A deadly spate of safety incidents involving Hollywood stunt performers over the last few years has been fueled chiefly by a spike in streaming content, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
After 40 stunt-related deaths in the 1980s, there were significant improvements on film and TV sets, THR reported. But things have changed because of an increase in streaming content that’s led some productions and stunt coordinators to cut corners, according to THR.
An FX study from January estimated more than 520 TV shows would appear in 2018, a 7 percent increase from 2016, and more than double the 200 or so programs in 2010, THR reported.
"The demand for content is so extreme that productions are just hiring whomever," 30-year veteran Jim Vickers told THR, adding the trend is likely to continue with Facebook and Apple expanding into scripted content.
On sets from Atlanta to Vancouver to Los Angeles, stunt workers have been getting injured in serious and seemingly preventable accidents, THR reported, including the August 2017 death of stunt woman Joi Harris, who was killed in a motorcycle stunt for “Deadpool 2,” even though producers and a stunt coordinator were warned she wasn’t ready.
Harris' death "was an eye-opener," Cort Hessler, chair of SAG-AFTRA’s Stunt and Safety Committee, told THR. Harris' family is in discussions with 20th Century Fox, which appears interested in negotiating a financial settlement.
Jane Austin, president of SAG-AFTRA's Los Angeles local, laments that new guidelines are meant to provide producers with a reference point for finding the most qualified candidates, and nothing more. "We're not keeping anyone from working. This is not a qualification in any way,” she told THR.
SAG-AFTRA won't reveal safety-related statistics on injuries, saying it only tallies them with a "manual" system that is "in the process of being updated," and that there isn't enough data to establish meaningful trend lines.
"A lot of injuries get covered up, quite frankly," Pete Antico, a former SAG-AFTRA board member who for years has been critical of the guild's approach to safety, told THR.
According to THR, SAG-AFTRA has now established a blue-ribbon safety committee, and it is in talks with studios to keep the conversation moving, has increased the number of field representatives checking on sets around the country, and recently added a training protocol so union locals could deliver safety reports.
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