Drone Camera Crews Now Covered Under Union Agreement

By Chanak Maduranga

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Drone Camera Crews Now Covered Under Union Agreement
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Following the results of an arbitration with Warner Bros., major film and television studios have agreed to cover drone camera crews under an IATSE union agreement.

That’s according to camera professionals union the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600), which informed its members on Thursday morning that this change came as the result of the union prevailing in a dispute with the studio in April over whether particular drone camera workers were covered under its contract. “This was the second drone arbitration award in favor of the Local,” national executive director Alex Tonisson said in a memo obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “Major studios have now represented that they will cover drone camera crews under the Local 600 Agreement, as required by the latest arbitration award.” 

The announcement arrives after, on Tuesday, prominent drone service firm CineDrones, which has worked on projects including AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead and Netflix’s Ozark, told Instagram followers that “a new day in drones is upon us.” Quoting a communication from ICG, the company shared, “Union films and television productions will now be required to cover drone crews under the applicable Local 600 contracts and pay union benefits to drone crew members.”

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and Warner Bros. for comment.

The decision appears to clear up what had previously been something of a gray area in terms of union coverage. And it’s seemingly part of a larger struggle the IATSE union is undertaking to push back against employers subcontracting what the labor group believes should be covered work to non-union workers. Currently, the union is negotiating to build more protections against this alleged practice into its contracts during its triennial negotiations with major studios and streamers.

Drone cameras have been used for many years to create swooping, dramatic sequences in films including Skyfall and Jurassic World and series like Game of Thrones. The Federal Aviation Administration first approved the Motion Picture Association of America’s request to use drones to film movies and television series in U.S. airspace in 2014.

The crews responsible for this work will apparently now have more clarity on where they stand in organized labor. “The decision reaffirms that drone cinematography on feature films and television productions is Local 600 covered work. It’s gratifying to see the industry recognizing our members as the most highly trained professionals in their field,” wrote Tonisson in his Thursday message to ICG members. “Productions should employ drone camera workers on feature films and television shows as Local 600 covered positions with the applicable pension and health contributions. If a company refuses to cover a drone camera crew, please contact the business representative assigned to the show.”

Chanak Maduranga

passionate journalist behind 'USA News Now 24', dedicated to delivering timely and accurate updates on US affairs. Committed to journalistic integrity and informing audiences with credible news coverage.

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