Working conditions and safety: A matter of life and death

Yet another highly respected colleague, Mark Milestone (54), has tragically died in an accident during shooting for the Netflix/BBC series «The forgiving Earth», in Ghana. We understand the accident shall have happened in connection with a car stunt. We do not have the details of this particular accident, but since Haskell Wexler and Roderick E. Stevens launched the “12 on - 12 off” campaign in 2003 to focus on safer working conditions for cinematographers and film production colleagues, little has happened. News reaches us every year about film crew members who either are seriously injured or has died in accidents during film productions. And we receive reports that the daily number of working hours in many places are not going down – on the contrary, there are going up.

15-16 hours working days seems to be the new normal many places, at least if you include the travel time from the set after the day´s work is finished.
The question is of course “how long will we accept it”.

Do we see a new and stronger focus on this problem? I believe that we are, because we need to. Health and safety is of course the responsibility of the producers, but it is also the responsibility of every one of us. We are all safety officers on our own sets. IMAGO is working to arrange an international Working Conditions Conference in Brussels this Autumn, and we intend to cooperate with other audio-visual federations, like FERA (The Federation of European Film Directors), world-wide national Cinematographer´s Societies, and FIAPF, the International Federation of Film Producers.

Of course, one problem we have is that even if we see and recognize unsafe working situations that may put our colleagues at risk, as freelancers many of us do not raise our voice in fear of being regarded as bad sports and fear of being blacklisted from future work. The International Cinematographer´s Guild Local 600 headed by Steven Poster ASC, has developed an app, the ICG Safety App, that both informs and focuses on safety, and where the users confidentially can report to the Guild unsafe working hours, hazardous working conditions, or other on-set problems. Steven Poster tells us they will be glad to help any group around the World wanting to develop their own app. It will of course still be necessary to be aware, to use our eyes and experience, to avoid accidents. But this app is a very useful initiative, an app to report if production companies should not take safety seriously and so putting our colleagues lives at risk. READ ARTICLE in the ASC HERE . This subject was also addressed in the joint Panel discussion ASC/IMAGO in recent Camerimage. A video has been also promoted about safety watch it HERE 

The death of Mark Milestone is a tragedy and our thoughts are with his family, colleagues and friends. But let us hope this tragedy can inspire us to unisonly say: We have many colleagues, but absolutely no one to loose! From now on: safety first!

In this website was posted an article Hollywood’s Grueling Hours which addresses this serious problem.

Paul René Roestad FNF
IMAGO President 

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