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Top Cinematographers Call for AMPTP to Address “Unsafe Working Hours”

August 19, 2021 06:28 | By

International Cinematographers GuildDeadline has gotten its hands on a letter written by fourteen of Hollywood’s top cinematographers, including Oscar winners John Toll, Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Erik Messerschmidt, urging the companies within the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to address the “hazards of unsafe working hours” that have been common in the film and television industry for decades. The letter was also signed by John Lindley, President of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600.

The letter was written before Tuesday’s resumption of contract negotiations between IATSE and the AMPTP, and it noted that drowsy driving after long workdays have contributed to a number of car accidents, including one that occured just before the original contract negotiations in May.

“We are Local 600 Directors of Photography who are writing to express our ongoing concern about the hazards of unsafe working hours, a practice that continues despite all the medical and indisputable evidence of the harm caused by fatigue. Most notable are the numerous car accidents our colleagues have suffered in recent years, including the weekend before we entered these negotiations.

“This past year has shown that when employers and craftspeople work together to confront a world-wide safety threat, it is possible to both protect everyone on our sets and successfully complete the most ambitious projects. It is past time to use that same intelligence and resources, now proven to be available, to increase daily rest periods and implement weekend rest periods to ensure the physical and mental health of every member of the crew. The time to create meaningful change is now.”

The letter was signed by:

John Toll, two-time Oscar winner for Braveheart and Legends of the Fall
Roger Deakins, two-time Oscar winner for 1917 and Blade Runner 2049
Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki, three-time Oscar winner for Birdman, Gravity, and The Revenant
Erik Messerschmidt, Oscar winner for Mank
John Lindley, president of the Cinematographers Guild (Your Honor, Manhunt)
Paul Cameron (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Total Recall)
Jim Denault (Yellowstone, Law & Order: Organized Crime)
Ellen Kuras (Pretend It’s a City, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Donald A. Morgan (The Connors, Last Man Standing)
Rodrigo Prieto (The Irishman, Brokeback Mountain)
Eric Steelberg (Juno, Dolemite Is My Name)
Amy Vincent (Eve’s Bayou, Hustle & Flow)
Mandy Walker (Mulan, Hidden Figures)
Robert Yeoman (Bridesmaids, The Grand Budapest Hotel)

This letter mirrors a joint statement released last month during a break in negotiations by the leaders of IATSE’s 13 West Coast studio locals,  including Cinematographers Guild Local 600, Editors Guild Local 700, and Art Directors Guild Local 800, those last three being  national groups. Their statement agrees that the long history of long workdays needs to come to an end.

“Reasonable rest demands that the employers not treat our members like machines that can just work until they are broken and then be replaced. Everyone needs and deserves a real and meaningful rest period between shifts to provide for a decent night’s sleep. We know that long and irregular hours can come at a cost, contributing to unhealthy outcomes and higher health costs.”

The collective’s statement goes on to demand:

“A real and meaningful rest period between leaving and returning from work regardless of the craft or production.
A weekend rest period that allows for actual rest and time to spend with family and friends.
Effective penalties that truly discourage the systematic elimination of meal breaks and working straight into the weekends.”

And concludes: “The science is clear. Long and irregular hours without adequate breaks and rest are unsafe. The negative impact on health and well-being is well documented and nobody should accept or defend 14-hour days without a break as an industry standard.”

Furthermore, the Cinematographers Guild has shared a video called “The Human Face of Unsafe Hours” about the dangers of those overly long hours.