Quiet on Set | The hidden dangers of movie and TV production

A short documentary that uncovers the hidden dangers of movie and TV production. (Video: Lindsey Sitz, Ross Godwin/The Washington Post)
1 min

Hollywood’s glitz and glamour often obscures the crews tirelessly toiling behind the scenes to produce the movie magic that rakes in billions of dollars every year. Contractors frequently work long, uncertain hours for low pay under high pressure to keep the films and shows on schedule — and the work is often dangerous. “I think it’s really important that people understand the level of sacrifice that goes into one 40 minute episode of television” said editor Zack Arnold.

There were 43 fatalities and 150 life-altering injuries on film and television sets in the United States between 1990 and 2016, a study by the Associated Press found. The fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins on the set of “Rust” in Oct. 2021 is the most recent tragedy to shed light on safety concerns on movie sets but far from the only one. In 1993, actor Brandon Lee was killed by a prop gun that had been loaded with blanks on the set of “The Crow.” In 2014, camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed by a train on the set of “Midnight Rider,” and in July 1982, Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed in a helicopter crash on the set of “The Twilight Zone.” Both children were hired without work permits.

We spoke with five union crewmembers about their experiences in the industry. Their stories describe a culture that prevents filmworkers from speaking out, ensuring things don’t change even as tragedies continue occurring.