Three “Pleasantville” crew members have asked the federal government to investigate the risks of sleep deprivation within the film biz.
John Lindley, Bruce McCleery and James Shelton sought the probe from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and cited the March 1997 death of crew member Brent Hershman, who died in a car crash after working a 19-hour day on “Pleasantville.”
“It is commonplace on movie sets today for the cast and crews to work 16, 18 and even 20 hours in a single day,” the trio wrote. “It was in that environment that our colleague, Brent Hershman, was killed.”
An OSHA spokesman said the agency had received the request but had no further comment.
Lindley, McCleery and Shelton trio pointed out that fatigued drivers often display the same symptoms as inebriated motorists.
“In a country which has declared war on drunk drivers, why are we still allowing drivers to be overworked?” they said. “On location, our sets are often near high-tension lines and other hazards, which are especially menacing on night shoots. There is no longer a need to prove that these hazards exist, but there is a crying need to do something about it.”
Efforts to curb overtime were launched five years ago after members of the pic’s crew circulated a petition calling for a 14-hour limit to workdays, dubbed “Brent’s Rule.” The idea drew support from a variety of industry quarters, including an industrywide safety committee of Hollywood unions, producers of “Pleasantville” and cinematographer Haskell Wexler.
In addition, the Intl. Alliance of Theatrical & Stage Employees has established a “long-hours policy” mandating that IA members working outside the studio zone be offered housing at producers’ expense when crews work more than 12 hours per day. Recent projects covered under that policy include “Catch Me If You Can,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The X-Files.”
Members of the Western regional council of the IA’s Local 600 Cinematographers Guild approved a resolution last week by Lindley to reconfirm support of Brent’s Rule.