GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 3, 2008

Union, Movie Makers at Odds Over 'Perfect Storm'

David Joyner

A stormy situation between a labor union and movie makers has local officials scrambling to make sure the movie, "The Perfect Storm," is filmed in Gloucester.

Teamsters Union officials are asking for more money than usual to work on the movie's set, and Hollywood producers are balking.

As a result, Warner Brothers is considering Gloucester-like settings in the state of Washington or Nova Scotia to film the movie, said state Sen. Bruce Tarr.

But the Gloucester Republican and others say that would be a travesty. The movie is based on Sebastian Junger's bestselling book about men aboard the Gloucester boat Andrea Gail, who lost their lives during the no-name storm of October 1991.

Tarr said the story "speaks to the soul of the city."

There is also money to be made.

Tarr said he has heard the movie carries a price tag of about $100 million. Nicholas Cage has been mentioned for a possible lead role, and the director would be Wolfgang Peterson, known for his 1981 movie, "Das Boot," about a German submarine.

If the movie were filmed on Cape Ann, it would undoubtedly benefit the local economy, if only indirectly.

But the Teamsters are standing in the way. The asking price of their proposed contract is about 70 percent more than it was for the last Warner Brother's film shot in the region, which was "Message in a Bottle," according to several reports.

George Cashman, the president of Teamsters Local 25, has said the union made its high offer because it has been working under the same contract, without a pay raise, for nearly a decade.

But movie producers say it is too much. And Tarr said negotiations have reached a breaking point.

"It's really close to the edge, and I think people have taken for granted that we're going to get the film," he said. "I feel it would be totally catastrophic for 'The Perfect Storm,' not to be filmed in Gloucester."

Tarr said he has been working with Gov. Paul Cellucci in hopes of keeping moviemaking activities close to the local port. Some believe the governor's role in the negotiations is key.

Teamsters Local 25 supported Cellucci in his election last year, and Mayor Bruce Tobey said he suspects a close relationship between the state's chief executive and the Teamsters president.

Tobey said he has lobbied hard for the governor's help.

"I've been loud and clear on this," he said. "It would just be lousy on lots of levels if this movie isn't shot here, so I've been, I suspect, a thorn in the side of the governor's office."

Last week, after movie producers hit a wall in their talks with the union, they also turned to Cellucci in the form of an express mailed letter, Tobey said.

Cashman, the union president, has said he did not know why Cellucci needed to be involved, and the union's offer was simply part of routine negotiations.

But it now appears the union is ready to return to the bargaining table.

While the outcome is important to Gloucester, it has broader implications. Bitter bargaining could sour Hollywood on filming in Massachusetts.

Tarr said movie producers have had other problems negotiating with local unions.

A similar situation arose during filming of the 1996 movie, "The Crucible," based on Arthur Miller's play about witchcraft trials in Old Salem Village.

"We don't want to get a black eye over this," he said.

Tobey added that moviemakers may not even consider the state in the future.

"If Massachusetts is going to be able to build a future in the motion picture industry, then they better be able to come to terms with this."

The mayor said the decision on "The Perfect Storm" will be made in Boston, where Cellucci sits as governor.

He expressed frustration that while the situation has festered for several weeks, it has taken this long to get the governor's interest.

"It's not as sexy as school uniforms, but it's where the rubber hits the road," he said.