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Low budget film making can kill


Maxim Ford
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Nobody was killed or indeed almost killed there.

 

It was a screwup, a safety problem, and shouldn't have happened. There are few excuses for mistakes with physical effects, but let's not hyperbolise.

 

The only thing is - are we looking at the production camera footage there, or is that someone's bloody GoPro? I get the impression it is as it's stabilised. Is that the level we're at now? Euch.

 

And the union wouldn't have made a slightest bit of difference. Other than denying most of the people who work on stuff at that level the ability to work on stuff at all.

 

P

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I don't think theres anything too dangerous about videoing two people sitting on a sofa chatting to each other! ;)

 

I actually think that low budget film making is becoming loads safer. Mostly as low budget productions are now using cheap LED lights.

 

Freya

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The item keeps being deleted. Not for copyright reasons.

 

The union has been instrumental in making sure the SFX film workers are properly trained and safety aware.

 

The union does not stop anyone from working on any film. Although asked to help when all goes pear shape.

 

Attacking the union is attacking yourself. The union is the only organisation that is there to represent film workers.

 

The union wants to see a film industry where all work safely and are paid a proper wage.

 

Anyone who watched that video can see that if that door had hit the actress she would have been killed or in hospital.

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Mark;

 

At the time of posting it was still available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YI5eRl2QdD4

 

The video shows a london street in what looks like Westminster, as viewed from a GoPro coaxially mounted with the production camera on a steadicam. Cast and crew mill around, settle for the shot, and the action commences. The two lead actors walk down the middle of the road, the girl firing an airsoft gun as she goes, while a "police firearms unit" moves in behind. They halt on marks about twenty or thirty feet in front of a doorway and deliver a few lines. The "firearms unit" blows the door. The physical effect - which looks to be pneumatic, rather than explosive - is very over-the-top, firing many shovelfuls of reddish dust into the air (later visible as a covering on the street) and sending the door flying out much farther away than the actors are, narrowly missing one of them.

 

Afterwards, cast and crew mill around coughing and hacking as they've all inhaled the dust. The steadicam operator runs off up the street a bit. Rumours abound that one person may have been seen medically for an associated breathing problem. I don't think anyone was nearly killed, although it was a significant screwup and deserves a post-mortem.

 

Maxim;

 

The union has been instrumental in making sure the SFX film workers are properly trained and safety aware.

Apparently not in this case.

 

The union does not stop anyone from working on any film.

They certainly would if they could. Their precursor organisations did, and other similar world organisations now do.

 

The union is the only organisation that is there to represent film workers.

The union of which I'm a member has never been able to represent me in any useful way other than perhaps, if you want to get particular about it, getting me cheaper insurance. It's the only reason I'm a member.

 

The union wants to see a film industry where all work safely and are paid a proper wage.

What the union wants is irrelevant. The best the union can actually hope to achieve is to ensure that the proportion of its members who work on PACT-signatory productions work safely and are paid a proper wage. They are unable to help anyone else (this is not their fault, but it's still true).

 

Anyone who watched that video can see that if that door had hit the actress she would have been killed or in hospital.

Looking around, the scuttlebutt is that it was a lightweight balsa door, and if that's true it's perhaps not the disaster everyone's making it out to be. The unpopularity of the producers involved seems to be colouring the debate slightly.

 

P

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You complain about the union but the union is you. There was an AGM of the camera branch in London a few days ago. Did you go? Did you propose any resolutions for the annual conference ?

 

Did you propose anyone to stand for the president, or a representative of the camera branch to the National Executive Committee of the union?

 

This is democracy, it is the only organisation that is there to hear your voice. You prefer to write here where it will change little.

 

The Union did have a closed shop, it made it difficult to become a member, i had to get a job as an engineer and wait two years to move into the camera branch. When I did I earned a good wage with great working conditions. That was destroyed by Thatcher and wages and conditions have been falling ever since.

 

The door maybe made of light wood but it is a matter of its velocity. Fire paper from a gun and it will kill you. If that door had hit the actress she may have been killed. That is why the producers are taking the video down as soon as it pops up.

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You are very pro unions, can you tell me if you had a full crew for your stock footage shooting? I suspect you just shot on your own or with 1 assistant as you could get away with it :D

You complain about the union but the union is you. There was an AGM of the camera branch in London a few days ago. Did you go? Did you propose any resolutions for the annual conference ?

 

Did you propose anyone to stand for the president, or a representative of the camera branch to the National Executive Committee of the union?

 

This is democracy, it is the only organisation that is there to hear your voice. You prefer to write here where it will change little.

 

The Union did have a closed shop, it made it difficult to become a member, i had to get a job as an engineer and wait two years to move into the camera branch. When I did I earned a good wage with great working conditions. That was destroyed by Thatcher and wages and conditions have been falling ever since.

 

The door maybe made of light wood but it is a matter of its velocity. Fire paper from a gun and it will kill you. If that door had hit the actress she may have been killed. That is why the producers are taking the video down as soon as it pops up.

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If a person says 2 and 2 is 4 you can either prove it is untrue or try and blacken the name person who is saying it.

 

You I see find the case I am making to hard to answer and therefore make up stories to discredit me as a person.

 

A person who works for a living and is anti union is a fool. They are duped by people who are only to willing to exploit low wages and bad conditions.

 

Do you think it is not only OK for a producer to work you long hours, to pay you low wages, but then to blow you up?

 

If you have evidence that I have exploited anyone you should produce it and not just slander with your suspicions.

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You complain about the union

Actually I don't; I do quite often point out that they're completely unable to help me get better working conditions. No value judgment is implicit in that. Martin Spence, ex head of the camera branch (my branch, theoretically) has complained vociferously and at length about unpaid and poorly-paid work. I agree with him entirely. There's absolutely nothing he can do about it. I'll happily confirm that it's hardly his fault.

 

The problem with the concept of unions is that the only way they can actually gain the power to campaing for better working conditions is by stopping them from hiring people who aren't union members.

 

This should be obvious: if one group of people ask for better pay and conditions than another, producers will go for the cheaper, easier option, unless they're somehow bound not to. The problem is that if you make the producers sign a contract that states they can't hire people from outside the union, well, you've just excluded non-members from being able to work, and it's difficult to claim that a union is really helping anyone in that circumstance. The people who were previously working on well-funded, properly-organised stuff are still doing so. The people who were existing on the cheap stuff are either doing cheap non-union work or are unemployed. You haven't really changed anything.

 

The situation is different if you're talking about full time employees, whose jobs are likely to be protected by employment law, but the film industry is essentially made out of the self-employed who have practically no protection at all. In this situation it is difficult for unions to achieve much. The reason that working conditions are almost unrecognisably better in the US than they are here in the UK is that there is more well-funded work available. It's nothing to do with the strength of the union.

 

There was an AGM of the camera branch in London a few days ago. Did you go? Did you propose any resolutions for the annual conference ?

What could I possibly have said, other than to reiterate the poorly-paid misery of working on cheap, low-end stuff all the time? The union has no ability to do anything about that regardless of what anyone wants to happen. I couldn't care less who branch president is. Said person can't do anything for me anyway.

 

Actually the main reason I don't go to camera branch meetings is that I don't want to sit around and listen to pompous, self-important grips, who are all on about £75K a year, moan about what a crap time they're having. I believe I may have mentioned the Jem Morton Diva Posse before.

 

P

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A person who works for a living and is anti union is a fool.

 

Is you stupid or something? Millions of people the world over "work for a living" and they have zero interest or need for a union. I am one of those people. And please spare me the, "producers don't work", BS.

 

Few want to hear your, "I'm a working class hero" nonsense.

 

Hard to believe Phil and I are on the same page on this issue.

 

R,

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The door does miss the lady by about 2 ft, that was close. If that was a real wooden door it could of done some damage on impact. Do we know if it's a prop balsa door? In any event it's a bit of a screw up sure. No union membership would of made it any safer. Common sense would of had the actors & crew stop well clear of the door's path.

 

On the plus side.....the director got a very nice shot for his movie.

 

R,

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Okay against my better judgement I'm going to comment on this because I have a completely different take away from this than a lot of people here and I think it is actually somewhat important.

 

Firstly I don't think the union would have been a lot of help because it's not a matter of legality. I'm sure it probably wasn't that legal to set off an explosion like that on a central London street anyway, but ya know, they did it anyway. What are you going to do sue the company shortly after it enters liquidation? (Not that I am suggesting there is any reason to suppose this company will go into liquidation immediately after the shoot is over). How do we know that there weren't union members on that shoot or that union members hadn't worked for that company in the past?

 

The big take away from this for me, relates to the stuff people were saying on another thread. That they would work on anything and didn't care what it was. I think it is important what choices you make and that it SHOULD be important what choices you make.

 

Now In some ways I'm not that well connected on the London film scene, and I have only been around it for maybe a couple of years (even that might be over egging the pudding), but if a company has made a lot of movies and not treated people well then you might expect that word might get around.

 

Of course I might be a bit more chatty than some people, or maybe I just know a lot of people and get talking to people or something, or maybe I hear "the word on the street" more because I am a bit closer to the street than people further up on the movie making chain?

 

Anyway it seems to me that there are some people who will jump on a project even if they have heard things on the grapevine. After all you never know what might be your big break right? The same kind of people probably who have decent paying work coming in but have to make sure they are working on every little no budget production going, and who will undercut less established workers to make sure they are working all the time. Maybe they even have credit card bills to pay off for the fancy camera they bought? Who knows what their reasons are. However I think that there are people who will work on a shoot in spite of what they have heard and perhaps even sometimes in spite of their better judgement!

 

Anyway what do I know? I mean maybe this isn't one of those companies with an appalling reputation. I mean theres nothing in the video to indicate who the producers of this movie might be. So of course I can only speculate...

 

What do I know?

 

I don't know Jack!

 

Freya

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The door does miss the lady by about 2 ft, that was close. If that was a real wooden door it could of done some damage on impact. Do we know if it's a prop balsa door?

 

On the other hand, some people might say that it was nowhere near close enough!

In any case I'm pretty sure they definitely weren't intending to hit that poor actress...

I hope she is okay and didn't inhale too much of that dust.

 

Freya

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Actually I don't; I do quite often point out that they're completely unable to help me get better working conditions. No value judgment is implicit in that. Martin Spence, ex head of the camera branch (my branch, theoretically) has complained vociferously and at length about unpaid and poorly-paid work. I agree with him entirely. There's absolutely nothing he can do about it. I'll happily confirm that it's hardly his fault.

 

The problem with the concept of unions is that the only way they can actually gain the power to campaing for better working conditions is by stopping them from hiring people who aren't union members.

 

This should be obvious: if one group of people ask for better pay and conditions than another, producers will go for the cheaper, easier option, unless they're somehow bound not to. The problem is that if you make the producers sign a contract that states they can't hire people from outside the union, well, you've just excluded non-members from being able to work, and it's difficult to claim that a union is really helping anyone in that circumstance. The people who were previously working on well-funded, properly-organised stuff are still doing so. The people who were existing on the cheap stuff are either doing cheap non-union work or are unemployed. You haven't really changed anything.

 

The situation is different if you're talking about full time employees, whose jobs are likely to be protected by employment law, but the film industry is essentially made out of the self-employed who have practically no protection at all. In this situation it is difficult for unions to achieve much. The reason that working conditions are almost unrecognisably better in the US than they are here in the UK is that there is more well-funded work available. It's nothing to do with the strength of the union.

 

 

What could I possibly have said, other than to reiterate the poorly-paid misery of working on cheap, low-end stuff all the time? The union has no ability to do anything about that regardless of what anyone wants to happen. I couldn't care less who branch president is. Said person can't do anything for me anyway.

 

Actually the main reason I don't go to camera branch meetings is that I don't want to sit around and listen to pompous, self-important grips, who are all on about £75K a year, moan about what a crap time they're having. I believe I may have mentioned the Jem Morton Diva Posse before.

 

P

Martin Spence is not the ex head of the camera branch he is assistent general secretary of BECTU.

 

It is not someone else job to fix for you long hours and poor payment, It is the job of all film workers. You are not doing your share because you are moaning here instead of going to the meeting and campaigning for a better industry in an organised way. A union will not do it for you, it provides the framework for you and others to do it for themselves.

 

The grips are not in the camera branch.

 

But what the grips have done is not to undercut each other on the rate. That is what it is about, to stop film workers from cutting their own throats by agreeing to work for less and less money.

 

The camera branch, at the meeting you did not attend, talked about organisng a simular arrangement for different grades in the camera section. Will you be supporting it?

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Is you stupid or something? Millions of people the world over "work for a living" and they have zero interest or need for a union. I am one of those people. And please spare me the, "producers don't work", BS.

 

Few want to hear your, "I'm a working class hero" nonsense.

 

Hard to believe Phil and I are on the same page on this issue.

 

R,

Producers are very well organised. The have PACK in the UK and lobby the government very effectively. The film review consisted film film producers and the owners of the film industry.

 

Workers who are organised in unions earn more money and have better working conditions. They also have an organisation to defend them. Ask the hair and make up on "Les Mis" how they managed to shorten their working day.

 

A producer would say you don't need a union, every 1% he knocks off your wages adds a foot to his yatch.

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But what the grips have done is not to undercut each other on the rate. That is what it is about, to stop film workers from cutting their own throats by agreeing to work for less and less money.

 

This is actually a bit like what I was talking about. About making choices instead of just doing anything at all, even if you don't really want to.

 

I definitely don't have a problem with this as long as they aren't trying to stop non union workers from working for a lower rate.

 

I actually think it's a good thing if there are different levels of working.

 

Freya

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Producers are very well organised. The have PACK in the UK and lobby the government very effectively. The film review consisted film film producers and the owners of the film industry.

 

It's PACT and I don't think it's that relevant to this thread as such, as I'm sure the producers on this production are not members of PACT!

 

Freya

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Martin Spence is not the ex head of the camera branch he is assistent general secretary of BECTU.

I know what he is now, I'm not sure he wasn't something senior in camera at some point. I know he used to turn up at all the meetings, when I went regularly.

 

You are not doing your share because you are moaning here instead of going to the meeting and campaigning for a better industry in an organised way.

You don't seem to understand. Nothing can be done. The money does not exist. If I believed for a heartbeat that most of the people I work for can afford better conditions, I would agree with you. If I suspected even slightly that people were withholding money to enrich themselves at the expense of crew, I'd be screaming about it. But you can't force people to increase production budgets other than simply by refusing to do it. That's mainly what I do these days. I refuse to work for free. But I'm not going to tell you that if we all did that there would suddenly be a lot more money available. There might be, to a very small extent, at those few borderline productions that could choose to do things properly, and decide not to. But they're vastly in the minority. Most of the filmmaking that goes on in this country is at the microbudget level by necessity, not because the producers actively want to do it that way.

 

But what the grips have done is not to undercut each other on the rate.

No, they've just carefully created a situation where nobody other than the top few percent is allowed to call themselves a grip.

 

The camera branch, at the meeting you did not attend, talked about organisng a simular arrangement for different grades in the camera section. Will you be supporting it?

I'm absolutely horrified.

 

My own union branch is working against me. Great. Marvellous. I had a horrible, sneaking suspicion this was coming - it's worked beautifully for grips. Or, more to the point, it's worked very well for the top few grips, and utterly screwed everyone else. But that's who's in charge of the union, so I guess it will stand.

 

You still don't seem to be getting the core issue here. Here's the problem:

 

Workers who are organised in unions earn more money and have better working conditions

No, workers who are on well funded productions earn more money and have better working conditions. All your ideas do is decide that say 75% of the people who are currently on call sheets are "not grips" or "not first ACs." Then you can claim that 100% of grips or ACs are getting better conditions under unionisation. What you've actually done is exclude 75% of them from the statistics by putting them out of work. But it sounds good, right?

 

If I find that productions I organise become uninsurable because some BECTU branch has decided that only people with an NVQ, and who are friends of powerful union members, are safe to erect a tripod, I will be...

 

...unhappy.

 

P

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I definitely don't have a problem with this as long as they aren't trying to stop non union workers from working for a lower rate.

That's exactly what they're trying to do. That's all they're trying to do.

 

Remember: union members are your competitors. I realised a long time ago that they're not above using the mechanisms of a union, a qualification, or other factors to pursue that.

 

Here's what's basically gone on in grips, and Maxim tells us that it's now coming to camera:

 

1 - Claim there's a safety problem with unqualified people (this doesn't have to be true).

2 - Generate a qualification

3 - Ensure that only people who are friends of powerful people can get the qualification.

4 - Persuade insurers that the qualification makes productions safer.

 

Kerpow! Now only productions made by friends of powerful union members can be made.

 

Instant closed shop. This would presumably be actionable under anti-competition law, if you were rich enough to pursue it, but it might be hard to prove that they're only letting their friends get the NVQ.

 

P

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A producer would say you don't need a union, every 1% he knocks off your wages adds a foot to his yatch.

 

So quit the shoot and go into a different occupation. Next.

 

R,

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The bottom line is people get hurt on film sets. Most union shoots and indies take safety seriously but It happens. Vic Morrow and 2 kids get cut in half by a helicopter blade, Ann Margret gets her hand sliced to the bone on a piece of shattered mirror while she's flailing her arm in a lake of beans, Stunt woman Heidi von Beltz gets into a car as a passenger during a race sequence, they crash and she's paralyzed for life, Jon Hexum puts a gun loaded with blanks to his head and pulls the trigger as a joke, blowing his brains out from the concussion, Liam Hemsworth twists the crap out of his knee on the set of Catching Fire. Big budget, small budget, NO budget, eventually someone is gonna get hurt but NO ONE wants to be the guy who gets someone killed and NO movie is worth dying for. When I was working as a grip, I had the idea of "safety first" DRILLED into me, but even with all that, people, EXPERIENCED people, got hurt through unforeseen, unnoticed, unaware circumstances so it's gonna happen, just look at the outtakes at the end of every Jackie Chan movie during the credits. The best advice i can give is practice situational awareness, watch out for yourself and for your colleges while on set. Movie making is a serious business and one must respect the tools you're given to work with otherwise those tools may turn around and bite you in the ass when you're not looking.

Edited by James Steven Beverly
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1 - Claim there's a safety problem with unqualified people (this doesn't have to be true).

 

 

Yup, this is what I find offensive about the title of this thread.

What went on is nothing to do with it being a low budget production.

In fact most low budget productions are far more safe than bigger budgeted ones because they don't have a budget for explosions etc etc etc.

 

It's a dramatic video for sure, but nobody was killed and if the crew hadn't been treated so badly, they wouldn't be making such a fuss about what happened months later.

 

I mean it's not like they had a truck with a camera crane driving near pylons and the truck ends up crashing and people being hospitalised in order to prevent the electrocution of the crew. Now that would be an example where people definitely nearly died.

 

It doesn't matter how much money a production has if it is being run by idiots. Having money doesn't stop people being idiots. Having money makes it easier to cover things up and make any problems go away tho.

 

The truth is that most low budget productions in the UK feel really proud if they have a doorway dolly, some battery powered LED lights, a matte box and a camera. They are far and away safer than the bigger productions.

 

Freya

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