it's been 5 years since 2nd AC Sarah Jones, passed away after an accident on set.
Makes me wonder, do you act in case of an unsafe situation on set? And what do you say...
Do you speak up? Do you feel it's your responsibility as a crewmember and 1st AC to protect your colleagues?
For me, i dont think twice, its Always safety first.
I Think that it happens all over the world, tight schedules, pressure and so on. But I think it’s one of our duty to set the limit to what can and what can’t be done. Once on a spanish very windy beach the dop wanted the key grip to set a 20x20 butterfly to bounce some light on the talents. The key grip just told him “I’m sorry but that can’t be done” and he stood with his decision even though the dop was stating that he absolutely needed that. It’s hard to say “no” to your boss, but sometimes you have to do it, the same way that if he would ask you to drop a lens.
I was in LA last year working on a non union 15 day shoot and they were behind schedule and trying to rush to reset a scene quickly. Art Dept had to switch over an entire room and were resetting set walls, so of course everyone cleared out while they worked to adjust and re-secure the walls. The DP and AD both got impatient (these are both experienced industry people) but due to lack of communication and just rushing against the clock they failed to see that it was very unsafe to for the camera to be moved into the room before the construction and art dept had given the clear that the walls were secured.
All I could imagine was one of the walls falling over onto my 2nd AC or myself, and for some crazy reason no one else could see how unsafe it was because they were in such a ridiculous rush. Rightfully so I made a big deal about it and asked my 2nd if he was also not comfortable with it. When the DP asked me to set the camera I said it wasn't safe so the DP went around my back and demanded that my 2nd set up the camera in the room. Feeling pressured he started to but I had to stop him. It was very disappointing that a key member (DP) would pressure another member into trying to do something unsafe when it was very clear. Later after it being such an issue, both the DP and AD did end up admitting that they were rushing and that they shouldn't have asked crew to go in when it wasn't safe etc. and they addressed the issue.
No matter who it is asking, a key, a higher up position.. you have to look out for your own safety and stick together on safety with other members. Another AD once told me, "No not safety first, communication first which will lead to good communication of safety." I feel like that statement rings true, all times there has been a questionable safety issue it is at the core of bad communication on set.
Hi Meghan, thanks for sharing your story!
Its very recognizable and such a difficult situation. You where right to stop your D.P and warn your 2nd AC. But i can imagine, when you are a new in the industry, you might not dare to speak up.
So, keep encouraging everybody to look out for themselves and eachother. And offcourse it al starts at communication on set, which is worth a whole new topic on the forum.
a few months back i was shooting a bike commercial ( small shoot, mid-level budget) there was 1 shot the director and DP wanted to shoot form a box truck ( don't know why ). i told them it was a bad idea and i was not going to sit in a box truck pulling while the DP/op. was shooting out of the back (no safety harness etc etc.) after some time and trying to convince them of getting a production car to set and use that would be safer, they gave in and told me it was a bad idea form their side. We used a "normal" car and did the shot. It was 1000% safer in my opinion. It think that was the 1st time i REALLY had to speak up and thank god i did. I agree with Kelly, i might not have yeaaaaars of experience but i feel like we have to look out for everyone, no matter what amount of experience you have!
I had a similar discussion a while ago. Overhere in Belgium safety is sometimes overruled by the pressure of time.
A few weeks ago on set pieces of glass and bolts flew towards the crew during an explosion by a vfx team after the area was cleared safe.. Luckily nobody got hurt, but my hand-unit suffered some damage.
I'm totally PRO that safety-regulations on set should be much more strict and controlled, especially in the Benelux.
So, yesterday, my shootingday started with a safety breefing. There had been a un-safe situation a few days earlier that week. I wasnt present that day.
It became a discussion crew vs production. Time and money and the schedule where more important than safety for the actors and crew. I noticed that even the production assistants had said that day, that is was very un-safe. Nobody listened. Totally overruled by time. money.
The problem in Holland, there are no rules. So, for all the American 1st and 2nd AC, how does this work in the US? And who is responsible in the end?
I'm sure everyone is already aware, but I do just want to point out that the ICG Local 600 Safety App (link here) is free on both the Apple App Store and Google Play store. This app contains most of the safety bulletins and safety studies relevant in the US - even though they might not be directly relevant to your country, they're good guidelines for you and your crew to follow.
Similarly, Local 600 has a great webpage with tons of set safety resources that you can distribute amongst your peers. In recent years, especially since Sarah, the thing that has continuously been pounded into our heads is that safety is EVERYONE'S responsibility - its easy to blame stunts, or the ADs, or producers, or whatever, but at the end of the day it is up to YOU as a department head, or even just a crew member, to make sure your fellow camera folks are making safety a priority. It always starts from the top...
My first time day-playing on a feature as a focus puller involved a very complicated handheld oner that ended with our camera operator onto the tail gate of an e-car and lead our talent down the street as they start sprinting - it was super indie and the whole movie was an Alexa EV and I was pulling off an FF4 so I was riding with him... Well, we do one of the takes and the director spontaneously decides we need to keep the shot rolling and turn onto an open road in downtown DC, with our talent running into the street. I immediately cut the camera and tell the DP and director we can do the shot, but we need to either shut the street down or come up with a safe alternative - the director blows up at me for ruining his movie, tells the DP to try to convince me to do it again without cutting - I said no and ended up walking off the movie with my 2nd AC. A couple months later out of nowhere, the DP calls me to apologise and we have a good chat about the whole experience and he called me later for another job, which I happily worked with him on. I try to be overly easy to work with, but safety is always worth speaking up about.
I would like to add one thing to the safety tips.
As experienced crew we have a responsibility to stand up for the new crew.
Once I read that in the American cinematographer it got stuck with me.
I am so sorry I can not find the article anymore.
If you hear or see something that is not safe anymore, to tiered to drive for example start the dialogue.