Have Safety Expertise, Will Travel

November 16, 2022
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Featured image by Local 600 Still Photographer Tobin Yelland.

At industry trade shows and conventions, amidst the discussions of craft, gear and innovation, Local 600 has begun to formally promote a topic which the guild maintains is no less important to the future of filmmaking than any technology coming down the pike.

Safety.

At CineGear Los Angeles, CineGear Atlanta, Filmscape Chicago, and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in New York, Local 600 business reps, administrators and members have led a panel conversation on the subject of safety where topics ranged from industry advancements to Local 600-led initiatives, from long hours to free driving to gun safety.

“The idea of the safety panel has been to talk about what Local 600 is doing and also to draw attention to the idea that safety is a multi-pronged approach that takes community involvement to achieve,” said Western Region Business Rep Michael Chambliss who has served as  moderator on all but one of the safety panels. “We are trying to establish a culture of on-set safety and the motion picture industry  has traditionally been far behind the curve in doing that.”


Operator Dave Chameides and Director of Photography John Lindley discuss safety on set with Filmscape Chicago attendees. Photo by James Washington.

Local 600, by sharp contrast, has been far ahead of the curve in building and maintaining a safer workplace for crew members. Dating back to the research and advocacy and action that followed the death of Camera Assistant Sarah Jones in 2014 – and even before that – Local 600 has worked tirelessly and passionately to advance research, implement procedures and to create an environment in which crew members will speak up and take action to protect themselves when they feel a situation is potentially dangerous.

The guild has been the driving force on three Safety Bulletins researched written and distributed by the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee for use by the motion picture and television industry. Local 600 has created several videos highlighting, among other topics, the dangers of unsafe hours, handheld filming in vehicles, firearm safety, and radio frequency transmitter safety. And the ICG Safety App – which gathers all of these resources – is a tool used throughout the industry that any crew member can use to gather information or report a dangerous situation.


Local 600 Business Rep Michael Chambliss and Director of Photography Alec Jarnagin at NAB Show New York.

Any and all of these topics and resources have become the basis for discussion during Local 600 safety panels, both in the presentation itself and during the ensuing Q&A with attendees. Following the panel at the recent NAB conference in New York, panelist and Local 600 Director of Photography Alec Jarnagin noted that a lot of the discussion involved “questions on cars and guns.”

“Remarkably enough, COVID safety never came up, which in a way shows you either how far we’ve come or how oblivious we’ve become,” said Jarnagin, a longtime member of the Local 600 National Executive Board and Local 600 Safety Committee. “Safety isn’t always the sexiest of topics. To a degree, you’re preaching to the choir. The people who show up are the people who are already safety-conscious to some degree.”

 

Current Local 600 Safety Committee Chair Larry Nielsen, a Local 600 1st AC, says that the committee has been working to update the Safety App. Generating member awareness of the numerous resources available to crew members is a critical step toward establishing meaningful change within the culture, said Nielsen, and taking the message to industry events via informative panels can only help.

“When I’ve talked to people about free driving, I have referenced some of the videos we have,” said Nielsen. “Some people are thinking more and more about it now.”

Speaking at Cine Gear Los Angeles, Local 600 Director of Photography – and frequent director – Patrick Cady, ASC, remarked that he has seen a shift in attitudes about safety on sets, a shift that he hopes to see continue.

“One of the most important things we can do is understand that it’s OK to say something doesn’t feel right,” said Cady. “As leaders on set, as a director, as a cinematographer, I make it imperative that we have that safety meeting at the beginning of every day. I do feel like it’s been a career-long learning that as soon as someone says something, I need to listen to what their concern is, and we need to actually address it. If we don’t get the shot in the next minute because we’re addressing this concern, it’s totally worth it.”

“The culture needs to change,” agreed Nielsen. “We do things because we’re afraid of losing the job and the reality is that losing the job is less important than losing a life.”

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