Keeping Hollywood Safe on Set

Zandra sits down with Hope Parish, a Prop Master of 42 years. The two discuss ways to keep Hollywood safe in the wake of the negligent discharge on the set of the film, Rust.

Kevin Krall 0:00
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Unknown Speaker 0:49
Good morning Las Vegas it's Andras hold ark with it's where I am. Today, my guest is hope Parrish, a prop master of 42 years, one of the first female prop masters in Hollywood. She's done films such as one of my favorites, Django, X Men, Congo, and the aviator. She's done a whole list of Hollywood blockbusters. And she's here today to talk about how to keep Hollywood safe. So as we know, there was an unfortunate incident that the cinematographer and Lena Hutchins died from a live round from a 45 revolver, and the director, Joel Sousa was shot. But he's still alive. Thank God, but unfortunately for Hannah and her family, they're dealing with her dead. So now we have a hope. I'm going to bring in to talk about how we can continue or how we can keep Hollywood safe. High hope thank you so much for being on, it's where I am. So you are a prop master. You've been doing this for 3842 years, something like that. And you've done some great movies. I want to talk to you about how to keep the set safe. But first, can you explain what a prop master is and what they do?

Unknown Speaker 2:17
So, um, and hi, thank you, Sandra for having me today. A property master historically has been the person who procures rents purchases any item in the script that depicts a character characterization of the film, it could be a sled like in Rosebud that was a problem. Weapons food styling works under our direction animals work under a direction picture cards work under a direction we have a very large amount of things that under our blanket title what we are to manage during the course of the film. A property Master is also one that works in the works along with production and the assistant directors the DGA, maintaining maintaining safety on the set, but prop master historically we break down the script, we find out what's needed. We read the white, not just the print, because you know when the Indians come over the hill, there's a whole lot that goes involved with this one little phrase that says the Indians came over the hill. You need horses, you need guns you need, you know all their accoutrements and and again, safety on set.

Unknown Speaker 3:37
So you're in a male dominated field and being one of the first women ever to be a prop master. What is that like?

Unknown Speaker 3:46
Well, for me, I was the firstborn of three girls to my father was a property master and my grandfather, who's your property Master, I'm third generation. I have an uncle that was also a property master and a cousin who was a set dressing lead me. And my mom's father, he was a studio welder. So we come from a longtime of Hollywood people that have done that. So when I came in, in 1979, a very close friend of mine, my mentor, Emily ferry, in 1977, she actually sued local 44, which was the premier local, there was three basic areas of filmmaking in counties or I should say areas of filmmaking, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and La being the premier local had the most and the largest guild, in the IMC. And when I came in, in 1979, a year and a half, two years after Emily to join because of my age, I was just turning 21 It was a boys club. I was they deterred me from trying to be a property master. They He wanted me to just have kind of the crummy jobs of dusting and doing the flower room and working as a set dresser. And I just kept saying, No, that's not what I want to do my father, I want to I want to make my dad proud. You know, I always felt like, you know, maybe he wanted a boy, but he got me. But at the end of the day, none of that's true. I've made my father very proud. And but it was a challenge. We weren't always invited to think so one of the first things I did was to learn the craft. I was that dresser that I was an assistant. And then I was a property master.

Unknown Speaker 5:35
So you've worked your way in. So notice

Unknown Speaker 5:38
to those days, we had a grouping, we had the three to one much like Teamsters, where they had a three to one system, and you have had to work certain amount of days and hours to climb the ladder to get up to be a one car. And at that point, I could have worked as an assistant prop master, and then I'd have to have 5000 hours to become a property master. Today, those rules have changed drastically. And those requirements are no longer in play because in 1985, or 86, the studio system of the tier system went away.

Unknown Speaker 6:12
So as Do you always have to have a property master on a film.

Unknown Speaker 6:17
Y'all Yes. Okay.

Unknown Speaker 6:19
So, in the movie rust, who was the property master? Because the armorer what is the difference between because Anna Gutierrez Reed was the armor. What is the difference between an armor and a prop master or property master?

Unknown Speaker 6:39
There was an industry wide Labor Management, Safety Committee bulletin safety bulletin number one, and there's many bulletins, but bulletin number one is gotta say weapons safety. And it's, it never mentioned the armor separate from the property master. Okay. Historically, the property master hires the armor. Maybe that armor is part of their crew, maybe the property masters in armor, I was an armor on many of my movies, because I actually went and after getting into the business, I knew I had to become strong in certain areas that women weren't always thought of being strong in and hung out at Stembridge gun rentals for days at a time, hours and hours, taking apart guns, understanding guns, figuring it out. And then I went and got licensed with the ATF, the US Department of Justice, the California Department of Justice, and among the cov list for California.

Unknown Speaker 7:39
So did you do all of that at 21? Or by what age did you have all of that accomplished?

Unknown Speaker 7:44
I started I got my weapons permits in 1989. When I knew that I wanted to actually I had my hours I was I got my card, I was doing a TV show called China beach. And I knew that on that show, I had to know everything I was having the actor, so I hours understanding these weapons, but not being a weapons expert. I'm the property master with a grave understanding of safety and how this weapon works. I would have an honor come from Stembridge or even ISS in my latter part of my career. To accompany me, if there was a heavy weapons scene where I had more than we needed to handle on Air Force One. I was the armor with my assistant Lance Larson, who had a really well rounded weapons knowledge because he was the worked in the gunroom at the old Ellis mercantile prop house. So when I did Air Force One I thought, you know, let's see if we get Lance. Okay. I just wanted to always create a crew that had knowledge based on what the story we were telling. And if I wasn't certain about certain things, I wanted to make sure I had proper backup with me.

Unknown Speaker 8:56
So let's, let's get into that a little bit. So you want to make sure you have a crew that you can trust and that is knowledgeable, right? And then looking at this incident. It it seems like I'm hearing that there's like really only two people involved with passing over a cold, quote unquote weapon to the actor. So what are some of the safety protocols that are to be in place when you're doing a scene?

Unknown Speaker 9:27
Well, first of all, under no circumstances are we allowed to have live ammo on a set first of all, and this is all laid out and safety bulletin. All of this is in the safety bulletin, which is attached by the way to the call sheet and it's supposed to be attached every day that there is gunfire on the set the second thing is is that know what you're handing an actor know what your weapons are no understand what you're doing. Yet on hand, a weapon to an actor Before you've shown it to the first assistant director on set. And if I showed them that 10 minutes ago, I have to re show it to them now, because now something held us up or something changed right? Now we'll have to take a pause, show it to the first ad and the crew. I mean, we're there to make sure that not just the actor and the camera department of crew are safe. But the entire cruise scene, even animals, if you're on a set like Django, where you have horses, I have to pack the ears of the horses with cotton so that they're not hearing that loud. First, the sound mixer, you have to pay attention that the sound mixer who has these on his ears, you're not firing off a full load and he doesn't know what it is. So if if I was to do that, on my shows, I would have a gun for rehearsals, and all my guns are locked up in a box on my cart on set. And only the guns required for that particular scene or that particular piece would be brought out of the out of the out of the lockup for that shot, which is right here. It's just it's a lockup that's always close by right. And you know, when you're when you show it to the first assistant director, now he understands the gun is either empty or you have dummies and when you have dummies in a gun. Historically, we make dummies are Hollywood dummies are the lead because when you're using a revolver, and you're pointing the gun at the camera, you see all the little cylinders in the barrel in there to see simulate that you have the gun is loaded. We may call it with dummies, a lot of times they'll have the lead on him with the brass the pin the firing pin has been hit that the that has been hit. So then that way you know for sure to dummy. And sometimes you can shake it and there'll be a little beat in there. So you know that it's been rigged for actual dummy to be used on set. So I was shown the first assistant director, everything and then when that actor comes on set, which that actor if they're depending what they're fiery. I've asked them the questions and makeup and hair tests. What is your weapon storage? What have you experienced? What have you worked with? Okay, I've worked with actresses that have never fired a gun before and taught them safely how to fire a gun, Reese Witherspoon one of them. We brought her into ISS we gave her lessons right there with blank ammunition, no lie fire. And also Julia Roberts on on a show that one of my last films with her. I taught her right how to do how to fire that pistol so that she could do it safely. And no one would get harmed including herself.

Unknown Speaker 12:35
So are actors required to learn gun safety before going on a movie if that involves weapons?

Unknown Speaker 12:44
They need to have I believe in my textbook of rules, that they have a certain amount of knowledge. And if they've never fired a if, say for instance, you do a terminator three. Okay, those guns that are firing, each one of those people have a working idea of how that gun is fired. We either hire military guys who have been or retired to work as extras or even say for instance of an actor who is firing just a you know, a full auto pistol or even a revolver. I will make sure that they have an understanding of how that goes. And if they're afraid of it. We'll work out something else. Okay. There are actually I want them to tell me the truth of what their knowledge is. Sure. Bakley their their comfortability.

Unknown Speaker 13:37
Mm. So I was looking at the news and a lot of the industry now, you know, quickly they've changed to rubber guns. So do you think that one day the real or live not real or live but an actual gun would be still required for movie sets? Or do you think everyone's going to move to the rubber gun

Unknown Speaker 14:03
experienced people who are called property masters with experience and armors with Hollywood experience. We have fired millions and billions of rounds of ammunition through millions of guns. And there has been two incidences with inexperience and revolvers that have have harmed people. Neither of these had to happen. Neither of these work had many times to not happen. I can't get into the specifics of this one because it's an ongoing investigation. And I don't think I don't want to say anything that the Santa Fe district attorney or the sheriff's department that the sheriff's department has actually acknowledged on camera. Sure, watch this morning. But it's this doesn't have to happen. It's a It's it's a tragedy to not only just the families and the people involved, but it is. It's it's it's this reverberation that's hitting all of America and the industry around worldwide, about weapons, weapons in the hands of the experienced people that have the titles to have these in their care, know the rules and know how to keep a safe set. And unfortunately, in both of these incidences, they did not follow safety bulletin. Number one, have they done that? Had some of the protocols been been followed? This probably would never have happened.

Unknown Speaker 15:42
Now, unfortunately, at the time that this happened, Hollywood was about to go on strike and unsaid, you know, a lot of the union members had left and they outsourced people, right. So what is going on with the strike, I thought the strike was over. My husband is in production in Hollywood. And I was just like, Oh, thank God, you can go to work. But as far as what you told me, it's not over yet. So who's all affected? What's going on?

Unknown Speaker 16:23
It's a national contract negotiation. I'm here in New York and all the other areas, standard communities in filmmaking, which would be Atlanta, Georgia, Georgia, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a lot of the smaller areas of film. And it's been negotiated, a contract has been come to an agreement between our local leaders, New York, especially, but it has not been voted on by the membership. So although many feel that this is a good contract, there are still some that believed that we could have got a better contract. So that is where we're at. And that ratification I think, is going to be coming out in the next week or two where the ballots will be going out again, for the next vote, say that yes, we agree on this contract, and the entire IATSE has signed.

Unknown Speaker 17:25
So what are they fighting for? So I know they're fighting for more representation of women, people of color, better work conditions. What else are what are some of the other issues?

Unknown Speaker 17:39
You know, Los Angeles has a little different contract than the rest of the nation. And so there's, there's, there's some things on our contract that that we want to have in place also. But the main thing here is that the new media, of which we watch movies is not cable so much anymore. It's streaming, right? It's not going to the movie theaters and seeing, you know, a second run on something are our residuals, most everybody in Los Angeles, that city I'd say, we do receive residuals and it goes into our medical fund.

Unknown Speaker 18:19
Now, way back up for a minute hope. What is the IATSE? Tell us what that acronym stands for?

Unknown Speaker 18:26
The IRC stands for the International Alliance of Theatrical stagehand employees, okay. It began in New York. And that is where our main union representatives their seat, that's where there's they come from New York, and I'm a member of Local 44 I IATSE. My grandfather was in the original strike back in 45, and to develop the IRC, and that has been the basis of where my work has been. Throughout my career. I've never worked on a non union job. And for many reasons, I guess I could be grateful because I have a roof over my head I had a decent pay, and I had benefits. But part of the problem I see not problem but some of the things that I am hearing that people are unhappy with was the 10 hour turn the eight hour turnaround. That's been brewing for years. Your husband is a teacher, you know that HR Twitter as a filler. Off production gets affected by that more than on production. But still, a 10 hour turnaround is going to be two hours better than an eight hour turnaround. The pay raise. We were getting a zero pay raise. We are getting back getting our 3% our medical fund our medical, I don't I can't speak for the other other areas of South Los Angeles. But I believe that, that they gave us at least what we had before. And some feel that that's just not enough. And I understand, you know, I've been saying for 30 years producer was plus the locals, but it's time for our new companies, our new studios to take to understand that Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, you know, a lot of the different new new branches of filmmaking and studios, they really need to understand why you have experienced people on your show and why we're asking for these certain things. And we're willing to give you blood. I mean, I, I didn't have a life for 38 years, I was working day and long hours, right? Sometimes you'd work 17 hours a day, you know, nine hour turnaround if you're on stage. I mean, I'm in Los Angeles. I mean, in 1989, when I was in China beach, we were shooting 20 miles outside of town, but by Magic Mountain Indian dunes and driving home with one eye open at 530 in the morning, it bumper to bumper traffic taking you two hours to get home. I mean, there was so many close calls, and there were people that have died at the hand of long hours. There's a great video that Haskell Wexler, the last house will it has Wexler did called who needs sleep. And it was it's centered little shock wave, but not a big enough shock wave through because many of his friends and people that worked for him have died at the hands of long hours.

Unknown Speaker 21:37
So my understanding is from this unfortunate incident, it seems to me that it started from poor work conditions, outsourcing people who don't have experience, and now we have an unfortunate tragedy. So does that sum it up? Right?

Unknown Speaker 21:57
Yeah, I mean, without getting into speculation, sure. Ifs and the Woulda, Shoulda couldas. That pretty much sums it up, I just feel like we really need to the property master and the industry need to understand. Let me back up the industry and the producers need to understand the importance of hiring an experienced property master to be on set, no matter what your show is, whether it's a three camera TV show with children, or whether it's, you know, Terminator three, you need to have that experience there.

Unknown Speaker 22:38
Absolutely. And we all see why. I want to thank you so much hope for your time and giving us your insight. Thank you for being here. And please know that you are always welcome back.

Unknown Speaker 22:52
I was gonna say maybe under happier circumstances.

Unknown Speaker 22:55
Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. I want to thank all my 91.5 listeners for tuning in. I'm here every second Saturday of the month. And you can get this show on all my shows on it's where I So thank you, and I'll see you next month. Second Saturday at 8:30am. Bye

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Keeping Hollywood Safe on Set
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