Sunday, May 2, 2010

RFD-TV / Rural Television

I've worked in the motion picture and tv industries now for more than thirty years and it is only in the last few years that I've been systematically faced with more and more collection problems. I know that times are tough, but producers who knowingly hire you with no intention, or capability of paying for the services should be eternally damned to hell (or worse). My current lead "deadbeat" is a cable network called RFD-TV or Rural Television. They are based in Omaha, Nebraska and also have a production facility in Nashville, Tennesee and a theater in Bronson, Montana. They claim to be a "family values" network, except when it comes to honoring their word to employees and vendors.

I worked as the lighting director for their coverage of the Rose Parade on New Years Day in Pasadena. We also shot an hour long documentary about the making of their float which was co-sponsored by the FFA (formally known as Future Farmers of America). In total I worked four days (and nights) including New Years Day, provided ENG cameras and extensive lighting,cable and grip truck as well as an additional technician. They paid about a third of the bill, in the amount of the original estimate which was for one technician for two days. I'm owed almost $5000 since January 1st, now 120 days plus. All the extra charges were approved by the unit manager, the producer and even the owner of the network, who now refuses to sign a check for the balance due. Despite glowing thanks for a job well done from all the others concerned, including their hosts, Crook and Chace, the producers, the live director, etc. I still do not know why they will not pay. I can only assume they don't have the money.

The least I expect from a "family values" network is honesty; I would be comforted if the people in authority returned my calls and emails, but that just doesn't happen. When I do manage to get through to the producer, with whom I made all the deals and received all the approvals, the best I can get is that he's trying to get the boss to sign the check. For the last four weeks the boss hasn't come to the office on Fridays which is the day checks are signed.

As technicians do we have to run credit checks in advance, do we have to get deposits against our wages, do we have to have signed "change notices"? To pursue legal remedies against an out of state corporation is fruitless. It costs more than you might win, let alone the trouble of collection. Unless you have a written agreement so specifying, you can not even sue for the legal expenses incurred in the process . The cards are stacked against the lowly technician.

I'm writing to warn everyone to be very cautious if RTD-TV calls you, or if you're referred to them for an assignment. They will most certainly be back next year for the parade again. If you work for them you will likely not be paid!

John Sharaf
Cinematographer/Lighting Director
Pacific Palisades, Ca.

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