Whistleblower Law Blog
Trial Begins Next Month for Hollywood Effects Artist Alleging that Ascent Media Group Terminated His Employment Because He Reported Workplace Drug Use by Its Creative Director
Andrew MacDonald, an award-winning visual effects director, will go to trial next month in Los Angeles Superior Court against Ascent Media Group (AMG). MacDonald alleges that in 2009 he was terminated after he reported to AMG management “open and notorious drug abuse at the office during working hours” by then-AMG creative director Alex Frisch, best known for his work as visual effects supervisor on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. MacDonald argues that Frisch posed a threat to public safety and health because of his erratic and aggressive behavior in the workplace while on drugs. MacDonald claims that AMG’s decision to terminate him for reporting Frisch’s workplace drug use violated public policy.
In Fall 2008, AMG merged visual post production studio RIOT with Method Studios. When these two studios were combined, Frisch emerged as the top creative director of the expanded Method, and MacDonald became the executive creative director. During contract negations with AMG’s president, MacDonald brought up his concerns regarding Frisch’s alleged drug abuse and his inability to head the department. He was at the time told not to undermine Frisch because AMG had invested a lot of money to execute the merger.
According to MacDonald, Frisch’s drug use was well-known by others in the office, who nicknamed Frisch the “Powder Donut Man” and “Cokey the Clown, Our Fearless Leader,” because of his cocaine use. In March 2009, when AMG management asked MacDonald if he had any actual proof of Frisch’s drug use, he jokingly asked if the company “needed [him]… to video-tape the bathroom in order to prove that his concern was well-founded.” The next morning, MacDonald was terminated by AMG for allegedly videotaping the bathroom. MacDonald denies having done so and believes AMG terminated him because he reported Frisch’s unlawful drug use.
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