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‘Riverdale’ Car Crash Shines Spotlight on Decadeslong Safety Issues

September 22, 2017 (17:24) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

Hollywood reporter

Just months before K.J. Apa was born, another entertainment-related auto crash claimed a life–and sparked a documentary.  But has anything really changed?

The single-vehicle crash that destroyed Riverdale star K.J. Apa’s car last week left him without serious injuries, but others haven’t been so lucky in the past, and the late-night incident shines a spotlight yet again on a decades-old problem of fatigue and late-night work in entertainment — and on the larger problem of overall safety in the industry.

SAG-AFTRA will be sending a team to Vancouver, British Columbia, to investigate, as previously reported, and The Hollywood Reporter has learned that union president Gabrielle Carteris will be leading that team — a reflection of the importance of the matter and the scrutiny the accident has invited.

It seems axiomatic that no one should die making a movie or TV show, but many people have: Over a quarter-century, the Associated Press found that at least 43 people had died on film sets in the U.S. and 150 had been seriously injured.

Coincidentally, the crash involving the 20-year-old CW star comes 20 years after assistant cameraman Brent Hershman fell asleep at the wheel while driving home after a 19-hour day on New Line’s Pleasantville — and, like Apa, crashed into a utility pole. But, unlike Apa, Hershman died. That led one of Hershman’s colleagues, cinematographer Haskell Wexler, to create the 2006 documentary Who Needs Sleep?, which focused on the issue. Yet here we are again.

Sources told THR on Thursday that Apa had worked a 16-hour day prior to the crash and that he had a 45-minute drive each way between set and his lodgings. Did that leave him enough time to sleep before the next day’s call? Young adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, experts say.

Riverdale producer Warner Bros. said Thursday that Apa and other castmembers can ask for transportation if they are feeling too tired to drive, but that puts the onus on often-vulnerable actors who don’t want to be seen as troublesome. Warners also said that Apa had worked 14.2 hours prior to the crash, and 2.5 and 7.7 on the preceding days. But it’s not clear whether those hours included meal breaks and possibly other unpaid, non-“work time” periods. That could add an hour or more to the 7.7-hour day and two or more hours to the 14.2-hour day.

Warners did not respond to a request for clarification or for additional figures regarding working hours on Warner Bros. or CW shows. Also unknown is whether Apa had been subject to what is known as a “forced call,” also termed “invasion of the rest period.”

Those rather brawny terms refer to a scenario in which a producer fails to accord a minimum 12-hour rest period between dismissal of an actor one day and his or her call time the next, a requirement long codified in the agreement between the studios and SAG, now SAG-AFTRA.

But how that 12-hour period is calculated — when the clock starts and stops — emerged as a contentious issue in the negotiations just months ago between the studios and SAG-AFTRA. The results of those negotiations were deeply unsatisfying to some performers, putting the union on the defensive.

The issue is this: Should that 12-hour clock start ticking as soon as the actor leaves the set and keep ticking until he or she is back on set the next day? That so-called “set-to-set” approach is favorable to the studio because it means that an actor’s transportation time from set to hotel and back again is considered non-working time and is permitted to eat into the 12-hour rest period.

For that reason, actors advocate a “portal-to-portal” approach, where the clock doesn’t start until the performer arrives at his or her hotel, and it stops once the performer leaves the hotel. That ensures something closer to a true 12 hours of rest (or an hour or two less, if one factors in calls home to family, responding to business and personal emails and so on). It means that transportation time doesn’t eat into the rest period — and also means that performers get paid more because the time in transit is considered work time. That makes portal-to-portal doubly frustrating for producers.

According to a SAG-AFTRA outline, portal-to-portal “remains the rule for performers working on overnight locations,” while workdays at “Producer’s Base” are calculated set-to-set. Unfortunately, none of these terms are defined in the union agreement, which, like all of the Hollywood guild agreements, is consistently opaque. As production (and production offices) became dispersed throughout the country and beyond, producers have treated those locations as their base, meaning that set-to-set calculations would prevail.

After its 2014 negotiations, the union announced that portal-to-portal rules remained unchanged, but that wasn’t the case this time around. In the 2017 deal, the union agreed that “the location where the majority of principal photography for a television series takes place can be ‘Producer’s Base.’ ” That generated a lot of bitter disagreement in this year’s SAG-AFTRA elections, with the union (and, implicitly, the dominant Unite for Strength faction) saying that the agreement “merely acknowledges the reality that already exists” and was in exchange for other concessions made by the studios, while the dissident Membership First faction and former MF member and union presidential candidate Pete Antico vociferously disagreed.

All of this comes against a backdrop of safety problems in the industry, including the death of stuntman John Bernecker this year after a fall to a concrete floor and the death of assistant camerawoman Sarah Jones in a 2014 train collision that occurred after Midnight Rider director Randall Miller instructed the film company to shoot on a trestle bridge even though it was a live track and the production had no permit.

Fatigue, errors, recklessness, even indifference: Whatever the cause, the record of death and injury in the entertainment industry is bleak. Who needs sleep? Maybe it’s time for a sequel: Who Needs Safety at All?

Well said Mr. Handel!


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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SAG-AFTRA Sending Team To ‘Riverdale’ Set After K.J. Apa Crash

September 21, 2017 (18:22) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

AJ Apa
SAG-AFTRA will be sending up a team to the Vancouver set of the CW/Warner Bros.’ television production of Riverdale after one of the union’s 20 year-old stars — K.J. Apa — fell asleep at the wheel last week and crashed his automobile after he worked what Warner Bros. TV said was a 14.2-hour work day.

“This is an extremely troubling situation and we are deeply concerned about the safety of performers on the Riverdale set,” said SAG-AFTRA in a statement. “We are sending a team to Vancouver to review the circumstances surrounding safety issues affecting performers on this production.”

Long hours on sets have been a frequent complaint from crews across Hollywood for years and cinematographer/producer/director Haskell Wexler became the spokesperson after camera assistant Brent Hershman was killed in 1997 after he fell asleep at the wheel and also slammed his car into a pole after working a 19-hour day – which had been preceded by four 15-hour days.

Studios and networks often push actors and crew to save money which results in these kind of 12 to 16 hour days. Usually there is an investigation but nothing ever really happens and the cycle continues. Crew members are often too scared to speak up for fear of getting blacklisted.

Two and a half years ago, 48-year-old Longmire crew member Gary Joe Tuck fell asleep at the wheel and rolled his car on a New Mexico highway after working an 18-hour shift (from 9 AM-3 AM). He was a Teamster driver for Local 492 and also a SAG member.

After Tuck’s death, Netflix and Warner Horizon Television subsequently set up charter buses to take crew to and from remote locations for safety’s sake. That move was applauded by crew members. But still in that instance, crew members Deadline spoke with were scared to put their names on quotes because they felt that the networks would think they were complaining before and would blacklist them. Whether warranted or not, that continues to be the case in Hollywood.

Today Warner Bros. said that Apa who fell asleep and hit a lamp post after the long day said that other options were available to the actors (nothing like blaming the young victim — obviously, for legal reasons), and that he could have taken a cab home.

Safety issues have come to the forefront time and time again after accidents or deaths (like the Twilight Zone case where two children and Vic Morrow died), but none so significant for crews in recent years as the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones on the set of Midnight Rider.

Since then, there have been anonymous call lines set up to report unsafe working conditions and some of the older crew members have looked out for the younger workers on the set, but long working hours — despite the loud voice of the late great Wexler — continue.

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Can there be anything more important than the safety of those doing their jobs in our business of entertainment? I think not!  So…


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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Vice Media Video Employees Unionize With Writers Guild East and Editors Guild

September 21, 2017 (16:11) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

Great to Post this one!
The Ol’ SAG Watchdog
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Women’s Media Summit Calls For Boycott Of Movies That Snub Female Filmmakers

September 20, 2017 (18:19) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller


by David Robb
September 20, 2017 5:45pm

The Women’s Media Summit, a group of more than 100 leaders from various industries, has issued a white paper outlining a plan of action for “eliminating gender inequity in U.S. entertainment media.” One of its strategies is to “boycott films that score poorly on gender equity.”

“Women hold only 3% of above-the-line and greenlighting positions in the media industry and are vastly underrepresented as protagonists and lead characters in film and television,” according to the white paper (read it here). In film, “Women hold only 17% of influential positions behind-the-scenes as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. This means that four out of five influential positions creating Hollywood blockbusters are held by men.”

The document lays out seven strategies to address this gender gap:

Litigation against gender discriminatory practices;

Lobbying policymakers at the federal level to address persistent gender discrimination in entertainment media;

Tax credits to encourage the hiring of more female filmmakers;

Development of a financing network for female filmmakers (Media Incubator and Marketplace);

Development of a promotion fund to advertise films made by women (FundHer);

Marketing to educate the public about the issue of gender discrimination in Hollywood; and

A consumer campaign to encourage viewers to vote with their dollars for gender equity in Hollywood.

“The first two action plans use government leverage to reform the media industry by compelling better oversight and possibly, incentives, from the judicial, executive, and legislative branches,” the white paper states. “The next three action plans use financial leverage to increase the number of female content producers. The last two action plans leverage the public to reform the industry through increased awareness of the problem and getting viewers to pressure the industry to hire and feature more women through consumer activism.”

The white paper sprang from the April meeting of the Women’s Media Summit in Provincetown, MA. Two new programs were created in the wake of the summit: the Women’s Media Action Coalition, which will oversee implementation of the seven strategies, and GradeMyMovie.com, a tool for consumers to reward films with crews that include women and people of color in key storytelling positions.

One of the goals is to draft model legislation to offer tax incentives to production companies that hire women above and below the line, and within five years, to pass legislation for a female filmmaker tax credit in at least 10 states. Illinois already has established tax credits for racial and gender diversity in hiring, and New York and California are considering similar legislation.

Another goal is to have production companies adopt a labeling system, similar to the “No animals were harmed in the making of this film,” but for equitable gender representation behind-the-scenes and on the screen. Another is to cultivate two million activists that regularly use GradeMyMove.com to “boycott films that score poorly on gender equity” and “encourage viewers to vote with their dollars for gender equity.”

“A lot of smart people have been working on gender injustice in entertainment media for decades, but progress has been slow and stagnant in recent years,” said Caroline Heldman, co-author of the document and an associate professor of politics at Occidental College. “This white paper provides the blueprint for a new national movement to demand an equal seat at the table for women in entertainment media.”

Heldman, who once was a frequent on-air guest at Fox & Friends, alleged in a written declaration last month that a top lieutenant to the late Fox News founder Roger Ailes sexually harassed her for more a year.

Orange Is the New Black star Alysia Reiner, who was the summit’s keynote speaker, said that the gathering “was so deeply powerful because we came together as a community of women and created the white paper, our plan of action: unique solutions with time frames and specific goals, including the funding and marketing, and tax breaks for content made by women. As an actress and producer who loves hiring other women and breaking both statics and status quo, I love that we are helping create an actual system to reward those choices.”

Said director Maria Giese, Summit co-chair and co-author of the white paper: “Hollywood has kept women filmmakers shut out for decades because it is allowed to self-regulate and faces no effective oversight body. Now is the time to stop relying on inside-industry solutions and demand the opportunity for equal participation in our nation’s cultural narrative.”

Producer Christine Walker, who co-authored the white paper, said: “Efforts are already underway to run a concerted campaign using litigation, legislation, and consumer activism to pressure the industry to do the right thing by hiring more women behind the scenes and featuring more and better female characters in film, television and streaming media.”

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Good luck ladies!  Hmmm…All this talk about gender reminds me it’s time for my before dinner martini…cheers!



The Ol’ SAG Watchdog



Willimon Elected WGA East President

September 19, 2017 (21:36) | 2016 | By: Arlin Miller

WGA East Reaches Deals with Two Reality Production ...

September 19, 2017 | 05:11PM PT

Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been elected to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East, following an unopposed campaign to succeed Michael Winship.

The results were announced Tuesday evening in New York. Incumbent vice president Jeremy Pikser and secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider were also re-elected after running unopposed.

Winners of the six open Freelance seats are incumbents Bonnie Datt, Susan Kim, and Courtney Simon along with Amy Sohn, Tracey Scott Wilson, and David Simon. Andrea Ciannavei, the runner-up for the six open Freelance Council seats, was elected to a one-year term on the council to fill the vacancy created by  Willimon’s election as president.

Incumbent Phil Pilato was re-elected for an open Staff seat along with Kim Kelly and Hamilton Nolan.

Willimon and five other incumbents won re-election to two-year terms for council seats last year. He was on the negotiating committee that reached an 11th hour deal with production companies on May 1.

Winship opted not to seek re-election this year. He succeeded Chris Albers as WGA East president in 2007 and was elected to four subsequent two-year terms. Winship guided the guild through the 100-day strike in 2007-2008 and helped steer it through the contract negotiations that went down to the wire — and sparked a strike authorization vote, this past spring.

The WGA East has about 4,000 members working in films and TV. It has managed in recent years to organize an array of staffs at New York-based news web sites, including the Huffington Post, Slate, and ThinkProgress.

The WGA West announced its election results Monday night with David Goodman replacing Howard Rodman as the president. Goodman also ran unopposed.

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Okay his election was in the Cards!   Hopefully it will be a good deal for all involved.


The Ol’ SAG Watchdog

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