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HomeIndustry SectorFilmOver the Weekend 1/25/21: Wage Claims Against Indie Film, Walter Bernstein Dies...

Over the Weekend 1/25/21: Wage Claims Against Indie Film, Walter Bernstein Dies and More News



Walter Bernstein
Walter Bernstein (Photo by Luigi Novi)

‘Twas another quiet weekend, thankfully, with not a ton of breaking new, although there were a number of sad passings, including legendary talk show host Larry King and screenwriter Walter Bernstein.

While Larry King’s name and reputation is known far and wide, Bernstein might not be as well known as his films, The FrontYanks and Little Miss Marker. In the ’50s, Bernstein was blacklisted for his left-wing political activities, although he was able to continue writing for television. Bernstein turned 101 years old last year and died of pneumonia over the weekend.

From Deadline comes the news that an independent film called Please Give Me You, directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), which was to star Chloë Grace Moretz, is being sued by 30 crew members who claim they were unpaid by the production after it lost its financing due to COVID-19. The wage claims have been filed with the California Labor Commission after the plug was pulled on the show on December 11. Before that, the movie had been prepping at the Rancho Grande preserve in Ojai, CA before principal photography began.

The crew then sent a demand letter to the producers on December 23 stating that they were owed $170,000 for the five weeks of prep with the Labor Commission responding, “There are 31 wage claims filed against PGMY The Movie LLC. The earliest was docketed on Jan. 4 and the latest on Jan. 21, 2021.”

Deadline also got a statement from one of the unpaid crew:  “The production shut down and no one on the crew has been paid for any of their work. The producers dodged phone calls and emails about paying vendors, crew, etc., for almost a month. Many crew members are also owed out-of-pocket expenses for things like props, wardrobe, equipment rentals and Covid tests. IATSE has sent the producers a grievance letter on behalf of the crew but because the producers conveniently never signed the IATSE contracts, there is a limit to what they can do.”

Deadline also got their hands on an Email sent to the crew from one of the film’s producers, Jeff Penman, that was sent on January 6, saying that every effort was being made to get them paid:

“I am sorry this response took so long, and appreciate you bearing with me through this difficult time, allowing me an opportunity to work through the fallout from the collapse of the picture,” he wrote. “This is one of the most difficult situations I have ever faced professionally. I am not someone who takes this lightly and am working toward a resolution every day.

“First, I just want to set the record straight as to what happened. Through a series of events beyond my control, our financing fell out – twice. The shutting down of payroll was not done by the production willfully. It was after a combination of budget issues and following a push necessitated by a potential COVID case, that the prospective financier pulled their funds out of the project. Without any financing attached to the project and our last life line telling us to shut down, we were left with no choice.”

“This kind of thing has never happened to me before and although the shutdown/failure of financing was outside my control, I have been trying to figure out how to get everyone paid. Due to the unfortunate timing of this all occurring right before the holidays, the people that I have needed to deal with have been out of the office for the last two weeks (some are still out) and it has therefore not been possible for me to formulate an adequate response sooner.”

“So you are all aware, IATSE sent PGMY The Movie, LLC a grievance letter on your behalf prior to the holidays. I will be reaching out to them to discuss the situation, with the goal of working with them to reach an agreement on how to work things out fairly. It is my goal that we will then apply the same terms to the non-union positions as well.

“I will continue to update you as more progress is made. Once an agreement is concluded with IATSE, I will share those terms. I know this is not the response you were hoping for, but it is the only response I can currently offer. Unfortunately, at the moment, no other parties are interested in stepping up. As such, I will continue to work to try to come up with a way to get you all paid.”

Speaking of the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees), the labor union has offered its services and its work force to newly-inaugurated President Joseph R. Biden to build and convert vaccination sites all over the country in order to do their part in the crucial battle to get rid of the COVID-19 virus that has hobbled the entertainment industry. You can read the full letter to President Biden below (click on the image for a larger version), but it would be quite brilliant to have all of IATSE contributing to the growing need for vaccination sites, helping out in a similar way as IATSE members did in converting arenas and convention centers when needed due to disasters in various areas of the country.

Courtesy IATSE

Brie Larson
Brie Larson (Photo courtesy All Urban Central)

Oscar-winning actor Brie Larson is going to do some television, some Apple TV+ to be more specific, as she’s set to star and executive produce the drama series, Lessons in Chemistry, based on the upcoming debut novel by author, science editor and copywriter Bonnie GarmusErin Brockovich screenwriter Susannah Grant will be writing and exec. producing the series, which will also be exec. produced by Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan‘s Aggregate Films production company, which also produces OzarkThe Outsider and A Teacher.  Larson will play Elizabeth Zott in the ’60-set drama that follows her dreams of becoming a scientist that’s put on hold due to the societal hurdles of the time that believes women should not be professionals. When she become pregnant and is fired from her lab, Elizabeth takes a job hosting a TV cooking show to show housewives that they too can be heard.

Remember that you can learn more about projects like this one by subscribing to Below the Line‘s Production Listings.

Our Friend
Our Friend (Gravitas Ventures)

There really isn’t that much to say about the box office, which has been faltering quite badly due to COVID with less than half of the country’s movie theaters and able to play movies to limited capacity. Open Road Films’ thriller The Marksman, starring Liam Neeson, won its second weekend at the box office with just $2 million in just over 2,000 theaters. It was followed closely by DreamWorks Animation‘s Croods 2: A New Age with $1.8 million, the animated feature having amassed $41.8 million and remained at the top of the box office for nine weeks. Wonder Woman 1984 took third place with $1.6 million, and we’ll have to see how it behaves now that the movie is no longer playing on HBO Max. There were only two new movies in semi-wide release, IFC Films‘ No Man’s Land, which grossed $62k in 255 theaters, and Gravitas Ventures‘ Our Friend, a weepy cancer drama starring Casey AffleckDakota Johnson and Jason Segel, which grossed $250,000 in 543 theaters. Also, RLJEfilms’ PG: Psycho Goreman averaged more than both of them with $989 per theater on 45 screens for $45,000 over the weekend.

As usual, we’ll close things off with a trailer, and we have a fun one this week as Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures has released the first trailer for Godzilla vs. Kong. It will be released into domestic theaters and be available on HBO Max for one month starting on March 26.


Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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