Risk in the film industry can be complex, and when it comes to bigger productions, the saying “the bigger they are the harder they fall” can ring true if adequate steps are not taken.

Film production involves plenty of variables, namely the cast, crew, animals, special effects, equipment and location — and the risk associated is primarily related to the well-being and safety of everyone one set.

In this post, we’re going to cover all of the above so you can ensure a risk-free set for your team.

To manage possible threats, hazards and setbacks during production, risks need to be handled with tact, and there is a systematic way of going about it.

You can go through the process in 5 steps:

  1. Risk identification
  2. Assessment
  3. Prioritization
  4. Control
  5. Treatment

 

Film production risk management in 5 steps

1. Identification

These are some common production risks that you must identify:

Cast and crew risks

  • Actors scheduling conflicts
  • Injury
  • Death

Scheduling conflicts can delay production and be a major setback for entertainment studios. This can be mitigated with contracts.

Meanwhile, demanding action sequences can put cast and crew in grave danger.

During the development of Resident Evil, stuntwoman Olivia Jackson got into a terrible bike accident that almost cost Jackson her life. She lost a limb, suffered chronic pain for years, and her career came to a definitive halt as a result.

The accident could have been avoided with the use of a functioning camera arm.

Other unforeseeable circumstance, such as the death of an actor, might send your production into a tailspin.

A possible workaround to this is to use archived footage, CGI, and body doubles to finish up the remaining shots.

This is exactly how Fast and Furious 7 completed its scenes when Paul Walker passed away. The production created CGI images of the actor and overlaid them onto his brothers to complete the film.

Location risks

  • Weather
  • Permits
  • Proximity to emergency services

Location risks arise due to weather conditions. Other important things to consider are filming permits and how accessible emergency services are to your production.

A location may be picture perfect but if accessibility and weather are issues, it’s best to find an alternate shooting destination.

Special effects

  • Firearms
  • Explosions

Negligence in this department can cost someone their life. In fact, Brandon Lee died on the set of The Crow when a gun with blanks was fired at him.

Unfortunately, a lead tip that had been lodged in the prop two weeks prior hit the young actor in his abdomen just above his naval, killing him.

Explosion effects are dangerous and must be handled by experts. It’s important that your production has the necessary permits from regulatory authorities and has adequate safety measures in place for risk aversion.

Equipment and vehicle risks

  • Vehicle crashes
  • Tripping and electrocution hazards
  • Heavy props

Production for The Crow suffered from the get-go as a carpenter got severe burns when a crane hit power lines.

To avoid dangerous occurrences like these, it’s extremely important that wiring is taken care of properly and electrocution hazards are addressed.

Additionally, heavy, clunky props can also be difficult to manage and can cause injury. 3D printed lightweight props are a great substitute filmmakers should consider.

Animals

  • Attacks
  • Diseases
  • Animal safety

You may have well-trained animals on set but if they are wild (like a tiger, for example) there’s always a risk.

Animals on set are also at risk of getting injured and their safety is also crucial. But the truth is that in the early 1900s, animals on production were dispensable.

A horse in the 1939 movie Jesse James was purposefully killed during the scene where it was ridden off a cliff into a river. This led the American Humane Association to open a Hollywood office for monitoring the treatment of animals in films.

To avoid tragedies, it’s important to make sure that everything is accounted for and expert handlers are always present to deal with animals.

Once you’ve identified all the risks, it’s time to evaluate them. That’s where film production risk assessment comes in.

 

2. Risk assessment

This step examines potential film production risks on a particular shoot so that the producer can step in with control measures or come up with a plan B to prevent possible harm.

Before you start to draw out a plan for risk assessment, make sure your production company has an adequate health and safety policy in place.

If you’d like to acquire a policy, then contact Revolution. Our team will get you sorted.

Next, you’ll need to take your list of identified risks and place them in a sheet to understand the level of threat each one poses. The sheet could look like something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Prioritization

Once you’ve evaluated the risks your production could face, you need to prioritize them so you know what needs your immediate attention.

Once you have the relevant critical risk factors, you can assign a risk priority number (RPN) to each of your identified risks.

You can calculate the RPN based on the following factors

  • Severity of impact (S)
  • The probability of occurrence (O)
  • Detection or effectiveness of controls (D)

You can assign a value for S, O, D between 1-10 and calculate the RPN by multiplying all three.

S X O X D = RPN

The higher the RPN, the more critical the risk.

Going through this process will help you logically prioritize production risks.

 

4. Control

After a thorough risk assessment, you need to review what controls are in place and if there is a need to implement additional controls.

If the risk associated with a certain shot or activity is too high, eliminate it completely.

Review and update your risk assessment sheet as you go.

Pro tip: Since risk assessment and management is a serious undertaking, it would help to have experts back you up. You can contact Revolution for risk management services for your production.

 

5. Treatment

The final step in film production risk management is treatment.

The strategies you can employ at this stage include the following:

  • Devising an alternative shooting program
  • Applying check sheets
  • Monitoring and controlling shooting activities on a day-to-day basis.

 

Final thoughts

Although navigating through film production risk management seems daunting, the process of filmmaking can run smoothly if the production company moves forward with empathy for its cast and crew.

It’s important to highlight that nothing should take priority over the safety of your production team.

With the technology available today, you don’t need to endanger anyone to realize your creative ambitions.