Artists and producers should be familiar with IATSE, as their membership will be integral collaborators on all manner of performances and live events, in many capacities. Stagehands, carpenters, riggers, audio and video technicians, hair and makeup artists, front of house staff, designers, prop builders, production coordinators and more may be members of IATSE. Like many unions, IATSE has “locals”, which are individual chapters of the larger organization. IATSE locals can be focused on a particular specialization of the industry, or specific location, or both. There are Locals with municipal, regional, or provincial jurisdiction representing stagehands, prop and scenic shop workers, front of house staff, production coordinators working in the film industry, cinematographers, and designers. Each local has a fair amount of autonomy, and writes their own bylaws and constitution.
The ways in which producers will engage in work with IATSE members will depend on the local they are engaging with. For example, crew in Toronto may be represented by Local 873 if they work in Film Production (including scenic carpentry in shops), Local 822 if they work in Wardrobe, Hairstyling, or Makeup (either stage or screen - both locals amalgamated in 2003), Local 411 if they work as Production Coordinators, Craftservice Providers & Honeywagon Operators (anywhere in Ontario), Local 667 if they work as a Cinematographer (anywhere in Eastern Canada), Local 828 if they work as a Scenic Artist or Propmaker (anywhere in Ontario), Local B-173 if they work in Front of House (Toronto or Hamilton), Local ADC 659 If they are a member of the Associated Designers of Canada (anywhere in Canada, as of January 2021), or Local 58 if they work as a stagehand, including carpentry, props, lighting, rigging, audio, video, and special effects.
This page primarily references working with IATSE Local 58 – Toronto Stagehands, which represents workers at many Toronto venues.
IATSE is the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories, and Canada. It is the largest union representing entertainment workers in North America. IATSE members have been making shows since 1893, and their collective expertise and advocacy has been instrumental to the development of stagecraft and working conditions in the performing arts as they currently exist in English-speaking North America.
IATSE represents employees at the bargaining table through contract negotiations, advances the rights and interests of their membership, and the entertainment industry in general, through advocacy and lobbying, and manages apprenticeships, training, and professional development opportunities for their membership.
Each apprentice or permit-holder must complete training in order to qualify for full membership. This will include certification in the safe handling of materials and equipment, identifying hazards, and basic training in each department prior to any specialization.
It is the responsibility of the Employer to provide a safe working environment and equipment in safe working order. Members are expected to request additional training with any piece of equipment they may not be familiar with prior to using it, in order to ensure their safety.
Membership of Local 58 work in many live performance venues in the GTA – including most municipally-managed venues like Meridian Hall; Sports venues such as Scotiabank Arena, event spaces such as Harbourfront Centre or Artscape Daniels Spectrum, PACT-member theatre companies such as Canadian Stage, Tarragon Theatre, and Factory Theatre, as well as concert halls such as Massey Hall (view the full list of live performance venues here).
Each venue’s management negotiates a contract with Local 58 based on the specifics of that venue’s operations, which governs the terms of labour there. These contracts are renegotiated regularly, so it is helpful to be familiar with the most up-to-date terms before making any labour, budgeting, or scheduling decisions. These contracts govern the terms of labour for full-time and part-time permanent employees of the venue (such as a house technician in a smaller venue, or heads of department in larger venues, who are often referred to as the “house crew”), as well as for casual, shorter-term labour brought in to supplement the house crew. In terms of managing casual labour – those staff who are not permanent employees of the company – IATSE manages a call list. This list is internal and specific to each Local, and each Local employs a Business Agent and/or Call Steward (or several) to manage the work of filling requests for labour from the call list.
Much like each show or event is unique, so too are the members of Local 58. There are members whose experience lies largely in lighting, sound, video, carpentry, props, or rigging – and more specific specializations within each of these areas. There are veteran members who have worked in the industry for decades, and there are newer members working through their apprenticeships who may be learning on the job.
Most venues will have a House Crew, or complement of crew that are permanent or longer-term employees (full or part time). This may include as few as one House Technician, whose role will be to oversee the install and strike of the show or event, and operate lighting, sound, and/or video cues as needed during the show or event. Or, this may include a large crew, with a Head and several Assistants for each Department. When additional crew are required, whether for install, strike, or to supplement the House Crew in a specific role during the performance, Casual Crew will be hired.
Depending on the venue and your show or event’s specific needs, the venue’s production manager will usually submit requests for Casual Crew via the Local’s Business Agent - noting the schedule, type of expertise needed, and any other relevant information. The Local will fill the requests for labour based on a combination of relevant experience, seniority, and availability. If the venue does not have an in-house production manager, the union steward can usually place requests for crew.
The crew that arrive to work are expected (and expecting) to do the specific work they were hired to do (hang lights, or unload a truck, or assemble scenery) and often, depending on the details of the venue’s contract, cannot be asked to support other departments or complete other tasks. This is especially true in larger venues with departments – it is always helpful to discuss the anticipated tasks ahead of time with someone from the venue who understands the details of their agreement with IATSE, to help plan your crewing requests and efficiently allocate labour and time. Each venue has a senior member of the House Crew act as IATSE “Steward”. The Steward is the point of contact for the casual crew, and takes responsibility for making sure that the casual crew have the information and tools they require to safely complete their work.
It is expected that crew will provide their own basic hand tools (listed here) and wear their own PPE, but if specific tasks requiring specific equipment are anticipated, it may be necessary to provide that equipment.
The House Crew and Casual Crew will have specific roles and regulations in regards to their work, as outlined in their Collective Agreement with the Employer (the Producer or Venue Management). These can include the terms of length of shift, break times, overtime costs - but will also often include details about who can perform which task. These breakdowns exist to prevent employees from exploitation, from being undercut by non-union labour, and to ensure that the work is safe and performed by trained and qualified employees.
During the install and strike of a show, the House Crew, and any Casual Labour hired, will install scenic elements, hang lights, place speakers and microphones, etc, based on the plans provided and with the guidance of the Designers and Technical Director.
There may be occasions where a Designer or other Artist who is not a member of the House Crew will need to directly touch or manipulate a piece of equipment, but these are rare and should be negotiated ahead of time. In this circumstance, it will need to be demonstrated that the artist is not taking work away from an IATSE technician - that the action is required as part of the artistry of the show, not as a cost-cutting measure. One possible resolution involves engaging a standby technician, or “shadow” to ensure that this action is performed safely and satisfies the previous requirement. In regards to programming the Sound Console or Lighting Console - the designer or relevant artist will give clear direction to the IATSE technician operating the console, or use a piece of editing software to pre-program cues before arrival at the venue, at which point the technician will load the show file and update the programming to incorporate notes and edits.
The period of technical rehearsal leading up to public performances is both an opportunity for the Designers and Cast to build and explore and refine the show - and an opportunity for the Running Crew (the members of the House Crew who will be part of the action of the show during performances) to be rehearsed into the performance. A successful and efficient technical rehearsal process aims to incorporate all technical elements - including the operators manipulating these technical elements - into the performance as seamlessly as possible.
There may be occasions where the seamless integration of the Running Crew into the performance is not feasible, or where the manipulation of technical elements is so much a part of the performance, that this action must be executed by the performers themselves. This can be the case in complex touring productions. Any situation where a performer or other artist handles a technical element should be discussed ahead of time to ensure that it can be done safely and without taking work away from an IATSE member. Some examples to illustrate this situation are included below to facilitate crew planning, scheduling, and budgeting.
- Example 1: Any object that is manipulated onstage is a Prop, and must be handled by the Props department.
This has occasionally led to confusion, as performers will manipulate their props onstage as part of their performance. Generally, if a performer is visible to the audience while manipulating a prop or set piece, it is considered part of their performance. If the action is unseen by the audience, it is an action that should be performed by the carpentry or props department, or by a member of the Running Crew in the absence of either department. An object that a performer picks up is considered a prop, anything else is considered a set piece.
- Example 2: A follow spot must be trained on a dancer as they perform a very complex and rapid sequence of movement.
This technically complex action must be executed by a trained technician that is either a member of the House Crew, or is hired specifically for the performance through Local 58 in the absence of an available and qualified member of the House Crew. Adequate rehearsal time must be provided to ensure that this technician can smoothly execute this complex sequence.
Whether considering working with other Locals, or bringing a touring production to work with Local 58, a lot of careful consideration and planning is required.
Please refer to the Tech Rider and Touring pages for more details.
Some key points to remember when planning for work in an IATSE venue
- Like the crew and production staff in any venue and on any show, IATSE crew are key members of the team, and have made full time careers out of ensuring that shows and events are safe and successful. Respectful and transparent processes benefit all team members, including crew.
- While the details of what constitutes overtime and who may perform what work will vary from venue to venue, generally each contract will have at least the protocols described in the Employment Standards Act, a document Production Managers and Producers alike should be familiar with.
- The stage, backstage areas, shops, etc are a workplace, and also, until declared safe for performers, are by law classified as a construction site, under which many additional safety regulations apply. These regulations exist to protect everyone on the job site, and should be approached as a welcome challenge rather than as a burden. For further details, please see the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
For further reading, click through the following links:
- A searchable database of collective agreements, as maintained by the Canadian Federal Labour Department
- The Public Services Health and Safety Association’s Risk Assessment Tool
- Ontario Live performance industry safety guidelines
- Valu Co-Op, a Artists Labour Union Cooperative based in Vancouver
- Cultural Workers Organize, a research project about gig economy workers in cultural industries - who also maintain a wiki of related information.
- A discussion of artists as workers by Kate Oakley, hosted by the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity.
- A discussion of Worker Co-Operatives in the Cultural Sector, by Marisol Sandoval
- The Art of Collective Bargaining, an interview with Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge in the Canadian Journal of Communication.
- Creative Accounting, an article discussing W.A.G.E.’s fight for better artist fees.
- The Producer’s Guild of America (for film, tv, and new media Producers)
- Pro Bono Ontario, for legal advice and pro bono legal services
|Atlantic Region||IATSE 680||IATSE 849|
|Montreal||IATSE 56||IATSE 514|
|Manitoba||IATSE 63||IATSE 856|
|Saskatchewan||IATSE 295||IATSE 295|
|BC/Yukon||IATSE 118||IATSE 891|
|Toronto||IATSE 58||IATSE 873|