Few things in life have the power to bring civilization to a standstill. Weather is one of them. Hollywood loves natural disasters. Armageddon, Twister, The Perfect Storm, and Dante’s Peak all offer some dramatic insight into some of nature’s fiercest behavior and try to turn tragedy into a happy ending. But, when life imitates art, it’s a different story, and unfortunately, a tragic ending is more often the case.
Last week, Hurricane Sandy battered the mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast, with powerful gusts and storm surges wreaking havoc and leaving a large part of Manhattan in rain-soaked darkness. In times of natural disaster, my initial thoughts are always with those directly affected by the events, as I imagine is the norm with most people. The more news articles I read, selfish as it may sound, my thoughts later drifted to how this affects me as a producer. In film contracts, there is a clause that concerns itself with what is called Force Majeure. In its most basic form, the clause will read something like this;
If by reason of an event of Force Majeure, as that term is commonly understood, the production or completion of the Picture is materially hampered, interrupted or interfered with, then Producer shall have the option to suspend this agreement.
Force Majeure is a Latin phrase that translates as ‘chance occurrence’, or ‘unavoidable accident’. It is a common clause in cast & crew contracts, but in insurance, it also provides cover for film & television productions against extraordinary events or circumstances beyond the control of the parties, such as war, strikes, riots, crime, or an event described by the legal term “act of God” (e.g. hurricane, flooding, earthquake, or volcanic eruption).
Last weekend, filming came to a standstill on the sets of 666 Park Avenue, The Carrie Diaries, The Following, Golden Boy, Gossip Girl, Person of Interest, The Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods, Elementary, 30 Rock, Law & Order, Smash, Infamous, Do No Harm, Maury, Steve Wilkos, Nurse Jackie, and The Big Calso, and that was the last time I looked.[flickr id=”8143739585″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]
Granted, it was a different ball game, but following Katrina, there were insurance payouts to the effect of $16.2 billion. Only time will tell how much damage Sandy causes, but rest assured amongst all the damages paid out, there will be considerable payments to the entertainment industry in there.
Receiving the tail end of Sandy here in Chicago—parts of Lakeshore Drive were shut down because of the storm—it makes me feel much closer to New York than is geographically accurate. I was following the #Sandy timeline on Twitter on Sunday night, and it was great to observe events unfold from a ground level. What was most inspiring, though, was witnessing everyone working together for the greater good. That’s one of the few great things about such events—community really comes together in an effort to deal with the tragedy and start rebuilding itself. It’s a pleasant reminder that even in times of tragedy, you might just find the Hollywood ending after all.
Thoughts and well-wishes are with those affected.