Don't let shit happen on set (you deserve better)
Shit happens on set (yes, people die or get badly injured or disrespected in a high point).
This is a fact and I believe this subject matters and we should talk about it together. It is obviously not only costume related but it is definitely something I remember thinking about after some of my most challenging (little) experiences on set.
For our families and friends working outside of the industry and people who try to break in, it is probably quite difficult to be aware of what can happen and do happen sometimes on a set.
As part of a costume crew, you often start before sunrise and wrap your day after sunset (or you work over night so it’s inverted). You might have to drive to go home because you are shooting in a very beautiful secluded place or a big studio outside of your city. You go home after a 15-16 hours average day, don’t really eat much and crawl into bed. It is hard to process your day and talk to your family sometimes because you are just too tired and have too much pressure on your shoulders.
Apart from that, you can also work in a very friendly environment and enjoy sharing your stress and tiredness with your crew because there is a great sharing-helping mindset inside your department and you still love what you do.
However sometimes you also end up working with people above you who can’t really handle the pressure well and therefore don’t have the faculty to understand the dangers and difficulties they are putting their crew into. Or they simply don’t have enough experience to see the big picture.
This is when the accident happens.
I have been in so many situations where I saw crew members at the bottom of their department doing dangerous things because they were told to do their best and accomplish their tasks despite the fact that they might put themselves in danger. These crew members were not stupid and knew exactly what they were doing. Yet they were doing it because they were scared to be fired or get a bad reputation. They were also doing it for the love of the art - like all of us do.
Truth is you won’t be called back if you are dead or injured anyway… So does it worth taking the risk ?
I have still a loooong way to go to fully understand this industry and the people who run it. Yet what I did learn during my previous (little) experiences is that you are the only one responsible for your security :
- Speak up for yourself and protect the people below you.
- Trust your gut and be able to explain clearly and calmly what is going wrong in the situation.
- Know your limits and respect yourself above everything.
- Learn to let a job go because it doesn’t worth risking your health or self-estime for it.
- Remember that you are working in the entertainment industry and that you should not have to face dangerous situations for the sake of a film.
- Acknowledge the fact that you will work with the wrong people sometimes and you need to recognize and avoid them before it happens.
- Remind yourself that you are not alone and that there will always be a community to hold your back - get into a union https://www.bectu.org.uk/home.
- Be confident in your abilities and skills but not be naive about your physical limitations.
- Remember that you chose this career because you love what you are doing so you should keep loving it.
Take care of yourself, take care of each other and you will be rewarded because at the end of the day, nobody will respect you if you don’t take responsibility for your own behavior.