1997: Case Study, Assisant Camera Operator Brent Hershman died of overwork. It had little impact.

Assistant camera operator Brent Hershman died during the filming of Pleasantville (1998). Hershman fell asleep at the wheel after a “normal” twenty-hour work day and was killed.  As a result, filmmakers drafted Brent’s Rule, a set of safety guidelines.  The guidelines suggested a fourteen-hour cap on the workday, and later suggested that the producers provide hotel accommodation near the shoot if it goes over fourteen hours (imdb.com). 

According to one camera assistant [X Name withheld to protect informant, pending permission to use name], who has almost fallen asleep driving home:

I remember the place – I remember where I just kind of went out for a second, and the fear got me home….  ‘You were just at work.  You have to do it….’  They don’t call lunch.  “Oh, fuck it, okay.”  You work through it.  And you get pissed off, and that adrenaline gets you going through it.  And it keeps you going … that’s what the producers know.  They know that.

Producers do this to “save money,” but the long run costs can be catastrophic. 

In response to Brent’s Rule, what [X] saw on the sets where she worked was “fake courtesy.”  If the crew worked over fourteen hours, someone would say, “Are you okay to drive?”  [X] says, “It’s like after you’ve had seven beers:

‘Are you okay to drive?’ 

‘Yeah, I’m fine. No problem.’ 

‘Okay, see you tomorrow.’” 

[X] laughs and says, “Everyone was still macho about it.”  A lot of the crew–grips, electricians, camera crew–didn’t want Brent’s Rule enacted, because then they wouldn’t make overtime. And overtime is when they made money.  People said things like, “No, fuck it, I need the overtime.  I don’t want to give up my overtime.”  This greed was operating against basic human survival.  The producers say, “Yeah, it’s really tragic.  Okay, let’s roll.”

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