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IATSE, Union Career, college, getting a job.

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by deck, Oct 18, 2012.

  1. deck

    deck New Member

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    Basically, i'm lost. I am currently enrolled in high school, and want to have a career in Audio Engineering and possibly sound design for IATSE local 1. Any advice? I have designed 17 education shows ranging from musicals to strait plays. I am really looking for a future in Musical theatre, and Broadway national tours. I worked on part of a non-union tour for Ring of Fire:The Tribute to Johnny Cash, as an A3. I have been an A2 for several regional productions as well Assistant A1 to many regional theatre Equity productions. What sound I do regarding a career in national tours? HOw would I get and IATSE card/get signed on with an company?
  2. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    Whew, that's a big question! Fortunately, you still have a long, long time before you need to figure a lot of this out - although it's good that you're thinking about it now. First of all, getting into Local One is really, really hard. In general, the way you get into the local is by earning at least $30,000 on Local One calls for three consecutive years, and then they can offer you a card. For that to happen, you basically need to be good enough at your job that the bosses are willing to displace a union guy to hire you. It's definitely not easy. One other way to join Local One is to take their Apprentice Exam, which is offered every 3-4 years, and if you score in the top 40 of test-takers, you'll eventually be offered an Apprenticeship where you work for half the rate of everyone else for 2 years, learning your craft, and when you get out of that two-year apprenticeship, you're holding a Local One card.

    However, keep in mind that a Local One card isn't the only way to be successful. Many of the technicians working on Broadway are not members of Local One, and probably never will be - and designers aren't really even IATSE members (they technically are in IATSE (USA) Local 829, but most people tend to think of USA as a separate union, despite it's IATSE name). I don't know enough about this to speak at length about it, but basically every stagehand on a broadway show is hired either by the House or by the Show. House staff are the Local One members, and are there when a show rents out the theatre. They work on whatever show happens to be in that theatre at the time, and they're beholden to the theatre owners (Nederlanders, Schuberts, Jujamcyn). The house requires that a show hire these stagehands, regardless of if they are needed for the show or not. As a result, it is not uncommon for a house carpenter or house electrician to show up to work and just sit for the length of the show, while picking up a paycheck. It is also not unheard of, though this is somewhat controversial, for House staff to show up at their theatre at 6:30, check to make sure everything looks good, then walk across the street to work a Pink Contract on another show at the same time.

    The Show staff is hired by the Producers to work on a specific show, independent of what theatre the show goes into, and these are hired under what is commonly called a "Pink Contract". For example, whenever an open-ended show moves theatres, the Pink Contract crew goes with the show, while the House Crew stays at the theatre, and a new House Crew at the new theatre will take over their responsibilities. These stagehands get hired when the show opens and lose their job when the show closes, and they are beholden to the Producers. Many of these stagehands are not actually Local One members, but they are members of other IATSE locals.

    For theatre tours, it's not really necessary to have an IATSE card when you start out, and by the time you get to the better tours where you do need one, you'll have one. Most entry-level touring jobs frequently hire non-union stagehands, and if the tour is or turns into a union tour, the non-union guys will just pick up ACT cards - basically like an IATSE card that doesn't have any connection to a specific local, allowing you to tour. Some old, hardened stagehands look down on the ACT card ("Anyone Can Tour"), but it is a route that many take when starting their careers. One progression that I've heard of many people doing is to start touring with companies like NETworks and Troika and move your way up until you're touring with the 1st Nationals, which are usually PE'd/PS'd and designed by the same guys who did the Broadway versions of those shows. Then you just keep impressing those bosses until you decide to settle down in New York, and hopefully they like you enough to start giving you jobs on the Broadway shows.

    Also, keep in mind that union isn't the only way to go, either. There are plenty of highly successful stagehands who are not IATSE members who work in non-union venues. Las Vegas is one city that I know of that has a strong showing of both Union and Non-Union venues, and some would tell you that the non-union venues are actually slightly nicer to work for and pay slightly better. Even New York has TONS of non-union action, and I have many non-union friends in New York who are always working and make similar money to their IATSE counterparts.

    Do you plan to go to college? Many people would disagree with me, but as a current college student and IATSE member, I definitely think it's worth it. You don't need to go to a fancy expensive four-year private school, just somewhere to make connections. While I've of course learned a lot at my school, the two biggest things I've gained are the ability to take risks and make huge mistakes without tanking my career, and gaining access to an enormous network of alumni who I can call and meet and get jobs from. If you choose not to go to college, you just need to find somewhere to work to build up some credentials before you'll be able to jump into an entry-level touring job. It's hard to say without knowing what level of regional theatre you were working at, but chances are you'll need to build up some more resume credits before a larger touring company will look at you seriously.

    Well, it looks like I just rambled here for a bit. I hope some of this helps you out. Good luck!
  3. derekleffew

    derekleffew Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    [user]deck[/user], please read the collaborative article Getting a Job in the Industry - ControlBooth . Although it's geared toward lighting, just replace the lighting companies' names with Masque Sound, ProMix, Sound Associates, and PRG-Audio in NYC. CB members [USER]Andy_Leviss[/USER], [user]audioslavematt[/user], [USER]Dillon[/USER], and others I can't think of right now, are currently doing exactly what you think you want to do in the future. Send them a nice PM if they don't respond to this thread.
  4. chawalang

    chawalang Member

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    Where do you live in Texas, are you in the DFW or Houston area, those cities have pretty good locals. Are you looking to possibly go to school in Texas? I ask because Im from San Antonio? There are things you could look into while in the state and if you plan to stay there for college, it just depends where you live in the state.
  5. deck

    deck New Member

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    DFW. IATSE 126 is my local. How would I join? What would be the benefits? My goal is to get to Local 1, (I have some friends in it). I am looking in and out of state for college.
  6. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    There are a few different routes to go here. Because theatre sound is quickly becoming similar to R&R sound there is a lot of crossover there. I have a friend who is now head audio for rock of ages, he started with them as their monitor engineer. He came up through the theatre world and has a degree in theatre. Another one of my friends just picked up his first tour with Catch me if you Can... he is the A2. He worked in a shop for years before getting the correct connections to get on this tour. The shop he worked for did many of the Troika tours and he got hooked up through there. Education in the audio world is not really as regarded as it is in scenic, lighting, and wardrobe. Many of the best engineers out there never stepped foot in a college classroom. Personally, I have yet to meet a single person who went to college for theatre sound who has done any better then someone who lear to mix in the club scene and worked their way up.
  7. chawalang

    chawalang Member

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    If your looking to go that route with Local 1 potentially, i would look to go to school in NY and try to work with your friends who work with local 1, thats really the way to go with unions, knowing people to get you in. Its something that will take you a long time to work to but you may as well place yourself in the environment you want to work in especially if you may already have connections there. If your looking to stay in texas for undergrad i would look at SMU. They have a good theatrical technology program which goes into audio design/ engineering. You may want to go to school in state then look at grad school in NY, just depends on the track you want to take but a masters i'snt a must have.
  8. themuzicman

    themuzicman Active Member

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    Find the Business Agents number for #126 and give him/her a call. I played Bass Hall in Forth Worth while on tour and can definitely say they are top notch locals. I also saw In The Heights in Dallas while I was at Bass and the road crew liked the Dallas guys too so you're in a good place!

    Local #1 isn't the end all/be all of locals. I've met plenty of awesome Local 1 guys and plenty of not-so-awesome guys who got in through the rampant nepotism - just like ever other local.

    I got my first card by getting a position on a unionized touring company for my first tour. The ACT card that you get by being drafted to a tour isn't the best card out there, but it is definitely a huge start. Gets you pension/health care which is what I really cared about. I got my first real local card by relocating to the NYC area and started working for one of the major audio shops that happened to be unionized.

    There are a few different ways to end up getting Local 1 work without a Local 1 card. The first way is to get to the Local 1 office (46th between 8th and 9th ave) early in the morning every weekday and wait in line for the Local 1 replacement office to send you out on work. You'll be behind every Local #1 member that doesn't have full-time work but you'll be after every non-cardholding person. The second way is to work your connections. Sound Designers have full say of who works audio on their shows. If they like you, you start out working as a sub-audio on their show. Let's say the A1 or A2 decides to take every other Sunday off - the Sound Designer designates a substitute and you roll in there and take their place for the day. Local 1 isn't all Broadway - New World Stages is 1, Harlem Stage is 1 - so the work isn't all the glamor people associate with NYC Theatre.

    If you are really bent on the Local 1 card the ways were discussed earlier - $35,000/year for 3 years, Top 40 of the apprenticeship test and then being lucky enough to get an apprenticeship position (could take 4+ years at the minimum), or working for a theatre in the city that decides to unionize (very rare).

    Any card is better than no card up here in the city. Get your #126 card, it's a start.

    While that is something that works for most other locals, Local 1 is a whole different beast. Just moving to NYC and meeting people who work in the local there won't get you work unless you already have a card and they can get you replacement work. The apprenticeship test sees no friendships :p
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2012
  9. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    It's not exactly helpful as far as an IATSE career goes, but Rhino Staging has a pretty strong presence in Texas and the Texas branch is one of the better divisions of Rhino. It's in direct competition with IATSE so you might not make any friends with local 126, but companies like that are a great way to network while working and my experience is that with staging companies a high quality young stagehand can advance through the ranks more rapidly than in an IATSE local
  10. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Same thing goes for Chicago Stagehand and CrewOne. CrewOne does do the 1099 thing though, therefore I can not recommend them to anyone.
  11. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Kojak CB Mods Premium Member

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    Working with Rhino, you will definitely not make many friends with the Union. I worked with Rhino during it's infancy in Phoenix and learned quite a bit about the politics of staging companies. When I took my first overhire position with the local union, I immediately stopped getting calls from Rhino (even though it had been the venue who had the union put me on the call due to my experience at that venue). I know nothing about the quality of that company in Texas, just along the west coast. You couldn't pay me enough to get me to work with any of them. I have some friends who still work for them and are happy enough, but I know that they could do better should they choose. But for the majority of their staff, when I have worked in conjuction with them, I'd say the only thing required to get a job with them is the ability to show up with the minimum tool list (experience using them not required). There were calls that I would have several of them be couch warmers because that was all they were good for; and the calls went much faster without them being in the way.

    I completely agree that going non-union will often give you many more opportunities depending on your skill set. I have known many young, non-union stagehands who could blow away the old union guys at running a console, media server, or mixing on a digital console. On the other hand, I have found few riggers from those same staging companies that could come close to the union guys (gravity hasn't changed much over the years I guess).

    So, as an audio tech, you really will want to branch out as much as possible before even considering looking at Local 1. Getting work in a rental house and showing them what you've achieved will probably get you more work (and thus practice) than jumping into the union and coiling cable and hoping to get the chance to be an A2. Go volunteer (or get hired) at one of the many mega-churches, even if you aren't religious, to get experience for musicals. There you will be mixing for individual speakers, choirs (not all quality performers), and often musical productions for Christmas and Easter. If they have a strong youth program, you will also likely get a chance to work many special events. All the while, you should also be looking for a good staging company to be getting work through or finding a good road house to become part of the house staff.
  12. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Also keep in mind you don't have to LIVE in NYC to WORK in NYC. There are dozens of shops on the outskirts of town that do work in the city. There are even more hours away that are down there all the time. Just 30 minutes from me there are two shops that regularly have stuff going on down there.
  13. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    [USER]ruinexplorer[/USER] I have had a similar experience with many Rhino (and other company's) local crews. That's why I mentioned that I have been reasonably impressed with the group in Texas.

    This may have been mentioned already but I can't find it and it bears repeating. One of the main things you mentioned is that you want to tour. You should know that many of the lower digit locals (and #1 is certainly one of them) take a percentage of all the money you earn as a union member as part of your annual dues. If you are working in those local's territory then the call's pay rate is probably inflated to compensate for this. For example if the local takes 5% out of your check they might negotiate a $15/hr job to be paid $15.75/hr so the union member isn't losing any money. If you sign on with a touring company it would be for a pink contract that is pre-negotiated with IATSE International and you won't see any of that inflation. Therefore if your local is taking a percentage of your earnings it'll be coming directly out of your pocket. A significant number of touring union stagehands (myself included) maintain their membership in locals that don't take any percentage because otherwise we are basically paying for the benefits of being in a strong local year round while only receiving those benefits when we're at home and working for that local.

    Food for thought.
  14. themuzicman

    themuzicman Active Member

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    Rhino Vegas is poor, but I have had great experiences with Rhino in Louisiana!

    If you want to tour and are offered an ACT card from IATSE National, the yearly dues are higher but you pay no extra out of your pay. Keep in mind that the working dues you pay back to your local on tour (should your local have that agreement in place) comes out of the minimum amount listed on the Pink contract, so if you are paid above minimum that portion is untouched (at least to my knowledge).

    It's not just low # locals that have working dues - my first local was in the 50's and they had no pension or working dues. My new local is in the 600's and they take my money!
  15. Blake

    Blake Member

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    Hey guys,
    I am in my Sophomore year of HS and I live in a tiny town just N. of San Diego. Would it be possible for me to grab a small Summerstock job? I'm 16 so I can get my permit. I have experience in our HS theatre which is really nice and some experience in my Mega- Church.
  16. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Kojak CB Mods Premium Member

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