A week and a half ago we had an unusually long shooting day on the show I’m currently producing, Jane by Design. The crew call time was at 7 a.m. and we wrapped at 10:46 p.m. — fourteen hours and 45 minutes after subtracting our one-hour lunch break. And some had an even longer day: Our actors, including guest star Teri Hatcher, showed up for hair and makeup at 5 am, which meant that hairstylists and makeup artists, as well as someone from the transportation department and the set production assistant, also showed up to meet them and were there until wrap, giving them a total of sixteen hours and 45 minutes. Many of you who are less familiar with the culture of filmmaking may find these hours to be pretty crazy, but those of us who regularly work on sets know there was nothing out of the ordinary about this day — and it wasn’t even that extreme compared to other movies and TV series, which often go beyond the standard schedule of a twelve-hour day.
These hours can be a bit grinding for me, but as a producer I have the latitude to show up later or leave earlier. Actors can have brutal days, but they also usually get days off, as most shows are ensembles and they’re rarely in every scene. And let’s face it, producers and actors are highly compensated for their work. However, the average below-the-line worker (the budgetary classification for those who aren’t producers, directors, actors, or writers) has to be there every day and make a middle-class wage. And, from my perspective, they are also the people who whine the least about this extreme schedule. It has always been difficult for me to understand how so many in this business put up with such a punishing routine. So, as our work week wore on, I decided to interview some of the people around me about their feelings on the hours they work and how this regimen affects their lives.