Film Accounting – Understanding Union Payroll
August 24, 2014 2 Comments
For anyone who has ever tried to understand how to pay a SAG Performer, take heart. Know that when you look at the full 710 pages of the SAG “Codified Basic Agreement” you really only need to understand 15 to 20 pages of that tome. This is also true to a lesser extent for the Directors Guild of America (DGA), the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Teamsters working in film.
FILM PAYROLL RULES ARE LOCATED WITHIN EVERY “AGREEMENT”
The film unions and guilds have made “Agreements” with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, generally known as the AMPTP. The “Agreements” state the rules of the contract between the Guild or Union and the Producer, including all payroll rules.
Each Guild/Union has broken down their rules into the following 4 categories:
- The “Basic Day” and Overtime Rules
- The penalties associated with “Rest Violations” (also called “Turnaround”).
- The penalties associated with violating Meal Periods (called “Meal Penalties”).
- The various circumstances associated with Travel – whether to a “Distant Location” (i.e. staying in a hotel), or traveling outside of a defined “Studio Zone” (also often referred to in each locale as “The Circle”).
Once you know where these points are in each of the agreements your task becomes one of familiarization and practice.
THE NECESSARY TRAINING AND PRACTICE
I’ve found that a full weekend practicing the feature film payroll rules, followed up by on-line links to all the materials, is plenty for your average person to learn how to calculate the union/guild payrolls to “gross” (i.e. to the gross amount of pay due before union and government benefits/deductions). I also supply timecard templates (yes, with the formulas) which are “helpers”
SCOPE OF THE US FILM PAYROLL WORKSHOPS:
The solution to understanding Film Guild/Union Payroll is to find a central source of contracts for SAG, DGA and IATSE then summarize the four categories of payroll rules mentioned above. Then have someone show you their version of Excel formulas which comply with these central rules. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I have done that, one union at a time for each of:
- IATSE National Low Budget (any feature or TV production in North America less than $13Mil) and
- IATSE Area Standards (any feature or TV production greater than $13Mil outside of the Los Angeles and New York zones).
- I have a general Teamster contract for the non-LA/NY areas, but, honestly, it’s child’s play to understand after learning the above.
Actually, it is not a problem for me to say that if you understand SAG, DGA, IATSE Low Budget and IATSE Area Standards payroll rules, you can understand Film/TV payroll anywhere in America – it would only be necessary to get a copy of the local contracts in those higher production centers and you’d be ready in a day or so.
For more information see http://www.filmaccounting.com
Cheers / John