Directors, actors speak out vs long movie, TV working hours
Filmmaker Quark Henares was among the first to speak up. In a Facebook post about Francis' death, he said that directors like Wenn, Francis, and Gilbert Perez died of cardiac arrest, possibly due to the poor working hours and conditions in television.
Gilbert, who directed shows like Bituing Walang Ningning and Kahit Isang Saglit died in 2008. Wenn was known for his hits at the annual Metro Manila Film Festival and died in February. Soon after, Francis, who directed the recently concluded ABS-CBN series On the Wings of Love, died in March.
"I think the reason a lot of TV directors like Wenn Deramas and Gilbert Perez, and now Francis Pasion are getting cardiac arrests is because of the horrible working hours and conditions in television. And it's not just directors: stuntmen, ADs (assistant directors), crew people, and cameramen all go through similar situations. This should really change. And I don't know how it will, considering that this entails losses for the networks. But it really is time," wrote Quark.
In an email to Rappler, ABS-CBN said that they had been looking into the situation: "ABS-CBN has started reviewing its production work processes even before the calls for review by individuals and groups came out."
In an email to Rappler, Directors Guild of the Philippines (DGPI) chairperson Paolo Villaluna said that working hours for a shoot depends on many factors, but for advertising and film, most productions will keep the hours down to 16.
However, if resources are limited – for example, if a location is only available for one day – then productions might ask their staff if they're willing to work for 24 hours.
"Some producers cram 30 sequences in a day to save on location costs, permits and talent fees," explained Paolo, on why overworking in the industry might happen. "Sometimes, high profile actors are involved, and are so expensive that production is forced to bend over backwards to consolidate schedules and get the job done in a small window of time. Sometimes, schedules are mismanaged, or production fails in prepping, and everything slows down."
"The problem is systemic – the hiring of non-professionals who are cheaper, management trying to maximize logistics, diva performers who have to be prioritized and practitioners who attempt to work with several projects at the same time," he added later, about TV and movie productions.
Advertising productions usually stick to 16-hour work days and proper overtime pay because they have the budget for it, unlike TV and movies, said Paolo.
In a Facebook post on March 7, actor and singer Aiza Seguerra echoed Quark's sentiments, and detailed the working conditions that a production staff has to go through to finish a project:
"They basically work 7 days a week. Taping, pre-prod, meetings. Sila ang sumasalo ng stress na binibigay ng management ng networks at ng mga artista. Early call time, late pack-up, didiretso pa sa pre-prod para sa susunod na taping. Wala silang pahinga at all pag nasa taping. Wala sila sa aircon tent. Wala silang higaan. Kung umidlip man, panakaw. Hindi na nila nakikita ang mga pamilya nila. Wala silang panahon magbakasyon. Walang cut-off."
(They basically work 7 days a week. Taping, pre-prod, meetings. They're the ones who catch the stress that the network's management and the artists give. Early call time, late pack-up, they even go straight to pre-prod for the next taping. They don't rest at all during taping. They don't stay in the airconditioned tents. They have nowhere to lie down. If they do get to nap, they have to do it sneakily. They don't see their families anymore. They don't have time for vacations. There are no cut-offs.)
According to Article 83 of the Labor Code of the Philippines, workers should not exceed more than 8 hours of work. However, this law doesn't apply to field personnel, who must regularly perform duties outside of an office and whose hours of work can't be determined with reasonable certainty.
For those whose jobs exceed the 8-hour work day, the Department of Labor and Employment released Department Advisory Number 22, series of 2004, which states: "Unless there is a more favorable practice existing in the firm, work beyond 8 hours will not be compensable by overtime premium, provided the total number of hours worked per day shall not exceed 12 hours. In any case, any work performed beyond 12 hours a day or 48 hours a week shall be subject to overtime premium."
At the launch of Belo Medical Group's Fotona Nightlase on March 10, actress Donita Rose spoke to Rappler about the issue. Donita is part of the comedy series That's My Amboy, and told Rappler that they shoot every other day, with some shooting days that last more than 24 hours.
"Generally speaking [for TV series], it's like usually 24 hours in a day, sometimes some directors are slower, so it's more than 24 hours a day. We would get picked up at 5 am, 6 am, and we would come home 9 am, 10 am the next day. And then you have a day break, but you spend half that day sleeping because you're so puyat (sleep-deprived)."
On Facebook, director and producer Anna Ylagan complained that her father, 78-year-old actor Robert Arevalo, had the same hours, leaving at 5 am and coming back home at 9:30 am the next day.
On March 12, program manager for The Millionaire's Wife, Anthony Pastorpide, told Pep that they have apologized to Robert, explaining that they had a lot of scenes to shoot that day, and it might take a long time for them to go back to that specific location, as it was two hours away from Manila.
“Ngayon po ay inaayos na ng produksyon ang lahat para hindi na maulit ang pangyayaring iyon (Right now, the production is fixing everything so that something like that doesn't happen again),” said Pastorpride.
In an interview with Rappler at the same Belo event, Edgar Allan Guzman, who stars in the series Doble Kara, said he understands where Quark is coming from, but his hours depend on what the production is after.
“Actually, may point siya, pero kasi depende sa network and sa production, depende talaga kung naghahabol sa isang show or maraming pondo, maraming eksena nakunan na, or marami pang kukunan for airing," he said.
(Actually he has a point, but it depends with the network and the production, it really depends if you're trying to catch up with the show, if you've already shot a lot of the scenes, or you still have a lot to shoot for airing.)
Edgar explained that in the case of Doble Kara, taping may start as early as 6 am and finish at 3 am the next day. However, he clarified that it’s not every day they do it and that they also rest.
Donita also explained that some of the more popular actors have cut-off times when it comes to shooting, but some productions would rather hire actors who don't have cut-off times.
She expressed concern about child actors, too. "For me...the labor laws for children. They'renot supposed to shoot for more than 10 or 12 hours, but based on what I see, that's not being implemented," she said in a mix of English and Filipino.
While Republic Act No 9231 does not mention specific hours, it requires the employer of children in the entertainment industry to ensure the children's health and protection. It also states that children should not be exploited in terms of remuneration and working time.
"My heart goes out to them, I honestly I don't feel that...even parents should allow that, because – but that's what sustains their families," Donita said.
'It's a choice'
Directors' Guild of the Philippines president Mike Sandejas said in an interview with TV Patrol that he himself has experienced poor health due to his work.
"I've felt the effects of the long hours. Tumaba ako (I gained weight), hypertension problems, blood pressure problems. I actually ballooned to 275 pounds, then I decided to lose the weight. If I didn't, baka isa na ako sa mga direktor na namatay (I might have become one of the directors who died)," said Mike.
Mike added that there's no one to blame for the problem of overwork in the industry, but something should be done to change it. "This is not a witch-hunt. You know, if there's anybody to blame, it's us, point a finger at ourselves. It's just the culture that has been going on for the longest time. And I think we just have to realize that we have to change it."
"Ultimately, it's a choice," Mike added, explaining that some people work long, unhealthy hours because they have to. "Some people don't have that choice because they need to work. Creating policy would make it illegal for them to choose something that would be bad for them."
Donita said that some actors may be afraid to speak up about unfair practices, lest they be taken to be complaining or get less job opportunities. The actress said she herself was more than thankful for the work that she does.
But Donita also added that more people have been speaking up recently, including That's My Amboy director Joyce Bernal. Joyce, said Donita, has expressed the same sentiments as Quark.
In a March 10 TV Patrol report, president of the Actors' Guild of the Philippines Rez Cortez said: "Kailangan pa bang may mamatay? Kailangan pa bang may magkasakit bago tayo umaksyon? Bago tayo umabot sa pagkakataon na iyon, agapan na natin."
(Does someone have to die? Does someone have to get sick for us to take action? Before it reaches that stage, we should already act.)
One of the solutions that Rez and the Philippine Academy of Film are pushing for is a stricter implementation of the 12-hour work schedule.
Others have spoken up on social media as well.
In an earlier Facebook post, scriptwriter Lilit Reyes said: "Quality of people's health is as important, if not more important, as quality of work. When the industry turned to primetime daily soap, the rest is long hour shooting history. There's got to be a way [to change things]."
"Not even a stable regular pay or a higher pay as solutions or compensation can regain the priceless lives lost," he added. "Think also about the production crew members who are the first to arrive on the set and the last to leave, who aren't paid as much, but their dedication and passion are undoubtedly intact."
Meanwhile, Bianca Balbuena, one of those who produced the award-winning Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, said that it is possible to have a 14-hour shooting day, citing her experiences on the set of Hele as proof.
Pepe Diokno, director of the film Above the Clouds and the series Single/Single, agreed with Bianca.
Other industry members tagged in Bianca's post agreed with her in the comments, including On the Wings of Love director Antoinette Jadaone, filmmaker Leon Cheo, Lilit, and actress Madlen Nicolas.
Edward delos Santos Cabagnot, one of the founders of the Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival, called out the Film Development Council of the Philippines, saying: "THIS is your f-ckin' job! To take care of the welfare of the sector you have been mandated to protect. NOT spending government funds to put up expensive booths in festival markets that will remain tragically unattended." – Rappler.com
Photo by N.Sritawat/Shutterstock
Culture and beyond
We love pop culture. Whether it is TV, movies, or music, we seek to go beyond the news by providing deep dives and explainers on the latest trends happening locally and around the world.
Serious work goes into our brand of cultural journalism. However, to continue exploring the entertainment landscape, we need your support.
By joining Rappler PLUS, you will get exclusive event invites, industry reports, and Rappler Shop discounts.
But more than that, you will enable us to continue telling more stories.
Make your move now. Join Rappler PLUS.