Safe Sets: Dying to Work in the Film Industry is a feature length exploration of systemic issues impacting the health and wellbeing of film workers. Produced and directed by Paul Heinzelmann, a physician and former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, this film was shot in Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Vancouver.
The film weaves together candid interviews with technicians, union representatives, public health experts, and notable performers (Jon Hamm and John Malkovich) with the story of Dr. Paul's effort to conduct research into health and safety in the film industry.
The cumulative impacts of sleep deprivation, toxic exposure, stress, long hours, accidents and other issues we explore in Safe Sets are not only detrimental and unhealthy, but potentially deadly for film workers. Stunts-gone-wrong and other accidents happen all the time on film sets. Not just the ones that make the news – workers die with such regularity that the life expectancy of film workers is estimated by some to be many years shorter than the national average. Additionally, workers frequently succumb to untreated injuries, illnesses, substance use dependencies and mental health issues because they lack the time and resources to schedule medical appointments or to simply rest and heal.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In many other countries – even on some North American productions – great content is created in normal 8 to 10 hour work days. Workers have time to decompress, rest, spend time with loved ones, and indulge in recreational hobbies. A well-rested, happy worker is less prone to accidents, less likely to be abusive or be abused, and less vulnerable to dangerous mental and physical health issues. They are apt to thrive – not just survive.