The consultant who helped director Clint Eastwood make the flight scenes look realistic in his upcoming film about Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and his miraculous crash landing in the Hudson River back in 2009 is suing the film’s producers for more than $250,000 in back wages.
In the suit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court (read it here), Scott Heger claims that he was never paid for the hundreds of hours he worked as the aerial coordinator on Sully, which stars Tom Hanks as the heroic pilot. A call sheet presented as an exhibit to the suit shows that Heger had, in fact, been listed the film’s aerial coordinator, though he receives no such credit on IMDb.
Heger is a pilot and also CEO of Blair Adhesive Products, a company that has supplied liquid visual effects materials and specialty parts to the entertainment industry for more than 30 years. According to the lawsuit, Sully producer Tim Moore retained Scott to serve as aerial coordinator and retained his company to acquire the airplanes needed to make the movie. Moore is one of the defendants named in the suit, along with Warner Bros and the film’s production company, Kiki Tree Pictures.
According to the lawsuit, Heger’s company “entered into three written contracts with Kiki for the procuring, dismantling, transporting, reassembling, preparing and, at the end of filming, removing from the set two actual retired US Airways A-320 planes for Sully.” Those contracts also are included as exhibits to the suit.
The suit states that Heger’s work as aerial coordinator/consultant included “consultation with respect to the interior look, exterior look, electronics, avionics, plane lighting, scouting and location placement regarding the plane; script and aircraft changes to facilitate necessary dialogue; actor coaching with respect to pilot actions; review of footage for errors; coordination of aircraft related scenes; and advice regarding safety procedures.”
It says he also was asked to provide “expertise related to flying so that the actors would be able to realistically interact with the plane’s controls.”
“Due to the nature of the film and Mr. Eastwood’s style of filmmaking, the planning and pre-production phase was much longer than the actual filming,” the suit states. “The vast majority of the work involving the airplanes was performed in California, and Scott was on the set of Sully during live filming at both Universal Studios and Warner Bros. Scott went to most of the group department head meetings, looked at footage regularly, and provided input, correcting actor errors and advising the film editor of mistakes.”
His own mistake, however, might have been in not having a written contract for his work as aerial coordinator and consultant. “Scott was not asked to sign a written contract related to his aerial coordinator/consultant work, but defendants, by and through their agent Moore, asked Scott to perform that role and orally agreed to pay Scott the reasonable value of those services based on the amount and scope of services that Scott provided.”
Under the law, oral agreements can be just as binding as written contracts, but they are much harder to prove.
Coincidentally, an NTSB report shows that Heger was the owner, but not the pilot, of a Bell helicopter that crashed landed into Long Beach Harbor back in 2003. And like in the movie, the pilot and all his passengers survived.