By Judy Goldman
When it comes to good health during shoots, set medics and crew members say the most important ingredients are preparation and teamwork. “Once you’re on a show your life disappears,” stated Gordon Greer, a veteran set medic. Having spent eight years watching out for crew and cast safety on sets, Greer emphasizes the need to treat yourself well during a shoot. “The main thing, as hard as it is,” he recommended,” is to get plenty of rest, drink lots of fluids, particularly water, and eat well.”
Medical professionals recommend that crew do everything they can to alleviate the stress that is inherent to movie sets. “Just being prepared—getting sleep, being organized, drinking enough water and eating the right foods—will help you perform your best,” stated set nurse and Reiki (method of natural healing) specialist Vicki Saputo.
A nurse in the film business for 15 years based in the San Francisco area, Saputo suggests that it’s important to head-off stress before it happens. During her work, which has included acting, modeling and talent consulting, Saputo makes a point to bring something healthy to eat in case the caterer or craft service veer off the course of good nutrition. She said that stress could be lessened by planning ahead, taking time to organize your equipment and having extra departmental supplies on hand in case things go wrong.
She also suggest that crew keep in mind that “Hurry Up and Wait” is the nature of the business. “Realize that you’re getting paid to hurry up and to wait! Bring something to entertain yourself during down time,” Saputo said.
Paramedic Orvis “Doc” Slack of Medics at the Movies has seen many avoidable crew mishaps and injuries since he began working in film and television 13 years ago. “Often, safety is tossed to the wayside,” Slack said. “People don’t think about safety seriously. So much of prevention is simply using common sense.”
In his work territory of Northern California, Slack stated that many out-of-town (mostly Los Angeles) crew members take good weather for granted. “Always pack a jacket,” Slack emphasized, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to loan people jackets because they didn’t think it would get cold here.”
So you are prepared, well-fed, awake—and you’re still stressed out during a shoot. How do you spell R-E-L-I-E-F? “When you’re stressed you lose focus, so you need techniques to refocus,” Saputo said. “It seems simple, but just being still and breathing can really help. Take slow, deep, conscious breaths.”
First AC Kathina Szeto uses breathing to refocus during shoots. “Being aware of your breath is a really simple meditation. It’s very calming,” she said. “I try to take moments to separate myself from the busy, productive energy of the set. It’s easy to get caught up in your job. One of the most beautiful things of being on set is the collaboration of talents. I love seeing how the different departments have used their imaginations.”
Greer recommended taking breaks to sleep or walk around. “It’s really important to look out for one another. Not only to be concerned about your health, but also that those around you are taking care of themselves. Many departments have more than one person. Alternate to take a quick nap or get something from craft service,” he suggested.
“People need to realize that moods are contagious,” Saputo said. “One of the best sets I’ve worked on was Nine Months because Robin Williams was so funny. When he was off-camera he was constantly entertaining. A good mood can spread like wildfire.”
By Judy Goldman