Hollywood Producer Explains The 'Inhumane' 17-Hour Work Day Schedules On Film And TV Sets

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Gavin Polone

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Producer Gavin Polone interviewed "below the line" workers on-set to reveal grueling working conditions in Hollywood.

Hollywood producer Gavin Polone is no stranger to a film set.

He's worked on movies such as “Panic Room” and “Zombieland” and served as executive producer of HBO's hit comedy, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

But for as much time as he has spent on film and television sets, Polone has always wondered how grueling, 17-hour-day production schedules affect below-the-line workers—the camera crew, makeup artists, craft services people, etc. — who aren't getting the same massive paychecks as the actors, writers, directors, and producers.

While Polone admits “producers and actors are highly compensated for their work,”he says“it has always been difficult for me to understand how so many in this business put up with such a punishing routine,” as he explained to Vulturein a piece he wrote about “The Unglamorous, Punishing Hours of Working on a Hollywood Set.”

To better understand his colleagues, “I decided to interview some of the people around me about their feelings on the hours they work and how this regimen affects their lives.”

So, Polone started going up to his “below-the-line” coworkers on the set of the ABC Family TV show he is currently producing, “Jane By Design.”

Here is a summary of what they had to say about the “inhumane” work conditions:

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FIlm set actors director

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It takes a team of people and entire days to shoot a single film scene.

Kirsten Robinson, Script Supervisor —“...which means she helps the director keep track of continuity and makes notes for the editor on how he should put together the pieces of the scenes.”Kirsten considered our show as a relief compared to a recent show she worked on where she “worked 16 to 18 hours every day and the worst day was twenty hours.” Robinson says the worst part was “At the lunch break, it’s like you have another regular person’s day ahead of you.”Polone says most work 17-hour days when shooting the current ABC Family show.

Steve D’Amato, First Assistant Director — Which means he is in charge of running the set.He recalls, “The worst day I ever worked on a show was 27 hours.” D'Amato adds, “What bothers me most is you don’t have time to do anything else. It’s hard. It seems like it’s unnecessary: You could just add one or two more days [to the schedule] and spread it out over more time. We’re the only industry that is fighting for a twelve-hour day: That is what I find amazing.”

Ali Yeganhe, Transportation Captain— Meaning hedispatches drivers, manages the fleet of vehicles, including those used on-camera, and drives as well. Polone says “his department has the worst hours.” Yeganhe notes, “There is a high divorce rate in this business. Truthfully, I haven’t slept a whole night in three years. My wife and I were together before we got in this business. She was in wardrobe, so she knew.”

Farah Bunch, Head of Makeup Department—“I’ve been doing this for eighteen years. The hours have always been the same. I started out in soap operas, which have great hours; then I went into multi-cams, which have even better hours; but once I entered the world of single-camera [meaning one-hour shows and feature films], I was in shock. I thought only in third-world countries people worked hours like this — a fourteen-hour day is the norm for the makeup department. You’re making more money, but it is blood money, 'cause you’re trading your life...”

“When I’m in season, I don’t see my friends or family. The weekends I spend recovering. I think it has contributed to me not being able to meet people because I’m not out there in the world mingling. I dated someone in the military and he was in shock that we were working all of these hours and he was out there saving lives and he’d be home by 4 p.m.: He was in Afghanistan and his hours were better than mine. You feel trapped with the hours, because you know that if you don’t do them, someone else will. And another thing, you’re given a ten-hour turnaround, which is just enough time to drive home, sleep seven hours like a normal human being, and go back to work. ”

To read Polone's full interviews in the Vulture piece, click here »



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