Movie work gets risky as unskilled show up

Rating: NNNNNWhile no fingers have yet been pointed in the death last week of stuntman Chris Lamon, people inside the.

Rating: NNNNN

While no fingers have yet been pointed in the death last week of stuntman Chris Lamon, people inside the film industry hint darkly that such tragedies are inevitable given its recent growth.

In the last 10 years, annual spending on film production has mushroomed by more than 350 per cent. But who is getting all the new jobs? Some say it’s often people with little experience.

One well-placed grip represented by NABET, a technicians union, suggests that there’s a shortage of experienced people. Requesting anonymity, he points out that his union is so busy that although permittees (non-members permitted by the union to work until they get enough experience to join) are expected to have skills already, many do not. He tells me he’s been hit by sandbags and crane weights mishandled by rookies. “You have to keep these people away from the set,” he says.

Paul Harding, president of IATSE local 873, a competing union, denies that his union sends rookies onto sets. While his local has grown from 800 to 1,800 in the past year, he explains that all members and permittees have to take an orientation course. And many of the new members are already experienced, having been “raided” from NABET.

NABET reps did not return calls. Perry Jensen at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board says film workers are mixed in with service sector employees, so there are no stats that might show a spike in film-set injuries.

And while Henrik Vogt at the Ministry of Labour says there has been “no significant increase” in the number of serious injuries, he points out that there is no notification requirement for productions, so inspectors arrive on a hit-or-miss basis. In 1999, inspectors made 34 field visits and issued 34 orders.

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