IA reassures members: Safety is a priority

Continuing their efforts to improve production conditions, top officials of the industry’s largest below-the-line union want to remind members of the union’s commitment to health and safety.

In a letter signed by the union’s prexy Tom Short, the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees has taken out a full-page ad in today’s Daily Variety stating the union will continue to explore channels to protect members from accidents and will strive to cut back on ultra-long work long days.

Sources say the IA ad is in response to many members who have questioned why the IA has been slow to publicly reply to a Directors Guild of America declaration in trade papers June 13.

The DGA open letter affirmed its commitment to “life, health and safety and responsibility to our families” as well as to working with other unions and production companies to shorten work days.

The DGA letter was dedicated to Brent Hershman, a second assistant cameraman who was killed in March while driving home after a 19-hour workday. Earlier, the Screen Actors Guild’s western board of directors voted unanimously to support “Brent’s Rule,” which calls for a maximum 14-hour workday.

“My sense is that there has been some (IA) foot-dragging,” cinematographer Haskell Wexler, a second national VP of the Intl. Photographers Guild, told Daily Variety. “The public statements by the directors and the actors have been more overt.”

Tough spot

Sources said, however, that Short and other IA leaders are in a tough spot. “There are other forces who want the long days and the overtime,” one well-placed source said.

“You have younger members who want the extra things in life by working overtime: boats, travel and private schools. The older members want something done,” a veteran IA member said.

Some industry sources say as long as it’s economically advantageous to work 19-hour shifts, the long work days will continue. In short, paying an A-level actor for extra, unscheduled days is more expensive than asking cinematographers, grips and gaffers to work into the night. “Safety is one of the first casualties,” one industry source said. “There will always be people who extend limits on what people consider prudent.”

Since Hershman’s death, the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers’ industrywide safety committee has set up a labor-led subcommittee to address the long workday issue.

‘Pleasantville’ rules

In addition, many producers and directors are voluntarily adhering to the “Pleasantville” rules, named after Hershman’s last pic. The declaration includes setting lensing schedules that can realistically be completed in 14 workdays as well as providing courtesy hotel rooms to crew members if needed.

The IA’s actions this week are good news to one grip who says he’s recently come to the conclusion the bigger checks are not worth the price.

“You can’t spend the money when you’re dead,” the grip said.

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