Film office for Edinburgh, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders

Duty of Care

28/08/19

Following the Edinburgh TV Festival debate about duty of care, Film Edinburgh's Rosie Ellison asks should the principle extend to locations.

Edinburgh TV Festival 'Duty of Care' debate. Credit: RealScreen

All parts of the television industry gathered in Edinburgh last week for the TV Festival. This year’s hot topics were TV news and political representation therein, equal opportunities and representation of all parts of society both front and behind camera, and duty of care following the cancellation of The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Duty of care conversations were focused on contributors taking part in TV programmes. Channel 4 Deputy Director of Programmes and Head of Popular Factual, Kelly Webb-Lamb, was explicit about her requirements with regard to contributors to Channel 4’s shows:

Informed consent is critical. That contributors know exactly what the show is about, the intentions of the show, what will happen in the show is essential.

Jerry Springer on the other hand seemed to suggest that if a duty of care is required of factual and light entertainment shows, shouldn’t this be true of the press, in which case where does the line stop?

This led me to thinking about location filming. Surely we have a duty of care for the residents and businesses directly impacted by filming at their location? While a factual or light entertainment show is unlikely to have much impact on a location, drama filming usually involves upwards of 50 crew, with trucks and lorries parking on the street; it can include cranes and lights and potentially large scale props; depending on the period of the film, there may be horses and carriages or fast cars; and the action in the street may involve explosions or speeding vehicles, noise, violence or canoodling.

As the city’s film office, Film Edinburgh takes the impact on residents and businesses seriously. The Code of Practice for filming in Edinburgh asks filmmakers to be very clear about what the filming involves. This may be simply explaining why a few parking bays are being taken out of the public domain for a few hours, or it may need more information about the scenes being filmed and any safety elements that need to be clarified. The last thing we want to happen is for residents to open their front door and find a film crew blocking access to the street without expecting it, or to look out of their window to witness what they think is a gun fight.

I came across this image recently:

Credit: @guerillafilmmakers

I dread to think of the circumstances that inspired this picture… Certainly this is exactly what we want to avoid. In Edinburgh, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders we have, on the whole, been fortunate enough to work with very experienced location managers who go out of their way to communicate clearly with everyone in the vicinity of filming. For those new or upcoming location managers, Film Edinburgh provides a template of the information we expect residents and businesses to be provided with. This begins in letter form, and we would encourage any residents or businesses in receipt of a letter from filmmakers to call if they are in any doubt about the impact on them. Filmmakers are sharing the city with everyone else and need to find a way to achieve the goals of the production while minimising disruption to those who live and work in the area. It’s a simple calculation: it is easier for filmmakers to achieve their goals if they are not having to firefight unhappy residents & businesses.

Something to bear in mind is that filming in a location usually only lasts for a day or two, but the benefits are great. We get to showcase our city region in a variety of situations to people all over the world. Our local crew and services gain employment on a range of productions. The local economy gets a boost from the production company hiring services and people, booking accommodation and staying in the area for the duration of filming. After the filming of Avengers: Infinity War we surveyed Marketing Edinburgh’s members in the hospitality sector about what they thought about the filming. 50% of them had picked up accommodation, 40% had bar or restaurant bookings, 20% had recognised retail uplifts. Overall, 87.5% thought that a production like Avengers: Infinity War had a positive effect on the city. Fast & Furious 9 will be with us next week and we are working towards a similar response.

Those behind the latest blockbuster coming to our doorstep have voiced a desire to be good guests of the city. They have been speaking to businesses in the areas in which they will be filming for several weeks and months, and have written to residents in the hope that any queries or concerns are picked up. The filmmakers are well aware that their presence is a big ask and that the city has not had an action film like this before. Avengers involved an explosion and fight sequences and was shot at night. The letters about Fast & Furious explain that there will be stunts and vehicles travelling at speed which require careful management for the safety of everyone concerned, film makers and public alike. Justin Lin, director of Fast & Furious 9 tells us:

We appreciate the city’s help and are excited to have such as beautiful and historic city in the film.

It's going to be exciting, and the city can be very proud that it has managed to attract and host a film like this which will showcase our historic cityscape to millions and millions of people around the world in a modern and family-centred blockbuster.

To conclude: should a duty of care extend to locations? Absolutely. If we want to continue to be a film-friendly destination for filmmakers, one which welcomes filmmakers of all shapes and sizes, filmmakers need to continue to respect and care for the destination. How should this manifest itself? Attention to detail and full disclosure to all those directly affected by filming, in an appropriate timeframe, with care paid to any issues arising.

Anyone who is in any doubt about how filming may affect them can get in touch with us. We look forward to welcoming the Fast & Furious film crew, and those who follow.