“Behind the Scenes: The Risky Business of Entertainment & Sports Industries”


RIMS RiskWorld in Atlanta brought together risk management, insurance, and workers’ compensation professionals from various industries to share knowledge and connect. The conference offered valuable sessions on emerging risks, cybersecurity, climate change, and other relevant topics. Attendees had the opportunity to network with peers, explore new products and services, and gain new insight to advance their careers.

During RIMS RiskWorld in Atlanta, on Wednesday, May 3, attendees listened in on the session "Behind the Scenes: The Risky Business of Entertainment & Sports Industries," where they gained insights from Zebrah Jahnke, VP of Business Development at EK Health, and Barrie Wexler, Exec. VP of Risk Management at Paramount Global.

One of the key takeaways from this session was the critical importance of preparedness, especially in the face of unpredictable and variable circumstances. “While all risk managers must consider their locations, those in entertainment and sports regularly explore the differences on a varying scale.  This could be the difference between “home field” advantage and on-location scenarios, including portable or temporary venues, isolated locations, and limited resource access. There is virtually no predictability when it comes to entertainment and sports, except that injuries may occur, and you must be prepared to respond. There is heightened variability on most fronts.” Jahnke stated.  Wexler added, “Exactly.  An example of this is an actor travels overseas into a political unrest climate - now there is a whole new level of execution that must occur.”


Jahnke: “How does preparedness play a factor in environments where predictability is non-existent?”

Wexler replied, “In the entertainment industry, there is no predictable outcome, so preparation on the front is the ONLY option.  With every filming situation at Paramount Global, where remote, limited access and location permanency are consistent factors, we must continuously ask ourselves a variety of questions, for instance:

 What is the duration we plan to be at the designated location?

 What resources do we need for this production?

 What transportation do we need?

 What specialties do we need?

 What types of injuries could we foresee?

 What unique conditions apply (weather, elements, conditions, etc.)?

 What types of reinforcements are needed (state/local agencies, clinical, proximity to hospital)?

 Is onsite clinical needed?

Are there national or global challenges at play?

By answering these important questions up front, we can begin to process each unique scenario that may occur.  We hope for the best, but we plan for the worst.”


Jahnke: “Can you give us some insight into the people side of entertainment and sports?”

Wexler dove right in.  They discussed the unique employee bases, including players/talent, spectators, personnel, security, and the broad spectrum of potential exposure and risks associated with each.  “Human behavior adds to unexpected risk.   Anticipating above “normal” threats and assessing immediate and future needs appears critical,” Jahnke stated.  Wexler replied, “Yes, we must consider things that many other industries do not in this regard.  For instance, ingress and egress, visibility, and crowd response psychology are areas we train for.”  Jahnke played off the new understanding of why escalators are off at the end of a concert or large stadium event. “Likely, it was the risk manager trying to manage the flow of traffic safely and mitigate possible safety hazards. 


Wexler continued with a quip about the human psyche involving filming at an awards show where the casted studio audience had to wait in an indoor parking garage on a hot day for several hours pre-show.  When two of the audience members got into an altercation and as a result a bike rack fell over, the whole crowd, having already been agitated, erupted into a chaotic scene thinking gunshots had been fired.  “Luckily, our teams complete specific training on crowd mentality to prepare for how people might react and assess every angle of a situation.  People react differently and you must know your audience” Wexler added. 


Jahnke: “How is navigating the return to work, tracking progress, and caring from a distance different for you than more traditional risk environments?”

Wexler answered, “Production to production you face varying challenges, including union environments and regulations, providing care globally from a distance, creating safety for talent exposure, and more.  If talent is injured on the job, it doesn’t just affect their personal return to work, the entire production can be halted and the whole crew affected.” Jahnke added, “We must weigh the cost of proper care against the cost of the entire production going dark. For instance, in one production, our team had to consider swift approval for an underwater treadmill to rehabilitate a major motion picture actor who had been injured during filming. The treatment authorized in that scenario would not be allowed in a more traditional work comp scenario.” 


To close out their session, post-event recap and insurance needs were also discussed, including coverage to protect against reputational risks and navigating return-to-work situations. “It all comes down to strong planning, exceptional communication, skillful execution, and the ability to pivot on the fly,” Jahnke stated.  Wexler concluded, “Recap and evaluation are critical.  Asking the hard questions on the front- and back-end of each situation ensures future success.”


If you missed this session or would like more information on these industries from Jahnke and Wexler, register for their upcoming follow-up webinar: “Crowd Mentality 101: Mitigating Risk in High Stakes Environments” on May 31st from 12-1pm EST.






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