A dangerous business

Popular culture would have you believe that production is a fun, safe and glamours business. In fact, it’s none of those. Sure the A-list actresses get to shimmer on the red carpet on premiere night but most work days involve early call times, late wraps and a lot of tedious work between. And, unless you’re well up the food chain, pay isn’t all the great. And the worse part of it, it ain’t always that safe.

An event in my home state of Georgia brought this fact to life clearly. Much of the commentary from the film community on the story was about how unnecessary Sara’s death was. That is damn true. They never should have been on the tracks without permission and clearance.

But I feel another takeaway for people less familiar with the workings of the industry and people new to the industry is that it can be a damn dangerous job. Ask around with people who have spent more than a couple years working in production and you’re likely to hear a story about someone getting seriously injured or someone’s life being put in peril. I understand their are much more dangerous jobs out there like police officer, fireman and soldier.

Most days I go to work it’s behind a computer working either in pre-production or post-production. A minority of my days are spent actually shooting. And when I shoot, more often then not, danger isn’t on the agenda. But even so, filming stunts, I’ve actually had someone injured on my set. Fortunately, the injury was minor and the production was a success. But it could have gone another way. It wasn’t me that was in danger, but someone working for me. It’s a lesson I took to heart almost 15 years ago.

Here are just a few things that can go wrong on set.

Electrical: Often there are as much as 100 electrical cables run all over a set. Usually at a voltage higher than your average household outlet. You probably won’t die but electrical burns aren’t fun.

Tripping hazards: Cords, cables and stands with heavy things on them. Tripping probably won’t be so bad but that heavy 500 degree light might hurt when it lands on your face.

Stunts: They’re stunts, need I say more.

Equipment: A lot of it is heavy. Most of it is powered by electricity. Some  is power tools. What could go wrong?

Vehicles: People and equipment are often on or in the path of vehicles much heavier than themselves. I was once on the set of a spot that involved a monster truck. Actors were put in the path of this thing. Everything was done smartly and successfully but if corners had been cut it might not have gone so well.

Locations: Sometimes you’re shooting in an unfamiliar place where people can get thrown off guard by unusual circumstances or just folks causing problems.

Rigging: It’s not uncommon for an actor to have literally thousands of pounds of rigging over their heads. All of this should be properly secured and cabled with safety cables. An experience and well trained gaff and grip team will make it safe. But don’t think a light has never fallen on someone’s head.

Practical Effects: Pyro technics, explosions and guns. Don’t need much imagination here, do you.

Have fun on your next shoot!

Posted on: August 17, 2016, by :