Oh, Canadia!

LB writes:

I will be relocating to Canada soon. Are all crew members of television productions shot in Canada, including set and office production assistants, required to be union members? If so, does this include American television productions shot in Canada?

My knowledge of Canadian unions extends only so far as to know that they exist.

But, since you’re writing to my blog, I assume you’re a PA, and not an active member of the DGA.  I’d be willing to bet that, like their American counterparts, Canadian PAs don’t have a union.

The reason?  Well, who would want to be a PA long enough to join a union?

On top of that, there are plenty of shows which are non-union.  Cable shows and reality are notorious for this.  Plus, one union’s jurisdiction has no effect on another’s.  An independent film can have a deal with SAG, but still not be a DGA or WGA signatory.  I’m sure the same holds true for Canadian productions.

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10 Responses

  1. Do you have to be Canadian to join IATSE? I’m a UK Production Coordinator and I’d like to move to Vancouver for a year, and join IATSE but a friend told me you have to be a national

    Love this blog.

  2. My first thought on reading this:

    “Are all crew members of television productions shot in Canada”

    Gosh, I hope not.

  3. It depends on where you go in Canada. Every province has different rules.

    In Toronto you do not have to be union to be an office or set PA and there are more than one and although they are competitive it has started to be busy enough to let new blood in.

    Once you want to move up to a different position you then might want to join the DGC or NABET 700CEP (Canadian productions union) or I.A.T.S.E (American productions in Canada union) but there is plenty of non-union work.

    However, in order to be an Art PA or Locations PA or Trainee AD you need to join the union but again there are still plenty of non-union productions. The application process is not as easy as previously stated for the DGC. You need a lot of experience and 3 reference letters from DGC members to join. For Art PAs you need an art portfolio on top of this. You need a certain amount of days on non-signatory yet professional productions (professional is to their discretion and they will throw out some days so you need to have more than enough). The amount of days needed depends on which position and which union. DGC, NABET and I.A.T.S.E (there are 3 locals in Toronto) all have their requirements listed on their respective websites.

  4. PA’s are indeed DGC, however it is not necessary to be a member to work as they will deduct a permit fee from your wages. The unfortunate thing is that you have to start off as a locations PA and watch crew park or sit by a generator for 15 hours in order to become an AD, and it usually takes two years of that before you can move up to Trainee-AD. There is usually only one office PA on a show and it is super competitive to get that job so the orange vest is the usual place to start. In Vancouver anyway.

  5. Joyce is right. DGC has a PA category. I’m pretty sure that the entry qualification is for you to say, “I’m a PA…lemme in.”

    This isn’t a knock on Canadian unions/guilds. They’re just really egalitarian there.

    (DGC has different rules based on province/city and they have websites with fairly easy to understand FAQs on each site.)

  6. Actually, PAs are apart of the DGC. Not completely sure on this point, but I think you have to start as a PA (well, permittee first) if you want to move up to AD or locations. You don’t need to be in the union to work as a PA on television productions.

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