Prison extras unpaid after filmmaker loses funding
The prison guards and inmates who worked as extras during the filming of “Black August” at the Nevada State Prison have not been paid, according to the Nevada Corrections Association.
A film crew from the Bay area spent several days at the prison in October during shooting for a film about prisoner George Jackson, who founded the Black Guerrilla Party in the 1970s.
“They didn’t pay anybody,” said Gene Columbus, president of the Corrections Association. “They came in, did the filming, and took off out of town like Bonnie and Clyde.”
Twelve guards who worked on the film are owed more than $14,000, while about 30 inmates are owed $2,000, he said.
Financing for “Black August,” to be provided by former NBA player Isaiah Rider, has fallen through, said producer Andy Hill. Filming is about 80 percent complete.
He said the crew finished its fourth week of filming before funding for that week had come through.
“Obviously, we’re in a very awkward and unfortunate situation,” Hill said.
As a representative of the unpaid officers, Columbus suggests the Nevada Department of Corrections compensate them.
“With the holidays coming up, I think the Department of Corrections should compensate these officers and then take on the legal battle with the film company,” he said.
The department, however, says the officers were working on the film as independent contractors.
“The information I received was that all the staff worked on the film either on their days off or they took annual leave, and that they did sign W-9 forms for ‘Black August’ in order to get paid for the film,” said Darrel Rexwinkel, assistant director of support services at the department.
He said he had heard about the pay issue only in the last two weeks.
He quoted a letter written by Lance Hoffman of Black August, LLC as saying, “correction officers will be paid an overtime rate $27.09 per hour.” The letter doesn’t say anything about a payment plan for the inmates, he said.
Hill agrees: “I think it is the responsibility of Black August LLC to finish the film and pay the officers and the inmates,” he said.
The film company is talking with three potential backers to finish the film – two in Los Angeles and one in the Bay area. He said what they have of the film looks very strong.
“As soon as you see the trailer, you’ll see the potential there is in the film.”
Even though officers signed W-9 forms to work on “Black August,” Columbus feels someone else should pay the officers.
“We think the correct and moral thing to do is for the state or the department to compensate the staff involved and then pursue this legal battle, which could take years,” Columbus said. “We don’t think it’s fair to leave the correctional staff hanging.”
“It’s inappropriate for the officers to turn around and go after the department of corrections for payment,” he said. The department “has been remarkable to us, and I think they should be rewarded – not punished – for trying to open up the prison to the film industry.”
Contact Karl Horeis at email@example.com or 881-1219.