Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shiver Me Timbers! (You want to do WHAT?!?)

Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard “Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council” magazine. Original article written by LCDR Peter Gooding, former chief, Waterways Management Division, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach

Marine Event and Movie Shoot Approval
Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach has oversight of more than 320 miles of the California coastline. It is also home to the motion picture capital of the world. The waterways management staff reviews applications for more than 150 movie shoots and approximately 75 marine events each year, including “CSI: Miami,” “Next,” “Vanished,” “Without a Trace,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The majority of non-movie-related events are holiday boat parades and Fourth of July fireworks.

For any proposed marine event other than a movie shoot, the applicant must submit a Coast Guard Form 4423 at least 135 days in advance of the event. For movie shoots, Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach uses a questionnaire instead of Coast Guard Form 4423. The questionnaire asks for information related to names of the production manager, production company, location manager, the marine coordinator, the number of boats and types of any Coast Guard documentation the boats may have, the special effects that will occur during filming, and a diagram depicting the location of the filming event.

Who’s Who and What Does This Mean for the Coast Guard?
So who are these people—the production manager, the location manager, and the marine coordinator? In the filming industry, these people are the ones the sector usually works with to obtain filming details and develop associated safety measures.

The first step is a site evaluation. The sector then fills out an environmental checklist. We are concerned about the impact of the event on public health and safety, unique characteristics of the geographic area, impact on the highly sensitive environmental systems, and the potential for effects on the human environment that are hazardous or highly uncertain. We also consider whether the event will set a precedent that could impact a cultural or historic resource, a protected species or habitat, or violate federal, state, or local environmental protection law.

Special Effects Mean Special Consideration
Since most vessels used in movie shoots are charters—that is, they do not belong to the filming company—they are conducting an operation of “passenger for hire.” As such, the sector ensures that either the vessels do not violate Title 46 CFR Subchapter T or that each vessel is certificated in accordance with the regulation. When you consider actors, directors, lighting technicians, sound crew, makeup people, special effects technicians, stuntmen, and camera operators in a filming operation, it can be very easy to put more people than are allowed on a vessel, especially on small ones.

We then determine appropriate safety or mitigation measures. Some of the movie shoot effects include smoke that has been thick enough to completely restrict the navigation visibility of the main channel of the Port of Los Angeles and high-speed boat chases near large commercial tankers and container vessels. In these cases, the sector applies appropriate management strategies to ensure that the locations of these marine events are clearly identified, and that the public is aware.

Pirates of the Caribbean III
An example of this process is evident in the filming of “Pirates of the Caribbean III.” For the entire process, the sector worked with the location manager and marine coordinator to discuss the impact to the public and ensure safety during the filming. In the USCG photo here, CGC Halibut provides safety assistance during filming, aiding the pirates instead of arresting them as usual.

The 45 days of filming activities in Sector LA/LB’s area of responsibility included “actors overboard” from the Black Pearl, several scenes of the vessel sailing in man-made “Hollywood fog,” numerous cannon fights, and the simulated capsize of the vessel in the middle of the ocean.

To ensure public awareness, the sector conducted daily broadcasts and sent faxes to pilots and vessel traffic service. The sector worked with the local police to provide waterside safety for the shooting operations. There were more than 1,000 spectators a day at some of the shooting locations. As a result of proper planning, appropriate safety resources, and the daily public notices, all of the shooting events were successfully completed on schedule. In addition, the sector was able to ensure the safety of the movie company personnel and the public.

About the author:
At the time the article was published, LCDR Peter Gooding had served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 10 years and served as chief of the Waterways Management Division at Sector Los Angeles/Long Beach, overseeing marine events, movie shoots, port construction projects, a vessel traffic service, and an aids to navigation team.

For more information:
Full article is available at www.uscg.mil/proceedings; click on “Archives” and then “2007 Volume 64, Number 1” for this Spring 2007 “Risk Management” edition.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp. Online survey available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/survey.asp.

Direct requests for print copies of this edition to: HQS-DG-NMCProceedings@uscg.mil.