Making Sure Your Project is Safe
Every student project is required to have the Safety Contract signed and turned in to your professor before beginning production.
Nothing listed on the safety contract can be attempted without written permission of the faculty member. Most often, the safest way to do something is in fact the most creative. Some of your ideas you think might need to involve the areas listed below can be worked out in a safe and inventive way after consultation with a professor.
The following are forbidden from student productions with the rare, pre-approved exception:
- Stunts (ask, if you’re not sure)
- Other Weapons
- Moving Vehicles (operated by the Cast or Crew)
- Anything the blocks or disrupts public space
In short, talk to your professor before attempting anything listed as a “don’t” or a grey area on the safety contract. When in doubt, ask! Ignorance is not a defense.
Even if your professor determines there is narrative value to a stunt or weapon’s inclusion and that this element can be achieved safely, departmental policy requires a written proposal be crafted, vetted by your professor, and then submitted to at least two other AHVA faculty, Director of Risk Management Rebecca Dowling, and if to be shot on campus, Director of Campus Safety Hollis Nieto. The proposal should be concise and answer the following questions:
- What is the importance and relevance of the weapon or stunt to the story?
- How will you accommodate the safe and unseen transport of the weapon on and off set?
- Who is the prop master who will be in charge of the weapon at all times?
- Where is this non-public shooting location where passers by cannot mistake the prop for an actual weapon?
- Notification of necessary entities (Campus Safety, Location Owner, Police, etc.) well in advance of the shoot.
- Detailed plan of shots. What actually will be filmed?
- Details of actual weapon or stunt to be used.
This process must occur at least one week before the proposed shoot.
No weapon with moveable parts, actual blades, or production of flash/sound may be used in an Occidental film. Handling of a prop weapon on set will be by no one but the prop master and the actor during the actual take.
Please also note that prop weapons or any sort of stage combat come with extraordinarily high additional costs. A prop weapons permit may need to be issued by the state, taking several weeks and costing approximately $150. Depending on where you are shooting, you may be required to hire an off-duty Los Angeles police officer at $150/hour. Any stunts or stage combat will likely require a stunt coordinator to be on set at $150-$200/day. Challenge yourself to be innovative in your story and its execution – use off-screen sound, evocative angles, and the power of editing. What we don’t see if often scarier and more evocative than what you could ever show. The safer, more inexpensive, and more creative route is often far more engaging than gunshots, blood, explosions, fire, moving cars, or onscreen combat.
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