Sunday, June 23, 2013

"They Keep Track Of All That For You."


One of the most important things the Best Boy is in charge of (in my opinion anyway) are the time cards for his (or her!) department. Despite what we may say about doing this "for the love of the game" and/or how we'd rather "work for a low rate with good people than the other way around," the bottom line in this industry (and I'm sure in most others) is all about the Benjamins. In other words, at the heart of it all, we're doing a job so pay us for it.

Which is where the time cards come in. That little slip of paper bearing your name, Social Security number and signature is how you get paid. No time card = no money, no matter how long you were there that week. And not only that, but you better damn well make sure everything on there is correct. Despite Production keeping multiple records of everything (daily time sheets for each department, production reports, callsheets, etc), Accounting doesn't always match the numbers up, so if any of the times on the card is off by even one number, you're likely to end up getting less than you're supposed to no matter how many slips of paper are floating around the office saying you were in at 6am instead of twelve minutes later.

Which is why I was flabbergasted to have this exchange take place the other day:

I was playing the role of Best Boy Electric on a shoot when I was having trouble figuring out how to properly fill out the time cards Production had handed me for our department. The wording and designated spaces on these half sheets of paper weren't what I was used to, and this being the way we get paid and all, I didn't want to fuck it up. And seeing as how the accounting department wasn't in yet, I turn to who most BBEs turn to when there's a question about time cards*: The Best Boy Grip. Plus, he was on the last show this company did and therefore has surely has filled out the forms in question before... Right?

I find the BBG in his truck, smoking a cigarette while checking his Facebook page on his phone.

"Hey, BBG. I have a question for you."

"What's up, A.J.?"

I show him the blank time card I'm holding in my hand. "Have you done your time cards yet? I'm not sure what they mean by this part here," I gesture on the card, "...and it looks like they're asking us to put down real time. Not military time.** Is that right?"

The BBG looks at the time card in my hand, then shrugs while letting out of puff of smoke.

"Eh, I never know what they're asking for on that stuff. I just have my guys put in their name and Social, and then sign it."

"Oh..." I say, somewhat taken aback. But I guess those parts plus the in and out times are what's really important on time cards anyway. I suppose the other details they ask you to write down can be seen as less than important fillers."Well, how did you write down your in and out times?"

Another puff of smoke. "Oh, I never fill out that part either."

"You don't?" I'm definitely confused at this point.

"No. You don't have to keep track of all that stuff. They keep track of all that for you."

"Oh..." I say, slowly backing out of his truck. There's no use in asking him for help on the matter if that's his method. "Thanks..."

I return to my own truck and shake my head.

"They keep track of all that for you"?

"They keep track of all that for you"??


I can't tell you how many times I've been shortchanged on my paychecks over the years. And every time I call up Accounting to do something about it, THE VERY FIRST THING THEY DO IS PULL UP MY TIME CARD.

That's the first thing they look at to see if an accounting error has been made, and if it's blank, guess what? I'm out of luck and it looks like I just worked for free.

Sure, if they really wanted to, I guess they could pull up Production Reports for the day(s) in question and get the in/out times for our department, but sometimes those reports are done by lazy people who just copy and paste the same times for everyone without taking into account who had a pre-call, who didn't NDB, who had a rate change, who really worked that day (hint: the names on callsheets are often wrong), etc.

It's a slippery slope when we put the accuracy of our own paychecks in the hands of those who are penny pinching every chance they get, and it's even more reckless when it's the checks for our entire department we're talking about.

In the end, since it's such a small shoot and all, I suspect that the Grips will have no issue getting paid what they're owed despite the blank time cards. But better safe than sorry in my book; especially when I'm responsible for half a dozen people.

"They keep track of all that for you"??

No thanks. I think I'll wait for the Accounting office to open after all...

* Usually, the discussion is about out times so they kind of match up. That's a different post for another time.
** Most in/out times on a time card are done in a form of military time with 1/10th of an hour increments. Once in a while, I'll come across a show that wants use to put down "real times" (ie: "3:30pm" instead of "15.5"). It's really rare though, hence the double checking.

1 comment :

Michael Taylor said...

I can't decide whether that Best Boy is a moron, or just the laziest BB in the history of Hollywood.

Maybe both...

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License .