7 Promising Things Changing Film Sets for the Better
Change often comes slowly on film sets. Our industry tends to cling to outdated ways of doing things until forced to change. The pandemic and a rapidly changing society are finally bringing about some much-needed changes on set. For those of us who’ve worked in the industry for many years, these changes have been a long time coming.
Here are seven promising changes that have the potential to change the film industry, and life on set, for the better:
- IATSE union locals are addressing excessively long workdays on film sets in their current contract negotiations.
Yes, some high-profile people in the industry have complained about long hours in the past, to no avail. But this time crews have had enough and are demanding change. They may finally get it.
In all my years working on set, I can’t remember when the issue of brutally long hours was in the trade news every day. It has been recently. This issue may have reached critical mass at last, especially with social media groups keeping it alive.
Shows have gotten more complex, and yet shooting schedules have often been compressed. The result is ridiculously long and unsafe workdays.
No one should have to be killed or injured at work or driving home after a fourteen-plus-hour workday for change to occur. I’m hopeful that this issue will stay in the spotlight until IATSE and the producers reach an agreement.
RIP, excessively long workdays. We won’t miss you.
- Diversity and inclusiveness are increasing on film sets.
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences demands award contenders fill out an inventory form of racial/ethnic identity and sexual/gender orientation to have a film considered for a Best Picture Oscar, things are changing. The inventory form includes those working both in front of and behind the camera.
After much pressure and the #OscarsSoWhite movement of a few years ago, the Academy is becoming a driver of diversity and inclusiveness. And that change will reverberate through the industry as a whole.
I’ve worked on TV shows where the showrunners didn’t hire one woman or minority to direct an episode the entire season, and the crews were anything but diverse. Today people inside and outside the industry expect better on the shows they watch.
The shows we all work so hard to create are finally beginning to mirror our diverse society in front of and behind the camera.
That deserves an award.
- Abusive behavior is being called out publicly.
You know things are changing for the better when some of the major power players in our industry have resigned over their abusive behavior. Today, once the information is out there, there’s nowhere to hide.
I have many qualms about social media, but this is one area where people are using it for good in our industry. Abusive behavior compromises the mental health of those on the receiving end, and awareness about it has increased dramatically in the past few years.
No one should have to suffer bullying, harassment, and screaming in the workplace, film sets included. Abusers beware.
- Advanced technology has opened new opportunities.
As someone who’s worked in the industry since the pre-computer era, I can say that technology in our industry has changed a great deal.
Just having phones with us at all times means we can respond quickly to opportunities that come our way. Email facilitates a better flow of information.
Did you misplace your call sheet? It’s also been emailed to you, so check your phone.
Remote video village for commercials? No problem. The agency and clients can be anywhere watching on their computers. In fact, that’s now the norm.
I recently worked on a commercial where we filmed in Arizona, and the director was in London. The pandemic has forced the industry to move forward in its use of technology.
I believe those changes are here to stay and will continue to present new opportunities for all of us who work on and off set.
- Educational opportunities have expanded.
Opportunities for professional growth have never been more accessible. I’m continually receiving emails about industry classes and seminars, most of which are free or low-cost. There’s never been a better time to update our skills and learn new things.
As a DGA member, I can barely remember any online classes or seminars pre-pandemic. Now there are several every month. The IATSE union locals and trade organizations also have plenty of opportunities for continuing education.
Increased educational opportunities are a tremendous benefit for everyone in our industry. No matter how long we’ve worked in the business, there’s always something new to learn.
And now we can learn and expand our skills from the comfort of home.
- There’s more awareness of safety on set.
Yes, crews are often still rushed to get the day’s work, but there’s more safety awareness on set than there used to be. When I started in the industry, safety meetings were rarely held unless it involved a stunt or a dangerous location.
Now daily safety meetings are the norm. Having seen and been involved in accidents on set, I know there’s no such thing as too much safety awareness.
The pandemic has pushed awareness about health and safety on set to new levels. As uncomfortable as we’ve often been with wearing a mask all day at work, it’s made everyone vigilant about health and safety.
No shot is worth someone’s health or life.
- There are excellent benefits for union members.
As freelancers, the health and pension benefits we earn as union members come with us from job to job. With the expansion of freelancing and contract work, I suspect that portable benefits like ours will eventually become a model for society.
As the healthcare system frays around us, union members in our industry continue to have solid healthcare, vision, and dental plans. We also still have defined benefit pension plans rather than 401K plans.
The older I get, the more I realize how valuable these union benefits are. The unions even paid COBRA costs for members who were out of work for months during the pandemic.
That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Yes, the bummer year 2020 was horrible for our industry as a whole and most of us who work in it. However, there are many good things about our industry to focus upon.
As we’ve all seen these past eighteen months, we work in a resilient business that can creatively adapt to a significant crisis. Despite the uncertainty, I’m confident young people coming into the business can still have a bright future.
And those of us now working can continue to thrive.