Film crews, and the media industry in general, should stop working long shifts. That’s the argument of ‘Who Needs Sleep?’, a documentary by Haskell Wexler showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
With statistics for the UK showing that many in media industries are underpaid and overworked, this heartfelt movie should find a receptive audience.
The legendary cinematographer claims movies sets are worse than sweatshops, and the lack of sleep ruins the lives of many Hollywood workers. Starting from the case of Brent Hershman, an assistant camera-operator who died after falling asleep at the wheel when driving home from a string of 19-hour shifts, Wexler describes how the film and TV industry has come to rely on inhuman endurance.
Charting how shooting days have extended over time, he also notes that average income in the profession is no better than many unglamorous, low-paid professions.
Hershman left behind a wife and two daughters. Wexler’s slow journey through the waffle of political spokespeople -who want to show concern, but deny any responsibility – may explain why he ends his film on a polemical note.
The frustration of not getting a straight answer fuels him to accuse the industry of killing the great cinematographer,