Categorize working areas
Clear briefings about the nature of the environment from safety advisors should be a regular occurrence. Zoning a working area in terms of:
- safe to relax
- access under supervision
- experts only
is a great way to work especially when dealing with a team with varying degrees of mountain experience.
Specialist safety support
Film experienced safety personnel are valuable assets to a production. I’ve worked extensively with IFMGA / UIAGM mountain guides to provide location support, advice, safety cover and complex rope rigging to enable camera access to some truly insane locations.
There is however a big difference between what might be considered as best practice sport techniques and safety rigging for filming. Make sure whoever is rigging is au-fait with a more industrial style double rope system with a ‘work rope’ and a ‘back-up rope’. I’ve worked in some very extreme locations inside water-worn ice-caves within Alaska glaciers and while the local safety team were superb at looking after the usual climbing side of things it took a bit of educating and guiding them in safe rope-rigging for shooting. Conversely someone from an industrial rope access background might be great on buildings but will be out of their depth when constructing anchors on rock or ice.
Also, making a cameraman entirely responsible for his own rigging and for the safety of other team members can cause a conflict of interests. With the cameraman’s eye glued to the viewfinder he cannot keep a look-out for anyone else.
Back up your back ups
Also, think about having back-ups on the back-up system. Redundancy in safety gives a bit more confidence when things start to go wrong and sods law states that at some time it will.
A useful website is www.filmandmountain.com