Why I Will Not Work For Criss Angel Again
As many of you know, I have worked in film and television since the early 1990s. In Las Vegas, I have the chance to work on a great many productions, especially reality show productions.
So I got to work the entire summer on Spike TV's version of Criss Angel's "BeLIEve" television iteration. It was, in fact, the longest reality show production I had ever worked on till then - we did 83 shoot days from start until the last day of principal photography which was July 27, 2013. The show still was not complete, waiting to shoot several days with Shaquille O'Neal and an escape in Time Square. Most reality shows I work on go between 26 shoot days up to 13 weeks, depending on the show and network.
The show shot in Las Vegas and surrounding (with a quick trip to Cabo San Lucas and Florida) all summer long, in sometimes 177 degree weather.
When we get onto any production, we are often asked to enter into a confidentiality agreement which protects the production from anyone leaking information to the public which might harm its promotion. In the case of Criss Angel, the concern was very much to maintain the secrecy of how Criss does his illusions - which are usually very simple, unbelievably easy to replicate, and depressingly obvious in design.
However, where the production strays into intentionally illegal and even dangerous activities, the obligation to keep anything confidential - so far as those things are illegal - is null and void.
There are several activities I objected to on the Criss Angel production on legal and moral grounds. (I hasten to add that any criticism of other production crew or producers outside of Criss Angel himself is not implied here. On this show, Criss had complete executive power and exercised it at all times. Illegal, immoral, dangerous and questionable activities, which were often contemplated and sometimes done on this production were always in my experience brought to the attention of Criss (who usually initiated them) and where they were done, they were done at his inistence. On pain of dismissal for crew.
And so it happens that on this last shoot day, July 27, 2013, Criss Angel had in his mind that he wanted a shot where he was being buzzed at extreme low altitude by a fighter jet while levitating over a crowd. It turns out there is a school in Las Vegas that has a fighter jet (go figure). Criss had production arrange to shoot at a dry lake bed near Jean, Nevada and hire the pilot and jet. However, FAA regulations prohibit any aircraft from flying below 1000 feet within a town, or 500 feet in unpopulated areas. The pilot refused to do it.
Not to be put off, Criss had production go to a private airport at Sandy Valley, where he personally pursuaded an older pilot to buzz a crowd, first at about 50 feet, then at about 30 feet above ground (according to my own and the pilot's estimate). Note that FAA regulations would stipulate 1000 feet as the minimum safe distance.
See the attached photo, which I took with my cell phone camera. It clearly shows the plane about to fly over Criss ("levitating") and a crowd of about 50 unsuspecting (and unpaid!) background people bussed in from Las Vegas just for this shot, as well as the crew.
If it does not occur to you how and why this is dangerous, then you should ask your nearest pilot. Consider how easy it is for a plane to drop or shift in the air 10 or even 20 feet with a cross wind or air pocket, or the slip of a hand on the controls. What would have happened if that occured in this case? FAA regulations are made for very good reason. Reports to the FAA for investigation are pending.
This is a good example of the power of celebrity. The air port management and the pilot knew very well how dangerous this stunt is, and even pointed it out. But the pilot, who admitted it was difficult to hold steady at the speed and altitude he was flying, even offered to do it again if Criss wanted, he was so enthralled.
So Criss Angel personally, and I know he did, arranged this and endangered dozens of lives including my own, and including unpaid and uninformed people, for a shot that wasn't even part of the main show (to my knowledge). This, I cannot put up with and that is why I will not work for Criss Angel again. It is why I support the FAA investigation.