Were the conditions unsafe on the set of Miami Vice?

Inside the industry.
July 27 2006 2:35 PM

Hurricane Michael

Were the conditions unsafe on the set of Miami Vice?

Jamie Foxx, Michael Mann, and Colin Farrell. Click image to expand.
Jamie Foxx, Michael Mann, and Colin Farrell

This is a correction. No, we didn't screw up, thank God. We're correcting something that Michael Mann told us in no uncertain terms when we interviewed him about his new film, Miami Vice. In our previous story, which described Mann's demanding nature, location manager Maria Chavez said the director certainly has "high expectations" but is also respectful of those who know what they're doing. "You're not going to bullshit Michael Mann," she said. So, in that spirit, we want to clarify one point. The production was working in Miami during hurricane season. Our story reported that some crew members thought work continued in unsafe conditions. What we did not report was an allegation that work continued when a hurricane warning was in effect. We held back because when we asked Mann about it, he emphatically stated that it never happened. "Every time there's a hurricane warning, you stop," he said. On August 24, such a warning was issued at 11 p.m. The hurricane in question was Katrina (not to be confused with Tropical Storm Dennis, which, at another point in the shoot, blew out the glass in a building as Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx sat in a top-down convertible below). On that Wednesday, filming continued until after dawn. We know this because Mann's comments in our original story made a crew member irate enough to supply documentation of the hours worked that night. We followed up with Mann, who kicked the question over to line producer Pieter Jan Brugge. Brugge set up a conference call with Jeff Peel, director of the Mayor's Office of Film and Entertainment in Miami. The presence of Peel seemed a bit puzzling, since we had already consulted him while reporting the earlier story. He told us then that Miami does not allow shooting during a hurricane warning, and that all permits are revoked when a warning is in effect. He also told us in that previous conversation that there's no way to enforce a revoked permit, especially if the shoot is taking place on private property (as the Vice shoot was, at that point). But cops assigned to provide security on sets are not supposed to stay. "One of the main effects of the … film permit being rescinded is that all Police Officers are pulled from their off-duty film-related jobs and assigned to emergency services," he wrote in an e-mail. Now, Peel says that since the Katrina warning came late at night, his office would not have faxed the paper revoking the Miami Vice filming permit to the production office until the next morning. So, he thinks the permit technically was valid until the official notification the following morning. He also thinks that maybe it was OK for the off-duty cops to stay. According to line producer Brugge, they did. Brugge also says he knew about the hurricane warning from the moment it was issued late Wednesday night. In fact, he says that Mann personally advised crew members of the situation and released those who lived locally so they could deal with their homes and families. Our crew-member source doesn't remember that happening until the production wrapped that day—after dawn. But that would be OK with the union, according to Jack Nealy, the business representative for Local 477 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees. Nealy says the union asks that productions send crew members right home when there's a hurricane warning, but that's really a guideline. "We try to be as accommodating as possible," he says. "Nothing's mandated." Weather problems have hurt business recently, he adds, so productions like Miami Vice are more than welcome. "They were a great production and hopefully they'll want to come back and do more," he says.

Jeff Peel of the film office has very similar feelings. The Associated Press reports that in a recent interview, he said the Miami Vice production pumped about $27 million into the local economy. And he's hoping that's just the start. "You've got the word Miami in the title," he said. "The advertising and promotional value of something like that is really incalculable. For all the tourists who come here this year because they happened to see Miami Vice, we can add that to the total."

After the Katrina warning was issued, filming continued for hours, with some interruptions. ("Several times we had to stop filming because of the rain and then try to dry the ground," our crew member reports.) But according to Brugge, everything was absolutely safe. "There's no fast, easy rule for any of these situations except that you do not endanger people's lives," he says. "We did not endanger people's lives."

So, the city of Miami and the union have no issues with what the production did. As for the fact that Mann said working during the warning never happened—Brugge says it must have slipped his mind. After all, it took place just about a year ago.

And heck, we weren't there. Let's assume it was all safer than a baby-proofed nursery.

But for the record, the crew of Miami Vice worked during a hurricane warning. And that's no bullshit.

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