Money Fight In Filming (St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Jun 28/1981/US) By Joe Pollack


Ah, the glories of show business...

Marlon Brando receives a million dollars for a cameo role. Superman II grosses
$14 million in a single weekend. And then there's the other end of the spectrum.

There are several hundred St. Louisans
on the screen in Escape From New York, the movie that opened here the other day and in which St. Louis acts as a double for Manhattan.

They can be seen crawling out of sewers, hiding behind buildings, running down alleys. The largest group is watching a really spectacular brawl in Union Station.

That fight is staged, of course, but the off-screen battle for money between some of the St. Louisans and the producers of the film was a real one.

A lot of local people auditioned and were hired, and they all got whatever they were supposed to; the problem lay in the extras. The production company first called the Missouri State Employment Service and asked for a pool of 300 people, from which they would select 200.

It isn't a usual chore for the service, but they had done this before for other film companies. They contacted a variety of groups - Boy Scouts, band boosters, PTA organizations, charity associations - who are trying to raise money, and the members work and donate their earnings to the organization.

Slam Dunk Productions, the formal name of the production company, offered
$25 per person for one day of work, beginning at 7 a.m. and not to last more than 10 hours. Eleven groups agreed to participate.

Then the ground rules began to change.

Suddenly, the work day was shortened from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. and the wage was shortened to $10 per person.

That's when the state people dug in their heels, because the Hollywood folks were offering below minimum wage, and as one of the employment people told me, "We just couldn't go along with that."

Finally, a compromise was reached; the movie company offered minimum wage, which was $3.10 an hour at the time, and the people accepted. By the time the day of shooting was over, the extras received $16.27 each.

Ah, the glories of show business...