Who Needs Sleep

Who Needs SleepIn early April I saw Haskell Wexler’s new documentary “Who Needs Sleep,” about overwork, long hours and lack of sleep in the film business. The film premiered at Sundance and got a big reaction there. I saw the first major LA screening, sponsored by the Writers Guild and the Screen Actors Guild and shown at the WGA theater.
The house was completely full and the feeling in the room afterwards was electric. There were three separate rounds of applause–once when the end title started, once when the lights came up and finally, a long standing ovation when Haskell came up on stage. It was ironic that the event was sponsored by the WGA and SAG–not the IATSE. Crew members were well represented in the audience, and might have been the majority. The film clearly seems to appeal to a very strong and so far untapped feeling on the part of every crew member, namely the importance of ‘quality of life’ issues.

Haskell has started a nonprofit called “12 On/12 Off” with a simple program:

  • No more than 12 hours worked.
  • No less than 12 hours of turnaround.
  • No more than 6 hours between meals.

Personally, I’d vote for 10 hours of work (are we really fighting for a 12 hour day?) but 12 hours is a no brainer, and for that reason it’s going to get a lot of support.

There was a panel discussion after the screening, moderated by WGAw President Patric Verrone, and Haskell made the point that he wants to appeal to all groups — IA, DGA, WGA, SAG, etc. He believes that if we get into partisan, juristictional infighting we’ll lose. He commented that he had been unable to find anybody, including studio heads, who are willing to say that long hours are a good or necessary thing. Thus the problem is systemic.

Political movements often start with a unmet need — a simple rallying cry that everybody can unite around.

This might be the start of something.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Editors Guild, Quality of Life

One Comment on “Who Needs Sleep”

  1. Norman Says:

    Even when I first started working in LA (after years in New York, working under a different contract) it always shocked me that 56 hours a week was considered normal, before breaking into OT.

    Only in film!!


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