In my 20 plus years of experience as a producer who has worked on numerous films... I have seen a lot of dangerous situations narrowly averted.
But I have to say that, I am particularly saddened and appalled by the spate of film-related deaths in the past year. From a worker killed by falling debris on a famous director's film in Taiwan, to a cameraman drowning during a well-known actor's film in Hong Kong. The awful events on the Gregg Allman biopic "Midnight Rider" in Georgia to the people killed when two helicopters collided while filming a reality show in Argentina.
I am the Director of Physical Production at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts. I love this industry and I am committed to it being as safe as possible for all those involved in it. Whether it is by accident, or negligence or pure misfortune, filmmaking carries with it inherent risk. I spend my days doing all I can to ensure the safety of the students and all people surrounding any film made at USC.
Nothing Dies for Film is the title of my latest book. I wrote it because I am proud of our safety record and grateful to the faculty whose diligence has sustained it.
But as recent, tragic events have proven once again, safety is a garden that requires careful constant tending. And the one word that is the seed that enables that plant to grow is "communication."
My mantra is, "you can't ask too many questions, you can only ask too few."
We have the safety record we have because the faculty and, through the faculty our students, have embraced this concept. We routinely employ a document titled the Hazardous Shooting Form.
It is a document filled out by the students that articulates both the shot they hope to achieve and the way they intend to achieve it. It is then shown to their professors who discuss the various aspects with them. Producers discuss the logistics. Directors discuss the visual and the performance hopes. Cinematographers discuss what it will take to get a specific shot.
When everyone is in agreement, they sign the hazardous shooting form and the students bring it to my office. I review it with them to be sure that everything has been discussed and that nothing has changed at the last minute. I then sign it as well.
Can somebody tell me why this basic concept isn't used in the mainstream of the entertainment industry?
I recognize that time is money and that this process takes time. I know that professional filmmaking rumbles across the landscape like a runaway freight train and time is precious. But that seems to be all the more reason some form of the above mentioned hazardous review process should and could be implemented.
When I wrote my book, I naively hoped that every film school, every studio, every professional would rush out and buy it. It is a fairly common belief that bad things only happen to the other guy. There is also, unfortunately, a lingering myth that there is such a thing as "Cinematic Immunity," the mistaken belief that because you are making a movie somehow the real world will stand aside.
It will not.
In an earlier Huffington Post blog titled, "The Snow Globe Effect", I wrote the security and protection of the snow globe are an illusion. Once dropped, the real world will come crashing in.
So once again I say, beg, yell, implore, scream let us vow to be an industry where...
Nothing dies for film.