Why are film production deaths on the rise?

Last year, the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones during the filming of Midnight Rider brought attention to issues of film and television production safety. Many people risk their lives while filming large productions; beyond pyrotechnics and stunt performers and so forth, production assistants and crew members find themselves in dangerous or risky situations where safety concerns are secondary. Evidently, these incidents are on the rise. Los Angeles Times‘s Richard Verrier reveals that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics deaths on television and film productions have doubled in the past five years despite a general decline in workplace fatalities.

So why is that rate increasing? Verrier says that many productions simply do not value safety over getting a good shot faster and cheaper. He cites repeated examples of films and television shows that sidelined safety personnel and risk assessment in the interest of getting the job done, including equipment malfunction during set deconstruction for one of the G. I. Joe films and the famous incident in which a helicopter crash killed actor Vic Morrow on the set of the Twilight Zone movie.

Worse still, no one is held accountable for these incidents, encouraging future risk-taking. OSHA does fine productions that don’t comply with regulations, but almost no one has ever been convicted of negligence for a production-related death. Safety is ignored, responsibility is defused, and the producers get their results.

We certainly hope that studios would consider investing more in safety precautions and training as the frequency of these tragedies continues to grow. No one’s life is worth losing for a good shot.

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