Wednesday, December 9, 2009

entertainment industry coach question 282: Please provide me with tips on how to negotiate health benefits on a non union movie.

How to negotiate for health benefits on a non-union film, is not my area of expertise. However, I will give you advice, based on three things:

1. That I've produced non-union projects
2. That I worked for the camera union for 11 years
3. That I am now a small business owner/independent contractor

Here's my advice:
The first thing I would do is evaluate the budget of the non-union project. As a producer of ultra low-budget projects, I can assure you, there was no money for health insurance no matter how much I wanted someone on my project or how great a negotiator he/she was. Therefore, if the money isn't there, there's nothing you can do.

If you do believe the money is there, you can anonymously call your union (if you're in one, if you're not, you can still call). Because the IATSE is an alliance, you can speak to a union representative about organizing a show without the producers knowing it was you. The reason they won't know is because, once the rep sees the possibility for organizing, he/she will call reps from other IATSE locals. When reps from 3 to 5 locals show up to organize, there's no way for a producer to know who tipped them off.

If organizing is not an option you want to consider, then if you're not already, you can consider becoming an entity. Without getting too technical, by becoming an official business, (which you are as an independent contractor), you can get health insurance as a small business owner. My suggestion is that you speak to the following before going this route:

1. SBDC- the Small Business Development Center, a non-profit organization for small businesses. This is a FREE service.

2. A Small Business Tax Accountant who has experience with people in the entertainment industry.

Again I want to reiterate, I AM NOT AN EXPERT in this area. I am like you, a small business owner (S-Corp), who works in the entertainment industry, and is in a union in addition to having worked for one. I am speaking from my own experience, and advise you to talk to at LEAST 5 people before making any decisions.

For more tips and articles by top entertainment industry career coach, The Greenlight Coach, visit

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