Hazards on Film Productions

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  Film and television production sets are often chaotic places, with dozens or even hundreds of people working together to create a memorable shot. Film sets typically include heavy set pieces and props; in a recent production for the iconic Star Wars franchise, a set piece dropped on actor Harrison Ford’s leg,breaking it and requiring him to sit out eight weeks of filming to recover. On-set injuries are unfortunately very common and can go under-reported or unreported altogether. Film production insurance is one way that filmmakers can protect the assets of their production companies as well as their staff and cast members against the losses resulting from injuries. 

Prosecutor, Andrew Marshall told the court Ford had gone through the door on the set of Star Wars Episode Seven: The Force Awakens and hit a button before starting to walk back through it, believing the set was not live and that it would not close.

But it was remotely operated by another person, and as Ford passed underneath it, he was hit in the pelvic area and pinned to the ground.

Mr Marshall said there was a “risk of death”.

“It could have killed somebody. The fact that it didn’t was because an emergency stop was activated,” he said.

  On February 20, 2014, the film crew, under the direction of producer/director Randall Miller, started filming a dream sequence involving William Hurt as Gregg Allman on a heavy metal hospital bed on a live railroad trestle above the Altamaha River. The producers had assured the cast and crew that it was safe to film there.

  While they were shooting, a CSX freight train came around a corner at 58 mph (93 km/h), giving the crew less than a minute to evacuate from the location. The only escape route was toward the oncoming train. Video of the crew indicates that they were unaware how fast it was approaching; some attempted to remove camera equipment and the metal bed from the trestle. They failed to remove the bed before the train rolled through, and many of the crew were trapped out on the trestle. The train struck and shattered the metal bed, sending shrapnel toward crew members. Fragments struck camera assistant Sarah Jones and propelled her toward the still fast moving train, resulting in her death. William Hurt got off the trestle before the train hit the hospital bed. Several other crew members were injured and were taken to hospital. Read More

Hollywood star was decapitated while shooting a scene for a movie. The actor was Vic Morrow, the veteran star of the TV series Combat. He was killed, along with child actors Renee Chen and Myca Dinh Le, by a falling helicopter during filming of The Twilight Zone, a feature-length adaptation of Rod Serling’s television series.

When the cameras rolled, pyrotechnic fireballs engulfed Wingo’s helicopter, forcing him down into a river where the actors waded. As a hundred or so people looked on, the right skid of the aircraft crushed 6-year-old Renee, who was a few feet from Morrow (the aging star had dropped her). The helicopter then toppled over, and its main blade sliced through Morrow and 7-year-old Myca. According to Stephen Farber and Marc Green’s exhaustive book on the incident, there was shocked silence until Renee’s mother started shrieking as she kneeled over her daughter’s lifeless body. Morrow never got to deliver his scripted line: “I’ll keep you safe, kids. I promise. Nothing will hurt you, I swear to God.”

   Injuries to film production crews are shockingly common. Staff members must often juggle heavy equipment and props to deliver the visual look and feel directors seek. Cast members can be at risk, too; Harrison Ford’s leg injury is only one of dozens of such on-set accidents. In the early days of Hollywood’s filmmaking period, injuries and deaths were extremely common. In fact, during a five-year period ending in 1930, 55 people were killed and almost 11,000 others were injured during film productions. Safety standards have dramatically lowered the instances of injuries or deaths since those days, but have not eliminated the risks.

  While statistics on film production injuries in more recent years are hard to come by, it is estimated that between 20 and 40 people are severely injured or even killed each year during the production of a film. This figure is made even more alarming by the fact that annual mining accidents and injuries/deaths in the U.S. law enforcement community are lower than those in the filmmaking industry.

Common injuries in film production include:

  • Tripping hazards (cables, wiring, and ropes on sets)
  • Injuries from pyrotechnic effects, including explosives and incendiary devices
  • Vehicle crashes, particularly in the use of helicopters for filming sequences
  • Electrocution hazards
  • Falling equipment and props
  • Insufficient or non-existent safety equipment on-set

  The filmmaking industry is saddled with tight production schedules and budgetary concerns, sometimes negating the safety and welfare concerns of those involved in the production. As movie-going audiences demand bigger thrills and bigger effects, production companies see an increase the potential for an on-set incident that results in a serious injury or death of one of the members of the production.

FILM PRODUCTION INSURANCE

  Film and television production firms have long relied on some form of entertainment insurance to help protect against the losses arising from producing their works. Film production insurance covers the unusual and unique risks associated with filmmaking, helping production companies to protect their assets and personnel when an incident occurs. This specialized insurance has many components, which includes coverage for Cast, Negative & Faulty Film (HD Video included), Props, Sets, Wardrobe, Miscellaneous Rented Equipment & Owned Equipment, Extra Expense and Third Party Property Damage.

  Comprehensive insurance policies offered by leading specialty insurers often include third-party property damage coverage, commercial general liability protection, and errors and omissions coverage for producers, developers, and directors, the cornerstones of a successful film or television production. Workplace injuries remain common in all markets, but the added expenses of a serious injury or death during a film or TV production cannot be understated. With adequate insurance coverage in the form of film production insurance, production companies can ensure that their assets are protected from loss.

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E&O INSURANCE

  At some point before the start of production, everyone that participates in the production will need to sign a contract if the project is going to get a commercial release. That is because distributors require E&O insurance (errors and omissions insurance), and before the insurance company will agree to cover a film the insurer will require that all production legal has been completed.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • …Errors and omissions insurance is a form of professional liability insurance.
  • …E&O insurance protects companies and professionals against claims of inadequate work or negligent actions made by clients.
  • …Anyone who provides a service requires E&O insurance including financial services, insurance agents, doctors, lawyers, wedding planners and especially Film Production Companies.

  E&O insurance companies are the key to distribution, because without it, any reputable distributor will not take the risk of distributing the project. Of the items that an E&O insurance company requires, one is complete paperwork for every participant in the film, including for the “chain of title” for the project, and the other is an” opinion letter” from an entertainment lawyer specifying that the paperwork for the film is complete and that the production company is the sole owner of the project.

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