When you work on set, you’re supposed to break for lunch after 6 hours of shooting. Some people break before that, if they got to set particularly early (like the drivers and location manager). Sometimes hair and makeup artists do, too, so they can get the actors camera ready for the first shot after lunch.
That’s how it’s supposed to work. If a shot is already set up, and the director just wants another take, the producers are allowed to call “grace.” This means the production can continue shooting for another 15 minutes without incurring a meal penalty. Technically, the producers are supposed to ask the department heads, but I’ve never heard anyone turn this down. If shooting goes past fifteen minutes, the crew gets paid extra (i.e. “meal penalty”).
Everyone in the cast and crew is supposed to get at least a half hour for lunch. They should not be forced to do any work. Considering how hard the crew works during the rest of the shooting day, this is not an unreasonable request. On the other hand, they don’t get paid for lunch, which also seems fair.
Meanwhile, in the Production Office…
Things aren’t quite so simple in the production office.
For one thing, not everyone arrives at the same time. The morning PA usually arrives an hour or so before call, and the night PA an hour or two after. You’re not all going to break for lunch at six hours.
For another, the production office isn’t going to shut down entirely for lunch. The phones will still ring, people will come into the office looking for info, runs will need to be ran. It’s a rare day when your meal is not interrupted by something.
And since you’re non-union, you don’t get meal penalties, or any other type of guarantee. Sorry.
Reporting on Your Time Card
That being said, if you’re working, you should be getting paid.
Now, the law requires that hourly employees get a half-hour break if they work more than 5 hours in a day. If you don’t report that you took a lunch break, the production gets in trouble. So you have to include a meal, even if you didn’t really get a “break.” And you’re definitely going to be eating at your desk.
This is just life in production, and it’s one of those things you’re going to have to live with. But, there is a remedy: add a half hour to the end of your work day. It’s only fair.
Say you worked from 6:00am to 6:00pm. Accounting will want you to add a half-hour lunch break from 12:00-12:30, which puts your out time at 6:30pm. But don’t put 6:30pm; put 7:00pm. Technically, you’re giving the production a discount–
If your boss doesn’t comply with break requirements, they are required to pay you one extra hour of regular pay for each day on which a meal break violation occurred.
But if you added an hour to your time card every day, someone would notice. This would not reflect well on you. That extra hour’s pay isn’t going to help much if they fire you next week.
These are the sorts of things you have to balance when it comes to Hollywood accounting, even at the lowest level. It sucks, but such is life. Remember, you’re the one who wanted to work in the glamorous entertainment industry.