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Studios must do more to curb obesity, as commissary operation costs and productivity losses from afternoon naps are rising at an alarming rate, a group of international health officials are warning. While some studios have made recent strides in reversing the trend, short term fixes, such as staff behavior modification through electrified lunch room desert trays, have made little dent in what is being labeled as “an epidemic of gastronomic proportions.”
Senior entertainment industry health officials, speaking at the annual Adiposity-Con in Manchester, called for studios around the world to coordinate their efforts to deal with the “growing” problem. Dr. Wilhelm Lippid, head of the EU’s Entertainment Studio Snack Desk (ESSD), pointed out that several recent studies show unequivocally that the prevalence of obesity at film, TV and game production studios has increased from 12 to 46 percent between the years 1975 and 2010. He noted, “The obesity rates are increasing at an alarming rate. While there is slight variance among the different population groups, such as Scottish model makers, who are genetically predisposed to being loud, pale and wide, within the studios, overall, the trends are not encouraging.” He also noted the data does suggest some low socioeconomic status groups – such as the Direct-to-DVD-Sequel groups, in-house training staff and female riggers – are disproportionately affected as well.
Dr. Lippid continued, “We’re seeing more overweight artists, eating bigger lunches and stopping work more often to grab high calorie snacks, which leads to more frequent afternoon naps. In addition, we’re seeing evidence of more office furniture breakage from staff unable to support their own bulk, struggling to reach food items stashed on shelves, in drawers or on the floor near their feet. The associated costs are staggering.”
A just released NIH study reported that on the recent John Carter production, the cost of food, beverages, snacks, their preparation and distribution topped more than $30 million, more than 10% of the film’s reported budget. Said one lighting supervisor who worked on the film for more than two years, “Too much nervous energy makes you eat. There were hundreds of us that had seen the script. You do the math.”
While no executives would comment on record about their studio’s commissary operations or internal efforts to fight staff obesity, one studio president, who wished to remain anonymous, explained the inherent dilemma succinctly. “Listen, we have three buildings full of fatties. Just last summer, we had to replace all the wicker furniture in the quad with reinforced wooden benches. So what? The tubs do fantastic work, which makes us a fortune. What do I care if they want to eat bacon wrapped cheesecake instead of endive and tofu?”
The NIH study concluded that, “If growth trends continue, by 2015, studios will be spending almost 30% of their operating budgets on food and commissary operations alone. It’s both a fiscal and public health crisis.”
Key findings of the 30 nation, five year NIH study on entertainment industry obesity include: