Safety on Australian on-screen productions requires an industry-wide response

Our rich history of screen content covers all aspects of Australian life, reaching out to the diverse daily experiences of our society, the ups and downs, life and death, conflict and resolution, the everyday and the outdoors. of this world. It is therefore inevitable that the content of the screens addresses situations of risk and danger, and in the most realistic way possible.

This means that the producers, by putting together the starting arrangements that recreate the risks of life, are experts in how to create an illusion of danger, while ensuring the highest safety standards.

The Australian production community is a large and diverse place, and the majority of us have made the thoughtful decision to come together to develop and adhere to rigorous and comprehensive safety guidelines, under the Screen Producers Australia (SPA) banner.

National guidelines for screen safety cover everything from slips, trips and falls to working at heights, drones and explosives. They teach you how to dive from a cliff, film underwater or fall from a height, all without putting your safety at risk. They tell us who is responsible for risk assessment, risk management and stunt preparation. They were developed in cooperation with the syndicate, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), and reflect our producers’ decades of experience in carefully and successfully assessing, managing and mitigating the risks inherent in production. on the screen.


The guidelines have been regularly updated since their inception in the 1980s and, especially in a highly mobile industry that films across the country, provide vital national consistency, consistent with all state and territory laws on health and safety. occupational safety (WHS).

But we recognize that the full value of these guidelines is only realized when all producers use them on all productions, not just SPA members. That’s why we’ve released them widely outside the confines of our organization, to try to make sure they reach the margins of our industry. Working closely with MEAA, we have deployed an information rich website that is accessible to all industry and the public.

Unfortunately, as in many other industries, the exemplary safety record of the vast majority can be overshadowed by the reckless or negligent actions of a small handful of unscrupulous operators who cut corners and endanger the safety of Australians. daily.

Given our commitment to safety, we don’t have time for practitioners who fail to meet the high standards of national guidelines for screen safety.

Day after day, we operate to safely manage the risks of screen work. This includes the routine use of firearms, under strict and comprehensive protocols. Tragedies like the one that happened on the set of Rust stand out, not only because of the shocking and senseless loss, but also because of their rarity.

Here in Australia, the circumstances that led to the tragic death of Johann Ofner, also from an instantaneous gunshot, only underscore the importance of national safety guidelines which, if properly followed, can help to ensure that these unfortunate circumstances never happen. . Our submissions to the coronial inquest were that the parts of the guidelines that deal with firearms be formalized in a code of practice and that there should be consistency between states in terms of the licensing and accreditation of gunsmiths. theater.

The Queensland Coroner has yet to release his findings, but it should be noted that Johann’s tragic death was the first known gun fatality in the Australian screen industry since the inception of the safety guidelines agreed by SPA and MEAA in 1983.

There are also disturbing reports from the United States that security procedures were not followed on the set of Rust. The possibility that these tragedies could have been avoided is heartbreaking for the entire industry and our hearts are always with the families who have suffered such a terrible loss.

As producers, we exist to bring incredible stories to life on screen, but we must always do so in a way that protects and safeguards the lives and safety of our incredible cast and crew. The recent tragedy in the United States highlights exactly what is at stake and the responsibility we have as managers of a production to ensure that the highest standards are always met or exceeded.

This is an ongoing duty, and the obligation to ensure that appropriate protections are in place will always require ongoing review and reassessment, and our industry is fully committed to this task.

Matthew Deaner is the CEO of Screen Producers Australia.

About Michelle T. Friesen

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