SAG-AFTRA said today that it was responsible for the removal of unsafe prop weapons from the set of Allegiant last month in Georgia. As Deadline reported Tuesday, metal clubs, axes and machetes had been handed out to more than 100 extras for a fight scene involving 30 child actors during filming of the third film in the Divergent series. A whistleblower, alarmed that children had been put in the middle of the chaotic battle scene, told Deadline that calls to SAG-AFTRA officials had proved unsatisfactory but that a call to IATSE Local 479 resulted in the weapons being rounded up. Today, however, SAG-AFTRA issued a statement taking credit for ending the dangerous situation.
“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 union says. “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.”
Here’s the background: On June 17, 30 child actors, some as young as 4, and more than 100 extras were on the Allegiant set in rural northwest Georgia. 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. “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 whistleblower told Deadline that the next morning that, before filming on the scene was to start again, he called the SAG-AFTRA safety hotline but got only a recording. Then he called SAG-AFTRA’s stunt and safety office in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t open yet. He then reached out to a SAG-AFTRA rep in Georgia, again getting a recording, and the guild’s Southern regional office in Miami, but got nowhere. “Dissatisfied, I called IATSE Local 479, who blew up when they heard what was going on.”
Said SAG-AFTRA today: “This appears to be a misunderstanding on the part of an individual(s) who mistakenly believed they called the SAG-AFTRA Safety Hotline to report an on-set concern. SAG-AFTRA employs a professional service that specializes in rapid responses to safety calls. These operators answer every call on our Safety Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our service has confirmed that there were no calls related to this matter received on that day. Our service electronically tracks all calls to the Safety Hotline, including hang-ups, and reports one call that morning from a different region of the country and on a completely different topic.
“Our Safety Hotline number is printed on the back of every membership card as well as on our website. If any individual called to report this matter, it appears they called a number other than our Safety Hotline. The Safety Hotline number is 1-844-Safer Set (1-844-723-3773.)
“SAG-AFTRA takes all set safety matters very seriously and our staff acted accordingly and immediately to protect the background performers working on the film even though our contracts do not extend to background extra coverage on productions in the state of Georgia. As always, our staff leaders reacted quickly and effectively to ensure the safety of the set. We urge anyone, particularly SAG-AFTRA members, with an on-set safety concern to immediately alert us by carefully dialing the Safety Hotline number on the back of their membership card.”
Lionsgate, which is producing the film, says that it is investigating the matter.