Working in water presents a unique set of challenges — and potential hazards. The keys to a safe shoot are preparedness, following procedures and awareness of your surroundings.
When working in open water — large bodies of water such as the ocean, lakes or a bay — make sure that production has provided all the safety bulletins and water reports, and read them. They should be attached to the call sheet and/or posted near the set. If there are any dangerous currents you should stay away from, those should be made known to you as well.
There will be a safety meeting prior to shooting to discuss potential hazards and stunts. During this meeting, the stunt and/or marine safety coordinator will discuss what areas are designated pathways for boats. Treat those areas like a city highway: You would never be on it unless you were in a vehicle. They should also go over the hand signs to be used to signal that you are OK or when something is wrong. Learn these; they could save your life or someone else’s.
There will be a lot of activity, so stay alert. Make sure that you never approach, board or exit a vessel without approval from the captain. If he or she doesn’t know where you are, someone could start up the boat, which could be life-threatening if you are in the wrong spot.
Prior to entering the water, you should find a buddy and keep track of each other while in the water. This is especially important in scenes with large numbers of performers. If there is anything wrong with your buddy or you can’t find him or her, you should signal to marine safety immediately.
Finally, if there are stunts going on and you are not involved, make sure to stay clear of them. Everyone on camera has a purpose, whether it is background, helping to set the scene, acting or stunts. Our job is to be the best we can be at that, without interfering with the other people performing their jobs.
Working in water can be fun as long as you are safe, smart and prepare.
Water Safety Tips
Stay hydrated: Start before you get on set.
Watch out for hypothermia: Warm up every chance you get and, if you have the chills, get out of the water and in front of a heater.
Protect your eyes and ears: If you can’t wear goggles for the scene, use eye drops throughout the day, and wash your ears out regularly.
Know your skill level: What you are and are not comfortable with. If you get seasickness, bring medication. If you are not comfortable with water, don’t take the job.