Who's responsibility is this, financially?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by MarcoBiscotti, Aug 24, 2006.

  1. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    So I recently got a job working in a Visual Effects department on this film production, and one of my many tasks is to film the camera movements and actors and entire area encompassing the frame of the main movie cameras to show the vendors, so that they can see exactly what's happening on set and refer to the cameras timecode for referance to certain sequences and shots, etc.

    I'm basically doing this as p.a. work. I recently took over for somebody else who had to leave the position early due to his schedule.

    Well the VFX department was afforded this Sony HD miniDV camera to use specifically for this purpose, and as I'm in charge of it mostly (it's not my sole responsibility and others will use it from time to time, but I spend the most time with it) it's usually under my care.

    Now if you've ever been on a film set, you know how hectic things can get. It's very busy. There's always people - grips, electricians, camera technicians, etc. passing by with equipmenn and cables all over the place, and from time to time, minor accidents occur.

    One such accident happened yesterday afternoon.

    We had a table set up in the studio to keep our belongins, laptops, VFX equipment, etc. on. Whatever we need to refer to for the shots that day. Lots of tape, blue screen, markers, stands, etc.

    Well someone from unit had asked another member of our team to please move our table (a familiar request!) as the grips had to come in with some large equipment. I saw that two people had started to sort of pull the table out, so I hopped over to pick up one end and relieve them of the responsibility... and as myself and another person were movcing the table - Crash!

    The camera tumbeled off onto the floor, and broke!

    Now we didn't think it was broken at the time because it turned on properly and everything seemed to be working. But when I went to use it later int he day, I realized that the zoom function was broken. The camera was "locked" at it's furthest focal length as if it were completely zoomed in. Essentially making everything within a few feet of the lens in focus, but everything else incredubly blurry and indistinguishable.

    So the camera seems top be broken. It's worth about $1500.


    Now I'd like to know if I should PERSONALLY be held responsible financially?

    I asked my parents and they don't seem to think so. In fact, they told me not to accept that as the camera was given by the company strictly for the purposes of work, and as such, should either be covered or insured in some form by the production.

    I don't make that much money, and this is afterall, a multi-million dollar picture.

    It's not as if I went up to a person and asked if I could please use or borrow their camera. Is it responsible of a company to be distributing expensive equipment to its staff in such an environment where small incidents like this are prone to happen, when said instruments are not insured in any way?

    The problem is... that apparently, the company was loaned this camera by a nice fellow who works in a department next door and was nice enough to help out and offer it.

    I feel terrible as a result.

    But not terrible in that I should be covering $1500.

    I think that VFX was loaned the camera, and not me specifically, and that it should be afforded in our budget.

    Apart from the fact that I work in VFX and have been handling the camera, I dopn't see why it's any more my fault thaat this happened than the other people who were moving the table. Had I not stepped in, this would've occured regardless. I was just sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had already lifted the table up and started to move it when I rushed over.

    Clearly, this was accidental and not intended. This has to be acknowledged, that these sort of things WILL happen on set throughout the production. It's bound to happen. Things fall. Things get knocked over.

    I don't feel that I should therefore be responsible when it's the company's duty to assess costs and insure equipment that is going to be used for these purposes, in light of this.

    It's just unfortunate that it had to happen to this person who agreed to lend us his own personal camera.

    I mean, had it been the company's, I would've felt bad and apologized for the accident - but this is considerably more complicated.

    At the same time, I had no idea who's camera I was using. It was given to us and placed in our posession on set for the past weeks by our department to use. As regretful as I am, it's not so much my concern who it belonged as I had no involvement in obtaining it or even sorting out any terms of use.

    Not to make this sound more complicated than it has to be, but it was really just a friendly offer among aqquaintances on the production. That's unfortunate for me and the moreso the person whom the camera belongs to. But there were no contracts signed or anything. I was handed it and told to please "shoot this".

    I don't feel I should be liable to cover the costs of repair or replacement. It fell off a table. Accidents happen. It should be afforded in the budget. It should be insured. VFX should have been assigned their own personal witness camera by the production to begin with and not had to have borrowed one from some guy.

    What do you guys think about this?

    Keep in mind I'm working as a production assistant and on a limited salary. My job is basically to help the other people out with certain things in my department. Assist.

    Is it right or fair to assume that I should suddenly have to buy this person a new camera, when he never personally lent me anything to begin with?

    I'd like to hear your opinions...


    Thanks!
     
  2. Lynda-Marie

    Lynda-Marie Supporting Actor

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    They should have some sort of insurance to cover equipment losses. You might want to make quiet inquiries about it. As you said, Marco, it is NOT like you did it on purpose.
     
  3. drobbins

    drobbins Screenwriter

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    You are not financially responsible. At work things break. Sometimes by accident, sometimes not by accident. Doesn't matter if it costs $15, $150, $1,500, $15,000 or more The owner fixes or replaces them. If an employee is accident prone, a boss has to deiced if he is a profitable investment or not.

    Dave
     
  4. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Has anyone actually approached you about being financially responsible for the camera? If you are an employee, I would think that any equipment on set should be convered by the production's insurance, regardless of why it's there. That doesn't let you off the hook entirely, they might be able to fire you for negligence (assuming you didn't take adequate precautions for securing it), but I don't think you should be held financially responsible unless you agreed to that as a subcontractor.

    I'm also a little surprised that you are even allowed to move things on set - isn't that covered by a union?
     
  5. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    I doubt that the deductible is low enough for insurance to cover this. Most businesses carry very high deductibles and "self-insure" smaller items such as this.
     
  6. Joel C

    Joel C Screenwriter

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    I work for a very small newspaper group (less than 25 people on staff) and a few years ago was walking to my car around 2 a.m. after finishing layout for the week. I was carrying my work camera, a Nikon D1, stepped off the curb and right into a hole in the asphalt. I fell and hit the camera against the ground right on the edge of the lens.

    The lens was fine except for a cracked glare shield, but the little mirrors inside the camera all more or less fell out. It cost $700 to fix.

    Now, this is, like I said, a pretty small, family-owned company. But I was never docked for the repair, nor did I "get in trouble," because it was clearly an accident. The boss did promptly buy us all padded camera bags, however.

    So I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  7. MarkHastings

    MarkHastings Executive Producer

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    It is CRAZY to expect an employee (or freelancer) to be financially responsible for equipment they use. Even if you purposely destroyed something, the company would probably have to bring you to court (and win) to get you to pay for the destroyed item.

    Basically, the only thing a company can really do is fire you. Asking you to pay for the repairs to the camera would be totally absurd.

    p.s. I'm not saying it was you're fault, I'm just saying that being it was an accident, you really shouldn't be worried about the repairs.
     
  8. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Agreed. The employer should bear the cost.
     
  9. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

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    Marco asked:
    Well, has anyone?
     
  10. Colin Davidson

    Colin Davidson Second Unit
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    I would be interested to know if you have reported the accidental damage to the camera to anyone? I have generally found that if you are at least up front and immediately told whomever is in charge that you were moving the table and it accidently fell to the floor that everything goes OK. It's when you don't tell anyone and it goes for several days before someone "discovers" the damaged equipment that people in charge get upset. Have you talked to the person who owned the camera to explain the circumstances and offer an apology?
     

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