I can’t seem to forget a scene from Steven Bach’s book “Final Cut”. Mr. Bach was one of the executives of United Artists when they financed Michael Cimino’s movie “Heaven’s Gate”.
In the 1999 edition of the book the subtitle reads “Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate the Film that sank United Artist”. I read the book because I was about to work with Mr. Cimino.
Here is what I remember:
The movie was going way over budget and over time. The execs tried to talk to Mr. Cimino on the phone, but couldn’t get hold of him (in the days before cell phones). So they decided to fly to the location and confront him.
3 people flew from L.A., Steven Bach being one of them. They arrived to the set in the middle of the shooting day and were told that Mr. Cimino is very busy directing and doesn’t want to be disturbed. He will talk to them in his trailer after the shooting day was over.
They waited long hours, not allowed to the set. Finally the work day ended and they went to Mr. Cimino’s trailer to have the conversation, only to be told he is having a massage at the moment and will talk to them when it’s over.
About an hour and a half later, the door opened and Mr. Cimino blew past them saying he is too tired to talk now. He went to his car and was driven off.
Clear bullying behavior. Did the call him on it? Did they “pull the plug” on the production? No. They didn’t. The shoot continued and sank the studio.
After working with him I believe Mr. Bach’s account. I’ve seen behavior like that with my own eyes.
Or watch a movie called “What Just Happened” which depicts very truthfully the madness of the entertainment industry. Everybody is bullying everybody!
Why do I remember it now? Because of a friend which is being bullied at work. Works with a screamer who is too busy making himself look good to think of the chaos he’s causing. A clear case of bullying at the workplace; eye rolls, huffs, yelling, belittling, etc.
This person was brought into the production by the director himself, after working together on previous projects. There is no doubt that this person knows what is done and what isn’t, yet the director hears the bullying, sees my friend getting upset after being yelled at in the middle of the set “Who’s the idiot that approved that?” while knowing very well whose job it is to approve those things and what does the director have to say?
“Don’t let him get to you.”
A person is being bullied and instead of calling the bully to order, he tells the victim to tough it up.
And nobody calls him to order.
WE are to blame. We say to ourselves: “I don’t want to talk about it… I don’t want to complain… I’ll be black listed. It’s only another month or two, I’ll survive…” and that bully goes on, uncalled upon, to his next project to bully someone else.
And these are people on the studio list – those with whom the studio worked before, liked, thinks they are great and employs again and again. Is there no end to the madness?
Life in Los Angeles is so freaking difficult because people here do not say what’s on their mind. They are all smiles and charm until they are threatened with different opinions. Then everything is measured by – how is this going to advance me – not what’s true and just. So much politics, so much dancing around the subject, so much having different agendas aside from making a good movie or TV show.
We have to speak up. WE have to call on those bullies to stop.
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