Haskell Wexler

Writer / Director, Who Needs Sleep?

Hollywood is not always as glamorous as it may seem. In 1997, after a 19-hour day on the set, assistant cameraman Brent Hershman crashed his car and died after falling asleep at the wheel. Hershman's long work hours were not an atypical day on the set -- film crews often work exhaustive 15 to 18 hour days, sacrifice sleep and time with their families as well as put their health and well-being at risk.

Two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler, deeply disturbed by his colleague's avoidable death, set out to create awareness of labor practices in the motion picture industry and the habit of shooting extreme hours through Who Needs Sleep? The documentary film, written and directed by Wexler, illustrates how sleep deprivation combined with extensive work hours can become a deadly combination.

After a successful premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, Who Needs Sleep? received universal praise, but no commercial interest. Determined to create support for the need to bring about change, Wexler used CreateSpace, a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc., and leader in DVD on Demand services, to distribute his film. CreateSpace offered Wexler an easy way to reach a worldwide audience by making his film available to millions of Amazon.com customers. In addition, the CreateSpace service was a logical choice for Wexler because of CreateSpace's inventory-free model.

"CreateSpace DVD on Demand is a terrific service because it takes care of all the mechanics of film distribution," said Wexler. "It also gives me the freedom to work on new documentaries that raise awareness around other important issues. The main purpose of Who Needs Sleep? was to get people motivated to do something about extreme work hours. By using CreateSpace and selling through Amazon.com, I was able to accomplish this."

Since the premier, fans from around the world have been expressing their appreciation for the filmmakers of Who Needs Sleep? and go out of their way to share their own stories of long hours in the film-making business. The growing grassroots movement of all working people to reduce excessive hours spent at work became not only a positive feedback, but also a support for the need to bring change.

Haskell Wexler is considered to be one of the most important cinematographers working in the film industry today. He has photographed a wide range of films that have earned him five Academy Award nominations and two Oscars for Best Cinematography. His nominations came for his work on his first feature documentary, The Living City; a short film T For Tumbleweed; Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; John Sayles' Matewan and Touchstone Pictures Blaze. He took home statuettes for his work on Mike Nichols' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Hal Ashby's Bound For Glory.

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