Producer Lawrence Bender and exec producer Quentin Tarantino are finding themselves up against a pack of union reservoir dogs with their decision to shoot Miramax Films’ “From Dusk Till Dawn” with a non-union crew.
The pic started lensing June 12 in Los Angeles, much to the chagrin of an irate exec staffer at the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The union gets particularly petulant when producers try to shoot big-budget projects non-union in IATSE’s backyard.
When the IA got wind of the six-week shoot, the union immediately attempted to organize the crew through the usual methods. IA reps approached Bender and Tarantino and asked for a crew list so they could arrange a vote from members on whether the shoot should be unionized.
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According to Harry Floyd, IATSE West Coast chief, the list was denied, under the claim that it was an “invasion of privacy.”
“We’ve done hundreds of these elections,” said Floyd. “This is the first time I’ve ever had a problem with a producer giving us a list of employees.”
Bender and Tarantino, the producing/directing team behind “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction,” would not comment for this article. But they are known for their assiduous avoidance of the unions on recent projects. Bender squabbled with the IATSE over last year’s “White Man’s Burden,” which resulted in a brief 13-hour strike. The pic eventually was made with an IATSE crew.
Tarantino made a public display of his refusal to join the Writers Guild of America. His “Pulp Fiction” script was ineligible for that guild’s awards, although it won the original screenplay Oscar.
Floyd, meanwhile, refuted Bender’s claims that the cost of using 80 IATSE workers would drive up the $18 million budget by $300,000. (Miramax, too, would not comment. Sources close to the production say the film’s budget is less than the $18 million figure cited by the union.)
Retorted the longtime union chief, “I haven’t had a crew of 80 since ‘Cleopatra.’ But I even took a crew of 80, took his 43 days or approximately six weeks, and figured it to be $85,000 extra,”
Also, sources say “Dawn” helmer Robert Rodriguez took a “financial core” position through the Directors Guild of America. That theoretically allows him to “drop out” of the union for the time required to direct the pic.
DGA officials had no comment on that report.
The only question remaining is whether the IATSE will file a job action and set up picket lines against the project, which is shooting at the Lawry’s Seasonings plant near downtown L.A.
Floyd says the union is trying everything it can before it resorts to a job action. Lawyers from both sides reportedly are duking it out over the crew list issue.