A Human Life= $2,633.64 & We're To Blame
In 1997, Brent Hershman fell asleep at the wheel and drove into a telephone pole, killing himself after working a 19 hour day that was preceded by four 15 hour workdays as a second assistant camera on the film Pleasantville. Assuming he was getting the standard rate for that position ($38.73/hour*), that equates into $2,633.64 in overtime pay.
Alternatively, to put it a bit more bluntly, $2633.34 is the monetary value that the production felt that it was worth to push Brent to the point of breaking, in order to make their film. Is this what it has really come to? Do we Americans value the dollar so much that we knowingly abuse each other, and allow ourselves to be abused, in order to make an extra dollar?
After watching the documentary Who Needs Sleep, by Haskell Wexler, ASC, I'm convinced that there is a HUGE problem out there, and that problem is us.
The Dysfunctional Life Of A Cinematographer
I've often said to friends of mine who are not in the film industry that being a cinematographer is one of the most glamorous blue collar jobs out there. And while those looking from the outside in may see my career path as full of adventure and the opportunity to work with interesting people all over the world, that is only a small percentage of what this career path holds.
While I absolutely love what I do, and you couldn't pay me to switch fields...admittedly there is a lot of dysfunction, and many sacrifices have to be made in the life of a cinematographer. So, if you are considering this career path, or if you are just interested in peaking behind the curtain, here is the less glamorous and sometimes dysfunctional side of my profession.