Sunday, 27 August 2017 17:43

Fall and Winter Film Checklist 2017: Frostbite and Sleep Deprivation

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The 2017 summer film season saw workers dealing with record-setting hot temperatures and smoke-filled air. Outdoor workers may have employed throat lozenges and eye drops; keep them handy for the fall and winter season too. Along with the usual film gear basics, I thought we should look at the considerable risks of Frostbite and Sleep deprivation, and how we can better protect ourselves.

But, before getting into the specifics of prairie winter concerns, I’d like to over the usual basics of winter film gear prep:

Let’s tackle Frostbite

We’ve all heard about frostbite alerts ever since the first day we walked to school or waited for the school bus. But, for all outdoor workers, including film workers, it’s important to know the present reality of this serious potential.

Frostbite actually occurs in several stages;

Frostnip - the first stage of frostbite. With this mild form of frostbite, your skin turns pale or red and feels very cold. Continued exposure leads to prickling and numbness in the affected area. As your skin warms, you may feel pain and tingling. Frostnip doesn’t permanently damage the skin.

Superficial Frostbite – This second stage, appears as reddened skin that turns white or pale. The skin may remain soft, but some unseen ice crystals may form in the tissue. Your skin may actually begin to feel warm – a sign of serious skin involvement. If you treat frostbite with rewarming at this stage, the surface of your skin may appear mottled, blue or purple. And, you may notice stinging, burning and swelling. Fluid-filled blisters may appear after 24-36 hours after rewarming.

Sever (deep) Frostbite – As frostbite progresses, it affects all layers of the skin, including the tissues that lie below. You may experience numbness, losing all sensation of cold, pain or discomfort in the affected area. Joints or muscles may no longer work and large blisters form 24-48 hours after rewarming. Afterward, the area turns black and hard, as the tissue dies.

Let’s not forget about our famous Southern Alberta winds …

Low humidity desiccates skin; it starts to itch, gets flakey and inflamed because it lacks fat. The natural protective function of the upper skin layer gets disturbed, and rifts or scratches occur. Various lip balms and hand creams developed for mariners can help prevent windburn and skin cracks.

Sleep Deprivation

So, I’m not going on a tirade here about chronic lack of sleep for film workers – it is the nature of our business. We work 12-hour shifts, and often there is a two (or more) hours drive to the film location, and again, after our shift to get home. There’s nothing to be done about it.

However, I can highlight some of the issues lack of sleep may cause in our lives that we should watch out for, and then highlight some methods of helping film workers to be healthy while in the midst of a several-month long film project. The work is long, hard, and exhaustive, but plenty of folks have survived it; we can too…

If it’s true that knowledge is power, then let’s acknowledge the science surrounding sleep deprivation; that sleep deprivation has been tied to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. That does not mean that each us will be plagued by one, two or all of these links. Instead, I’d rather focus on taking care of ourselves; not avoiding the issues but dealing with them.


  • Nodding off for a few seconds without even knowing, is called micro-sleep. The brain overrides the mind effectively saying, 'I don't care what you want to do. We are going to sleep.' It’s the body’s way of forcing rest upon us.
  • The frightening problem is that micro-sleep can be extremely dangerous if we happen to be driving. I know from personal experience, that driving home after a day’s shoot can be particularly dangerous; some close friendshave even wound up in the ditch.


Thanks to Rachel Swalin and Health Magazine

Dr. Travis Bradberry, PhD and TalentSmart

John Fawkes and The Mission

Dietitians of Canada


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The Costumer's Notebook,

The book The Costumer's Notebook is a 295 page comprehensive handbook for Costumers for stage and film including a full Glossary of stage and film industry terms. Sections include methods and tricks for laundry, dyeing, breakdown, Dresser guidelines and protocols for Stage or Film and various size charts for men and women from shoes to gloves. Other Sections include diagrams showing How to Iron A Shirt, How to Tie a Tie and How to Tie a Bow Tie. Costume fittings, costume lay out and costume storage are also discussed.