EXCLUSIVE: Crew members on the Atlanta set of the Donald Sutherland–Helen Mirren movie The Leisure Seeker are furious after they found their cars filled with water in a parking lot where they were told they had to park or be towed. About 20-25 cars were flooded in a downpour, and two crew members told us a handful of those cars were totaled. Those working on the film also were told (in writing) that they would have to get relief from their own insurance companies as the production said the losses were not covered by the shoot’s insurance.
Deadline spoke to several of those affected by the incident that occurred last Thursday. The Leisure Seeker is a union shoot, and the U.S.-Italy production hired local Georgia crew members. The crew, which later learned this was not the first time that parking lot had flooded, were upset and angry that they are on the hook for thousands of dollars in repairs.
“This is the worst experience I’ve had in my entire career, and I’ve worked in production for over a decade,” said one crew member who declined to go on record. “I’ve never have been treated like this. It’s very degrading. I have thought about getting out of the business over this. It’s humiliating. It’s the union guys trying to make the producers happy and the producers trying to make the production happy while all of us below-the-line are getting screwed. I’ve cried for like three days over this.”
The Leisure Seeker is an independent production which is being directed by Paolo Virzi, and there are about 10 producers on the film. It’s a road-trip picture written by Stephen Amidon.
Deadline has been shown photos and multiple videos of crew members repeatedly dishing plastic Solo cups full of water out of their flooded floorboards and pulling out soaked and ruined personal items. E-mails from the production were also shared with us that told workers to file with their personal insurance companies.
“They had us all park on an embankment and water rose over the engine compartment,” said one crew member whose car was badly damaged. “We have production crew members — some are young kids, without cars now.” He said one of the female producers was handing out Solo cups to try to help the crew members get water out of their cars. Another producer was asking crew members about the condition of their cars and who among them needed rentals.
One of the photos shows a sign saying that the area is a flood zone and to park 6 feet from the wall. One of the videos obtained by Deadline shows a measurement being done between the cars and the wall — it measured 7 feet. The crew was directed to park there by a yellow CREW PARKING sign. More than one crew member said they were told that they had to park there or their cars would be towed.
“We were directed to park there by the crew map and the call sheet; we could not park elsewhere and they told us if we did that the cars would be towed,” one crew member said. “We weren’t told until lunch time about this. We were shooting and there was a massive downpour. At the time we were shooting we weren’t notified that there was a flood. All the cars were underwater. My car had standing water. Some crew members found water halfway up the seats. One of my other crew members, his car was pretty much underwater. They said to go and try to start our cars. The last thing you want to do is turn a car on in standing water. Some people did and their cars are totally screwed now.”
In an email obtained by Deadline, workers were told: “Production insurance does not cover employee vehicles.” It also said that the producers “want to try and help.” The production told those affected that Teamsters would try to vacuum out the cars, and they also offered them “up to $100” for detailing, and told them to collect receipts and they would see what they could do for reimbursement. According to two crew members, there was a security guard hired who was stationed in the parking lot. “The security guard didn’t let us know,” said one crew member. “Why weren’t we notified?” They were notified by other crew members who had gone out to their cars.
“At the moment, we are providing rental cars for those who don’t have cars,” said executive producer Alessandro Mascheroni, who referred Deadline to line producer James Spies for more information. Spies did not return a call seeking comment. The co-producer, Betta Boni, had no comment and suggested calling Mascheroni. Mamann had no comment and referred calls to the production manager. The production supervisor also had no comment. Deadline then called the production coordinator and the location manager. Neither returned calls seeking comment.
Producer Fabrizio Donvito issued a statement on Friday afternoon: “We have a wonderful crew and are working closely with those affected by the floods to lend our support, financial and otherwise. We immediately provided rental cars and arranged transportation for those in need, and as they go through the insurance process, we continue to offer transportation and car cleaning services to all of our crew. The entire production team is working together to help one another.”
A production source noted they are waiting for receipts to come in “to see what can be taken care of.” That source said they are hoping to take care of “some of the costs after the crew first files through their personal insurance company.”
Meanwhile, the crew is frustrated and stressed and scared to speak up. “I’m still working there so I don’t want to go on the record,” said a crew member who was fearful of repercussions. “We parked in the part that was designated for crew. Our call time was at 4 PM. We heard about two or three hours into our jobs, that crew parking was flooding. It was a downpour. At lunchtime, when we could take a break, we went and looked. At least 20 to 30 cars had water damage. It was literally a whole line of cars. They told us to move the cars to the production office, but it was too late. This has cost us all a lot of money.”
Estimates show that some of the damage would cost $2,000 in repairs, with transmission replacements coming to about $9,000. “Three people I know of right now, their cars are totaled. They have no transportation,” said a different crew member.
“They said to give them our receipts and they might try to reimburse us, but then said now we’re on our own. They said they were not financially responsible for this. The night before they said they would help us out and the next day the story changed. It’s been one thing after another,” said one of the crew members.
Some do not have vehicles — or will not — as of Saturday because rental cars were only offered until the weekend as the crew will then be bused to a new location (Jekyll Island) and be provided transportation to and from there.
“After Saturday, the cars are no longer paid for or we pay for it out of pocket,” said one member of the crew. “It’s incredibly stressful for us. You can’t get around Atlanta without transportation. It should be put in all of our contracts that crew cars are covered while working on set. I was told that the car is not covered under their insurance plan. Some people have high deductibles, like me. We were told they don’t have the money in the budget, that it’s not covered and that we are going to have to take care of this ourselves because cars in crew parking are not covered.”
They would later learn that the parking lot was a known hazard and that it happened on other productions, including Paramount’s Rings. Deadline contacted an electrician who worked on the set of Rings and asked about it. “It happened to me,” he said. “My car was totaled. I was on set and when I got off work, I got a note on the driver’s window of my car that said that water was over the hood of my car and I should not drive it. There were notes on about 25 other cars, too. I believe mine and two others were officially totaled. How Rings did it, from what I understand, IATSE got involved and made sure it was taken care of.”
He said that the production company on Rings told the crew to put in the claim on their insurance and it wouldn’t count against them. They then paid the deductible for the crew members who were affected. The electrician was reimbursed by insurance, but, he said: “I know a few people who weren’t as lucky and were screwed. It was in the same parking lot, the same spot.”
Safety bulletins issued by the Industry Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee warn about the dangers of flash flooding to cast and crew – but not to their cars. “Flash flooding is usually caused by slow-moving thunderstorms and can occur within a few minutes or hours of excessive rainfall,” Safety Bulletin #38 reads. “Realize it does not have to be raining at your specific location for a flood to occur.”
Deadline reached out to the owner of the property, but has not received a response.
Deadline’s David Robb contributed to this report.