7 Ways Film Sets Need To Change - NOW.
The time for change is now. Since COVID-19 and the shut down of productions across the world, we've had the time to sit down and think long and hard about what isn't working within our industry and how it needs to change. NOW.
I have outlined 7 potential changes every producer/studio/company can make now to create a more livable and equitable working environment for their cast and crew - WITHOUT hurting the bottom line. Each one of these suggestions should become standard on productions with a budget of $700K or more.
The film industry is changing. And, to put it bluntly, the HPIC can either change with it or they will be left behind. It's time to treat our team members like they deserve to be treated. After all, isn't that what a good leader should do? Take care of their people?
*Some of these are already (or should already) be in place on Union sets. Non-union sets should follow suit. Each item on this list is offered to cast and crew for every Marble Castle Entertainment production.
**This does not include any changes that will need to occur on set as a result of COVID-19. I'm definitely not qualified to suggest such changes.
1. ON-SET CHILDCARE
A woman (or man, or non-binary persons) should never have to choose between starting a family and working. Lord knows how difficult it is to get work in this business. So why should someone have to choose between the two? Why should a camera person choose between paid work or spending time with their family? We can do both.
On-set childcare should be provided on every production. Producers can contract with a baby-sitting service, house families together in airbnb style accommodations where, at the end of each long day, then can cook together and be together as a family. If the production can afford it and they are shooting during the school year, they should consider hiring a tutoring service or contracting sitters that can double as tutors to help the kids keep up with their school work. *Many schools are online now anyway, so this may not apply, depending on the status of COVID-19.
1a. PROVIDE A MOTHERS ROOM(s)
This is an off-shoot of item #1. If there is a new mother on set, a mothers room should be
provided for her so she can pump in private, with a sign to let the rest of the team know that
the room is occupied. She may need a place to store the milk as well, like a mini-fridge ($70
from Best Buy).
2. PET FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATIONS
This is something that often gets over looked by producers. But do you know how hard and stressful it is to find someone to watch or to board an animal for months at a time? What are people with pets supposed to do?
There are MANY hotels, airbnb's and other places that are pet friendly. Some RESTAURANTS are even pet friendly now, why shouldn't a film production be? Some places require a deposit, which is normally refundable. And even if it isn't, so what? You add $150 (or whatever it is) to your production budget per pet. Whoopty doo. It's well worth it in the end, to alleviate the burden from a cast or crew member to have to pay to put their dog or pet up somewhere for the length of the production.
3. 10 HOUR DAYS - MAX.
*This mainly applies to non-union productions.
This suggestion is going to be a lot less popular than my last two but I'm going to say it anyway. I hear so many independent producers jamming SO MUCH into each and every day of filming to try to cut down costs, it's insane and ultimately leads to burnout. Plan for your cast/crew to work for four/five hours, an hour for lunch, then work another four/five hours. In any other industry, that's a standard working day FOR A REASON.
Let's be real: Being on set is exhausting. Many crew members are doing extremely physical work. This schedule can be achieved without adding much to your budget with proper scheduling and a thorough pre-production process, so each and every member of the cast and crew knows what they need to be doing well before even coming to set. Invest in that pre-production period. It's key to making the days on set flow seamlessly.
4. HIRING AN HR PERSON
Having someone on set that is a trained HR professional is key. I've had so many gross encounters with bad people in this industry- more than I can count. I didn't report a single one. Who was there to tell? I was a newbee on set, just getting my foot in the door. When it seems like everyone in the industry looks the other way when it comes to sexual harassment (or harassment of any kind), what's a person to do?
That was before the Weinstein scandal, of course. Now people are getting called out on their shit and it's beautiful. Now "we" know better. But those Weinstein's are still out there, and they make up way more of the industry than we'd like to think.
It's important to have someone available to your team so they can anonymously report issues or concerns that they have. It also sets the tone for your production; you care about your team enough to provide them with someone they can feel comfortable to go to should they need to.
This is one of the more expensive add-ons, obviously, because it involves a whole new position. But this HR individual does not have to be available in-person. This can be an off-site individual producers can contract with. Team members can schedule a time to speak with this person when needed.
Your HR person can also advise your cast and crew from the beginning regarding what behavior is and is not appropriate. Your team should be required to attend an informational session with the HR person. Additionally, they can help you develop a code of conduct which you can use throughout all future projects. Which leads me to...
4a. A ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY
It costs producers zero dollars to make it known, right from the beginning, that harassment of
any kind (sexual or otherwise) is not permitted on set. Anyone who engages in this sort of
harassment should be promptly removed from the production. Period. The safety and
comfortability of your team is and always should be a producer's number one priority.
5. STAFF YOUR PROJECTS WITH WOMEN AND POC
Duh. Do I need to go into further detail? No? Good. DO IT. There are plenty of places producers can find talented women and POC ( https://freethework.com/discover is one).
6. ALLOW CAST AND CREW TO FLY HOME ON DAYS OFF
I'm a homebody. As much as I looooooove being on set, I hate being away from home for more than two weeks. Offering this option to your cast and crew is huge. Not everyone will want to fly home on days off, but for your non-local hires, it's a thoughtful thing to offer, and you're really only paying for the transportation. This is definitely something that should be offered on productions that last for longer than a month.
This option will need to be customized per each production. Maybe offering it every two weeks, once per month, depending on your budget.
It's no secret that most film sets are not eco friendly (plastic bottles everywhere!!). There are companies and individuals popping up all over that want to work with film productions to ensure that they are as eco-friendly as possible. Producers can contract with these individuals per project, or even work with them to create sustainability guidelines which they can refer to for every project. All it takes is a good ol' fashioned Google search. Or I can recommend a few options (contact me here).