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It pays to be a stagehand...

Discussion in 'Stage Management and Facility Operations' started by derekleffew, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    In light of the recent Local One strike, (I know, not the same contract), and having just found this on my computer from 2000, I thought it worth opening a discussion.

    Are Stagehands over-paid, under-paid; both, or neither?
     
  2. SweetBennyFenton

    SweetBennyFenton Active Member

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    Hell, $300,000 a year in NYC will get you a small apartment with a view of a brick wall. :)

    In all honesty I find it hard to think these people are getting payed too much, not after I saw them in action with my own eyes. I only worked a couple of union calls when I lived in NYC but I saw a group of workers working harder, faster, and safer than any crew I've ever seen in my life. They were true profesionals.

    This experience is just what I saw. Any NYC stagehands in the house?

    Maybe the issue is just that we should ALL be getting payed that much. :)
     
  3. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    This is a topic that came up a lot in our last show (if you remember back to the punching bag post it was not the smoothest run crew wise ever). There are a lot of jobs that don't pay much, if you don't believe me please tell me where you're working and where I can apply, but a lot of those jobs don't actually require a lot of actual work.

    Case that I'm using to illustrate this point. My job during the last run was two fold and this is the case for anyone that does run crew and works for any other department. I get paid less for run crew even though thats where the majority of my hours were. I couldn't complain about this because during this run there where time that I could either sleep, read, or go to the green room and play cards. This was the case in tech and the actual performances. I wasn't getting paid a whole lot but there just wasn't that much for me to do. Basically your can't complain about not getting paid much when you don't do much, even if it's a big time comitment.
    On the other hand when I work for Alex, I get paid more and certainly feel I deserve that because unlike the show I'm doing work the whole time. If your doing something and have a skill that is needed you should be paid for it.

    In reference to the posted article the "stagehands" that are being mentioned are heads of departments, and I wouldn't want the stress of their jobs. For this last show, I as a "part-time overhire" employee have almost 1/3 of my hours in over time and I'm not actually sure that Alex ever actually slept. And we needed every one of those hours to make this show happen. If I had to do this for any extended period of time you would really have to be good to me to keep me. And since you can't slow the earth's rotation to give me some time to sleep, money is the best way to do that. Sometimes this job requires you to work a ridiculous schedule, if thats the case for a long time you should be making a very healthy pay check.

    EDIT: that means I'm voting for in general across the board that pay rates seem to be reflective of actual work done
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2008
  4. Capi

    Capi Member

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    I would agree with Porkchop. You should get paid in relation to the amount you do. And I think I've found a new goal in life after I graduate. Move to NYC, work my butt off for a long time, become a dept head, and finally make some good cash. :)
     
  5. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, but then what ?. You still are not in it for the money, which isn't that great.

    One of the hightest paid stagehand positions in the US is a dept. head on Broadway, NYC. The base rate is (Or was - don't know 'bout the new contract, but it ain't a whole lot more) $1,650 per week. IF you work 52 weeks that's $85,800. About $42 hr. Seems like a lot, except.....

    You cannot be the sole breadwinner in a household within commuting distance of Broadway on that salary.

    Granted that there is add'l work during the week that add's OT and probably brings the salary up over $100,000, but that STILL ain't enough to support a family around these parts. Your SO better be working as well if you want a nice house and want dental insurance that includes the kids.

    I have 3 friends on B'dway. A few others at the Met Opera and a few at the TV studios. I would describe all of them as surviving and that's about it.

    So no, Stagehands are most certainly not overpaid.

    Oh and BTW. Your chances of becoming a Dept. Head anywhere is slim. There will be 20-30 stagehands as equally talented as you lined up before you waiting for that slot. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's an extraordinarily competitive market and you need a ton of talent, a very good reputation (don't EVER show up somewhere late for a call) and mostly a lot of luck as well as good timing to be in the right place.....

    Steve Bailey
    Brooklyn College
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2008
  6. Capi

    Capi Member

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    Point taken, Steve. I've never been in theatre for the money, because I know that theatre just doesn't pay well. If I wanted to rake in the cash, I'd go into some other line of work. :)
     
  7. sobenson

    sobenson Member

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    You also have to be related to someone...there are 4 or 5 big families in Local 1, with father, sons, uncles, nephews and marriage relations all in line for that head position.
     
  8. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    My son works as a model builder for a designer on Broadway and he is hand-to-mouth at the best of times and is trying to find someone to sponser him. Even that is tough to do, especially in NYC. Too few slots and way too many extremely qualified folks for them.

    Our producing director retired from Broadway after many years as a musical director and he said that while some stage crew are grossly overpaid(like the guy who hits the up and down button to opereate the grand rag), many are not. The ones that work the hardest are usually the lesser appreciated. Two sides to every coin, I guess.

    Charlie
     
  9. zzzeus

    zzzeus Member

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    most i ever made was like $120 bucks for a show but granted that was $10 hr for 12 hrs but i have only been doing this for 3 years and i am only in 11th grade. one day i hope to become a professional shop worker and lighting tech. not really sure how much i will make but my mom said i can live at home lol
     
  10. arlon666

    arlon666 Member

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    I am union stagehand with IATSE local 632 Northern NJ. We are by no means over paid. It is hard enough to make just a basic living off the work here. I work a lot in local one's territory and know them very well. There are only a select few who make any real money. And it is at the expensive of living at the theatre all the time.

    The main issue of the strike was how many guys need to be on a call. And that the house wants to decide how many they need not the union. I am dealing with that very issue at a community theatre by me in my territory. They are trying to cut cost by putting four men on a call when we need at least six. So we have to kill ourselves to get it done and we have the road crew yelling at us to get it done. It dose not make for a friendly or safe show. Even the rider for the show says they must supply six stagehands.

    Though on the other hand I have been on shows where they request like 15 guys on the out just so they can get out faster. But that is way more than was needed so I can see where the theatre would not listen to the rider.

    This is why the union want to be the one deciding the amount of people neded for the show. We know from the rider and the size of the venue how many it will take to get it done.

    Unfortunatly there are some people who will pad a call to make their buddies some extra cash. And that is what hurts our crediability. There was a whole mess over at MSG with that.
     
  11. What Rigger?

    What Rigger? I'm so fly....I Neverland.

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    Not at home, that's for sure.
    I'll disagree with that, and here's how: I do a grand total of about 90 minutes of work a night, get paid for a full eight hours. Why? Because for 20 minutes during that time all I must do is keep one human being alive 100 feet in the air on my automation rig.
    And that's **** hard to quantify.
    I'm grossing $50k/yr. Come see my palatial 800 sq.ft. rental house in fabulous SoCal. I live like a king!
     
  12. Spikesgirl

    Spikesgirl Active Member

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    I feel that you should get paid appropriately for the work that is being done. Responsibility is definitely a viable commodity. That's what I was pulling in when I was running the scen shop and all I had to do was keep the kiddos from chopping off their fingers, electrocuting themselves, screwing various parts of the their anatomy to the set, etc. i was one of the highest paid staff member on the campus because of it. Not because of the difficulty of the job, but because in 13 years, no one ever got seriously injured in my shop (excluding me of course).

    It would cost your company a lot more if you dropped someone.

    BTW, try Northern California - it's a lot cheaper up here. You could upgrade to at least 1,000 square feet!:p

    Charlie
     
  13. soundop

    soundop Active Member

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    "Their incomes set a new standard for blue-collar
    workers."

    I find the above stated offensive to theater techs everywhere...
     
  14. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    It's not white color office work, its blue collar work. No, its not working at a steel mill, but its physical work no matter what. You don't see people wearing suits the entire day at a gig.
     
    ElGusto likes this.
  15. punktech

    punktech Active Member

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    nothing wrong with being blue-collar. it's not like they're saying any monkey with a c-wrench can do it. everyone gets that most blue collar jobs on the higher end of th pay scale require training.

    i can see where nearly $400,000 would be considered by many to be a bit up there. even given the housing prices in NYC. in our modern world i highly doubt that there is only one breadwinner in a household (personally, i know i'm gonna need to find someone that can support my ass for a few years when the student loans are really hurting).

    the problem i'd say is not in the salaries, it's in our economy where a person actually needs that much money to live a middle class life. housing prices are insane, and gas is d**m sky high (which is truly bad as gas drives the price of everything else up, like food, you need to get it to the store and then you your self need to get it to the fridge, lots of cash!).

    we need to fix our economy and then make sure everyone who has a job that requires (for many of us) extensive and costly training has a wage that they can live on and still pay back the numerous loans and mortgages.
     
  16. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    I'm all for a living wage.
    -
    But first we need universal healthcare.
     
  17. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Ya, Tell me about it! I don't want great healthcare, and I'll still pay for suplimental coverage, but at least basic "break your leg", "cut your arm off" healthcare would be just great. There is a really intersting thread over at lightnetwork about this from people around the world. Does AUS have universal healthcare?
     
  18. Logos

    Logos Well-Known Member

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    Sort of. We have Medicare but you have to be unemployed to get everything for free and the waiting lists on public hospitals can be frightening for anything that isn't going to kill you tomorrow.
    I understand that even unemployed and totally in pain you can wait up to four years for public dentistry.
    Your gas by the way is about half as expensive as ours the last time I looked. We are paying about $1.40 AUD per litre which works out as approximately $5.60 to $6.00 per gallon.
     
  19. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Well, the dollar being in the toilet doesn't help the conversion. Looking down the street right now, its a 3.29 here. And people ask me why I sold my big dodge truck and bought a tiny toyota corolla. Literally, my gas consumption cut in half (and I don't have to haul crap for anyone anymore!)
     
  20. punktech

    punktech Active Member

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    yeah i'm in a bind when it comes to cars. i can't afford much in gas but the cheapest cars i can buy (literally the only ones in my >$2000 USD price range) are Chevy S10s, which eat gas like there's no tomorrow. so either i can buy a car and never drive it or not buy a car. the second one sadly is not an option, i *NEED* a car where i live.
     

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