Respect Us As the On-Set Professionals We Are! - On Set Lighting

Respect Us As the On-Set Professionals We Are!


Recently I went a little wild on Facebook.

Yes, I did a little rant about not being treated as professionals.

Apparently I struck a chord with lots of fellow on-set associates. It appears lots of people feel the same way I do about this topic.
You see, I get a little miffed when I see fellow gaffers and lighting specialists… actually anyone on set there to do a job… not being treated as professionals. That’s what we are… professionals. Hey, not everyone can do our jobs. It’s not you can go outside and grab someone off the street to do the different jobs, right? But some clients think so.

As a Gaffer who runs a small video production and lighting rental business I get to talk to a lot of people who have production needs. They need trucks, lighting, grip equipment and crews. They need talented individuals who know how to work the gear and how to act on set… in short, how to do their jobs well and get the job done right the first time.
When it comes to the latter I find myself, even after all of these years in the business of lighting and production, having to explain the value of crew rates. I find myself defending the rates of people I know, have worked with, trust and count as friends. I’m talking about lots and lots of grip and electric professionals.

This upsets me.

I shouldn’t have to give a bargain basement price for anything to anyone who wants a well-run production. The value is there in the crews I use and in the equipment I’m renting out. The crew members are worth every freaking penny!
When someone wants me to gaff for them with my equipment, there’s no doubt that I will bring the best people I can find for the production. The most obvious and selfish reason is they make my job easier and make me and my company look great.
But why do these people want to work with me on these jobs? They do it because they are PROFESSIONALS!
These people have spent years learning their trades and crafts; the time they spent and continue to spend building those skills pays off in a fast, efficient production for the client. That’s why these professionals are worth a good value… not some rock-bottom price.

But that’s not all.

Another reason for their professional rates is that they are available for a shoot when you or your client decides it is right to shoot. That’s because these media professionals have a freelance work model and, as such, have given up the security of a regular work schedule to provide productions with top-quality personnel.

What about my rate?

Okay, I’ll share it with you. Generally my minimum rate for grip and electric is $450 for 10 hours. That rate is higher for Keys and specialists. Hey, they deserve the higher rate; their skill sets are specialized.
So what does treating us like professionals look like on set?
• First, respect that we have gone through several years of real-world and other training to be able to provide our services.

• Second, act like you care that we’re working for you. If nothing more, be polite. We aren’t your servants.

• Third, provide us with good food and water on set. Remember that we don’t get a break like people in “normal” work models; and, yes, we have to eat after six hours of work.

• Finally, understand there is a need for safety in the workplace. Here’s the deal… I can appreciate being cost-conscious, but safety and efficiency pay big dividends. If you want to fly a 20X over 30 peoples’ heads on set and light them with a couple of 4Ks through a silk that’s rigged to a backstop and powered by a 500-amp generator… please, please, please don’t tell me your unemployed nephew can be one of our crew.

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