Acting : Safety On Set by Paul Barry

Paul Barry

Safety On Set

Hi folks! I've been around as an actor and acting teacher since the dinosaurs roamed the earth, but I'm new to Stage32 and have recently run a webinar on the actor-director relationship here, which was a lot of fun. I have my first Stage32 article coming out soon too, which addresses the reasons why foreign actors seem to be doing so well in Hollywood, so keep an eye out for that. That's not why I'm posting right now though... It seems that barely a week goes by without me reading an article, or hearing a client or friend speaking about a dangerous (or potentially dangerous) things happening on a job as an actor, and I wanted to invite personal thoughts on the topic by sharing a recent backstage article of mine as a conversation-starter: http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/1-thing-eve... If you'd like to share personal stories please be sure to not to mention names and defame people, but be honest about your experiences. I feel there's not enough discussion and guidance when it comes to on-set safety, especially on non-union or low budget work, and how to respond to directors and crews putting you in unsafe situations, ala: "Midnight Rider". But you may tell us otherwise from personal experience, I don't know. I'm interested to hear if you generally feel safe, because it's something the industry desperately needs to address, in my opinion. Good morning/day/night to you all, and I look forward to hearing any and all thoughts relating to on-set safety. Cheers! Paul Barry Acting Coach www.twitter.com/acting4camera www.facebook.com/acting4camera www.acting4camera.com

The 1 Thing Every Acting Job Should Guarantee You
The 1 Thing Every Acting Job Should Guarantee You
A friend once took me to an amazing abandoned mental hospital to show it off as a potential location for a shoot. The greatest production designers in the world with millions of budget dollars could n…
Stage 32 Staff - Julie

This was a great read, Paul, and thank you for contributing. You brought up the tragedy of Sarah Jones and I wanted to share a great article and tremendous outpouring of support from our community about safety on set: https://www.stage32.com/blog/Tragedy-on-the-Set-Remembering-Sarah-Jones

Paul Barry

Thanks Julie. It's important for us to know how much support and demand there is for safety, but to express it in advance, as well as post-tragedy. Cheers.

Chris Connell

Very cool. Thanks Paul!

Mimi Ninaweza Yote

very nice love it

Debbie Croysdale

This article got me thinking. We don't usually put ourselves in Unsafe/Insecure environments consciously. In the excitement of filming "fiction", possibly on turf we don't know we need to remember "dangers" are still "real."

Paul Barry

You're absolutely right Debbie. I think this is one of the issues, because if we were to admit we were in an unsafe environment then we'd feel we are responsible for getting ourselves into it. This however is not true, and it keeps actors from speaking up when they can do it politely and avoid potentially life-threatening situations.

JD Hartman

Article written from a very alarmist stance. Extreme examples cited. Crews don't put actors in danger, actors and "above the line" people: producers; directors; UPM's, AD's, put them in danger. I don't know how many times on set that I've heard the cast told, "Stay away from..." or "Clear the set so the crew can work..." and they don't listen. Though you'd help by moving that light? Just don't... This is a good place to sit down and check your messages? No, that's what holding is for, not here because I'm looking out for my safety and the safety of the rest of the crew. Unsafe location? Were permits acquired? As an actor (or crew) you can make inquires beyond the UPM and seek the truth.

Paul Barry

Thanks for your comment JD. I've re-read my words to see where I may have miscommunicated, and I'm confident that the point of my article is not that "crews put actors in danger" (there are multiple mentions to crews and cast being put in potentially threatening situations by others specifically mentioned in the article). In fact it sounds like we agree, though I don't understand the 'alarmist' part, especially since it's speaking specifically about the death of a crew member, and the police pointing guns at my client. Not sure where you live, but that's pretty alarming in my neighbourhood... The point is that arrogance, laziness, unreasonable expectations put on shooting speed, poor communication and planning, fatigue, and an incredibly dangerous 'what's the worst that could happen?' mentality all combine to raise the potential for harmful and tragic 'accidents' to occur. If these aren't factors on sets you work on then the danger is limited - and yes, actors can do a lot more to help, I agree. If anyone can say that they've only worked on 100% safe sets and locations though, I'd be gobsmacked. Either they're oblivious to what's going on in other departments (perhaps like the actors in your example), or they haven't worked very much. I concur that many crew members (and actors, btw) regularly make comments about 'make safe', 'walk slowly', 'be careful' etc., but it's not those participants or attitudes on a set that are of concern. The issue here is that proper precautions are not always taken (but shortcuts and last-minute changes often are), and this should be of concern to all of us. More important, due to the fact that all sets aren't safe, actors and crew members need to learn a language (and the confidence) to communicate when they feel unsure, or straight-out unsafe. This is taken very seriously in the stunt and armory world of film and TV, but sadly it is often overlooked for actors, boom swingers, camera assistants and so on, who also face potentially dangerous situations at work. Like on a live train track... As one of my stunt buddies says, "There's no such things as an 'easy' stunt". Equally, there's no such thing as "it'll be fine". There are too many rogue factors, even before pride, ego, arrogance, laziness, corner-cutting, and just dumb random bad luck enter the mix. In the end though, it sounds like you have a strong concern for on-set safety too which is great, so perhaps you'd agree that the discussion and education needs to be more widespread, especially given the time-poor, high-pressure environment of film and TV production. Cheers, =pb=

JD Hartman

The mental hospital with hundreds of rusty nails....seemed a little over the top.

Paul Barry

Ah, I see. But no. No exaggeration.

JD Hartman

One could almost wrap the issue of safety up with a single statement, "Low budget productions run by individual with little experience and even less money and Producers, Directors, UPM's who will do and say anything to get the shot, put actors and crew in danger". Most crew and actors are way to trusting and naive for their own good.

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