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RPSharman

Utility/Mixers

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When I was moving up, I was given an opportunity to mix a second unit on a top 10 TV show produced through Disney.  I was told I must reclassify to Y-1 to get the job, as this is strictly enforced by Disney, or at the very least by the mixer.  I felt I was ready to make that commitment, so I reclassified.

Shortly after I was offered the utility job on a different top 10 TV show, with plenty of double-up mixing days, including entire episodes.  This was a HUGE opportunity and a financial windfall, being one of the few shows left that paid the full daily rate, as well as a Y-4 upgrade to the utility person.  Shortly after starting the season mixing a double-up episode, I was told I could NOT be the utility person, since I had just reclassified to Y-1.  I did continue the season mixing double-ups, however.

While I congratulate Juan and Von for a fabulous show, one of my favorites, it does strike me as odd that a Y-7a (utility sound technician) member of our union is now an Emmy Award winning mixer.

Robert

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I don't know anything about the situation on House. However, it's worth mentioning that temporary reclassifications are often available through the Local if one asks in advance. The Local is sympathetic to situations, like your experience with the Disney show, where a technician has a remarkable opportunity but may hesitate to make a permanent commitment to a higher classification. If you ask for it, you may get a temporary reclassification that permits accepting the assignment but doesn't lock you into only working in the higher classification. I believe the re-class is intended to cover short term situations; I don't know if you might get a temporary reclassification for a whole season. And, of course, you don't want to be going back to that well on a regular basis.

David Waelder

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This seems to be developing from the Emmy Thread; after I posted in that thread about this situation, I cam to this thread, so I guess "great minds travel in the same gutter!"

Robert's situation is an example of the numerous ramifications of what I feel is an outdated structure in the IA local 695.

would it not be appropriate to allow anyone to work at the level of there membership, and below,  in other words the upper dues levels are inclusive of the lower ones.

(pause for the howls!)

if a member is a SUT, they pay the lower dues, but as there is no other requirement for becoming a boom member or a mixer member, a member in a situation like Juan's would, at some threshold, have to re-rate to mixer, or pass on the scheduled bumps.  (I guess everyone in that situation would, but it would still allow SUT's to pay a lower dues rate (though I'm not certain that is really necessary...how qabout a base fee + small percentage of union payrolls??)

the problem is there have been, for years, many SUT's and some boomers abusing this situation, neither re-rating themselves nor passing on the mixing gigs!

I also suggest that a "mixer" working typically on lower level projects, should be able to take a gig on larger projects as SUT and unless they want to cheap out and make that a change, they should be allowed to pay the higher dues to work at the lower pay grade (though the dollar amount may actually be greater!)

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The dues are a negligible difference.  One day as a mixer re-rate will pay the difference in dues for the year, and then some.  Other locals forbid working outside your classification, and some require permanent reclassification after a certain of days worked above one's classification.

Our union does allow for a temporary LOWER reclassification, but not directly after reclassifying up, as in my case a couple of years ago.  And I was not allowed to temporarily reclassify higher to take on the day playing job to begin with.  There are rules in place, but virtually nobody plays within them.

I just feel that if you are playing both roles, you are either taking utility/boom jobs away from guys who don't have the additional revenue of the higher rate and/or rental, or you are taking jobs away from day-player mixers who don't have the luxury of a steady gig providing income and union hours.

There are a lot of us out there dipping into our banks (hours and dollars) this year that really could have benefited from mixing second units on one of the MANY shows which move up their 1st unit guys to cover 2nd unit, and have done so for years.

Robert

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Our union does allow for a temporary LOWER reclassification, but not directly after reclassifying up, as in my case a couple of years ago.

You may well be right that the system favors temporary reclassifications to a lower category.

While I understand that giving the utility person an opportunity to mix can be a good training ground, I also appreciate that it would be a good thing if shows, like TV series, might spread the work more widely on 2nd unit and double up days.

Sorry, Rob, to momentarily derail your issue of apportioning work opportunities.

David

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This issue also points to the not-very-much-known thing about the Emmys: you get awarded for AN EPISODE, not A SERIES.  So you can slave away doing 24 episodes, and the Emmy can go to the person who mixed the 25th.  Hey, he/she mixed it, he/she deserves the award, but it's a little misleading to then attach the series name to the Emmy, implying he/she did the whole thing.  What do you think?

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Series award for a single episode:

this has been an issue for years, and exactly that same scenario of the series glory being hijacked by a single episode player (pilot, for example) has come up.  another variation is when over the season several mixers do the show, and all submit episodes, thus competing against each other for the "series" award (well, it isn't really a series award, it is actually for the best on an individual episode of a series; we just think of it as for the series.

when multiple episodes of the same series compete, it dilutes the voting.

On a show that had multiple nominated seasons, both the show's regular mixer, and a mixer who had taken a couple episodes due to the mixer's illness submitted episodes, and neither one got nominated.

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Years ago, there was the odd show with 2nd units, now and then, (like Moonlighting), but it wasn't really normal until about 8 or 9 years ago.  In fact, I think ANGEL was the first series then that started having regular 2nd units days added to 1st units back then.  Thanks to Beau, I mixed many of them.

The union rules were put in place many years ago, way before there was such a thing as regular 2nd units on a TV show.  Therefore, I think they should certainly be re-evaluated to include current times.  Day call 2nd units are almost the norm now for most tv shows.  If no change is made, then at least it would be decided under current work conditions. 

Personally, I favor letting good boom operators mix 2nd units because it allows many deserving otherwise potential mixers to stay booming or thirding, as an asset to that show and not flooding into mixer categories.  It's a nice perk to keep a good boom operator to stay a boom operator.  In effect, it also replaces the old studio training system where you "apprenticed" as a cable person, then boom person, then mixer over time.  It's a good training ground in familiar settings. 

I haven't gave much thought about the union paperwork part yet.  If we first agree it's a good thing, then the rest can certainly be worked out.

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Guest Ken Mantlo

Sounds like a case of sour grapes thinly disguised as a question.  Just be happy for the guy instead of potientally causing him a  huge pile of grief.

I'm not allowed to hire my son at Warner Bros. because of a nepotism rule with dept. heads.  I see it happening all the time in other depts. on the show but I won't go to the producers and start whining for two reasons; 1) It won't benefit me, 2) because it will result in a very capable someone getting let go because of a supid rule.

This thread should've never been started with crew members names attached to it.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

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As a Brit. this all seems very old fashioned and alien to me.

I'm a member of a union but the only reason me and many join it is that it gives discounted, (used to be free), public liability insurance.

I do light entertainment as sound supervisor, assistant or P.A. op, and work as a documentary sound recordist as well as doing corporate P.A. gigs, (conference sound), and music recording for tv and music FOH P.A. sound and sports commentary and sports supervising in the smaller trucks and assist on O.B.'s. (pretty much most things other than paid drama gigs as of yet.)

Not trying to blow my own trumpet here. I do all these things as I don't have enough work to turn anything down. If I was only allowed to be a mixer and not take the lesser work I'd not be making a living right now. One day I may start turning things down. I'm glad it's my choice and not imposed on me though.

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Sounds like a case of sour grapes thinly disguised as a question.  Just be happy for the guy instead of potientally causing him a  huge pile of grief.

This thread should've never been started with crew members names attached to it.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

This thread was a transfer topic because of an mixing Emmy being awarded to a Y7a utility.  It is no secret who this was, so leaving out the name would have been silly.  I did leave out all the names and details of MY situation.

My point is that IF the union is allowing anyone do the mixing job, and they are being recognized with awards, then why not let anyone do any job?  This year has been pretty bad for many of us, and if I need hours, then I might start booming again.  This should not be a problem, but it was before.

All of our dues are about the same, so why not just have fixed dues for everyone.  Or, God forbid, take a percentage so members earning a higher rate are paying higher dues.  This way it doesn't matter to the members or the union if the utility guy moves up an makes more money.

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" why not let anyone do any job? "

or perhaps let them do any job up to and including their membership level.  This would be because there are some (stupid?) provisions in the IA constitution that require different catagories of membership and BOD representation by members in those categories.

" why not just have fixed dues for everyone.  Or, God forbid, take a percentage so members earning a higher rate are paying higher dues.  This way it doesn't matter to the members or the union if the utility guy moves up an makes more money. "

this excellent idea was suggested earlier in the thread, too!

" Let sleeping dogs lie. "

the snoozing canine just got an Emmy!

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I have received a few emails over the last few days about this thread.

I would like to apologize if this thread sound whiny or accusatory, and I'd like to point out that I never intended to "out" anyone, or complain that someone didn't deserve an opportunity.  I suppose I am still, understandably, a little bitter about being offered the same opportunity, but having it taken away because it was against the rules.  It's been a bad year for many of us, which can easily help to breed a little resentment and jealousy, and for this I apologize to you for not keeping it to myself.  But things always seem to work out., and I hope they will for us all.

Times have changed and rules should change with them.  I was simply trying to open this discussion with my peers under the "general discussion" heading.

Robert

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Local 52 has no such classification limitations inside it's sound craft category.  A Boom Op or Utility can work as a Mixer and vice versa.  One can even be bumped up to Mixer on the day s/he was hired (e.g. for a playback scene or a last minute 2nd unit).  The dues withheld in each paycheck are a percentage of the pay, so the dues are then higher for the member for that day.

Additionally, members of the Local 52 Sound category are also permitted to work in the Video Assist category.

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Local 52 has no such classification limitations inside it's sound craft category.  A Boom Op or Utility can work as a Mixer and vice versa.  One can even be bumped up to Mixer on the day s/he was hired (e.g. for a playback scene or a last minute 2nd unit).  The dues withheld in each paycheck are a percentage of the pay, so the dues are then higher for the member for that day.

Additionally, members of the Local 52 Sound category are also permitted to work in the Video Assist category.

Same for us here in the Mid-Atlantic, Local 487.

Best regards,

Jim

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478 told me I could work any position if I came in as a mixer, but would have to reclassify to move up from utility or boom.

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because of an mixing Emmy being awarded to a Y7a utility.

WHAT?!!!  Outrageous!!!  What's next, are they going to start asking for the right to vote.  Soon they're going to start expecting healthcare.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against Y7a's, but do you really want one living next to you?

An important point is being overlooked here.  The practices we are discussing here are widely known in our sound community.  The only reason we are having this "discussion" now is because Emmy's statues are involved.

A simple fact: 'House' won the Emmy for sound.  If you didn't have anything to do with 'House', guess what, you aren't getting an Emmy in that category.  But, no matter what happened, Von was getting an Emmy.

Has anyone stopped to think why Von / 'House' chose to spread the wealth?  There are some Mixers that would never dream of sharing the credit for the success of their accomplishments.  They've paid their dues, they've worked hard, they deserve the credit.  There are other Mixers that believe the whole sound department should be recognized and share the credit as a team.  There is also a small sub-set of Mixers that just don't want to have to sit alone at the awards ceremony.

I think it's admirable that some Mixers want to share the nomination with as many contributors to the effort as possible.  There is nothing wrong with a Von or a Dave Yaffe (among others) including a 2nd Unit Mixer in the nomination, just like there is nothing wrong with a Mixer feeling like they were the sole contributing factor their sound excellence.  Isn't it their individual prerogative to determine who deserves credit?

Why only one production mixer per nomination?  Frequently, there are two or three post mixers lumped into the same nomination.  Is that fair?  Is it fair that a Mixer can be nominated one year, then never get nominated again (did his work suddenly become bad)?  Is it fair that some marginal Mixers get Emmy's because they are on a popular show with phenomenal post?  Is it fair that highly gifted Mixers on lame shows will never get nominated?

And what about Juan?  When he wasn't mixing 2nd Unit, wasn't he also working on 1st Unit with Von.  And did he really take a job away from the Local when he mixed 2nd Unit ( I assume he had to replace himself with another union member on 1st Unit)?  And what about Von?  How do we really know that Von wasn't drunk the whole time, and that Kenny Strain selflessly mixed the episode uncredited while Juan Boomed?  Yhe reality is that Von is a hard working Mixer? 

If a kitten died every time an Emmy was awarded, I might be a little more outraged, but the reality is, none of this matters.

In Robert's case, Disney (not the Local 695) forced him to reclassify for a job.  He had the option to take that job or turn it down.  In my experience, the Local looks the other way when members are in a transition period, which sometimes can take months or years.  As long as you make a good faith effort to adhere to the spirit of the by-laws, the Local with leave you alone.  We all know Y8's and Y7a's that mix from time to time.  Some will become Mixers, others will try and fail, some are content to Boom the rest of their lives but like the chance to mix from time to time.

Sure we can create more barriers to entry if we want to.  But, it's also important to remember that every single Mixer in Local 695, at one point, was on the outside trying to get in.  I'd understand if we were talking about Canadiens taking our jobs, but were talking about our own members.

One of the tricks a lot of Mixers use to get work around here is be be really good at what they do and make friends with people.  I encourage everyone to try it (I personally chose a different approach).

And finally, there are many ways to get Emmys.  It's not really that hard.  For example, I know for a fact that both Jon Ailetcher and Steve Morantz keep the keys to their house under their front door mat.  When I finally feel I'm ready to accept an Emmy, I know where I'm getting mine.

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Steven,

I really feel you missed my point, and I am really sorry for starting this thread now.  I did not want to criticize Von or Juan, or to take away from their accomplishment.  My issue is with the archaic rules of the union.

This is a common practice, and as such should either be embraced (my vote) or stopped (not my vote).  It's the selective enforcement of rules that had me bothered, not Von and Juan winning a well deserved Emmy.

I was a Y7a also, and did not enter the union as a mixer, and I relished every opportunity to learn both before and after I decided to move up.  I simply want everyone moving up to have equal opportunity.

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I think Steven is being a bit harsh with Robert, who really has nothing to apologize for.

I, too, find it a welcome trend that the producers and sound departments have made headway in getting additional folks statues when the "sound department" is nominated, and certainlt the Emmy rules also need some tweaking, too...

Frankly, I have mixed 2nd unit on nominated projects, and back then did not even consider that I should be included, as Juan was, with the award; I figured there was already a trend that might go the other way at the expense of the production mixer being included!

I have also been on a different side of Robert's issue, as a mixer doing 2nd units, when the boomer or utility wanted the 'bump days' (mostly for the money, but of course for the experience) and I accepted that as a reasonable situation, though what bothered me a bit was that they continued to pay lower dues than I paid.  not a fortune, so I respectfully bit my tongue and managed to keep finding work.

I've known Von and Juan for years, and am thrilled for them, and they certainly worked hard for the award (as did the rest of House's sound department!).  I really hope they do not feel that this discussion has anything to do with them or their work, because it does not!  Actually, they broke new ground for us all, and that makes their Emmy's all the more impressive!

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I wasn't trying to be "harsh", I was just using sarcasm to try to illustrate how silly this all is.  But, instead of beating around the bush, I will address the topic directly.

And I don't feel like I missed the point, either.  This is about Emmy envy.  But, for the sake of the argument, I will address only the reclassification issue.

The Local hasn't selectively inforced this rule, they have consistently turned a blind eye to the issue.  They graceously choose to look the other way with a form of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy.  If you ask them, they are going to say no, if you don't ask them, they will leave you alone.

I happen to know that Robert did, in fact, mix when he was still classified as a Y7a.  The Local never came after him for it or arbitrarily singled him out.  Just as they haven't gone after Juan or the plethora of other Y7a's and Y8's that mix from time to time.  It wasn't the Local, but Disney and the show's 1st Unit Mixer that told Robert he would have to reclassify if he wanted to work the show.  Robert could have turned down the show, but, at the time, he felt it was in his best interests to take the show and reclassify.  I have great sympathy because I too have been jerked around by Disney on several occasions.  I think we all have at some point.  

It was an unfortunate position that Robert was put in.  I have had to make many tough choices, myself, over the years.  No doubt, Juan, and others like him, will have to make different, but equally tough and unfair choices over the years.  But, my feeling is that we should all be trying to help each other avoid the obstacles we faced instead of trying to steer others right into those same obstacles.

The bulk of my work is 2nd Units, so I have a lot of the same feelings most of you have.  No, I don't want more competition.  Yes I get bummed when I can't get a 2nd Unit because the Y7a is mixing it.  Am I jealous that I never had that opportunity when I Boomed, of course.  But is it unfair?  No.

I want to reiterate something John Coffey said.  Turning a blind eye to Y7a's and Y8's mixing from time to time may benefit all of us by keeping the pool of superb Y7a and Y8's satisfied.  If we force them all to become Y1's, then we'll have even more competition and less qualified support crew.  This is also an issue that can be handled at the grassroots level.  Nothing is stopping anyone of us from visiting with these 1st Unit Mixers, gettting to know them, and asking them to give us a try on their next 2nd Unit.

The whole point of this site is to help each other, share knowledge, not to ensure that others have to suffer the same injustices we faced.  The Local rules are outdated, but I think they know that too, that's why they don't enforce them all that strictly.

So the question is, Do we need to change the rules or leave them the way they are?  It's great that we start the discussion here, but it's an issue that is best resolved at a Local 695 meeting.

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I happen to know that Robert did, in fact, mix when he was still classified as a Y7a.  The Local never came after him for it or arbitrarily singled him out.

I want to reiterate something John Coffey said.  Turning a blind eye to Y7a's and Y8's mixing from time to time benefits all of us by keeping the pool of superb Y7a and Y8's satisfied.  If we force them all to become Y1's, then we'll have even more competition and less qualified support crew.

The whole point of this site is to help each other, share knowledge, not to ensure that others have to suffer the same injustices we faced.

So the question is, Do we need to change the rules or leave them the way they are?  It's great that we start the discussion here, but it's an issue that is best resolved at a Local 695 meeting.

Yes, I did mix when I was classified as a Y7a, which I had mentioned earlier in the thread.  But I called the union several times to ask at what point would I be required to re-classify.  They answered that since I was in the position of working only occasionally as a mixer, that they were not concerned.  I would move up when the jobs were more frequent.  They were concerned with me working below my classification, as it would take away jobs from utility/boom people.

I disagree with John and Steven in the assessment that if the rules were enforced, then all the of Y7a and Y8 guys would jump into mixing.  They wouldn't.  They would be faced with ONLY mixing their show's 2nd units and scrounging for work like the rest of us, or having a regular paycheck as a utility person or boom.  I chose to reclassify when that chance came up because I knew I wanted to be a mixer.  I love the job, and it seemed like the right choice for me.  The subsequent job offer of utility/mixer was a financial decision to accept, and because the 1st unit mixer is a great guy and the show is great to work on.  When it turned out I couldn't do it, not because the union found out, but because we asked, I was bummed, but shit happens.  It will turn out for the best in the long run.

The whole point of this site is NOT just to talk about technology.  It's a discussion group not an equipment forum.  But that's all I am going to do from now on.  It's obvious that the "General Discussion" portion of this site simply gets people in trouble with people who disagree with their opinions, and misinterpret their intentions.

So Steven is suggesting this issue is best resolved at a Local 695 meeting, but I thought perhaps it would be better to simply talk about it here.  If it goes to the union, then I suspect they will enforce the idea that Y7a and Y8 employees with "regular" mixing jobs on the same show are in violation and take jobs from Y1 mixers.  Y7a and Y8 employees who are in the process of moving up and who take occasional mixing jobs should call the union so they can track their progress and decide when they should reclassify (like Local 600).

I'm done posting my opinions, and I will now ONLY talk about gear and mixing, both of which I love.

Robert

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Thank you, Richard.  Often the voice of reason.  I am happy to defend my opinion and/or change my mind.  But the problem I have found here is that what should be a discussion becomes a battleground, then I get emails from friends telling me to lay off because "people are starting to talk" and it's making me look bad.  This costs me work.  I suppose what I am saying is that in this "new" production environment, in order to get what little work there is left, we are supposed to simply keep our mouths shut, go with the flow, and be lucky for what we have.  It's the IATSE bargaining strategy after all. 

It's really hard for me to do that (obviously), but I have mouths to feed, so I suppose I must.

Robert

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