The following article is of my experiences, thoughts and observations as a set medic on film shoots, they have mostly been for the advertising industry. I have been working on film sets quite a lot lately, all about making ends meet (see closing comments). I am keeping it short and not alluding to any specific shoots/products or locations.
For the worker bees a day begins early and ends late, it is not uncommon to work in excess of 14 hours a day, excluding travelling to set., this can continue for days on end, leading to tired workers, who then make mistakes. The longer the shoot (hours and days) the more likelihood of injuries. The medic is one of the worker bees, one of the first to arrive and last to leave, we also serve a safety supervisory role (although with very little power, unlike in the construction industry where we can stop poor unsafe work). The medic fills a strange role, we are an essential service, shooting cannot happen without our presence, but that’s were it it sometimes ends. We are the adult baby sitters of the film set industry.
It is a strange world within a world, a peculiar insular existence, divorced from the reality of the day to day grind of the real world. It is possibly a very jaundiced view of society at large, on a micro scale. Although at times some of the hierarchy takes their positions to the extreme (in my opinion), with their strange demands and need for someone to always be at their beck and call. It is a world of chaperones, chauffeurs, PA’s – whose primary function is to be an espresso on tap machine (everyone has a PA, except the medic). I asked one of the PA’s how some of these people (senior crew and foreign actors) cope at home; the reply was classic: “They must still live with their mothers” 🙂
Summer shoots are possibly the worst (as the daylight shooting hours are so much longer); and the medics primary role is to dispense sunscreen and having to tell foreign actors and crew to drink fluids and apply sunscreen, which they never do… and then you have to assist them later gggrrr. An area of the industry that sits uncomfortably with me is when the child and baby “actors” that get trotted out, they at most times have no say in the matter and their parents seem to live their acting lives out , vicariously through their children or babies. Adult actors have a choice, but the kids not. They live a bored restless existence on set, in some cases just wanting to go home. The medic has to make sure that they are looked after and on hot summer days doing outdoor beach shoots this taxes one to the extreme.
I do battle to deal with the mindset of some of the people, and then their are the worker bees like myself (who have been doing this for years) and for them it is just a job, and is not office or desk bound, and for that they are happy. Many of these individuals acknowledge the concerns and issues when we sit and chat on the many slow days. It pays the bills and puts food on the table or their kids through school. They choose not to look beyond that. I suppose if one digs deep enough in any profession you will encounter similar issues, that the worker bees just live with.
The cynic in me has now come out… so stop reading if you do not want to read my cynical exposition of the ad/film industry.
When you look at the money spent on marketing to sell your next burger, cool drink, car, or dish washing liquid. Is it worth it? The cost of your next purchase carries all this marketing embedded in its base cost price, would it make the cost of goods cheaper if ad budgets were smaller?
Many jobs are created by these industries, but at the end of the day does the advert actually add value to the product? To what end is this entire process, as it becomes hugely self sustaining, and reliant on the general public to keep buying into this process, to which they are more than willing to comply.