Sunday, May 24, 2020

Actors Take Note

Take note of who is doing what. On-set safety counts.

picture of a video camera on set with a pink teddy bear wearing a face mask on the view finder screen

There are some producers and directors who would rather get you and everyone you come in contact with sick than spend any more time and money to make their projects safe.

We all want to work. And we all want to say yes whenever work is offered that makes sense to take. We each have to decide what sort of actor we want to be and what sort of life we want to live. It is not necessary to give up basic safety in order to work, get paid and make things worth making. I know it can feel like it is something we must surrender. We don't have to. Most protective measures are reasonable, relatively low cost and only cause slight delays.

Will work that is rushed and cuts corners be good work that can move your career forward? Or is taking some extra time and money to insure the work is good (and those who make it are safe) better? I suggest the latter is the best way forward.

Getting paid matters; we all use money to exchange for goods and services. And getting paid does not require recklessness or taking dangerous risks. Nor does doing projects well require easily avoidable risk and facing injury or death. I can't believe I have to say that out loud.

Every year films and TV have ever been made have unfortunately included productions who hurt and killed cast and crew. Case studies of why rushing, cutting corners and ignoring safety are foolish are too many to name here and predate both 2020 and the pandemic by decades. The Twilight Zone movie (which killed and injured many people) and Midnight Rider (which killed Sarah Jones and injured many others) are 2 well known examples. There are many many others.

Film sets are largely construction sites and include risk independent of contagious disease. Preventable death is worth preventing. Working with people who will work to prevent your preventable death leads to career longevity, and for that matter life longevity.

Most danger on film and TV sets can avoided by taking simple steps. Many people do not take those simple steps. They will not take cheap and fast steps to make the cast and crew way more safe. There are no good reasons they don't take those steps. Impatience and laziness are not good reasons.

Good projects are not good by accident. Talented people working in unison to realize a good vision has always been the best bet to create good work. Being needlessly unsafe is not a wise path to creating good work. People who are worried on set will not do good work. People who are calm and feel safe, and are safe, will do better work. Being in danger does not lead people to be calm, nor does danger lead to people doing their best work. This is true of every department. This is true of every set. This is true of every job on earth.

Production insurance companies agree with me on this even if their arguments are largely financial. Lack of safety is more expensive than safety. Productions are already gambling whether or not the audience will show up and like the finished product. There is no good reason to gamble with having the production shut down and bankrupted by taking foolish and avoidable risks. There are no good reasons productions gamble foolishly. Ever. Impatience and laziness are not good reasons. Greed is not a good reason.

I am surprised to find myself writing this. I have also been surprised to see proposals for restarting production that contain next to no comments on keeping people safe. I am surprised to see people planning productions like it is 2019. Before this year it was stunning to see people take risks they don't need to take. It is still stunning seeing people take risks they don't need to now.

We do not want to work with those who rush. There is little upside. We do not want to work with those who cut corners. Cut corners diminish our gains. They ruin work. They break people. We want to work with people who are working to the best of their ability to do good work.

Sometime later we can forgive those that are reckless now and still remember who they are. People who would be reckless with you and your cast mates' lives are unlikely to do good work. They are unlikely to move your career in a good direction. This may be true of them beyond 2020. This may be true of them beyond 2030. Find the people you want to work with, not only for your career but because your career is your work life. You only get one life and it includes your work life.

We can all be positive that good work is more likely being done by people focusing on all details effectively, including safety. Our careers are marathons and not sprints. Working well and doing good work are how we book more work and book better work. We make progress by not merely saying yes, but by saying yes well and wisely.

I know we all want to work. And we all have bills to pay. I am extremely eager to book work too. I feel desperation. And there is no good reason to be foolish or reckless pursuing work, pursuing our careers or pursuing our next paychecks. Desperation is not a good reason. Desperation is a feeling, and it is better felt than acted on. Acting out of desperation leads nowhere good.

Feel desperation, but try not to act on it. Be well. Work to thrive. Good luck and caveat actor.

If you are in an unsafe situation on set, you can contact SAG-AFTRA's Emergency Hotline 24 hours, seven days a week at: (844) SAFER SET / (844) 723–3773, and/or leave set.

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this posted by David August at 11:23 PM 

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