Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

You didn’t see nothin’.

Okay, let’s try this without the Vicodin (I tweaked the wrist at work yesterday, and then made the mistake of trying to update the blog last night – which resulted in one hell of an incoherent entry):

Yesterday, I was back on the Bones rigging crew (and thank heavens for that – the shooting crew had a 5 pm call, which means they probably called wrap at 7 or 8 this morning).

Most of what we were doing was wrapping out a courtroom set that we shot yesterday (the set was part of the recently cancelled show Head Cases: Bones shot in it Thursday, and House is shooting in it Monday).

One of the things that’s not so great about the new, evolved, safety-conscious film industry is that we have a ton of restrictions on what we can and can’t do, and all of the studios now have ‘safety compliance’ departments – which consist mostly of people who wander around and bust you if you violate that particular studio’s written safety policy*.

For work on elevated walkways (the permanent catwalk system or ‘perms’, and ‘greenbeds’ which are walkways hung just over the top of the sets), people not trained on and certified to use fall arrest systems (“yo-yo”s) must stay within the confines of the handrails at all times.

Someone (like me) who hasn’t got this certification may not stand on the knee or hand rails (to increase reach), crawl out onto the beams of the perms to retrieve objects, or go for a stroll on top of the set walls (which are outside the confines of the handrails).

Of course, we end up violating these rules on a fairly regular basis.

The trick is to violate the rules as quickly as possible to make sure that one doesn’t get caught. You can’t use the walkie to ask where the safety rep is, because production usually monitors walkie conversations, and if they hear a request for the safety rep, they’ll call them and send them to your stage.
For obvious reasons, it is unwise to use the walkie to announce intentions to break the rules – “Hey, I’m going to climb up onto the handrails of the walkway – somebody make sure the coast is clear.”

Naturally, there was one stubborn stinger (that’s what we call an extension cord) that I couldn’t get from the greenbed (despite my pulling really hard), so I had to go out onto the ceiling pieces of the set (not such a big deal if you know where to step, big problem if you don’t) in order to retrieve it. Of course, because I was in flagrant violation of Fox’s written safety policy, the damn thing had been taped down every few feet, requiring me to walk out further and further away from the greenbed in order to free it up. By the time I got the damn thing coiled up, I was standing on top of a set wall which was at least 20 feet away from the walkway.

Generally, among crew members, there’s a policy of turning a blind eye towards that sort of thing – it’s assumed that you know what you’re doing and are doing it for a good reason. If it becomes clear to a crew member that whomever’s violating a safety policy doesn’t know what he or she is doing, we’ll report it to that person’s direct supervisor (“hey, Bob – your new kid’s about to get himself killed. You might want to check on him.”).

Luckily, I didn’t get busted – although one of the painters looked up at me as I was WAY far off the greenbed. I just looked back at him and said (with a smile, of course) “You didn’t see nothin’, pal” to which he replied (also with a smile) “Wow. It sounds like there’s a voice coming from up there, but I can’t see anyone.”

*I wholeheartedly support the industry’s attempt to make the job less dangerous, and I applaud the safety program for basically forcing producers to pretend to give a shit about my health and welfare. I also do not condone or advise in any way, shape, or form violation of established safety procedures.

Rules, however, were sometimes made to be broken, and I’d just love it if they’d trust my judgment and knowledge of what’s safe and not safe – for myself – in any given situation.

Filed under: Work

2 Responses

  1. Charli says:

    Don’t you just love it when “it’s all about your interest” when a new policy is installed, making your work even harder to accomplish. Keep on breakin’ the rules, brother.

  2. Anonymous says:

    A here anonymous safety pass instructor informed me in a class that the program is only here so the liability can be shifted to our (80’s & 728’s) side away from production because the days of courses make us “qualified and competent” (in the course materials) “safety experts” (to quote instructor X). Producers and directors only take one half-hour video-taped course without having to learn anything about the dangerous situations in which they are routinely trying to place us.

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