Revolution! Unrest on set of 'Les Misérables' as hair and make-up artists stage own uprising

 

Les Misérables may chronicle a revolution by idealistic Parisians in 1832, but producers of this year's big-budget film adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic story were embarrassed when furious hair and make-up artists staged an uprising of their own on set.

During the shoot, which ran between March and May, 100 professionals joined a trade union to fight the "miserable" conditions on the set of the film, starring Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway. Those working on costumes, hair and make-up regularly had to work extra hours as shooting overran, including into days off, often without extra pay.

The conditions prompted them to join the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) to negotiate better terms, increasing the membership of hair and make-up professionals by a quarter in one month.

Tom Bell, supervisory official at BECTU, said: "They were taken for granted and got to the point where they just said no."

Productions in the UK work on the basis of "camera hours", with staff paid for the time the film starts rolling in the morning until it wraps in the evening, Mr Bell said. "That means that those arriving to set up before, and clearing up after, can be working three hours a day for effectively nothing. These are called 'goodwill hours'. We all agree this needs to be stopped."

Artists working on hair, make-up, costume and location are particularly affected, he said. "It is not limited to Les Mis, but this was a particularly miserable example." The film, adapted from the hit musical, involved hundreds of extras who all needed hair and make-up work.

One industry professional who worked on the film told Screen International: "The ethos of working long hours, breaking turnaround and being expected to drive long distances after working overtime meant it became a safety issue. We constantly overran, and ran into our days off, and were expected not to be paid for it."

BECTU officials visited the set to negotiate extra pay with the producers because some members were working six days despite being on five-day contracts. "The producers acknowledged that the vast number of extras made it a difficult production," Mr Bell said.

Working Title, the production company behind the blockbuster musical, was not available for comment yesterday. Some of the hair and make-up artists also set up a private Facebook page dubbed Project Bushfire during the Les Mis shoot, to post tales of productions where conditions are particularly bad. It currently has nearly 550 members.

There are rumblings in the industry that artists working in similar areas are set to demand better conditions in another high-profile shoot.

But Mr Bell said the industry was starting to change and that some make-up artists were gearing up to refuse to work extra hours. "There have been arguments about it. There has also been a change in the tone, people are asked to stay on, not told."

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before