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Frank Barrera

Sarah Jones

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Here's a message in a DVinfo thread on the subject by a safety professional who's been following this incident and seems to give more background: http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/digital-video-industry-news/522036-camera-assistant-death-set-midnight-rider.html#post1835317

 

Although, he seems to have have a typo about the height of the bridge above the river it's more 10 yards than a 100 yards, but that doesn't change the situation.

Edited by Brian Drysdale

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Spoken, if I may make so bold, like someone who's never had to make the choice between a microscopic risk of getting hurt and an absolute certainty of never working for a major client again.

 

P

There was nothing microscopic about this, Phil. The girl was killed.

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Bill,

 

I don't think Phil was referring to this case - but more in the context of a hypothetical discussion with Freya about, well, Freya - and in that case hindsight/foresight is a bit beside the point.

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Chris,

 

I follow what Phil is saying, but my statement still applies. That "microscopic risk" Phil speaks of lead to her death. Allowing yourself or anyone else to knowingly put themselves in any kind of danger - for a film shoot - is where line must be drawn.

 

Having to choose between your safety or continued employment is no choice at all.

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Spoken, if I may make so bold, like someone who's never had to make the choice between a microscopic risk of getting hurt and an absolute certainty of never working for a major client again.

 

P

 

These people were praying. They clearly felt (understandably) frightened by the situation.

There was more than one of them doing this so maybe one of them should have said come on lets go speak to the producers, or come on, lets go have a picnic.

With 3 of them walking there would be more of an issue. Certainly there wasn't a microscopic risk of getting hurt. This was an obviously insanely dangerous situation.

 

You are right of course that I havn't had to walk away from a "major client" in the sense of a big US production like this, but a long time ago I did speak out about

a much more minor situation where volunteer workers were getting ill from fumes on a Super 16mm production I was involved in. Ironically I wasn't affected myself but didn't

feel good to stand by while this went on, so I suggested they should at least be given dust masks (like you can buy in packs of 20 from the pound shop), the director in question got very upset and suggested I should pay for the dust masks and that there was no budget for such things. (although I heard that later he spent a lot of money on a vintage jukebox that wasn't even in the script!) I did leave the set and get the people some dust masks myself in the end but the director in question wasn't interested.

 

It was the last time I was ever asked to work on a proper film set, although one of the producers on that film did try to get me more work, so clearly they must not have felt the same way.

So yeah, I spoke out about safety, and I paid the price for it. In fact perhaps that is why I've never worked on a large production, and perhaps that is why when a really crazy

dangerous situation like this one happens, there is nobody left on set who will make more than the odd mouse squeak, they were already filtered out earlier on. Instead you get workers

literally praying it will be okay somehow.

 

Freya

Edited by Freya Black

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Bill,

 

I don't think Phil was referring to this case - but more in the context of a hypothetical discussion with Freya about, well, Freya - and in that case hindsight/foresight is a bit beside the point.

 

I think you are right Chris!

I obviously wasn't talking about me but I think Phil was probably taking the discussion somewhere else or talking about things more generally.

I suspect there was some context missing from his posting.

 

Phil is right tho in the sense that I've never been faced with the situation of walking away from a movie featuring William Hurt!! (love his acting!)

I've also not been faced with such an obviously dangerous situation, as most of the stuff I ever work on these days is very, very safe because of

its low to no budget nature.

 

I think that was where Phil was trying to come from, that I'm working for tiny low to no budget stuff these days where there is very little safety risk, and where

there would appear to be less opportunity risk in speaking out.

 

However when I'm talking about making choices, I mean more generally in all circumstances.

I know for myself I have been held back from making real choices in a lot of situations by my fears, and I'm trying very hard not to do that and to make real choices

based on the reality of the situation.

 

Freya

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Chris,

 

I follow what Phil is saying, but my statement still applies. That "microscopic risk" Phil speaks of lead to her death. Allowing yourself or anyone else to knowingly put themselves in any kind of danger - for a film shoot - is where line must be drawn.

 

Having to choose between your safety or continued employment is no choice at all.

 

In this instance the "microscopic risk" was the concern over continued employment and the very real and obvious risk was of death or serious injury.

 

It shouldn't have even been a decision but there are far too many people thinking "I have to do this" and not actually making a rational choice but being driven by

fear or other factors. For me it's really, really frightening that everyone went along with it without at least trying to have a discussion with the people further up in the chain.

Obviously the people further up in the chain were semi-insane sociopaths it would appear but even so...

 

The thing to do really was to get away from the tracks and investigate what there was in the way of catering.

 

Freya

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To clarify.

 

Most of the time, perceived risks won't go bad on you; this is how the industry appears to work, which is good because it means people don't get hurt very often. But of course it's also bad, because it makes the more safety-conscious among us look like agitators for bringing problems up, and sometimes people get killed.

 

To be honest the same issue applies in technical circumstances as well; like Freya, I have taken the position that it's better to sleep well at night and not work on big shows because big shows, astonishingly, tend in my experience to be the most likely to take insane and unnecessary risks both technically and with regard to safety. The only reason I conflate the two is because in either case one risks becoming unpopular for bringing up something that probably won't happen. The lack of preparedness on many film shoots is truly breathtaking and the cocksure attitude of senior personnel is sickening even absent current circumstances.

 

In the Jones case, crew would have been entitled to assume that the production was not breathtakingly unprepared and sickeningly cocksure. Most of the time they'd have been right, and agitators would just have become unpopular. If I'd been involved, I'd probably have gone onto the bridge as well, with severe misgivings (though I'm a bad example - I have severe misgivings about everything, which is why I'm usually very well prepared if things go south, see how this works?).

 

So yes, they would have been entirely reasonable in their assumption that the risk of a production being that irresponsible was microscopic. And on average they'd have been right. This is, regardless of its unacceptability, a rare incident. And they would have been equally right to assume that agitating can get you fired.

 

So the idea that this is in any way a simple situation is horribly misguided. The weasel is in the words "any kind of danger." Standing up from a chair implies danger. I know someone personally who broke an arm (through osteoporosis, but still) putting a coat on a couple of weeks ago. Risk and reward is a place of enormous grey areas and one works on the information one has been given.

 

I would have been on the bridge too.

 

P

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That makes a lot of sense. I'm wondering if the hair person is saying she wasn't comfortable with the situation only after the situation. Like, the day of the shoot, it was a non-thought. If I'm a lower hierarchy person on a shoot, I'm probably going to assume the higher ups have cleared everything. It's not a small time student production, there's a reasonable expectation of organization.

 

This is where the director, DP, etc should've been more aware of the situation and been looking out for the safety of the crew. Department heads have a duty to their crew as well.

They should've verified and confirmed and double checked all of the train schedules, etc. Hopefully the entire industry actually learns from this.

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I would have been on the bridge too.

 

P

 

Not sure if you've seen the pictures but it's a railway viaduct over a river!

 

Freya

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I hope the family sues the studio, the producers, the director and the 1st AD. They all have blood on their hands. The crazy thing about this is that all IATSE crew members (thats us) are required to take specified safty classes or we are not eligable to work on a union set. I have no problem with this. I do, however, have a HUGE problem that the DGA (directors, producers and assistant directors) are not mandated to take these safty classes as we are. This must change!

 

G

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To clarify.

 

Most of the time, perceived risks won't go bad on you; this is how the industry appears to work, which is good because it means people don't get hurt very often. But of course it's also bad, because it makes the more safety-conscious among us look like agitators for bringing problems up, and sometimes people get killed.

 

To be honest the same issue applies in technical circumstances as well; like Freya, I have taken the position that it's better to sleep well at night and not work on big shows because big shows, astonishingly, tend in my experience to be the most likely to take insane and unnecessary risks both technically and with regard to safety. The only reason I conflate the two is because in either case one risks becoming unpopular for bringing up something that probably won't happen. The lack of preparedness on many film shoots is truly breathtaking and the cocksure attitude of senior personnel is sickening even absent current circumstances.

 

In the Jones case, crew would have been entitled to assume that the production was not breathtakingly unprepared and sickeningly cocksure. Most of the time they'd have been right, and agitators would just have become unpopular. If I'd been involved, I'd probably have gone onto the bridge as well, with severe misgivings (though I'm a bad example - I have severe misgivings about everything, which is why I'm usually very well prepared if things go south, see how this works?).

 

So yes, they would have been entirely reasonable in their assumption that the risk of a production being that irresponsible was microscopic. And on average they'd have been right. This is, regardless of its unacceptability, a rare incident. And they would have been equally right to assume that agitating can get you fired.

 

So the idea that this is in any way a simple situation is horribly misguided. The weasel is in the words "any kind of danger." Standing up from a chair implies danger. I know someone personally who broke an arm (through osteoporosis, but still) putting a coat on a couple of weeks ago. Risk and reward is a place of enormous grey areas and one works on the information one has been given.

 

I would have been on the bridge too.

 

P

 

To be fair, I'm not being offered work on big shows for the most part, but I have certainly avoided getting involved in productions which have a really bad rep, such as our "exploding door" friends and I choose to do that as opposed to the people who just take any work at all.

 

Also I definitely don't consider myself to be an "agitator"! I feel it's actually helpful to bring safety concerns to the attention of the production. This may be me projecting however, because if it was my shoot I would want to make damn sure all my cast and crew were at the very least basically safe! I'd certainly want to fix any situation no matter how mild if there was an easy solution.

 

Having said that if I felt it was obviously really unsafe like in this instance I might be interested in exploring the catering options. I wouldn't be nasty about anything tho as I tend to have a sense of humour about things.

 

I feel you also bring up another important point too in that you suggest that perhaps they were assuming they were safe in spite of the fact that they clearly had misgivings and were saying to each other "a minute, are you serious?!" because maybe they basically trusted the production too much and assumed they knew best in some way, or something like that. Kind of abstracting their own responsibility to a higher power or something. I find that even scarier tho, so I'd rather believe that they KNEW they were unsafe but felt they couldn't say anything because they were too worried about their employment situation, which in turn stopped them from really thinking about what they were doing and making proper choices.

 

Freya

 

Freya

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I hope the family sues the studio, the producers, the director and the 1st AD. They all have blood on their hands. The crazy thing about this is that all IATSE crew members (thats us) are required to take specified safty classes or we are not eligable to work on a union set. I have no problem with this. I do, however, have a HUGE problem that the DGA (directors, producers and assistant directors) are not mandated to take these safty classes as we are. This must change!

 

G

 

I understand there is already a homicide investigation.

 

I think you make a good point that the people higher up need to be thinking more about safety.

I wonder a little, and I have no evidence for this, but perhaps certain kinds of people, when they get to a certain level, kind of perhaps start to feel they are invincible or something.

 

Freya

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To clarify.

 

Most of the time, perceived risks won't go bad on you; this is how the industry appears to work, which is good because it means people don't get hurt very often. But of course it's also bad, because it makes the more safety-conscious among us look like agitators for bringing problems up, and sometimes people get killed.

 

To be honest the same issue applies in technical circumstances as well; like Freya, I have taken the position that it's better to sleep well at night and not work on big shows because big shows, astonishingly, tend in my experience to be the most likely to take insane and unnecessary risks both technically and with regard to safety. The only reason I conflate the two is because in either case one risks becoming unpopular for bringing up something that probably won't happen. The lack of preparedness on many film shoots is truly breathtaking and the cocksure attitude of senior personnel is sickening even absent current circumstances.

 

In the Jones case, crew would have been entitled to assume that the production was not breathtakingly unprepared and sickeningly cocksure. Most of the time they'd have been right, and agitators would just have become unpopular. If I'd been involved, I'd probably have gone onto the bridge as well, with severe misgivings (though I'm a bad example - I have severe misgivings about everything, which is why I'm usually very well prepared if things go south, see how this works?).

 

So yes, they would have been entirely reasonable in their assumption that the risk of a production being that irresponsible was microscopic. And on average they'd have been right. This is, regardless of its unacceptability, a rare incident. And they would have been equally right to assume that agitating can get you fired.

 

So the idea that this is in any way a simple situation is horribly misguided. The weasel is in the words "any kind of danger." Standing up from a chair implies danger. I know someone personally who broke an arm (through osteoporosis, but still) putting a coat on a couple of weeks ago. Risk and reward is a place of enormous grey areas and one works on the information one has been given.

 

I would have been on the bridge too.

 

P

 

 

Okay...let's be clear...

 

I work for the Emergency Medical Services in New York City. It is not the safest job one could have, but I signed up for it accepting the risks that it entails because I find it quite rewarding. So I have no argument with the risk vs. reward part of your statement. However, member safety is drummed into our heads from day one. When things get too hairy - or appear to have the potential to get that way - whatever accomadations that must be made to faciliatate our safety and the proper completion of the assignment are made without question. The only times members are seen as somewhat reckless are when they do not consider their own safety. In nine years, I've had my close calls, but the idea is to make sure you go home at the end of the day.

 

Let's think about this for a second. On one hand we have the NYC EMS system where safety is paramount. On the other we have a film shoot, where crew members either willingly put themselves in danger (regardless of what the odds are that any concrete danger will strike) or be seen as "agitators" and risk not having anymore big shoots come their way. I guess I have a much different perspective, but I suppose this is why Hollywood is seen as having its priorities up its ass.

 

And lets not start with the very broad and easy argument that "everything is dangerous." Such is life and we all know this. But when you have a quantifiable level of danger as was present here (from what I can see there isn't any proper egress from that bridge unless you are standing at the very end of it), people need to speak up. And if by doing so you are seen as "agitators," then your locals are not doing their jobs and, here in the U.S., the AFL-CIO needs to hear from large numbers of people. But if everyone is afraid of unwritten retaliation from someone or something, no one will speak up and nothing will happen. Yes, I know how the politics play a big part in peoples' decisions, but the very least your unions should be fighting for is reasonably safe working conditions on the set.

 

But I get the feeling that things have been like this in the film industry for a long while, if not always. If that is the case, change will not come easily.

 

We can go on and on debating this. At the end of the day, the girl is still dead.

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But when you have a quantifiable level of danger as was present here (from what I can see there isn't any proper egress from that bridge unless you are standing at the very end of it), people need to speak up.

 

train_embed.jpeg

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I do, however, have a HUGE problem that the DGA (directors, producers and assistant directors) are not mandated to take these safty classes as we are. This must change!

 

That's a problem. I didn't know that, but it doesn't surprise me.

 

Exactly what do the basic safety classes entail, Greg? Also, is there a safety officer present on the set for every union shoot?

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Because certain people assume responsibility for certain aspects of a production.

 

In reality you can point a fingers at anyone or 'everyone', and then the argument that if you're pointing fingers that you're complicit follows...

 

But who decides how relevant your particular finger is? Your industry experience and expertise? Your standing and peer respect?

 

It's all very fuzzy, especially on small productions where many hats are warn, but I believe you should accept the full consequential responsibility of a position if you decide to take even a part role in that position. Anything less equates to no one having responsibility...

Edited by Chris Millar

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<<

It's all very fuzzy, especially on small productions where many hats are warn, but I believe you should accept the full consequential responsibility of a position if you decide to take even a part role in that position. Anything less equates to no one having responsibility...>>

 

Forming a "prayer circle" was disasterous. All of these crew members were supposed to be professional. But they failed themselves and their crew.

 

Peter Jensen - camera - Los Angeles

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I make it my job to personally inspect rigging when a cast or crew member would be hurt by the failure of that rigging. For example, putting a camera directly over an actor on a crane, like I did twice on The Dogfather. I walk up to the ACs and tell them I'm sure they did their job, but I want to personally see that the camera cannot fall off the crane. If it did.....it will kill the actor below. We are talking about an Arri 435 with mag & lens.

 

So I will go over the entire rigging with them. I especially want to follow the path of the safety chain, does it go around a solid part of the camera and hook directly to the crane?

 

I do the same for putting actors into harnesses, I need to be convinced that it's safe. Maybe I'm paranoid, but as the old saying goes, better to be safe than sorry.

 

R,

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<<"microscopic risk"

>>

Really? I don't know what you're talking about.

And I don't know of anyone in this business who has worked on features or TV who has not seen accidents and dismemberment or been personally asked to do shots that they said they would not do because they were dangerous.

 

<< one works on the information one has been given.>>

 

If I worked on information I'd "been given" I would be dead. Most people I know rely on their own judgement.

 

<< which is why I'm usually very well prepared if things go south>>

 

What do you mean "well prepared".

 

Peter Jensen - Los Angeles

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