Empowering the Crew Rep

The Screen Guild has undertaken a project to help structure and provide support to the members of the crew who need to speak to and deal with production on their behalf.

In many ways the selection process, parameters, guidelines and support structures for crew representatives are a bit disconnected and operate in an ad hoc manner in the New Zealand Screen Sector and has been this way for some time.

The Screen Guild formed a sub-committee of members who have served as crew representatives on a number of productions over the past few years to discuss the issues facing the way these roles are empowered to negotiate on the crews behalf, make recommendations about how to improve the current situation, and develop the framework and guidelines for effective communication and negotiation with production on behalf of the crew.

The largest element to this project is to redefine the crew representative position, look at what can be done to clarify the duties and responsibilities. We have created a set of parameters and guidelines to help the crew reps perform their role, and also what support The Screen Guild can give to crew reps during a production?

We've created a workshop series designed to assist production and crew to elect the crew reps and support the crew members undertaking the role. 
Click the button below to begin.

Crew Representative Protocols Guidelines

1. Selection

An offset crew rep should be elected early during pre-production, while an onset crew representative is selected once the shooting crew is contracted and would take place during the first shooting week. 

Having a knowledgeable and well supported crew rep is an advantage for production to assist in the smoothing running of the production and general communication with the all the crew.

The Screen Guild will approach each production in pre-production to offer and assist with crew rep selection and support.

Screen Guild representation would involve early advice from the EO involving discussions with exec members to HOD’s and to advise the production on initial contract and engagement elements. The early Screen Guild representation would not necessarily be a crew member from the production.

The Screen Guild Recommendations

  • At least one onset and one offset crew representative. 
  • On larger productions it is recommended having two onset crew reps.
  • It is advantageous if production is able to provide documentation about being a crew rep (provided by The Screen Guild) with the start work paperwork and a method for nomination and voting be established and endorsed.
    - This method could use the production email system to send a link to crew to nominate then vote for crew.

2. Who should be Crew Rep?

Should there be any crew who should not be eligible to be crew rep?

The Screen Guild feels that aside from the 1st AD any crew member should be entitled to be nominated to be crew rep.

The role would best suit someone who is:

  • Based on set for the onset crew rep.
  • A crew member senior enough to be able to deal effectively with production.
  • Is able to develop a network of senior crew members and HOD’s to assist and facilitate.
  • Balanced and impartial in their discussions with production and crew.
  • Able to reach out to SIG for advice and assistance.

3. How do we generate good candidates?

Selection of the crew rep often is done in haste when production needs a majority decision, it’s become a poison chalice no one wants. It tends to be a small number of crew who begrudgingly take on the role because they recognise its importance. 

We encourage senior crew members and HODs to promote discussion about nominations for crew rep as early as possible. 

The Screen Guild intends to engage with production and crew early in the process to assist in generating good crew rep candidates. With more support and clearer guidelines it will make the crew rep position less of a poison pill and something more crew are prepared to take on.

4. Setting up for the Crew Rep role on a Production

Newly minted crew rep or reps should link up with at least three HOD’s or senior crew to facilitate communication and advice with various departments.

  • Encouragement for departmental tool box talk and then topics raised brought to either the crew rep of the safety officer.
  • Each department should have a nominated person who brings departmental issues to the crew rep and is the crew reps’ point of contact for that department.
  • The crew rep(s) when elected should touch base with the 1st AD and establish a specific first point of contact in production 

5. Contracts, The Blue Book and Work Conditions

  • A crew rep should not be required to be an employment law expert.
  • When aspects of contract confusion or blue book discussions occur the crew rep should seek specific advice from SIGANZ.
  • Its proposed the crew rep should have access to and be very familiar with The Blue Book and the specific contract issued by production. This can be assisted by The Screen Guild during pre-production.
  • Screen Guild representation will be initially through the guilds’ Executive Officer who may pass over to an exec member if required. The Screen Guild has legal counsel it can call upon if required.
  • The Screen Guild recommends if possible to have the production contract reviewed by our Lawyer so any items of concern can be pointed out to crew before signing.
  • The crew rep is not a direct Screen Guild representative, but is considered a representative and spokesmen for the specific crew they are on with production.

6. Negotiation with Production

1. Establish point of contact for the following:

  • Who the 1st point of contact with production is for the crew rep. Who should  the crew rep initially discuss any concerns or problems with?
  • The crew rep should have an initial conversation with the production contact and the 1st AD and discuss protocols for addressing concerns and negotiations.

2. Majority Crew Agreement

Production or the 1st AD may want to get feedback from the crew about preferred option’s when they have forced or planned changes to the workflow and schedule. This is where the crew rep needs to reach out to the crew and canvas the overall crew opinion or mood on an issue or change.

  • When this occurs it recommended the crew rep have organised a point of contact with each department to quickly get either a consensus or majority decision from the crew.
    - The best method of achieving this for the particular crew should be used. Chat app groups have been suggested as a good method.
  • Examples of situations where crew majority decision is required/requested.
    - When AD’s ask the crew if they agree to do over time
    - *Note this is discussed further below
    - When Productions are considering a schedule change that may have an adverse implication for crew and want to test the crew resistance to various options.
    - When an incident occurs between crew and production where a group of crew want to raise a concern with production on behalf of the whole crew.
    = Some of these situation will often only effect a specific shooting unit or crew and often not the production as a whole.

3. Communication of Decisions

Often the crew rep and the 1stAD/Production representative will come to decisions on matters up for discussion that need to be communicated to the crew. To prevent inaccurate information and misunderstanding if the crew rep were to verbally communicate their understanding of the results, The Screen Guild encourage decisions to be communicated directly to the crew by the production mass email system. This ensures everyone is getting the same message directly from the source.

4. Overtime

Overtime particularly unscheduled can become a polarising issue between crew and production. The way overtime is dealt with has changed and evolved over time and the way it is managed is also different based on the format, size and nature of the production. 

In the past it was customary that unscheduled OT was put to a vote for majority agreement with the shooting crew by the 1st AD. In more recent times the way overtime is dealt with has changed.

  • Larger productions no longer ask and OT is at producers discretion.
    - Departments are expected to manage their overall departmental crews hours to mitigate the negative effects of long hours.
    - Generally if a production is likely or intending to do long hours this should generally be tabled and discussed with HOD’s and crew about how it’s going to be managed.
  • Smaller productions generally minimise their OT and have stricter rules around when and how much is done.
  • If production wants to get a mandate from crew for unscheduled OT then the crew rep should canvas the crew to get majority crew agreement.
  • The crew rep should have a conversation with the 1st AD and production to discuss protocols for unscheduled OT and how it is managed.
  • OT notification should be discussed in pre-production and have a process attached to it. For example, OT expectations are notified to the crew at lunchtime or 2 Hrs before scheduled wrap. Whatever is agreed between the production and the crew should be kept to.

The Screen Guild recommends that 12+ hours/hrs shoot days should be discouraged and/or managed for H&S and crew welfare reasons, and majority crew agreement should be required to consent to persistent long hours.

5. Advice and Consultation

A Crew Rep when negotiating with production has the right to say they need to go away and consult with, an advisor, The Screen Guild, or any other Screen organisation to get advice on how to proceed.

6. Mediation

At times the crew rep may feel like they are in the position of being in mediation between Production and Key Crew when a disruption or disagreement occurs. 

  • The crew rep should try to remain impartial, defuse disagreeable situations as much as possible, and reach out to The Screen Guild to help resolve conflict if required.

7. Sexual Harassment & Bullying

  • The crew rep is not a Harassment Officer. Production should have an established and resourced method for reporting and resolving harassment in the workplace.
  • The crew rep if approached about a bullying or harassment issue, should point the person to the appropriate person or reporting mechanism of production for Harassment.
  • The crew rep should check back with the crew member at a later point to ensure they are happy with the process followed.