It appears all is finally settled after a recent dispute came to light regarding the presence of dangerous props on the Georgia set of director Robert Schwentke‘s lates, The Divergent Series: Allegiant Part 1. I’m not too sure of exactly what specifics were the precursor to this happening, but the word among the trades is that Lionsgate and executives over at IATSE Local 479 stepped in to use of dangerous weapons’ props for a key battle sequence involving more than one hundred extras with ages as young as 4.
As Deadline reported this week, the scene, filmed on June 17, was described as a big sequence in a village called the Fringe where villagers use any weapon they can muster as the children were kidnapped from their parents. From the report: “Prop masters handed out the heavy metal weapons – including axes, machetes, scythes, maces, steel pipes, hammers, heavy farm tools and pieces of steel rebar – that most of the adults would be wielding in the fight scene. As it unfolded, the children fled in all directions, chased by soldiers.”
Filming wrapped for the day, but that didn’t stop the whistleblower, whose name has not been revealed, from speaking out on the matter in an e-mail with portions that read as follows via Deadline: “I had to do a double take when the prop master passed out the weapons to the extras,” the witness wrote in an email to the film’s safety consultant. “Concerned, I went around and handled the weapons for myself and saw that they were steel and aluminum, with bladed edges, and some were quite sharp.” The whistle blower continued, saying “Most of the Fringe adults were given prop weapons for action scenes in which they were running around panicked as their children were kidnapped, with soldiers chasing them,… “The children were also running through the melee, and as the scene progressed they were breaking free and running in all directions on their own as the Fringe adults tried to stop the soldiers.”
The whilstleblower then added, “Everyone seemed to know it was wrong, but no one was willing to speak up,… “To me, it seems that saving money – the expense of rubber props – took priority over safety. This particularly upset me because small children were involved. I personally saw four people trip and fall just because of the footing on the set, and several people were given medical care for heat exhaustion, which can cause fainting – and falling on these weapons is just as dangerous as swinging them into someone else during the chaotic scene.”
The following day, several calls were reportedly made to various SAG-AFTRA stations that were left unreturned prior to the whistleblower contacting IATSE Local 479, prompting a response from its own people as well as Lionsgate to look into the matter. On Thursday, Deadline reported with a follow-up that included a statement from SAG-AFTRA, reading in part, “SAG-AFTRA executive staff received a call from, and personally spoke to, a SAG-AFTRA member around 9:02 a.m. ET on June 18 reporting the use of dangerous props on the Atlanta set of the film Allegiant,… “The staff member in turn called our Atlanta director who immediately contacted representatives of production to ensure that the second AD, who is responsible for on-set safety, took action to remove the unsafe props. She spoke directly with the production coordinator and demanded that they remove the unsafe prop weapons from the set. Within several hours of notifying the union, the matter was taken care of and our executive received an email from production assuring her that the prop master had removed the props.”
I’ve never read the book of the Divergent franchise so far and as per Hollywood, I’m absolutely sure that the production is going to turn in a spectactular finale between the releases of both films in the next two years. That said, the news comes just off the heels of the tragic death of camera assistant Sarah Jones last February on the Georgia set of the Greg Allman biopic, Midnight Rider, so the sentiment regarding safety here is quite understandable.
I do reckon that safety is often priority on movie sets, and it’s unfortunate that there are incidents that almost certainly fall through the cracks and someone ends up either injured or dead, particularly with regard to stunt sequences. Fortunately in this instance, someone vigilant enough was on hand and did what was evidently best for the production, as I am sure that in the wake of all the fandom and hype stemming from the first film in 2014, the last thing we need is another slip that could prove drastic, or even fatal, even for the sake of my own enjoyment as a moviegoer.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant Part 1 opens in theaters on March 18, 2016 with The Divergent Series: Allegiant Part 2 arriving on March 24, 2017.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.
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