Who Needs Sleep?

79 minutes 2006 8.6/10 based on 5 votes

Filmmaker Haskell Wexler started working on this documentary when he was 75. A co-worker had recently lost his life and this event forced Wexler to realize that the only thing that he really owned was his time. Many workers, particularly in the film industry, work an average of 12 to 16 hours every day, sometimes much more. This habit it not only detrimental to their physical health, but also to their emotional well-being. Because the movie business seems glamorous, a lot of people are willing to do anything just to get a chance to work in filmmaking. This opens the door for a lot of newcomers to get ripped off or taken advantage of.

Working in Hollywood makes it very difficult to have a family, relationships or a normal life. It’s a high price to pay, but thousands of workers are willing to do it even though some of them lose their spouses in the process.

For years there has been no wage increase, so many workers need to work overtime to pay the bills. For instance, Union rules require a certain amount of work hours to get health insurance. Many workers feel the need to work 80 hours per week in order to be able to afford to live.

It wasn’t always like this, though. Just a few decades ago the United States was an international leader in reducing work hours. People went out on the street and fought for everybody to get only 8 hours of work. They sang that ‘we want to see the sunshine and we want to smell the flowers, we are sure that God is willing and we need to have eight hours.’

In 1938 Congress passed a Fair Labor Standards Act, FLSA, which enforced the national 40 hours workweek and mandated time and a half for overtime. However today there’s an epidemic of 24/7 that’s not limited to the film industry.

Overwork inevitably leads to a lack of sleep. Many film workers have had the experience of falling asleep behind the wheel after working up to 19 hours at a time. A number of these workers have had accidents and one man lost his life while trying to get home to spend time with his daughter.

Studies show that drowsy drivers cost at least 100,000 accidents per year. The number could be much higher than that because nobody really knows. Scientists have discovered that even a small amount of sleep loss can make a person dangerous. A sleep-deprived individual will drive as badly as a person who is drunk.

Will film workers ever get a break? Find out now.

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  • Normajean

    The idea of owning the moments of your life, the quality of your time, and the right to health and balance, are still a threat to “unions” and other moneyed interests. This comes across loud and clear with this documentary, tearing away the veil of glamor and fame that many feel are inherent in the processes of Hollywood’s film industry.

  • Maxine Godfrey

    you really gotta want it, to take that crap. what the heck were unions formed for, in the first place? the atmosphere is positively Dickensian. i can just see the crew’s thin, sensitive fingers plucking collectively at the strings of Industry — cameras and sound equipment, etc. — while their unfortunate uncompanioned families peck away at their lonely meals at homes made desultory by the absence of the breadwinners. oh woe is thee.

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