Keep Your Production
Secrets Top Secret

By Tara van Zyl

Working on a film set is exciting, really exciting. It’s a bit like being in the movie world we are creating. Truth be told, it’s a very cool work environment and there is always temptation to share what we do at work with our friends. Whether it is flying in a World War 2 B-52 Bomber plane or meeting our favourite Movie Star, working in the movies is exciting, and very shareable. In the age of social media sharing, we don’t really give a second thought to posting our life online. It’s so easy to forget that ‘confidentiality’ contract we signed at the beginning of a job. Besides, what harm in sharing a snap among friends?

If you see something really cool you want to take a picture of and share, think twice -- you may be breeching your contract of employment. Blockbusters to micro budget productions all have strict confidentiality policies in place. Production companies issue confidentiality agreements that crew members must agree to before starting a production.They often include a strict ban on verbally discussing details about the production -- even to friends on a Saturday night! Now, in the digital age there is more to consider than a passing comment about who has just been cast for the big role! Confidentiality includes all of our online activities too.

Productions go to great lengths to remain tight-lipped about the details of their latest movie in production. Movies costs millions to make, and box-office success depends on building anticipation for the cinema fans. How far will productions go to protect these valuable secrets? Data protection is common business practice in this day and age.That companies monitor social media is a given. It’s very easily done by setting keyword alerts for mentions of certain words and the company is instantly notified.
Social media is public domain. If you post on social media, you could be sharing with more than just your followers. The production company may not find it, but there are movie geeks out there who will. Your posts could end up on a spoiler web site -- and be traced back to you.

We are knowingly sharing on social media, but I have often wondered about email surveillance on productions. It’s not just social media that can be the cause of leaks. Something you can’t wait to share with your friend? You email from your personal account and know it’s for their eyes only. What harm?Do productions monitor all messages sent on-set? Anything sent through the production company’s central mail server is fair game to those in charge, but what about my private G-Mail, Yahoo or Hotmail account? If I’m connected to site Wi-Fi, a company may use surveillance software to check I’m not sharing confidential content with someone outside the set. Even when I connect through a secure 3G connection, if one of the people I’m sending to is also on-set, they may retrieve the message using a less secure path which can be intercepted.There are data protection and online governance laws. These vary from country to country and there are arguments for and against both sides. When it comes to data protection around monitoring emails, laws vary in different countries as to whether companies must inform employees that they are being monitored.

How closely did you read the fine print in your employment or consultancy contract? While some of this may sound uncomfortably like a scene from '1984', production companies would argue that the investment and risk involved in a modern film production is such that they must legitimately take whatever steps they can to ensure nothing happens to compromise the film.

The best way to protect yourself is to be completely transparent and regard all correspondences as company property.If you must record images or documents for work, use password protection on sensitive documents when available. And when in doubt (about what you can ‘share’), leave it out.