Featured image of Terra Gutmann-Gonzalez on the set of “The Immaculate Room.”
Flipping a project – any project – is no easy feat. Feelings get heated, work stoppages are threatened and sometimes executed. Jobs and industry reputations are placed at risk.
The nonunion crew of the psychological thriller The Immaculate Room knew that by banding together and voting to fight for a union contract, they were risking being replaced. But given the principles at stake and the rewards – including eventual membership in the local – it was a stand worth taking.
“We were all on board,” said Rasa Partin, the director of photography. “People want to get into the union, and they saw that this project was quite large and probably should have been under some sort of Tier 1 or Tier 0 level from the beginning. There was some sort of possibility that myself and the entire team would be replaced, but I’m not sure the producers understood that there was 100 percent sign on.”
Rasa Partin on the set of The Immaculate Room.
With the holidays approaching and five days left in the 16-day shoot, the crew staged a walk-out, signed their authorization cards and successfully flipped the production.
At first, Local 600 Business Rep Michael Chambliss wasn’t optimistic of a successful result. “In my experience, the odds of organizing a production this late in the schedule are not good, but the crew really wanted it,” he said. “These were all non-union members who decided to unionize and stand by that decision.”
Under the terms of the contract, the crew received all benefits from the first day of principal photography, roster status from the first day of hire and the working conditions of the low budget agreement with no reductions in crew rates.
Another positive that came out of the experience: Partin and camera operators Terra Gutmann-Gonzalez and Caleb Heller are all in the process of joining Local 600, a goal for anyone looking to advance his or her career in the industry should ascribe to.
Caleb Heller on the set of The Immaculate Room.
“I have a lot of DP friends who are in the union and I will love to be able to work for them doing more union projects,” said Gonzalez. “So that’s definitely a reason why I want to join now.”
Partin echoed the sentiment. Working in LA since 2016, he would love to see a day when nonunion productions become a thing of the past.
“Everybody who works in camera should be in the union,” Partin said. “So there would be no decently-budgeted projects that could exist without using unions.”