Dying to make a living
It was an open secret in show business. Everyone knew about it, but only a few dared to rail against the often unhealthy and inhumane working hours in the TV and movie industries.
That was until show biz lost three directors in a month. “Bubble Gang” director Uro dela Cruz succumbed to a liver ailment on Feb. 4—followed by box-office hitmaker Wenn V. Deramas on Feb. 29 and indie filmmaker Francis Xavier Pasion on March 6, who both died of cardiac arrest.
In a jiffy, cyberspace went buzzing with all sorts of opinions—blaming harsh work schedules for the passing of the three directors.
Last Wednesday, actor Leo Martinez, director general of the Film Academy of the Philippines, released a statement: “In the 1990s, the issue of a 12-hour work day was the subject of a memorandum of agreement between the Actors’ Guild and producers. If a shoot goes beyond 12 hours, that is considered another working day.”
For this forum, the Inquirer turned to different directors—veterans, because they speak with the voice of experience; and newcomers, because they can shake things up and change prevailing practices in the business of show.
Jose Javier Reyes: It has become the norm. Will the passing of three directors lead to changes? My honest answer is no. There will always be someone else to replace directors who don’t accept these working conditions.
TV people should get their act together. Competition is fierce. I’ve been through that, so I decided to quit TV. I want to have a life and not merely make a living.
Joel Lamangan: Exploitative working hours is one of the causes of the early demise of young directors. Working for 16 to 24 hours without sleep is inhumane and detrimental to the health of everyone on the set.
It is high time to study this issue. Life is more important than ratings and profit!
Jun Robles Lana: There has to be a dialogue, not a fight. But this will only happen if networks are willing to listen, and talents can muster the courage to talk openly about the terrible working hours they often have to endure.
I wasn’t kidding when I posted on Twitter that when second-tier talents demand fair treatment, they either get fired or don’t get rehired. That’s why no one complains.
Perci Intalan: It begins during the green-lighting of projects. Give the producers time to plan…. If there’s no proper planning, everyone gets stressed, and the production time gets compressed into a near-impossible schedule. Some delays cannot be avoided. Hopefully, these things become the exception and not the norm.
Louie Ignacio: I suggest for networks to regulate working hours: from 8 a.m. until midnight is fine; 2 a.m. should be the latest time to pack up.
Jerrold Tarog: There are no facts directly connecting the passing of Francis and Wenn to the working conditions in the industry. Given that the work situation is not really healthy, and I am all for improving it, I think there’s no basis to use their deaths as the focal point for the discussion.
Mike E. Sandejas: There is a need for health, safety and legal experts to examine the working conditions in show biz, to identify bad practices and occupational hazards and their repercussions, then create and implement policies that ensure best practices with fair compensation—just like in any other professional industry.
Milo Sogueco: There should be a law protecting the rights of workers. We need to revisit the existing law and see how it was created, and if it’s still in tune with the times.
There should be room for developing this law much further if it does exist and if it is not implemented properly. If no law exists, then it’s high time we create one for the benefit not only of (studio) owners, but of the greater majority.
Alvin Yapan: We should standardize working conditions in the industry. It’s sad, but that is the reality of the business. It’s a wake-up call for us to improve the working conditions of all artists.
Lemuel Lorca: Because of these working hours, quality and workers’ health are compromised.
If we want the system to change, directors and industry workers should unite, to have a stronger and louder voice.
Ice Idanan: Lots of people suffer because of these practices. I hope things will be fixed soon. I hope we can still accomplish the things we want, without sacrificing people’s welfare.
Jason Paul Laxamana: I’ve been against unfair working hours for so long; I just didn’t know how to fight it. In our own shoots, we avoid working 24 hours straight. Our maximum cutoff is 2 a.m. We hope to lessen these exploitative and abusive practices. It’s wrong to work for 30 hours when you are paid for only 12 hours.
Carla Baful: It’s very difficult for us. The choice is to either agree to these conditions so that you’ll get to do what you love, or reject these practices but end up jobless. We don’t want to sacrifice our health. You get to tell your story, but you lose your life.
Paolo Herras: If there are no laws or unions to protect workers, things will not change. Problem is, jobs are not regulated. The system is not regulated.
David Fabros: I’ve been in the industry for 30 years and I am very familiar with these conditions. The system is difficult to reform. Maybe the change should come from us. Let’s not accept impossible work situations. It’s our responsibility to protect ourselves. Direk Joey Reyes once told me: “It’s either you stop now—or you’ll stop forever.” Stress is a killer.
Allan Ibañez: Passion is important in our line of work. But at the same time, we need to prioritize our well-being. If you will get sick because of work, how can you pursue your dreams?
Dexter Hemedez: Movie and TV people should undergo a seminar on how to avoid stress in the workplace. We need to be prepared, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well.
Randolph Longjas: When I attended a festival abroad, I heard someone say: Long and unhealthy hours will not only kill the industry, but the people in it. I find it unfair that under a Filipino director, it is all right to shoot for more than 24 hours. But if we shoot with a foreign director, we pack up at 8 p.m. I have experienced shooting 72 hours straight. It’s about time to strengthen the labor code in our country. There is a need for a vigilant guild that would monitor the industry. It is also our responsibility to implement safe conditions in the workspace.
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