -- a guy who didn't become worth nearly $5 billion by letting people just borrow his stadium.

Even if you get to park for free (parking rights are often held by a different entity altogether), you'll have to pay the stadium's landscaping crew, their security -- a subset of pretty much everybody who's there on game day short of the concessions guys.

Although....oncessions are likely via Aramark, who services 150 stadiums and other facilities. You'll need to check with them about having their logos around. Depending on the facility, you may not have permission to cover or remove the Aramark logos, either in shooting or in post -- you have to get their signoff, period.

(The the other companies whose logos are all over the joint.)

I've been talking about owners and commercial stakeholders -- there's also management to think about. For example, Soldiers Field is owned by the city of Chicago, but managed by SMG, formerly the Spectator Management Group, which had been founded by Hyatt and...you guessed it, Aramark. SMG handles...I'd have to look it up, but I want to say 8 NFL stadiums, plus dozens of arenas. I don't know how much say they have in whether you shoot or not, but it's entirely conceivable that they're the people who have to say yes before the city weighs in. Just a guess....but yeah, gotta account for management and ownership being two different entities who may have incompatible agendas.

What's your budget for insurance? Because you're going to need a pile of it just to walk on the grounds.

In the end, you'll probably beg, BEG union workers carry your gear, because you'll have collapsed under the burden of servicing the oligarchs.

LOL

I could be wrong about all this in TODAY's environment, and maybe the people I talked to just didn't like me and WANTED to make it hard on me -- TOTALLY a possibility -- but I'm not under the impression that stadiums have gotten less complicated or less expensive over time.

That's why my own most desired set of answers on this thread are finding out how you secured the facility. :-)


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Daniel Stone
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:23:04 pm

[Tim Wilson] "That's why my own most desired set of answers on this thread are finding out how you secured the facility. :-)
"


Hi Tim! We researched a few options (including NFL and Major League) and getting permission to film is rather easy if you have the budget and good insurance (we happen to have both). As it turns out, their union only covers the electric stuff, which works out well. I'll happily hire a few of their people to shadow my grips.

My concern was that we would have to make the entire production union and get involved with IATSE, which, thankfully, is not the case.

Bill Davis: This is excellent advice!



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Bob Zelin
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 17, 2014 at 3:42:55 am

what a funny post ! How do you get around having to use their guys ?
Try just moving your equipment in by yourself. You will have your legs broken. You play by THEIR rules. And whatever you try to "bend" - this may work in smaller cities, but in the big cities like NY and LA - well, dont' even think about screwing around with the unions, or your life (and equipment) will turn into a miserable experience. I know that this sounds like a smart ass reply, but unfortunately it's not. You play by their rules - end of story.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com


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Daniel Stone
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 17, 2014 at 5:35:16 am

Thanks for all the comments, guys. I really appreciate the feedback.

The bribing thing was funny but certainly not an option for our situation, of course.

The agency has secured permission to use the stadium and the fee is not a problem (the commercial is for a stadium "regular"). I'm just trying to figure out what union(s) the stadium is ruled by, assuming that's how it works. I asked – thinking I could just go full union and hire my own, say, local 600 guys - but the stadium just came back with, "If you bring equipment, we'll have to set it up and then your crew can operate it. And if anything breaks, we have to repair it."

Totally appreciate them being cool about it, however, I'm trying to figure out if they're just talking about plugging in our lights or if they want to set up all of our grip (including leveling 40 feet of dolly track) as well as assemble our camera (Arri Alexa) and DIT station. The former I can totally deal with; the latter worries me a bit.



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Todd Terry
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 17, 2014 at 4:24:01 pm

[Daniel Stone] "I'm just trying to figure out what union(s) the stadium is ruled by,"

Well no doubt that is IATSE.

There's not much way around this, you're gonna have to have a good sit down chat with whomever your union contact/liaison is there to plan this out and find out who can do what and who has to do what, and what their abilities and areas of expertise are. Anything we can offer here is just going to be guesswork at this point.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Bill Davis
Re: Filming in stadium / union question
on Jan 22, 2014 at 4:25:27 am

Let me just add that this is not about your technical or business skills. It's about your people skills.

If you can do it carefully, and subtly, see if you can find out who the key players are. Shop Stewards. Local big wigs, admins. etc. And see if there's any quite and respectful way to discover what you can do to "connect" with them. It might be as simple as discovering you both are into basketball rather than football. If so, find a way to connect on that.

The goal is to try to make them want to help you as much as possible. That involves being respectful, listening, never stepping on a toe you don't have to. Bring donuts. Carefully learn and remember the name of the admin at the front desk and use it.

Then when it comes to what you truly need - politely explain why you're totally down with having them lug and set up the 80% of the rig that they can help with - but the 20% that's critical you'd really appreciate it if they could let your tech guys handle.

If they push back, don't be passive, explore what you can do for them to make their lives easier and show them the proper respect. A few hundred bucks spent on a barbecue lunch for the office staff and their kids on the weekend might save you thousands on back end hassles.

If you don't have a few hundred to use to do that, just be honest and see if you can find something you CAN do for the people there. Really, a bouquet of flowers for the receptionist who just lost her cat might be the key to the whole thing.

Again, this is all about relationships. Period.

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