Perspectives on Overtime in the Film Industry

It’s unfortunately all too common to experience long hours in the film industry. What can be done to manage or distribute time on set and in post, so day rates are worth their weight in hours and you’re giving/given the respect the cast or crew deserves? Here are some recent perspectives:

  • David Stripinis writes “Fixing It In Post”:
    “And across the board, at facilities large and small, pressure was on with schedules. Ever since ILM pulled off a miracle with ‘War of the Worlds’ – completing the post-production in only twelve weeks, every show is expected to be done on that schedule. So VFXers are routinely expected to work 60, 70, 80+ hours a week. Often, illegally, without compensation for the overtime worked. … Long term, we need to rethink how VFX is done. A model where artists work directly for a production company – paid directly by them, would be ideal. Then, and only then, would they see the true cost of their behavior. But that can’t and won’t happen overnight.”
  • 12on/12off shares “Toughest Exam Question: What Is the Best Way to Study?”:
    “As if we need more proof that working excessive hours in the film business is unproductive as well as unsafe, a recent Wall Street Journal article quotes a university researcher’s conclusion that cramming all night preparing for examinations results in much poorer performance. Some things can’t be fixed in post.”
  • Anonymous Production Assistant writes Stop! Overtime!:
    [M]oney’s money, and at least overtime means more of it. Unless you’re me. See, this low-budget, [non-union] cable pilot I was working on had an eight day schedule. The plan was to shoot Tuesday through Saturday, take Sunday off, then finish the next week on Monday through Wednesday. We fell behind schedule, as you do, and the producer decided we needed to add another day. Not Thursday, though. No, we’d be working Sunday. … I’m sure that’s exactly what the California legislature intended when they wrote the overtime laws.
  • Haskell Wexler, ASC

    Haskell Wexler, ASC, who made a film on this subject called “Who Needs Sleep” (see excerpt video below), recently penner an open letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
    Routinely, workers union and non-union work twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours per day – and more. This occurs with minimum time available for sleep. These conditions occur on split shifts, where day is night and night is day, resulting in dangerous safety hazards. This lack of sleep becomes the cause of many of the safety hazards listed by OSHA. … At this time, specific abatement proposals may not be organizationally practical, but since it is an overriding health and safety concern, a strong statement by OSHA would be a major step toward realizing the OSHA pledge “to help workers come home alive and healthy at the end of the day.”

For context, here are some union rules for overtime:

  • WGA: 9 or more hours or more than 40 hour a week (source)
  • DGA: 13 or more hours or more than 5 days
  • Local 600 IATSE: 10 or more hours or more than 5 days
  • SAG: 9 or more hours (source)

One member of Local 839 IATSE recommended this language to colleagues on a recent project, which resulted in paid overtime:

“Per the pre-negotiated rules set out by the Local 839 IATSE, unpaid overtime is illegal. If you believe you cannot finish your workload with the resources provided in the timeframe given, it is your responsibility to alert your production coordinator or supervisor to allot more resources.”

What are your experiences with working overtime? When has it been handled well? When do you walk at twelve hours and when do you stay?


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site

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