Death Of A Professional Stuntman
By David Hague
The recent death of a professional stuntman filming in a Brisbane Tavern (Queensland Australia) should send shockwaves through all ranks of filmmakers - commercial and amateur.
In case you missed it (highly unlikely I know as these things spread like lighting in close knit communities such as filmmakers), Gold Coast based Johann Ofner was on set participating in a music video for Bliss n Eso an Australian hip hop group.
There are many things yet to be fully investigated by the police, but so far it appears that he was hit by two blanks in the chest at close range and, despite CPR efforts by fellow crew members, was pronounced dead at the film site.
"We do not know specifically how those injuries have occurred at this point in time and that will be subject of our investigation," Detective Inspector Tom Armitt said.
"The video production crew and our team are currently working with the police in their investigation."
It has been reported a number of firearms were being used on set. Specifics of the case are unable to be confirmed including if there were safety officers on site.
Wade Krawczyk, an expert in this area and an armourer in his own right told Australian Videocamera "I've already had a number of phone calls from others in the business on this. Nobody has said it was anyone qualified they know. I suspect (my suspicion only) that they just did this guerrilla style, brought some weapons in and did it without qualified supervision. Time will tell. But it's a lesson for all."
"As I said on another related thread, if you are going to roll a car on screen, you get in a stunt coordinator. If you are using weapons, you get a qualified armourer."
"I have spoken to young film makers, sometimes on behalf of Screen Queensland about this subject. It MUST be factored into production, even when using dummy weapons. Use of such dummy weapons in public places have led to calls to police and public alarm in the recent past. Use of real, or firing weapons requires someone qualified to handle them BYLAW."
Zoe Angus, the national director of equity with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), said she would closely watch the findings of Queensland police's criminal investigation into the death.
"There have been no instances of fatalities to our knowledge in the recent past, and that is because we have very rigorous standards in relation to safety," she told the ABC.
"There needs to be permits, need a licenced armourer and a qualified armourer to supply the weapons, if weapons are going to be discharged the police have to be notified in advance and a safety officer on set who will do a safety breakdown, if there's any live action around use of the firearms, then a stunt coordinator needs to be engaged," she said.
The major lesson here of course is that if you are making a film that requires firearms scenes, make sure everything is in order. Check with the local police regarding local laws (it varies from state to state), as well as the MEAA and contact an expert such as Wade Krawczyk to get contacts regarding reliable and licenced personnel that are needed.