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Free event will take place from 12:30-5 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Perfectionist Stages

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH MARSHALL PHOTOGRAPHY - A student at the International Stunt School in Seattle demonstrates the correct way to safely set an actor on fire for a film or TV show.Michelle Damis, chief organizer of the upcoming Safety on Set Expo, said the event was her brainchild because she recognized the need for all the guilds and unions of the entertainment industry to come together. "Everyone wants to go home (from a film or TV shoot) with all their body parts," she said.

Members of the Portland production community and their families are all invited to this free event, which will take place from 12:30-5 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Perfectionist Stages, 11245 S.E. Highway 212, Clackamas.

Damis, an actress and fitness instructor who does her own stunts, is a member of the Screen Actors Guild. She noted that education is the major goal of the expo, and added that if Portland's production community wants to attract and grow the entertainment business, everyone needs to learn how to keep the business safe.

"We'll be promoting safety protocols to demonstrate those to the whole production community, from advertising to independent films," said fellow expo organizer cdavid cottrill. (cottrill noted that 10 years ago he changed his name to all lowercase letters as a nod to poet ee cummings and to be unique in his creative fields of endeavor.)

SUBMITTED PHOTO - In this photo, Jeff McKracken, far left, is holding two tag lines to prevent an actor from spinning from the force of the five-foot fan blowing on him to make it look like he is flying. He is the business agent in the southern region of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Motion Picture Technicians and Allied Crafts.

The expo is "an opportunity for everyone to work together," Damis said, noting that Portland is one of the newer, smaller markets in the industry.

"But we're growing, and we don't want to see any accidents. If we want to be a bigger market, we're going to have to act like a bigger market," she said.

On the day of the event, doors will open at 12:30 p.m. so attendees can mingle and check out the offerings at the tables and booths. The program will begin with a welcome and introduction presented by Damis and cottrill at 1 p.m.

"We'll introduce guest speakers who have been injured on the set, and then we'll have a presentation from the Directors Guild of America, who will talk about the whole hierarchy of safety protocols," Damis said.

She noted that guest attorney Jollee Faber Patterson will talk about how "someone could be liable if they don't call in a concern" about safety on the set.

An intermission will follow this part of the program and will allow attendees another opportunity to mingle and pick up information.

Discussion topics

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Actors need to be carefully trained in order to safely execute a stunt involving a moving vehicle, like the one pictured above.  The second part of the program will begin at 2:30 p.m. with discussions about a new job title and other safety protocols within the industry.

A new position in the entertainment business is intimacy coordinator, who "will act as a liaison between the talent and the crew, and will ensure consent at every level (during a film or TV shoot)," Damis said.

In instances when a young girl is shooting a sex scene with an older man, "there have been multiple cases of unwanted touching and even rape on set," she said.

cottrill added: "There can also be a lack of respect for these intimate scenes when you consider who is viewing the monitors. Does the producer really need to view that?"

A new topic to be discussed revolves around drone safety on the set.

The laws are constantly changing in regard to aerial photography using drones, and decisions need to be made about safety procedures, Damis said.

Another issue is vehicular safety, including road closures and other transportation protocols.

"Our workplaces are unique because we are always out on location. We work closely with the fire department when there's fire involved, and the police department plays an active part on set," cottrill said.

Police officers can answer questions about how to handle a specific scene that involves police action, and motorcycle police can block streets so no one comes into a scene that is being filmed, he added.

Stunt work

"A lot of incidents happen in the industry," especially in regard to stunts, Damis said.

Guest speaker Ime Etuk, an assistant director on "Without a Paddle II," will describe an accident he suffered when a large crane tipped over and crushed his leg during the shooting of that production.

He has fully recovered, but was out of work for some time.

Recently, cottrill heard of an incident when an actor driving a car pulled up fast, stopped the car and slid down into a ravine.

"He stopped the car but did not put it into park, and the cameraman and soundman were still in the car," he said.

The car wasn't traveling at speed and the two men were able to stop the car, but it was a close call, cottrill said.

Stunts are a particularly tricky business in a small market like Portland, where actors may exaggerate their abilities because they want to be in the industry, Damis said.

Sometimes, even when a situation turns dangerous, "people are afraid to speak up because they don't want to lose out on future business," she said.

Both Damis and cottrill noted that all the unions have safety hot lines that can be accessed even by nonunion participants in the industry.

"We need to all work together to monitor (the safety protocols) even in nonunion productions," cottrill said.

Damis added that all participants need to be aware of liability coverage; union actors know that coverage is guaranteed, but some nonunion actors may not be covered.

'Premiere event'

Damis and cottrill both know that it will be impossible to discuss all safety concerns at this first expo.

"This is a premiere event; we want to use it as a model to create other events," in other cities, cottrill said.

"Our original list was extensive. We are not exploring the effects of sleep deprivation, or how to de-escalate violence on set after long days or how to cut down on discriminatory behaviors," Damis said. "We're planning to do a whole program on health and wellness in the fall."

They also noted that they are planning to do a survey at the end of the upcoming expo, asking attendees what concerns they would like to see addressed in the future.

Safety first

What: The guilds and unions of the entertainment industry will host the first Safety on Set Expo

When: 12:30-5 p.m. Saturday, April 27

Where: Perfectionist Stages, 11245 S.E. Highway 212, Clackamas

Details: This event is free; register at

Stunt safety

Jeff McKracken, an instructor at the International Stunt School in Seattle, will man a booth at the Safety on Set Expo and said his primary reason for attending the event is to support safety in the industry.

The school was created 27 years ago by David Boushey "to train aspiring stunt professionals how to create amazing action without endangering themselves or others," McKracken said.

"We teach safety procedures and techniques in every skill we cover, because no one should go to the hospital trying to earn a paycheck," he added.

McKracken said he often hears stories about stunt performers who have had to learn their craft on set.

"We want to provide training and a fundamental base of knowledge to prepare stunt performers ahead of time in how to safely address the potential risks they'll be engaged in," he said.

"This expo is important in the industry, so that we all can generate dialogue about creating safer practices in all we do.

"What are the causes of accidents, what methods and practices can we employ to prevent these accidents, and how do we get the knowledge and experience where it's needed?"

The school covers 15 different stunt disciplines: unarmed western-style fighting, martial arts-style fighting, fighting with blunt and sharp weapons, falls and rolls, stair falls, high falls, mini-tramp, wire work, body burns, rappelling, air ram, ratchet, parkour, stunt driving and performing for the camera.

"We have eight to 10 instructors come in each year to teach everything; all are working stunt professionals and all are highly skilled as instructors," McKracken said.

He noted that he is one of the primary instructors in unarmed fighting, weapons fighting, falls and rolls, stair falls, wire work, rigging, rappelling, air ram and body burns.

McKracken added: "We only run our school once a year in late summer, so we encourage people who are interested to sign up right away so they don't miss the chance. We still have a few openings left for this year's session."

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