Movie and television producers often choose sites outside of Hollywood to film. Bringing a production to Georgia or other state, or even abroad, can lend a realism that a backlot simply can’t provide. Further, many states provide tax breaks to attract productions to their area.
That means that serious and sometimes fatal accidents on sets can occur just about anywhere. Back in February 2014, an assistant camera operator lost her life on a train trestle here in Georgia.
As this case shows, it’s not just stunt performers who are in danger. Crew members and sometimes actors are injured or killed by equipment, falls and any number of other things than can go wrong on a set. Often, these tragic accidents only make news when they involve an actor, such as Vic Morrow, who was killed by a helicopter in 1982 on the set of the Twilight Zone movie. Brandon Lee, the son of martial arts star Bruce Lee was accidentally shot to death on the set of The Crow in 1993.
According to the Associated Press, 43 people have been killed and over 150 have suffered life-altering injuries on U.S. sets since 1990. However, those may be well below the actual number of incidents because many never get reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Further, even when accidents are reported to the proper authorities, the penalties assessed to the studios and others deemed responsible are often reduced.
Even in the case of Brandon Lee, the OSHA penalty paid by the producers was ultimately just $55,000. The film grossed over $50 million. There were substantive changes, however, in the way that firearms are handled on sets.
Most of those who work in the entertainment industry and their families must rely on workers’ compensation to cover their bills. There are only a few types of cases in which they’re allowed to sue studios, producers and others. One entertainment attorney notes that for studios, the hefty costs of delays to production caused by an accident can be a bigger incentive to improve safety on the set than OSHA fines.
Those who are injured on a set or surviving family members can and should seek legal guidance to determine what legal remedies they have for seeking compensation for medical care, burial costs, lost wages and other damages.
Source: Northwest Georgia News, “Too quiet on the set; filming accidents often go untold,” Anthony McCarthy, AP, Nov. 17, 2016