In the 1990s, my brother Bob worked in the Vancouver film industry as a production assistant. At that time, he was in the “young worker” category (15 to 24 years old) and eager to please. In that job, he could be replaced with a moment’s notice. One of his friends had been fired for buying the wrong type of doughnut.
Bob told me about an experience that makes me angry to think about because it’s so dangerous. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt, but it’s still a good example of worst practices.
“I once stood on a slippery roof holding a piece of plywood while a massive snow gun shot fake snow at me to create the illusion of winter,” he told me via Facebook, in answer to my question: “What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever been asked to do at work?”
“It was almost impossible, but took every ounce of strength I had to not go flying,” he said. “I think weird stuff like that happens all the time in film because there’s a sort of unwritten thing relating a bit to ‘the show must go on’ or ‘whatever it takes’ mentality in that part of the arts.”
Improved standards for safety in film
Today in BC, we have Actsafe, the health and safety association for British Columbia’s motion picture and performing arts industries. I’m sure the folks at Actsafe would not be happy to see what my brother was asked to do at work. It makes me angry to think of him in that situation, not wanting to lose his job, and doing something so dangerous. He left the industry years ago, but for the many who remain, I hope they are not put in such hazardous positions.