by David Robb
September 11, 2017 3:35pm
EXCLUSIVE: An accident on the set of U.S. indie El Chicano in Calgary sent a camera crew scrambling for their lives last week when a stunt car traveling in reverse crashed into a taco truck, sending the larger vehicle careening into their camera platform. The incident being investigated by actors union ACTRA Alberta and IATSE Local 669, which represents the film’s crew.
Footage of Wednesday’s accident was posted to social media but has been taken down.
The film’s production company won’t say if anyone was hurt, but quick thinking by a colleague might have saved a camera operator from serious injury. “Have to thank my dolly grip for saving my ass,” the operator wrote on Facebook.
After the accident, the camera operator posted on Facebook that he had “total reservations” about filming the stunt but went ahead with it despite his better judgment. “I have seen people die on set, and yet, in the given circumstances, I felt that I was expected to do the shot as planned and was assured by all the people above me that we were following all protocols. Post-crash, I was furious with production for putting me in that position. I had to demand that they actually debrief the accident before moving on and continuing to shoot. It was completely crazy.
He continued: “And for all the people who say, ‘Oh, you can say no,’ or refuse to work, the people on our team who declined to work were personally emailed by production to be chastised for their ‘negative impact on the show.’ It’s systemic. It has to change. An independent safety officer should have to sign off on all stunts. That stunt was all about math gone wrong – basic stuff that seems so obvious in hindsight, but not so in the immediate moment.”
The accident, he added, “was a strong reminder that we have to say NO to dangerous situations.”
The accident highlights the dangers that camera crews face on film sets. The last two stunt-related deaths have both been stunt performers — John Bernnecker in July on The Walking Dead in Atlanta and Joi “S.J.” Harris on Deadpool 2 last month in British Columbia – but far more camera operators have been killed on film and TV productions in recent years than stunt performers. In the decade before 27-year-old camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed on the Georgia set of Midnight Rider in 2014, more than four times as many camera department personnel had been killed making movies and TV shows than stunt performers.
A production manager for El Chicano declined comment. The film is being directed by Ben Bray and stars George Lopez, Raúl Castillo, Aimee Garcia and Kate Del Castillo.