TV can do more to stop talented women leaving the industry just when they reach their creative peak, says Kate Beal
I grew up with the assumption that being a successful woman with a sustain- able career in television was an achievable normality. My mother Jan Beal started out as a news copytaker in the 1960s and went on to achieve great things in a very male-dominated environment.
I’m not sure my daughter will feel the same. My contemporaries and I are largely freelance and have no long-term career expectations.
After a recent panel discussion on women in TV at a top media university, I was surrounded by young girls telling me of their experiences.They were excited to see a number of female speakers on the panel, but they surprised me in their assumption of a basic division that boys do the technical jobs and girls take on the production roles.
When these girls enter the workplace, thankfully they won’t face the old-school sexism that others have grown up with. Incidents ignored, or seen as part of the job, only 10 years ago are no longer acceptable. The line is clear and women are more respected by their male colleagues than ever.
Young women make great strides in TV and are encouraged to do so. Over the years, formal and informal mentoring of young women has made a real difference.
But it’s not just sexism, everyday or otherwise, that we have to overcome now in 2014 – it’s practicalities. This is where I think the major difference lies between my generation and my mum’s.
It’s a challenge for a woman in her midthirties to have a family and keep working, especially if she is a producer/director.
Our predecessors had staff jobs, maternity leave and pensions. It’s tough to bring up a child amid the instability of a casual workforce with demanding filming schedules – but the peer-led organisation Media Parents can be a great help.
We need more flexible working hours, clearer, thought-out production schedules and job shares. None of this is groundbreaking – we just need to do more. When a woman hits her mid-thirties, she’s in her creative stride. That’s when we need to retain talent – not lose it.
Ageism combined with sexism is still at play. Women tend to leave the industry by the age of 50 and I wonder how much of this is by choice. Over the past 10 years, I’ve watched my mum’s contemporaries have to fight for jobs they are more than qualified for.
Yet despite some of the setbacks, I believe we can make this current television landscape work, and some are already leading the way in suggesting improvements. My mum’s generation led the way too and we can continue to break that glass ceiling to achieve all they dreamed of.
Set up by ex-TV Producer, Lucy Buck, Child’s i Foundation is a charity based in Kampala, Uganda, that was established in 2008 to tackle the problem of child abandonment. We now work to re-settle abandoned children with families rather than them spending a lifetime languishing in institutions.
We are currently looking for a media volunteer to base themselves in Uganda and produce films about our on-going mission.
Start date: Beginning of August 2014 for a minimum of 3 months (please state your availability and intended length of stay in your application)
Applicants should be:
Experienced in the field of producing with a focus on directing/producing (PD/AP/or experienced Researcher)
Confident shooting with and ingesting footage from a Sony Z1
It was the middle of the afternoon when the emergency call came from Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. A 71-year-old man had injured his ankle “in an incident involving a garage door”. Paramedics on the air ambulance sent to ferry him to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford were amazed to discover their patient was no ordinary pensioner, but Hollywood actor Harrison Ford. His ankle had been smashed by a door falling from the Millennium Falcon, the spaceship his character Han Solo flies in the original Star Wars trilogy.
Weeks later, any initial suspicions that producers were being overcautious about their star have been dispelled; Ford had broken his left leg. No 71-year-old, however fit, rich and famous, is going to recover quickly from such an injury. Ford is expected to miss at least eight weeks of filming on Stars Wars: Episode VII.
Ford’s accident – involving, as it did, one of the leading men in the most high-profilefilm currently in production – was bound to make headlines. But many more have gone largely unreported. In fact, it’s the film industry’s dirty secret that accidents – even fatal ones – on film sets are shockingly common.
Statistics are hard to collate because most health and safety executives don’t file incidents under “film industry”, but it appears that between 20 and 40 people worldwide are killed or seriously injured during a film production each year — more, proportionately, than in US law enforcement, road construction or mining. (A particularly shocking statistic when you bear in mind that the majority of film employees have “safe” office jobs.)
“Certainly on lower-budget films, we suspect there is a lot of under-reporting of accidents and near misses,” says Martin Spence, assistant general secretary of BECTU, the media and entertainment union.
“Film sets are inherently dangerous,” says a producer of several blockbusters who doesn’t want to be named. “Even when it’s just a scene of two people walking across a set, there will be tremendous amounts of electricity, hot lights, ladders, heavy suspended equipment, power tools and trip hazards like cabling and carpentry everywhere.
“If you’re talking horror or thriller genres where the public always demands more thrills than ever before, you can add in weapons, explosives, chemicals, loud noises, cranes, helicopters. Factor in the constant time and money pressures, the fact that nearly everyone is freelance and working on a temporary structure, and it’s actually surprising more disasters don’t happen.”
A photo posted on Harrison Ford’s Twitter account after his ‘Star Wars’ accident (INF/ Twitter)
The majority of accidents involve falls, fight sequences and trips and slips. The most dangerous work, unsurprisingly, involves helicopter crashes, which have killed 33 US film and television workers (no British figures are available) – nearly one a year – since 1980.
“Film-making is a weird world – a physical and psychological bubble,” says one crew member, who claims he was nearly killed last year when he fell from four-storey scaffolding which had no ladders or handrails and an insufficient number of walking boards, during a shoot for a big studio. He managed to save himself by grabbing a rail. In 2004 a similar accident killed a crew member of 2004’s The Phantom of the Opera.
“For eight or 10 weeks the director’s in charge of cast and crew, sometimes in a remote location, and his or her word is law,” he says. “If he wants people to do something crazy, it’s very hard for someone lower down the ladder to speak up.”
In the early days of film-making, death and injuries were almost an occupational hazard.Between 1925 and 1930, nearly 11,000 people were injured during Californian film productions; 55 died.
During the filming of 1920’s Haunted Spooks, the star Harold Lloyd lost his thumb and the first finger of his right hand when he picked up a bomb with a lit fuse which he assumed was a prop but which turned out to be real. For the rest of his career, Lloyd hid his missing fingers with a prosthetic glove. The same year, actress Lillian Gish lost the tips of her fingers to frostbite while being filmed floating on an ice floe towards Niagara Falls.
In 1928’s Noah’s Ark, 15,000 gallons of water were dumped too quickly on a crowd of extras in a studio tank. Three men drowned, another lost a leg and dozens were injured, including Marion Morrison – better known by his stage name, John Wayne.
Following this, the first film safety laws were passed, but accidents still happened with alarming regularity. During filming of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, was badly burnt during the scene when she “vanished” in a burst of flame and smoke, when the trap door that should have removed her from the explosion was late opening. Her stunt double was injured in a scene involving a smoking broomstick, while Buddy Ebsen, originally cast as the Tin Man, had to leave the production after an allergic reaction to his make-up, resulting in a collapsed lung and lifelong breathing problems.
But the public became truly aware of the dangers of movie making only in 1982 when, during filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie, a helicopter flying just eight metres off the ground got caught in the pyrotechnics and span out of control, killing actor Vic Morrow and two child actors, aged six and seven, who were being paid in cash to circumvent laws banning children from working at night. Morrow’s line, which he never got to deliver, was, “I’ll keep you safe, kids. I promise. Nothing will hurt you, I swear to God.”
Investigators concluded there had been 36 safety violations and the tragedy resulted in a near-decade-long lawsuit. In the aftermath, numerous new safety codes were implemented. Over the next four years, accidents on set fell by almost 70 per cent, although there were still six deaths. While filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984, Michael Jackson’s hair was set on fire by a faulty pyrotechnic, resulting in second and third-degree burns to his scalp and body. After this he became addicted to painkillers, a condition which contributed to his death in 2009.
Since then, the litany of disasters has continued. Several stars, including Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 and Bruce Willis in Die Hard, have suffered permanent hearing damage after firing guns without using earplugs. During recent filming of the third Hunger Games film, Jennifer Lawrence nearly choked to death when a fog machine suffered a “horrific” malfunction.
Jennifer Lawrence, who nearly choked during filming the latest Hunger Games film (REX)
Unsurprisingly, far more at risk than the stars are professional stuntmen and women, with Hollywood recording 37 deaths related to stunts between 1980 and 1990. Since then, increased use of computer-generated imagery in films has meant the riskiest feats can be simulated. But stunt people remain in the front line, with many unwilling to turn down jobs for fear of being blacklisted. In 1995, respected stuntwoman Sonja Davis was killed when she hit her head making a 47ft backwards jump from a building for a scene in Vampire in Brooklyn. Friends said she’d refused the job initially, but then accepted after being offered more money, worried a refusal would render her unemployable.
In 2009, Daniel Radcliffe’s Harry Potter stunt double David Holmes was left paralysed after crashing backwards into a wall while filming the reaction to an explosion. Just last month, a stuntwoman began legal proceedings after receiving “severe” burns during the making of Face Off, an American reality show in which prosthetic make-up artists compete against each other to create the sort of prostheses found in science fiction and horror films.
But even more vulnerable are the often underpaid and overworked men and women behind the scenes. Investigations into safety standards on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings franchise and King Kong, filmed in New Zealand, revealed that one model-maker was forced off work with permanent lung damage, allegedly after inhaling toxic chemicals.
Another contractor, who collapsed after ventilation fans failed, claimed he was “harassed about unfinished work” when he came in the following day.
Most at risk are cameramen and women, who are usually closest to the action but with little of the protective gear afforded actors and stunt people. In February this year, 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed while filming for Midnight Rider, a biopic of singer Gregg Allman, starring William Hurt. The accident happened during a dream sequence filmed on a railway bridge; with no warning, a freight train approached. Cast and crew ran for their lives but Jones, known for her indefatigability, was mown down, apparently as she tried to rescue equipment.
Hurt, who quit the movie, recalled in an email leaked to the Los Angeles Times how he’d previously asked the producers “how long the crew had to get off if by some impossible chance another train came”, and was told 60 seconds. “I said, ‘Sixty seconds is not enough time to get us off this bridge.’ There was a communal pause. No one backed me up. Then, we… just went ahead.” Then the train came. “We didn’t have 60 seconds; we had less than 30.”
Jones’s parents, who lobbied successfully on social media for her death to be acknowledged at the Oscars, where many attendees wore black ribbons on their lapels in her memory, said she had confided she was worried about her superiors’ inexperience. In a letter to the American Society of Cinematographers, Jones’s father wrote: “The industry apparently needs safer film sets, which… needs to start with a rediscovery of its spirituality… If the people in charge of Midnight Rider had properly regarded the lives they controlled on February 20, would they have placed them on that railroad trestle without proper safety measures?”
The producers are now facing multiple lawsuits from Jones’s parents, as well as other cast and crew members, alleging, among other charges, that they had not secured permission to film on the track, but concealed this fact from the rest of the cast and crew. Also being sued is Gregg Allman, who insists he had nothing to do with choosing the train-track location and who had begged producers (eventually successfully) to abandon the film after Jones’s death. Midnight Rider’s director, producer and production manager have now been charged with involuntary manslaughter, and could face up to 10 years in jail.
Naturally, all big studios insist that safety is paramount. “It’s our first priority; we have a safety meeting every single day and insurance people are always on set saying: ‘You can’t do this’, or ‘Try this another way’,” says one producer.
“It’s far cheaper to carry out advance checks than to risk a multimillion-dollar lawsuit or insurance premiums tripling. Everyone on set is always telling each other: ‘This is a hot spot’; ‘Watch your back.’ Assistant directors, who are mainly in charge of safety, get very angry with anyone who, for example, is fooling around during a stunt, and ban them from set.”
Despite this, many crew members tell of safety concerns being overlooked, with all but the most powerful afraid to speak out. “I complained about safety standards with my manager and he didn’t speak to me for the rest of the shoot, probably because he was covering his own back,” says the crew member who fell from scaffolding. “This was last year and since then I haven’t worked. In an industry where nearly everyone is self-employed you daren’t stick your neck out.”
“It’s absolutely true that the nature of freelance employment means no one wants to be a troublemaker,” says Martin Spence. “But, in my experience, those who do stand up and say ‘No’ gain a lot of credibility. There are idiots out there, but there are also decent producers, who will respect that.”
Recently, a video went viral from the British set of a low-budget film He Who Dares 2. It appeared to show a flying door narrowly missing an actress after an explosion.Message boards were filled with anonymous posts from film workers describing similarly dangerous incidents they’d experienced or witnessed, not to mention numerous complaints about low or no pay, and appalling working conditions.
“I can’t stress enough how quickly things can go wrong on a set,” wrote one. “People constantly get hurt, when everyone is doing their best to create a safe environment. When someone, especially higher-ups, decide to be reckless it becomes like playing Hacky Sack with a bag of unstable chemicals.” The film’s producer promptly had his lawyers take the clip down, and reportedly threatened crew members tempted to talk with legal action.
In the UK, BECTU is concerned by a proposed parliamentary bill that would leave most self-employed people, including those in the film industry, completely uncovered by any health and safety regulations.
“Right now [the Health and Safety Executive] virtually never makes proactive spot checks on set,” says Spence. “I’m sure they’d like to but they don’t have as many inspectors as they’d need. The only time they visit is when there’s been a near miss or some other incident.”
While some crew members demand statutory shorter hours, others rely on overtime earned during long days. Others worry that lobbying for tighter regulations will simply result in even more filming being outsourced abroad. “Already no one wants to shoot in the US, because it’s so unionised and overtime rates are so high,” says one director.
On some occasions, budget restraints have forced actors to perform stunts themselves. In 1988, British actor Roy Kinnear died after falling from a horse in The Return of the Musketeers. Kinnear, 54, expected a double to be used for the riding sequences but, at the last minute, he wrote to his wife, Carmel: “Oh, gosh, darling. I’ve been called on to do a stunt.”
Brandon Lee, who was killed while filming The Crow (REX)
“Actors are inclined to take undue risks with their lives,” Carmel said later. “They are frightened. Time is money. They don’t want to hold production up. They don’t want to look silly in front of other people.” The film’s director, Richard Lester, whose credits included Superman II and A Hard Day’s Night, was so distressed he retired from film. The movie, however, was still released.
Indeed, no matter how tragic the fallout, the show nearly always goes on. Actor Brandon Lee died aged 28 while filming The Crow in 1993, when he shot himself with a gun meant to fire blanks. The film’s firearms expert had earlier been sent home. Filming continued, with Lee’s fiancée’s and mother’s blessing, using a stunt double, and it became a cult hit – in part because of the ghoulish associations.
The Twilight Zone movie was released to mixed reviews and only modest financial success. Its director, John Landis, who was eventually cleared of involuntary manslaughter, went on to direct hits such as Trading Places and Coming to America. (The courtroom was especially charged – at one point the prosecutor hissed “murderer” at Landis as he walked past.) But the film’s co-producer Steven Spielberg ended a long friendship with him, saying the accident “made me grow up a little more” and left everyone who worked on the movie “sick to the centre of our souls… No movie is worth dying for.”
At Pinewood, concern about Ford’s health coexisted with worry about the millions of dollars potentially at stake if the shoot was delayed for lack of its biggest star. Some speculated Ford would be filmed from the waist up, and, in the meantime, producers frantically altered schedules to keep filming on time.
“The phrase you hear all the time is, ‘Just get the job done’,” says the man who survived the scaffolding fall. He has had only one safety briefing in five years of working on big shoots. “I nearly died on a huge-budget movie but there was no, ‘How are you?’ just, ‘How soon can you be back at work?’ It’s showbusiness; the cameras don’t stop turning for anything.”
Gregg Allman film: Director charged over crew death
Director Randall Miller was present at the accident in February, and was pulled to safety by fellow crew members
The director of a biopic about singer Gregg Allman, and two of the film’s producers, are facing involuntary manslaughter charges.
It follows a fatal train crash on the film’s set in south east Georgia in February, which led to the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones.
A grand jury charged Randall Miller, producer Jody Savin and executive producer Jay Sedrish on Thursday.
Jones, 27, was hit by a train on the first day of filming Midnight Rider.
Seven other crew members were injured in the incident, which saw the camera assistant fatally struck after the crew placed a bed on the railway tracks in Doctortown while filming a dream sequence.
It is understood the crew were expecting two local trains to pass through, but a third had arrived unexpectedly. A warning whistle was blown, but they had less than a minute to remove the bed from the track.
The biopic was based on musician Gregg Allman’s autobiography My Cross to Bear
Miller, Savin and Sedrish are each charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass, according to a statement from local district attorney Jackie Johnson.
The prosecution alleges film-makers had “unlawfully and without authority” entered onto the railway tracks “after receiving, prior to that entry, notice from the owner thereof that such entry was denied”.
It remains unclear whether the crew had permission to be on the tracks. Local police investigators say they did have permission to be on property nearby.
The manslaughter charges against the film team could bring a possible sentence of 10 years in prison under Georgia law.
William Hurt, who was to star as Allman in the film, pulled out after the train accident
In a statement, Jones’s father, Richard, said: “[My wife] and I are comfortable that the authorities were both careful and meticulous in investigating and bringing charges related to the incident that took our daughter’s life.
“We must allow the criminal justice process to proceed unhindered. Our mission remains the same: to ensure safety on all film sets. Safety for Sarah.”
In May, Jones’s parents sued the director, producers and other entities affiliated with the film including musician Allman.
The civil case claims film-makers “selected an unreasonably dangerous site for the filming location” and failed to take actions to adequately protect the crew.
Filming on Midnight Rider was suspended in the aftermath of the train tragedy, and actor William Hurt – who was due to play Allman – pulled out of the production
Employment within the UK creative industries has increased five times faster than the national average, according to new figures published by the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
The DCMS’ Creative Industries: Focus on Employment report says that there were 1.71m jobs in the creative industries in 2013, an increase of 10.1% since 2011.
The creative industries now account for around 1 in 18 jobs, or 5.6% of all jobs in the UK in 2013.
Almost a third of creative industry jobs are based in London, according to the report.
One in every ten job held by graduates in the UK is in the creative industries. The film and TV sector has the highest proportion of graduates in the creative industries, with 56.5% holding a degree or equivalent.
63.9% of jobs in film and TV are held by men, 36.1% by women.
The report found that a lower proportion of jobs in film and TV were filled by people in the BAME group (8.6%) than in the rest of the UK economy (10.1%).
Hunt ‘devastated’ by young women leaving television
24 June, 2014 | By Matthew Campelli
Jay Hunt has made a plea for young women to persevere in the television industry, adding that she was “devastated” by the number leaving the sector.
The Channel 4 chief creative officer was the guest speaker at High Flyers, the ROAR Global and Cole Kitchen networking event for under-30s.
She told the room: “One of the things I find devastating is the number of women your age leaving the industry, and how many people think: ‘I can’t make it work’. I would encourage all women in the room particularly: please don’t give up.
“It’s massively important to us as a sector that you stay and you keep regarding this as something you can do and can square with a family life.”
Hunt added that it was a “tough industry” for young people in general, but encouraged the room to “stay committed” as persistence would open the doors to a “very big prize”.
That prize, she said, was the opportunity to break into a sector that was becoming “less complicated”.
“I feel you’re in a great place. You only have to look at how the whole sector is blowing up. I think what will happen, and what is happening now, is what you’re watching content on is becoming increasingly irrelevant. It’s all about the quality of content.”
The C4 exec, who joined from the BBC in 2011, stressed the importance of “taking risks”, adding that opportunities to “move sideways” gave her a chance to broaden her experiences and carve out a “luxurious career”.
Hunt said: “The greatest joy you will have from this industry is from taking punts on things you believe in. You’re just as likely to succeed by doing something crazy as you are doing something familiar.”
During the Q&A sector of the event, Hunt was questioned about the ethics of programme titles, specifically Love Productions’ controversial series Benefits Street.
She said that she “subscribed to a greater good argument” and believed the series shone a light on an important topic in modern Britain.
“The show consolidated to 6 million, which for C4 was extremely extraordinary and profound, and got people talking about the underbelly of society. It got people to think about the inequality gap and got us talking about benefits in an important year in the run up to the general election.
“Do you think if we called it Community Street or What It’s Like To Be Poor, anyone would want to watch it? No. Great public service television has got to be sold to an audience.”
The Bloomberg Photo Service is looking for a weekend photo editor to be based on the London picture desk. The role consists of expediting photos for use on all Bloomberg platforms as well as receiving, edting and sending content to clients. In addition to having an excellent understanding of news, the position also requires excellent picture judgment, advanced knowledge and experience with industry standard editing tools and a thorough understanding of journalistic ethics. The position reports to the head of EMEA photos in London and is a contract role based on a 5 day week including Saturday & Sunday.
-Supporting internal platforms by fulfilling image requests and photo research for Bloomberg stories.
-Liaising with the TOP editors on photo content for all Bloomberg platforms.
-Prioritizing and updating images according to relevancy on Bloomberg platforms as news updates.
-Editing and processing incoming images to select the most relevant and newsworthy content for internal & external clients.
-Making appropriate editorial decisions on illustrative imagery on Bloomberg platforms.
-Reviewing and correcting image metadata to conform to Bloomberg guidelines.
-Researching accurate information for captions.
-Handling photographer assignment briefs.
-Gaining permissions for use on hand-out imagery & licensing imagery from third party sources.
-Monitoring the content and landing pages of Bloomberg platforms to keep the sites current, ensuring prompt elimination of any technical or content errors, or content that is out of date or no longer functional.
-Monitoring and updating the photo desk diary, assist with forward planning.
-Flag breaking news and upcoming events to assignments editor.
-Stay informed and well read on business, finance and political news.
-University degree preferred in a related field such as Photography, Journalism or Communications, Digital Media
-Excellent knowledge of image legal restrictions, licensing and permissions.
-Experience in editorial news photography.
-Fully conversant with content image management systems such as Photoshop, Photo Mechanic, ftp transmission, related software, etc. across Mac & PC platforms.
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As part of Bloomberg’s ongoing drive for diversity and inclusion Bloomberg works with a variety of organisations to source interns from a variety of backgrounds. These include (from time to time):
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Bloomberg also works with Blind in Business to encourage those who are visually impaired to apply and Bloomberg has joined MyPlus Consulting’s disability champions scheme in order to focus on recruiting and retaining individuals with disabilities. Bloomberg further seeks to identify and address areas of under-representation by running targeted forums which have recently included Women in technology and Black and ethnic minorities. The requirement for these types of forum are reviewed on a regular basis.
Internally in order to promote equal opportunities, numerous soft skill development opportunities are available on Bloomberg University (BU) to all employees. Available courses include mandatory harassment and discrimination awareness training for employees and managers, mandatory interview and hiring training for anyone involved in the recruitment process to ensure that a fair and consistent process is followed, and mandatory grievance training for all members of Bloomberg’s grievance committee. Those chosen to be Team Leaders also undertake a 15 hour ‘Leadership Fundamentals’ course, which specifically covers diversity and inclusion in a team context. These training sessions are further supported by a wealth of policies contained in Bloomberg’s Employee Resource Guide available on Bloomberg’s intranet.
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We are the successful campaign that helps young people make a difference on issues that are important to them. Our specialist production unit [Creative Resources] helps young people get their message across with dramas and factual films, music videos, publications, websites and posters. We have a separate team producing films for broadcast.
We’re looking for a skilled Creative Producerwho can apply their talent across several genres, including video production. They must be able to work easily with young people from all social and cultural backgrounds to develop, guide and ultimately produce effective films and other creative resources that do them credit, and achieve the objectives they desire. The Creative should have some demonstrable skillsin two/three of the following; video production, music production, script-writing, Final Cut Pro, Motion, InDesign, PhotoShop and website creation.
The Creative Producer must be prepared to travel extensively, and regard evenings and weekends as part of their normal work pattern, because this is when young people are often available. They will be entitled to time off in lieu for any additional hours they work. They must be able to work effectively and harmoniously in a creative team, and will be expected to work in other disciplines when necessary, and to provide support or resources to other parts of Fixers.