More than 30 unpaid crewmembers on the indie film Please Give Me You have filed wage claims with the California Labor Commissioner’s office after the production was shut down last month when its financing fell through following a Covid-19 scare on the set. The film, written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and which was to have starred Chloë Grace Moretz, had been prepping at the Rancho Grande preserve in Ojai, CA, when the plug was pulled December 11 before principal photography could begin.
A demand letter sent by the crew to the producers December 23 said that they’re owed more than $170,000 for the five weeks they spent prepping the film.
“There are 31 wage claims filed against PGMY The Movie LLC,” a spokesperson for the Labor Commissioner’s Office said. “The earliest was docketed on Jan. 4 and the latest on Jan. 21, 2021.”
“The production shut down and no one on the crew has been paid for any of their work,” a member of the crew told Deadline. “The producers dodged phone calls and emails about paying vendors, crew, etc., for almost a month. Many crew members are also owed out-of-pocket expenses for things like props, wardrobe, equipment rentals and Covid tests. IATSE has sent the producers a grievance letter on behalf of the crew but because the producers conveniently never signed the IATSE contracts, there is a limit to what they can do.”
On January 6, Jeff Penman, one of the film’s producers, emailed the crew to explain what had happened, and to assure them that every effort was being made to pay them:
“I am sorry this response took so long, and appreciate you bearing with me through this difficult time, allowing me an opportunity to work through the fallout from the collapse of the picture,” he wrote. “This is one of the most difficult situations I have ever faced professionally. I am not someone who takes this lightly and am working toward a resolution every day.
“First, I just want to set the record straight as to what happened. Through a series of events beyond my control, our financing fell out – twice. The shutting down of payroll was not done by the production willfully. It was after a combination of budget issues and following a push necessitated by a potential COVID case, that the prospective financier pulled their funds out of the project. Without any financing attached to the project and our last life line telling us to shut down, we were left with no choice.”
The email continued:
“This kind of thing has never happened to me before and although the shutdown/failure of financing was outside my control, I have been trying to figure out how to get everyone paid. Due to the unfortunate timing of this all occurring right before the holidays, the people that I have needed to deal with have been out of the office for the last two weeks (some are still out) and it has therefore not been possible for me to formulate an adequate response sooner.
“So you are all aware, IATSE sent PGMY The Movie, LLC a grievance letter on your behalf prior to the holidays. I will be reaching out to them to discuss the situation, with the goal of working with them to reach an agreement on how to work things out fairly. It is my goal that we will then apply the same terms to the non-union positions as well.
“I will continue to update you as more progress is made. Once an agreement is concluded with IATSE, I will share those terms. I know this is not the response you were hoping for, but it is the only response I can currently offer. Unfortunately, at the moment, no other parties are interested in stepping up. As such, I will continue to work to try to come up with a way to get you all paid.”
Penman and the production company’s attorney did not return calls for comment.
SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild required the company to post a deposit to cover their members’ wages. Moretz’s agent could not be reached for comment. Amirpour did not respond to a request for comment.