The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has instructed its members to stop working on a small-budget film titled Oak, backed by one of the producers of Rust, citing safety concerns.
“Representatives of the DGA informed the producers of specific safety requirements that needed to be satisfied for the film to be covered under a DGA agreement. The producers failed to meet those conditions,” a spokesperson for the guild told The Hollywood Reporter.
The DGA reportedly had issues with the production house Thomasville Pictures and its arrangements on two levels. The first involved the recruitment of a guild-approved safety supervisor on the sets of Oak. Even though the parties had agreed on hiring stuntman Steven Legate for the position, he was given the role of the film’s stunt coordinator, while another person filled the supervisor’s role. This change was not communicated to the DGA.
The second point of contention was that the production house was late in filing paperwork with the DGA, something that has happened on at least one previous Thomasville production, leaving the crew with unpaid benefits.
Aside from the DGA, members of the International Association of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) have also left the production, although the union did not bar its members from working on the film.
Oak is a teen movie, which was being shot in Thomasville, Georgia. It was meant to mark the directorial debut of Shane Drake, until he walked out of the project. “I was faced with a decision whether to stay on or remain a part of my union and I chose the latter,” said Drake, and added that he was devastated since he had been working on the movie for the last six months.
Producer Kevin Lewis is currently listed as the film’s director on IMDb.
An unnamed crew member of Oak told THR that there were no real safety issues on the sets, and questioned the DGA’s decision with respect to this production, while not applying the same rule to Thomasville’s other film, the Dustin Hoffman-starrer Sam & Kate. “I hate to speculate, but there were a lot of big-name stars attached to that one (Sam & Kate). The DGA cares very much about who they’re in business with,” he said.
Thomasville Productions has, however, got into trouble in the past with some of its other films.
For instance, both DGA and IATSE had complained about unpaid benefits on Thomasville’s The Tiger Rising, which featured Dennis Quaid and Queen Latifah. While the film was shot back in 2019, it was only released in 2022 as a result of this issue.
A second instance involved an unreleased film titled One Way, led by Kevin Bacon, where cases of unpaid bills and wages had been reported.