Written by Victoria Harding, Executive Director
In late February 2014, not long after I started working on staff at DGC Ontario, Sarah Jones was killed in a tragic accident caused by illegal unsanctioned filming on a train bridge, and I remember having a “gut-punch” physical reaction to the news. Years of working as a Location Manager and Production Manager had given me lots of exposure to the mistaken belief in a concept we call “cinematic immunity”. The only thing I could do to alleviate the way I felt was to sit down and write my heart out, resulting in this piece, which was published by both DGC Ontario and the Canadian Occupational Safety e-magazine.
A couple of days ago, I opened up my Facebook feed and found a similar essay written by my friend and former colleague, NABET 700 Prop Master Geoff Murrin, who described multiple experiences of being rushed when working with guns and ammo on sets in Ontario.
There is a lot of well-deserved outcry about the incident on the set of Rust, but we must remember that we are not immune to this type of situation… one quick, split-second decision or lack of attention can affect a multitude of people, physically and psychologically scarring friends and co-workers, and it is ALWAYS worth the time and effort to make sure safety concerns are appropriately addressed.
In the wake of the Sarah Jones tragedy, DGC Ontario commissioned a course entitled The Myth of Cinematic Immunity, which has run regularly ever since. We anticipate offering this again early in the new year, and I encourage any decision-makers on set to take this course to learn more about the potential legal repercussions of ignoring applicable safety regulations and permit restrictions.
The Standard Agreement also contains several clauses that address safety, and here are some highlights:
Core Article 13.03 – Discharge
(c) The Producer will neither discharge nor discipline any Guild Member who advises the Producer that the Guild Member will not comply with an order, directive, or assignment that is unlawful, unsafe or which is known by the Guild Member to be a violation of a location permit or any other collective agreement to which the Producer is signatory.
Core Article 16.01 – Safety
The Producer, the District Council and each Guild Member agree to abide by any respective obligations under the health and safety legislation and regulations in place in each jurisdiction in which the Guild Member’s engagement is carried out. Without limiting the foregoing, the Producer shall provide information, instruction and supervision to all Guild Members engaged on the Production and shall take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of such Guild Members.
Core Article 16.02 – Guild Member Prerogative
(a) Guild Members and the Producer are required to follow all reasonable safety rules and health standards, and the failure to do so can lead to disciplinary action including dismissal. However, no Guild Member shall be dismissed or otherwise disciplined, or jeopardize his or her working opportunities, for refusing to work in hazardous or unsafe conditions or to perform any work that the Guild Member reasonably believes to be hazardous or unsafe.
Article ON15.11 – Producer to Engage Sufficient Numbers of Guild Members
The Producer will engage a sufficient number of Guild Members so as to ensure that each Guild Member is able to complete the work in an efficient, safe, creative and productive manner and in accordance with the job classifications and descriptions contained herein.
Article ON19.01 – Section 21 Safety Guidelines
In addition to the health and safety provisions outlined in Core Article 16.00, the Producer agrees to adhere to the “Safety Guidelines for the Film and Television Industry in Ontario” dated June 2009 (“Safety Guidelines”) developed by the Ontario Film and Television Industry Section 21 Advisory Committee in conjunction with the Ontario Ministry of Labour. These Safety Guidelines as they now exist or as they may hereafter be amended shall be deemed to be incorporated, as if set forth in full in writing, into this Agreement.
DGC Ontario can grieve any production that acts in violation of our safety standards. If you are reporting safety concerns or infractions to your supervisor or employer, and there is no response or correction, please alert our production staff so that this can also be addressed by DGC Ontario on your behalf.
Please remember to look out for one another on a daily basis, and stay safe out there.
With great respect for our Membership and the responsibility we all bear,
Victoria Harding, Executive Director