Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Who Needs Sleep?

Haskell Wexler is one of the more renowned cinematographers of the past half century. He's also one feisty human being... He never shrinks from a cause and he isn't afraid to risk getting on producers' shit lists (which he's been on in the course of his long career. Back in the fifties it was called a "blacklist") Kevin and I met him at an IATSE convention a few years back, and got to know him a little. During the convention, Mr. Wexler jousted with Tom Short about the treatment of camera crews and the crushing amounts of overtime they had to endure. The two of them got into a shouting match -- Haskell on the convention floor, President Short up at the podium. Tom had control of the microphones, but Mr. Wexler got his points across. (We'll call the exchange a draw.) And now Haskell Wexler has finished a documentary entitled "Who Needs Sleep?" that details the travails of long hours in the movie workplace. National Public Radio's "Marketplace" recently ran a story on the film, and The Hollywood Reporter and the L.A. TIMES have done stories on the problem. Even in Toon Town, long hours are accepted and expected. As I've written elsewhere, the early nineties saw fourteen-hour days, six and seven days a week during the making of "Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Aladdin." I know because I walked through studios and witnessed it, heard the complaints, then came home and raised my then-small children while Mrs. Hulett worked insane hours at Disney Feature Animation. And trust me, they were insane. ARE insane. No matter how much overtime you're making. No matter how big your weekly checks turn out to be. Europeans, on this issue, have their priorities right. They refuse to work long hours day after day. It's whacko. Life's short enough as it is. Why tether yourself to a movie set...or a computer, working twelve and fourteen hour days to make it shorter? Long live Haskell Wexler.


Anonymous said...

And why do studios force their employees to work these crazy hours? Mr. Wexler said it best. "It's greed. It's all about greed."

Whether it's live-action or animation, studios continue this goofy practice, because in Hollywood money equals success.

You're right. Life's too short for this nonsense.

Anonymous said...

long live haskell wexler-

and those who fight for humane treatment in work and life.

we have one life on this planet.


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