Winter 2020


Richard "Mercury" Melendez

On-Set Safety for Humans and Bears

By Becca Nadler

Imagine not being able to move around while filming on set. No running, no food, no last-minute equipment repairs. It's very early in the morning in the Utah summer heat, there's snakes and other wildlife to worry about—and, of course, the three grizzly bear cast members.

"What made this show different is the amount of preparation that we had to do," says Richard "Mercury" Melendez, the associate director tasked with creating and implementing a comprehensive safety protocol on Discovery's Man Vs Bear competition show. "I love the challenge."

Melendez worked alongside bear trainers and an animal protection representative to prepare a safe filming environment for both bears and crew. "I had to get competent in understanding the bear behavior," he explains. "If it growls or moves a certain way, these are key signs to aggression… but it vibes off of our energy."

Per the trainer's instructions, "When the bear would come out, we would raise our voices and say, 'Hi Bart, good morning Bart,'" Melendez recalls of the shoot, which was was both safe and successful. "You start to get very comfortable (with the bear), so by day 12 that was my biggest concern. I was diligent on doing the safety meetings every morning because complacency sets in… we start to [think] we can give it a big hug and it won't hurt us. But we can't touch bears."

(Photo: Brian Davis)

At Work With

Short profiles of Guild members in all categories sharing their experiences at work.

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