It’s no secret that the selection of filming locations depends heavily on local tax laws and other financial factors. It’s also no secret that cost-cutting attempts are one of the most common reasons for neglecting worker safety. Production-friendly local policies have made Georgia one of the movie and TV capitals of the world in recent years, bolstering the state economy with both entertainment industry and tourism dollars. It’s worth recognizing, however, that the same business priorities that bring film crews to Georgia are also the priorities that keep sets unsafe and lead to preventable injuries and deaths.
Stunts Aren’t Supposed to Be Deadly
Stunt performer fatalities are often treated as an accepted and inherent hazard of the profession. However, the point of hiring trained stunt performers and coordinators is supposed to be to ensure that stunts are performed responsibly, not to serve as disposable stand-ins for headlining talent. Accidents are typically the result of pressure to compromise safety for cheaper or more dramatic shots.
Here in Georgia in 2017, an experienced stuntman was killed while filming The Walking Dead, during what should have been a routine fall. Accounts vary on exactly what happened. Some say he slipped, while others allege that he was pushed by an actor who may have misunderstood his own role in the stunt. In either case, the budget-driven combination of an untrained actor being involved in the stunt at all, inadequate padding below, and an absence of medical personnel standing by added up to an accident waiting to happen — and then happening.
Needless Accidents Happen Behind the Camera Too
On-set dangers from budget skimping and recklessness are by no means limited to stunts. In 2014, a crew member for the film Midnight Rider was struck and killed by a train while setting up cameras on the tracks outside Jesup. The company had been explicitly denied permits to film on those tracks, due to the risk of exactly such an event. Production was soon halted, but only in response to public outcry.
Just a year later, another crew member setting up cameras for the TV show Sleepy Hollow was hit by a truck on an Atlanta street that was supposed to be closed for filming, breaking her leg and injuring her shoulder.
Getting Your Big Break Shouldn’t Require Breaking Your Neck
There’s significant pressure to be quiet and cooperative in many working environments, especially in fields as competitive as the film industry. Production companies know that people on film sets, in front of and behind the camera, are pursuing a passion, and many aren’t above taking advantage.
There’s no way of knowing just how many on-set injuries have been kept quiet over the years, because until 2015, Georgia production companies weren’t even required to report accidents to OSHA unless there was a death, or three or more hospitalizations within an 8-hour period. This habit of silence is deeply ingrained in the industry, but everyone deserves to have their safety respected at work, even at a dream job. If you or a loved one have been subjected to unsafe conditions on a Georgia set, The Stoddard Firm is here to help you speak up.