I am sure you have been reading with interest the sentences handed down to the director and 1st AD following the tragic death of camera assistant Sarah Jones on the set of the film MIDNIGHT RIDER.
This month I am writing not to make a moral statement about the American judicial system and the sentences handed down but more I write to talk about what might happen next and reflect on some issues not considered by the media as to the reasons behind this tragic loss of life.
The death of Sarah Jones has hit the industry hard here in LA. There was a protest march in LA organized through the union last year. Every professional is gravely concerned about safety for crew and cast on these films. So how are these tragedies still happening given the occupational health and safety systems that are in place through the western economies?
I see in the very near future that HODs will have to have their own insurance to cover their crew members. I believe that the Work Cover and Public Liability insurances are too broad and vague. Given as well the bigger films are shot all around the world I see a big change in the way films are insured and the way people working on them are covered for accident and possible death.
One very interesting point that is rarely mentioned by anyone was brought up in a very interesting article in British Cinematographer magazine. The article was quite compelling to read, as is the whole publication, it is very well put together. We have to realize that there is so much new technology “invented” nearly every week. We all get spam emails from technology companies introducing updates, developments, new models, cutting edge lenses, cameras, data inflows, outflows etc. I get three a day over here. What this is doing is creating the need for more people who might be “knowledgeable” about the new technologies. There is no way you can keep up with it all, but there is usually someone that does and they are more often than not young and “tech savvy”. The new generations of production crew are coming with little knowledge of practical on set experience. This places more responsibility on producers and HODs not less, to help guarantee their safety
The speeds with which independent films are being made now is scary. Technology is getting cheaper and therefore way more small movies are being made and independently funded coupled with generous tax breaks. An Australian film going back say six years had an average 40 day production schedule. Now it is more like 25 to make the same size film, sometimes 20 days! Television is booming as well, think about how much product has to be made to keep up with the demands of the new streaming companies.
We have to look at the past to try to understand the future I suppose. No one can bring this young professional back but what we have to do is make sure it never happens again on any shoot anywhere in the world!