Monday, March 15, 2010

A tale of woe from an extra.

Sergio Emidi: They were successful making Maciste because they always used the same sets. They filmed at De Paolis (studios), modifying the scenery a little bit, so that where there was na arch, they would put a door. They paid the extras 1500 to 2000 lira a day - so many for so little. But the fact is it was all done at a reduced rate. Once I joined a production that wanted to make a series of four Maciste type films. It was a time or crisis for cinema, not many years ago.
When I turned up with the crew on this production, they told me that they had to do these four films, but they didn't have much money. "Ok," I said. "Union minimum pay." And they replied, "You must be joking with Union minimum. We do a set price, with unlimited hours."
Well, it was a matter of drink or drown, so we accepted. And we started this series with MACISTE GLADIATORE DI SPARTA with featured Giuliano Gemma and Lisa Gastoni; in other words, a pretty good cast.
Saturday came, and we presented ourselves for the week's pay and they said, "No, the first week we don't pay. We already told you, the first week starts after the second week of working. So the last one isn't taken, however. When you start the second film, you pocket the first week's pay that you lost in the first film."
I put up with a couple of films, and then, because the standstill in cinema production had ended, I said that I wanted to go work on something else and turned up at the office to collect what was owed me. Well, there was nobody in the office that would give me anything. Not even a crumb a day, for all those weeks I'd worked.
In the end, they gave in, they paid me to save trouble and I told them that I would not work for them anymore, not even if I was racked with hunger. Well, to take their revenge, they phoned the production to which I was going - which was IL COMANDANTE with Toto - and told them that I was a troublemaker; a dreadful type. By good luck, I was known by the Production Director Antonio Negri, who was a good person, so I was able to explain everything, and he made sure I worked.
You see, this is why those Maciste films became the sort of productions that we have rechristened "Pane e Pezzetti." (Bread and butter.) We were obliged to them for our livelihood, but they were the downfall of cinema and of us. The producers looked after their own interests and instead of paying us the week we worked, they paid the day after the day that never arrives, and if we couldn't carry the pennies home, then who gets to eat?

[Of course MACISTE GLADIATORE DI SPARTA did not feature either Giuliano Gemma or Lisa Gastoni - who have never worked on a film together.]

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