Deakins, Lubezki, and Other Top Cinematographers Ask Producers to Address Long Workdays

Emmanuel Lubezki on 'The Revenant'Credit: Kimberly French
Brutally long hours put people in danger on set.

Oscar-winning cinematographers John Toll, Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, and Erik Messerschmidt, along with 11 other top cinematographers, recently penned an open letter to the member companies of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. The letter addresses the brutally long work hours of those on set and “the hazards of unsafe working hours.”

Their letter was also signed by John Lindley, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, IATSE Local 600. 

The goal is clear and simple, and they say change has to happen now. They even have an informative video of how dangerous these long hours can be. 

Life on set regularly consists of 14-hour days, sometimes even longer. The IATSE and the AMPTP are actively negotiating a new contract, and want to make sure this is addressed inside. 

You can read the open letter on Deadline.

It starts, “We are Local 600 Directors of Photography who are writing to express our ongoing concern about the hazards of unsafe working hours, a practice that continues despite all the medical and indisputable evidence of the harm caused by fatigue.”

They cite the numerous car accidents that have happened this way. 

They demand that “employers not treat our members like machines that can just work until they are broken and then be replaced.”

They also assert they need rest, saying, “Everyone needs and deserves a real and meaningful rest period between shifts to provide for a decent night’s sleep. We know that long and irregular hours can come at a cost, contributing to unhealthy outcomes and higher health costs.” 

Hopefully, this will open new conversations about expectations on set days and the way the industry regularly goes into overtime and extended hours. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.      

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In Greece we had to mandate a 12 hour limit - but only after a serious event happened due to fatigue happened. There is no reason for something like that to happen in order to enforce humane working hours.

August 19, 2021 at 11:17PM

Sherif Francis
Director, Director of Photography, Editor

I've never understood why this business necessitates such ludicrous working hours;
why someone sitting in a cosy office (a modern day slave driver) with a calculator decides your fate, in order to maximise profit for the "boss."
We've even reached the stage where some people are "proud" to push these long hours, gushing to their peers over a beer how they slogged on their last shoot - for scant reward, I might add.

All kudos to the above protagonists who are bringing this unacceptable practice to the fore.

August 20, 2021 at 3:40AM


You’ve obviously never been on a true set of any large caliber. Whether it be narrative or commercial.

Filmmaking on any degree takes immense time not only to nail the creative beat and flow, but to do it safely. Film is inherently extremely dangerous, and on bigger things the risk only becomes that much more.

Long hours are risky, but at the same time necessary for the creativity to succeed safely and effectively.

The amount of artistry we have and create in Film, would simply not be here period at the volume of output we have if we worked 8/7 hour days including a lunch break.

August 20, 2021 at 4:20AM, Edited August 20, 4:22AM

Zachary Lewis

Whoa Zach. Play nice. I agree that an 8/7 hour day would just not work. No way. But 14 hours seems unnecessary. I might expect that on an indie shoot where money is tight and you might have location issues because you can only afford it for one day and there was no budget for rehearsals. But not a well funded studio picture or commercial where there's much more money to play with. To be clear, I don't think people's lives should be at risk on any picture but especially not one where there's more than enough money to ensure people's safety. I think 12 hours is a reasonable expectation, though. And I'll own that Directors have a big role in this too. Asking for an absurd number of takes or shooting crazy coverage that you'll never use in post isn't necessarily something that falls on the producer. That said, the Producer can give the Director the time and resources to plan their shots, get it right in rehearsal, and THEN bring in the crew to get what they need on the day. Get coverage if you need it but be economical. That usually results in a better product anyways because you're shooting with intention rather than just taking the shotgun approach and figuring it out in the edit.

August 20, 2021 at 11:50AM, Edited August 20, 11:53AM

Dale Raphael Goldberg
Writer / Director

Everything Dale said is spot on.

There’s no excuse for 14+ hour days, back to back - as an industry standard. And yes, like Dale - I too have been on plenty of professional sets - so don’t go there.

August 23, 2021 at 8:33PM