MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — A union representative says the production of “Artists Die Best in Black” will replace the crew filming in south Mississippi because they may seek union representation.
The Sun Herald reports that shooting, which began in mid-June, is set to run about five weeks.
Scott Harbinson is with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts.
He told the Sun Herald that producer that Billy Badalato and film financier Paul Bongé announced to crew members they were flying in replacements from Los Angeles this week.
Elaine Stevens, a Coast publicist working with the movie, said in a statement from Badalato that he has to confer with other executives before commenting.
“Even though we are shooting today, it’s Saturday and I am unable to get a hold of every one of my executive team. It’s the company policy to have all of the executive team review and approve, as a group, all press release and comments so I will continue to try to reach them and promise to get back to you as soon as they have a response to your question,” the statement said.
Harbinson called the move “bizarre” and said he’s been told the producer wants the crew members to choose their replacements “then spend a week training them to take their job.”
Harbinson said several crew members have designated IATSE as their bargaining agent.
“The company has told employees they don’t have the money to afford a union contract that would provide them health insurance, yet have limitless wealth to hire lawyers, fly in crew from L.A. and have them trained,” Harbinson said.
Harbinson said when producers heard crew members wanted to unionize, they asked Harbinson for a copy of his low-budget-film agreement for evaluation.
He didn’t hear back from the producers, but later learned from his clients they were being replaced.
“Artists Die Best in Black” has already faced a legal issue involving actress Juliet Landau, the daughter of Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau, who lost the female lead role to Hani Furstenberg.
Landau is suing to stop production until she can recover what would have been her acting salary, 5 percent of the film’s $1.9 million in funding, the use of her image in promoting and raising money for the film, punitive damages and fees for script and talent consultation.
She indicates in the suit, filed May 2, she believed for more than a year she would play the lead and was also asked to be co-producer.
Biloxi native Eric Roberts, brother of Julia Roberts, is out because his schedule didn’t mesh with the shooting dates. Actor Malcolm McDowell, known for his role in Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” took his place.
Luke Goss of “Hellboy II” was filming scenes in Harrison and Jackson counties last week.