Heinzelmann on Health & Safety in Motion Picture Industry

Michael Caton & Christian Brown | Aug 29, 2018

The New England film community, at the behest of Director Jonathan Schwartz, came out in great numbers to raise awareness of health and safety within the motion picture industry. Forty volunteers ranging from production personnel to stylists, donated an overwhelming amount of time and energy in support of wellness in the making of movies and TV shows.

The brilliant Monona Rossol developed a passion for the arts as the daughter of Vaudeville performers. She provided lively advice on a range of health-related topics with a focus on hidden hazards.

Her decades of experience monitoring, and sometimes shutting down, film sets due to an array of safety violations speak to the issues the movie industry faces. While dilapidated mills and vacant factories may make for great action scenes, they’re often loaded with bat guano, rat feces and mold that can afflict cast and crew.

Lenny Manzo, a location audio mixer turned health and safety director at Emerson College, described working outlandish hours in the film industry as akin to being bound by “golden handcuffs.” Many people remain in the industry because they love the work, and the overtime pay, too much to leave. Obstacles arise left and right in the form of bodily strain, exhaustion, injury, and illness, forcing many to change careers as they get older.

Alix Lopes, who also spent years working in theatre and film, eventually gave it up to focus on homeopathic healthcare. No surprise veteran Mo Flam likened it to a “deployment,” where everyone comes together and bonds, working tirelessly despite these challenges.

Flam has worked as a gaffer and chief lighting technician on scores of feature films made in New York, New England and elsewhere. He shared his personal experience of working on set despite a major injury that ultimately required surgery. Alec Roy, a young cinematographer, shared a fresh perspective on health in the film industry from a career-developing point of view.

Alec also provided his expertise behind-the-scenes as well, working as our Director of Photography. He proved to be an indispensable part of pre-production, helping source dynamite talent and crew. Likewise, John Osborne, an Emmy winning audio engineer from Boston, generously donated his time to be a part of our sound department.

Crew personnel like Mo, Alec and John can be considered the master sergeants of the “deployment.” However, they often do not get the top billing that coincides with being a director or actress, like Alyson Muzila who also spoke on-camera. Instead they supply the know-how and grit that gets the shoot ready for “action.” And on the topic of action, Dr. Paul Heizelmann reminded us of the irony of fatigue – that shooting all night to get the perfect terror filled slasher scene, means that there is a possibility someone may end up dead behind the wheel the next morning driving home.

Windy Films really made it happen by hosting the shoot at its Studio 16 headquarters in the East Boston Shipyard. Windy’s and Interlock’s missions are closely aligned, both companies producing films which explore social justice issues and are dedicated to telling innovative, impactful stories – a perfect match.

Their newly renovated studio in a century-old firehouse, provided the perfect location for the shoot. Jordan Berry and Colby Todisco welcomed everyone with open arms and, as the facility liaison, educating all with detailed information about Windy’s capabilities.

A feeling of infectious camaraderie filled the air on August 6th, with cast, crew, and house personnel working together to see the project through to completion. We are so thankful for all of Windy’s support throughout production and their very generous donation of space.

Many other contributions to making the day a success can’t go without notice, including co-cinematographer Sean English, gaffer Ryan O’Donnell, and Senior Audio and Lighting personalities Jack Garrett and Max Goldberg.

Jennifer Matczak, Madelyn Bergeron, Ernest Lesmana, Mike Levinsohn expertly backed up Alec and Sean on the cameras. Filmmaker Cray Novick joined junior grip Chris Mullen on setting props and lights. The charming Jordan Kines interacted with guests and crew alike to get the best shots with a still camera.

For the background set-up, New England Studios and Red Sky generously provided some impressive antique and vintage soundstage lighting equipment to help create a great vibe for the interviews.

Keeping film crews fueled and alert through on-site catering, particularly with healthy options, makes for successful and safe shoots! Off Center Café and Catering of Weston provided catering for the day and kept everyone running at peak performance.

As a practicing physician, most people imagine Dr. Paul Heizelmann in a white coat over shirt and tie – a bit too traditional a look for the camera if you ask us. Make-up artist Rhonda Cummings and wardrobe stylist Colby Blake gave Paul a camera-friendly makeover that brought him out of his doctorly comfort zone and into the setMD world. The pair also worked throughout the day getting the rest of the talent looking their best for their interviews.

Kimberly Kelmelis from Interlock Media produced the shoot, coordinating the talent, crew, locations, transportation, and equipment to ensure a smooth shoot day and prepare to extinguish the inevitable fires that would crop up throughout. Jennifer Raymond, relationship steward, and Helena Kim provided invaluable back up. Aaron Weiss and Connor McPherson also helped with assistant producing. Other Interlock staff members filled production assistant roles throughout the day and also provided other invaluable services in the hospitality and transportation departments, including Connor McPherson, Joshua Lee, Christian Brown, Hannah Rios, Mike Stockdale, Kenneth Hong, Donovan Recny and Rachel Perez. Actress Kimbette Fenol and Mike Feeney graciously hosted our stars.

The various segments shot that day are now in post-production editing, stay tuned for the upcoming episodes.