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Film Safety: How to Keep Your Cast and Crew Safe on Set

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Before moving on to the development phase, we need to take a moment to discuss a critical point about safety.

No film is ever worth the loss of life.

This probably seems like an obvious statement, but it’s vital that we acknowledge it and that we remind each other of it and hold each other accountable to it each day on set.

The truth is that while we can all agree to this now, here in the calm moments, in the middle of production, things move fast, and we can get obsessed with any number of things.

Filmmakers can get lost in the moment when trying to get that one perfect shot, focusing on making their days, etc., the sort of stuff that seems like the most important thing in the world at that moment.

Those things can cloud one’s decision-making, and small, seemingly inconsequential choices can lead to dire consequences.

As you progress through your film’s production, please keep the following in mind:

Respect all Firearms

Every weapon on set should be treated as a deadly weapon. Even if you’re using painted and repurposed Nerf guns as your weapons, they should be treated as real working firearms.

Treating all weapons (props or otherwise) as deadly weapons will set an appropriately serious tone that your cast and crew will appreciate. Even if no one specifically thanks you for this, they will be thankful that you have done it.

Listen to your Cast and Crew

If an actor or crew member is not comfortable with a situation, any situation, listen to them. No one should ever feel in danger or at risk on your film set.

Don’t Overwork Your Crew

When you overwork your crew regularly, they will become worn down. That will create an unhappy and inefficient crew, but most importantly, they will be more likely to have an accident on set.

Even if you’re not a union film, try your best to follow the union guidelines, as that will give your crew the proper amount of time to complete their work and the rest necessary throughout the day.

Be Mindful of your Crew’s Travel and Turnaround

Sometimes, that extra 5 minutes at the end of the day can turn into 30 minutes, which then turns into 1 hour or 2 hours.

It can happen to anyone in any field; when the computer programmer does this, she loses sleep, but her choice doesn’t really affect anyone else. However, when the filmmaker does this, they force their entire crew to work those extra minutes or hours with them.

And that generally means that they’re driving home from the set at a later hour and possibly returning to set the next day with less rest due to a shorter turnaround.

Crews forced to work longer hours with shorter turnaround times is truly an epidemic in modern filmmaking, especially in non-union films.

The late cinematographer Haskell Wexler was one of the most outspoken champions of this cause. You need to look no further than his documentary Who Needs Sleep? to fully grasp the seriousness of this issue.

Use Common Sense

Safety should always be your number one concern when you’re shooting a film. Oftentimes, there won’t be much to worry about, but don’t let down your guard. Stay vigilant, whether that means adding an extra sandbag to a light stand or deciding to film an actor in front of a blue screen rather than in a potentially dangerous situation.

There’s no reason for a film production to be dangerous if done correctly. The hard part is not to let our own desires for productivity create risk for our team.

It’s essential to always take the proper safety precautions on set to avoid any injuries or worse.

Now, let’s get started making a movie! In the next installment, we’ll take a look at an overview of the development phase of film production, where you begin to build a story and screenplay and attempt to get your film off the ground.

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